Category Archives: Hospitality Industry

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!


If you are like most Americans, you feel better this year, but there is still a nagging doubt in the back of your mind, “is this as good as it gets?”  True, the economy has picked up, spending is up, the recession is no more, but we are still feeling the pinch.  How shall we shop for Christmas this year?


We did some digging to find out how much has changed and how much has stayed the same.

The following figures provide some context for the economic growth since before the recession until after, with per capita GDP not yet recovered to pre-2008 levels:


The gross domestic product increased from $13.3 trillion in 2007 to $15.1 trillion in 2012.

united-states-gdp 06-12

GAFO retail sales seem to be slowly recovering from the recession, and consumers are spending again.  Consumer confidence is back up to about 73 percent of what it was in 2006, but spending at shopping centers is ACTUALLY DOWN in real constant dollars (adjusted for inflation):

united-states-consumer-confidence 08-12

GAFO retail sales in the nation increased from $968 billion in 2002 to $1,032 billion in 2010,  for a compound average growth rate of 1.1 percent.  However, from 2007 to 2010, compound average growth was  -.03 percent nationally.

As everyone knows, brick-and-mortar stores are in competition with internet retailers for market share.   With the ease of shopping online in the comfort of your home or office, and the ability to compare sale prices amongst retailers, the brick-and-mortar stores have to come up with creative ways to appeal to the consumer as the better way to shop drawing them to their retail store locations.  Some retailers are offering free shipping, extended hours along with other special promotional items available only in stores.

Electronic shopping and mail order retailers suffered only a mild set back during the recession and bounded back with sales for the twelve months through February 2012 accounting for $308 billion.  The overall sales market rose 30 percent since the peak in 2008 as reported in an article, “Retail Sales Recover, Mostly, From Recession”, written in The New York Times, by Floyd Norris.

One of the biggest impacts of the recession on the retail market is the change in the behavior of shoppers.  People are bargain shopping and looking for the biggest bang for their buck.  They are more interested in products or items that are reliable and have lasting value rather than purchasing the latest gadgets.

Consumers are looking to save money where possible, which has increased on-line shopping as well as sales at discount and dollar stores such as Wal-Mart, 99 Cent stores and Target.  Not only are shoppers finding better bargains, they are saving time and money especially when factoring savings of not having to drive with high gas prices.

Target shoppers

The recession has also caused a spike in sales at thrift shops/resale stores,  as  the number of resale shops opened within the last year increased approximately seven percent.

According to comScore.Inc,  holiday retail spending over the four-day Thanksgiving weekend was estimated at $59.1 billion dollars nationally, up nearly 13 percent over last year.   Black Friday online sales exceeded $1 billion, rising 26 percent to $1.04 billion.

How do you feel this year?  Let us know if your pocketbook feels lighter or if you are back to normal.  Have we stabilized at the new normal? We are anxious to hear from you!



11 Bedroom Home in Tuscany

How can you go on a fantastic summer vacation and stay within a budget? With the recession impacting every area of our lives, we are all looking for ways to economize without giving up lifestyle.  I found a great way to go on a fabulous foreign vacation and pay just a fraction of the cost.

I recently had dinner with a friend whose company builds timeshares in beautiful and exotic locales.  He was talking about their target market, namely Boomers seeking vacations that connect with multiple generations:  kids, parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents.  For this, a family can pay up to $50,000 for a one to two week time period scheduled annually.

“What about home exchange,” I asked him.

“Oh, I’ve heard about that, how does it work?”

For those of you who don’t know this service, it is a very cost-effective way to temporarily trade your home with someone anywhere in the world.  You register with a website and pay about $10 per month to have your home registered for exchange.  You have access to more than 35,000 listings all around the world.  Of course, you make your property sound gorgeous and desirable when you list it, providing pictures of your home when it had just been landscaped and was clean and sparkly.  This gives you access to some incredible homes in a chosen summer, Christmas, Winter or any season location.  We chose Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, Athens and Sydney for our first try.  I know this doesn’t sound like a list of places with much in common!  But we are being extremely flexible since we will pay only for airfare.

View from a Villa on the Greek Island of Paros

And oh, how beautiful are some of the homes!  A 16th century castle in Northern England; a seven-room apartment in Paris; a drug lord’s mansion in Costa Rica (just kidding, but it looked like it could be owned by someone selling questionable substances).  Like Christmas, you send out emails from your own home page to places that pique your interest.  Then, you wait!  Most we have received are from nice families telling us they already have their plans/exchanges complete for the summer.  But we also received several intriguing responses.

There are a few drawbacks.  First, you can’t be obsessive about your house.  I wouldn’t leave any priceless art on the walls.  And any electronics, you might find them nonfunctional when you return, if you leave them available.  But with these few caveats, you have the world at your fingertips!

A few ways this may not work:  1) Your house is not very attractive; 2) You don’t live in a desirable location; or    3) You don’t want strangers staying in your house.

Villa in Vence, France

I am thrilled about the possibilities and we are currently waiting to confirm our location for summer vacation with our grown children and their girlfriends.  Still, I am wondering if this service has impacted the fractional/timeshare world?  Post your comments or email me about your multi-generational vacations.  I am anxious to hear stories about home exchange or other creative ways of vacationing these days!


All pictures are actual listings at