Looking for Some Confidence

Waiting to hear some good news? There’s not much out there: Another company files for Chapter 11 protection. More layoffs are announced. Consumer confidence is eroding. Profits drop, and forecasts decline even further. The headlines haven’t been pleasant these past several months. Advertisers, ad agencies and media companies took it in stride when the economy started slowing last year, but the quick recovery that was hoped for has yet to arrive. Ad spending is expected to decline by $5 billion to $7 billion this year, and many are predicting it will be spring before things get better.

Trade shows have been particularly hurt, as travel budgets were among the first items to be pared. However, there’s an optimism in the list industry to counter the pessimism seen at last week’s National Center for Database Marketing conference in Rosemont, IL. List professionals heading to New York’s List Vision 2001 conference this week expressed hope that the worst is over. Meanwhile, though a few vendors were pleased with the turnout at NCDM, the majority walked away frustrated. This may spell trouble for the Direct Marketing Association’s net.marketing conference in Denver in September, but at least the DMA’s annual fall show in Chicago should still be fine.

On the consumer front, Americans are still spending and keeping the economy afloat through this sharp downturn, but will they continue to buy those cars, refrigerators, computers and other big-item purchases? Consumer spending rose 0.4 percent in June, the Commerce Department announced last week, but the index measuring how consumers feel about their present situation dropped 3 percentage points from the previous month. The key index for manufacturing also fell and now is in its 12th month of decline, the National Association of Purchasing Management said last week.

A sign that the dot-com carnage may be subsiding, however, is that last month’s number of layoffs in that sector was at its lowest since October.

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