Editorial: Say 'R' for Recovery

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The good news: Retail sales rose last month. The bad news: The numbers are weaker than what many economists expected.

Sales rose 0.3 percent after falling the same amount in January, the Commerce Department said last week. Still, consumer spending shows no sign of slowing down, as it accounted for $6 trillion of the $9 trillion U.S. economy last year and helped dig the country out of the recession.

Speaking of the "r" word, everyone -- including Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan -- says the recession is over, though the recovery will be slow. Many catalogers and retailers reported good news for February sales, with the Sharper Image at the top of the list. The company saw its catalog sales skyrocket 98 percent to $8.7 million last month over February 2001 and gave much of the credit to an infomercial campaign it aired.

In several respects, the horrible events of Sept. 11 seem a lifetime ago -- not six months. While the fear of terrorism continues to eat into some industries, especially tourism, people's resiliency comes shining through. Life isn't like before, but it never will be again. Those of us in New York City began looking toward a new symbol of hope last week: twin beams of light that pierce the night sky to create an eternal memorial to those who lost their lives at the World Trade Center. The memorial is only temporary, officials say. Why not make it permanent?

DTC Advertising and Drug Costs

Vioxx. Nexium. Claritin. Day and night, the commercials never stop. Who would have thought that direct-to-consumer drug advertising would be this big back in 1997 when the Food and Drug Administration loosened its restrictions? However, those campaigns don't come cheap and are driving up costs, The Wall Street Journal reported last week. Manufacturers aren't backing away either, as supported by numbers from researcher CMR, which put DTC drug ad spending at $2.49 billion last year. In 1997, it was $859 million. Meanwhile, the Journal pointed out the latest strategy to market new drugs -- the lowly coupon -- as more companies offer free one-week and one-month supplies of their drugs.

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