There’s Light Ahead

Retailers get their hope from some direct evidence: “Small Business Saturday,” a national promotional effort to draw shoppers to independent Main Street stores instead of mega-malls over the Thanksgiving weekend, was seen as a huge success. An estimated 103 million shoppers participated, about 15% more than expected.

The chief executives of the biggest businesses in the U.S. appear to agree. In a survey by the Business Roundtable, big-company CEOs predicted that the U.S. economy will expand 2% in 2012, even taking into account the expectation of government spending cuts here and serious economic troubles in Europe.

In the survey, 68% of chief executives said they expected sales to rise in the next six months. “We continue to see strengthened fundamentals in American business but it’s combined with a slow, uneven recovery,” Jim McNerney, chairman of the Roundtable and CEO of Boeing, said in a conference call.

The survey of CEOs closely mirror a survey of economists conducted by Bloomberg News in early December.  The median estimate of the survey of 69 economists predicted 2.1% growth in the U.S. economy in 2012.

Another poll of economists, from Reuters, that the U.S. economy has probably been picking up speed over the last few months, and will continue to grow moderately in 2012. Fear that the economy will slip into a second recession has declined, too.

A current political event may have removed one key concern. The expected extension by Congress of the “payroll tax holiday,” even if it’s only for two months into the New Year, was a relief to economists, who cited the loss of real cash in consumers’ pockets as a potential threat to recovery.

At the start of the last week before Christmas, political wrangling over a deal had reached fever pitch, but a compromise of some sort is considered likely.

At best, it will be one less thing for business people to worry about, at the end of a year filled with unpredictable horrors, from a tsunami to a Greek debt crisis.




Trends Ahead

So, what else is new? Here are a few major trends ahead that will affect small business, at least according to those willing to go out on a limb: