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Mixed Blessings

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While many big companies continue to retrench, the small fry aim to grow in the next six months. A poll of small-business owners and managers finds 26 percent of them expect to add employees during that period. Conducted for American Express by International Communications Research, the poll also finds 56 percent expect to make capital investments, with computers/peripherals, office equipment and office furniture the categories most likely to get attention. One intriguing gender gap in the data: Female-owned companies are more likely than the norm to anticipate adding staff (32 percent vs. 26 percent) but less likely to foresee making capital purchases (42 percent vs. 56 percent).

As noted in a recent "Takes" item, surprisingly few Americans are drinking more than they did before terrorism and recession gave them a fresh pair of reasons to do so. Still, it's an ill wind that doesn't blow at least a few people through the doorway of the nearest bar. A politically themed Phoenix watering hole aims to drum up business with a campaign (via Moses Anshell of that city) whose slogan states, "Times like these call for a bar like Nixons." Quite so.

Those of you with sensitive noses may have noticed this already, but a study confirms that fewer Americans are using fragrances than was the case in 2001. In polling by Vertis, 72 percent of women said they now use perfume (vs. 76 percent last year), while 59 percent of men reported using cologne (vs. 66 percent in 2001). The falloff has been sharpest among Gen Xers and younger baby boomers. Women age 18-24 are especially avid users of perfume, using the stuff 5.3 days per week on average.

Clothes may make the man, but that doesn't mean the man feels like buying clothes very often. In a survey by ORC International, 39 percent of men said they shop for clothes for themselves twice a year at most. Just 22 percent of women reported buying themselves clothes so infrequently. While 46 percent of women go clothes shopping at least once a month, 25 percent of men do so. Forty percent of respondents said they do the largest share of their shopping at department stores. Discount stores(26 percent) and mall specialty stores(17 percent) also had large constituencies.

Will the ghastly numbers in their latest 401(k) reports prompt consumers to restrain their spending? Not if they don't read the ghastly numbers. Conducted after third-quarter 401(k) statements arrived in the mail, an Ipsos Public Affairs/Cook Political Report survey asked 401(k) investors to say what they did with the missive. Fewer than half (48 percent) studied it closely. Slightly more than half either skimmed the report but didn't really study it (39 percent) or set it aside to read later (12 percent). And let us salute the forthright 1 percent who conceded they threw the lousy thing away without opening it. Though most investors knew the news would be bad, it's not as if they track the Wall Street news in minute detail. Asked how often they follow news about the stock market, just 35 percent said "every day." Another 22 percent said they do so "most days" and 18 percent said "once a week." One in four said they do so either "once a month" (7 percent) or "less than once a month" (18 percent).

Pizza can be disappointing, but few people would disagree that it has a better track record than independent film (or, for that matter, unindependent film). As such, a poster for the Chicago International Film Festival is wise to associate the cinematic offerings with that city's deep-dish pizza. DDB Chicago created the piece.

When workers take a "sick" day, does it mean they're actually ill? Usually not, according to an annual survey commissioned by CCH Inc., a provider of human-resources and employment-law information. This year, just 33 percent of "unscheduled absences" have been due to ill health. Family issues account for another 24 percent; personal needs cause 21 percent. Stress (12 percent) and an "entitlement mentality" (10 percent) prompt the rest of this absenteeism.

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be financial-services marketers. In a survey by Public Agenda, respondents were asked to say which is "the biggest threat to your own personal right to privacy"—banks and credit-card companies ("because they collect and sell marketing information about consumers"), the federal government or law-enforcement agencies. Banks/credit-card companies emerged as the villains-in-chief, cited by 57 percent of respondents. The feds were picked by 29 percent and law-enforcement agencies by 8 percent.

Memo to big-company CEOs: Your immediate underlings think you're overpaid. In a Burson-Marsteller/Wirthlin Worldwide poll, senior-level executives at the country's biggest corporations were asked what a good CEO should be paid per year. The average response (including base salary plus annual bonus): $2.85 million, vs. the $11 million or so that such CEOs are said to be pocketing these days.