All of us at Lockwood Publications extend our deepest sympathy to the families and friends of all those killed and injured in the September 11 terrorist attacks, and our prayers and thoughts are with those who perished.

The morning of September 11th ripped more than a gaping hole into the skyline of Manhattan; it spread loss throughout the hearts of every American, every person worldwide who values and treasures the fleeting preciousness of life. Over 5,000 people perished only blocks from our office, a sobering fact that will forever be etched in our minds. For those who call New York home, the senseless assault and loss of life seems at times inescapable; the jangled nerves beyond the reach of true comfort.

As we try to heed our leader's call to return to normalcy, the wide-ranging effects of the terrorist actions gain greater focus. In the immediate aftermath, the nation's commercial aviation system faced an unprecedented grounding, stranding not only passengers but the nation's air freight system as well. As retailers soon discovered, the ripple effects continued to halt the arrival of new merchandise onto store shelves. But even as air freight returned to speed, importers and distributors faced further backlogs and delays at customs.

In any case, the lack of merchandise was probably the least of retailer's immediate problems, since consumers largely retreated from most discretionary purchases following the attacks. Luxury retailers were hardest hit, while general retail sales actually saw August figures jump slightly from a year before. Shoppers began to slowly return, though, and retail experts hold continuing hope that consumers may still deliver retailers a respectable winter holiday performance none-the-less.

"Since the economy will remain weak for the balance of the year and uncertainty will continue to surround the war against terrorism, we expect these trends to continue," says Rosalind Wells, chief economist for the National Retail Federation. "However, sales in the coming months will certainly rebound from September's depressed levels."

Internet-based sales trends fared better. The number of households shopping online increased to 15.2 million in September from 14.8 million in August, according to Forrester Research, Inc. Consumers spent an average of $262 in September, compared with $273 in August. Forrester's online shopping projections for this holiday season is estimated at $11 billion, a 10% increase over the 2000 holiday season.

But, as always, specialty tobacco remains a product that defies generalizations, particularly when gazing into the crystal of upcoming retail sales. While high-end premium brands are luxury products, everyday smokes are less a luxury than a calming comfort for many. While a change of mood has largely settled in across the country, those who enjoy pipes, cigars, specialty cigarettes, and other tobacco products will likely find as much comfort as ever in their smoking habits. While celebration may be on short supply, contemplation certainly is not.

E. Edward "Ted" Hoyt III