The Ikea that debuts Wednesday in Tampa wasn't supposed to open until July. But good weather and savvy contractors delivered the building a few months early.
What's that mean to you? The furniture selection includes new Ikea products for 2010 that won't debut in the Ikea catalog until July. So if you want a sneak peek at what Ikea designers see as the next chapter in the ever-evolving dark wood furniture trend, look for a walnut veneer right out of the late 1960s.
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Shopper confidence may show some signs of improvement, but not in time to save Mother's Day on Sunday.
IBIS World, a Los Angeles trends forecaster, says Mother's Days sales will drop 15 percent to $12.9 billion from 2008.
The decline cuts across all categories — cards, flowers, jewelry and consumer electronics.
"The reality is that consumers will choose to make a home-cooked meal for mom rather then spend big in a fancy restaurant," said senior analyst George Van Horn. "Gift giving just isn't in many household budgets, even if it is for mom."
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No sooner had I mentioned last week that Hasbro Inc. stepped up its moviemaking role after Transformers and G.I. Joe this summer than the company inked a deal with Discovery Communications for a cable TV channel with shows based on its toys and games.
Hasbro will put $300 million into the joint venture that replaces Discovery Kids in 2010.
Not thrilled is the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, a Boston advocacy group that termed the deal a new low.
Hasbro-Discovery Channel "will make a mockery of existing ad limits and current prohibitions of product placement in children's television," said Susan Linn, campaign director. "No longer do companies feel compelled to even pretend their programming is beneficial for children or about anything but pushing product."
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The two biggest retail trade and lobbying groups have agreed to merge, something regarded unthinkable a few years ago.
With a staff of 100, 2,500 member companies and an annual budget of $35 million, the National Retail Federation unites with the Retail Industry Leaders Association, a far smaller lobbying group with $12 million in revenue and 65 retailers and 150 vendors as members.
The Retail Industry Leaders Association was started by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. founder Sam Walton in 1969. He didn't think the department store executives who controlled the bigger retail federation spoke for the interests of big box discount stores. Now the federation board, led by JCPenney chief executive Mike Ullman, and his association counterpart Robert Niblock, chairman of Lowe's Inc., think it's time to save some money with one voice.
Longtime federation chief executive Tracy Mullin, 65, retires once the merger is consummated. Association chief executive Sandy Kennedy takes her place in the transition and envisions a smaller staff of about 75, down from 135.
Terms are still being worked out. So is a name for the surviving trade group.
The Florida Retail Federation, the dominant state government lobbying group for retailers, is independent of either group. But Kennedy invited state leaders to address how state organizations work with the national one.
"In this economy we see their downsizing as a plus and this as an opportunity," said Rick McAllister, chief executive of the Florida federation.
Mark Albright can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8252.