A Week In Business

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Top Agent Named

BERLIN – Sonia Zaffiris, Associate Broker, was recently named Hileman Real Estate’s top agent for September in both listings and sales.

Zaffiris is licensed in Maryland and Delaware. She has been named agent of the year seven times since joining Hileman. 

OC Employee Retires

OCEAN CITY – David L. Hardy Sr. is retiring after 36 years of employment with the Town of Ocean City.

Hardy, a Public Works Maintenance Supervisor, will retire on Dec. 1.

Hardy began as a seasonal employee with the town before becoming a full-time employee in February of 1972. Over the course of his career with the town, he has worked in every phase of duties in the Public Works Department’s Maintenance and Construction divisions.

A graduate of Snow Hill High School, Hardy plans to spend more time with his family and to travel. He also plans to continue to be engaged in classic cars and eventually continue his education in pesticides and herbicides after a year or two of relaxing.

Hardy said he would like to thank Public Works Maintenance Superintendent Bruce Gibbs for having confidence in him to become a supervisor in the division.

"I’d also like to thank my co-workers for their diligence and hard work," Hardy said. "In my 36 years of employment with the town, I have worked with dedicated employees. The employees of Ocean City are what make it the friendliest city in the country. I would also like to express my appreciation to the Mayor and Council for their care and concern."

Retail Forecast Gloomy

BERLIN – With Maryland shoppers impacted by declining home values, stock market losses, stagnate wages, a 20-percent sales tax increase and now growing unemployment, the Maryland Retailers Association (MRA) is not forecasting any sales gain in sales this holiday season. MRA President Tom Saquella said this is the first time in the 23-year history of the MRA’s holiday sales forecast that no sales increase is anticipated and continues the lackluster sales seen throughout 2008.

“These are tough economic times in Maryland and they are especially tough for retailers and their customers”, said Saquella.

Saquella said nobody is canceling the holidays, but the retailer is facing a customer “who is practical, budget conscious and looking for sales.”

Expect retailers to promote early sales, maintain tight inventories and add lower priced merchandise. Shoppers can also expect to see bargains not seen in years.

“The bottom line is Maryland shoppers this season have far less disposable income than in previous years and retailers recognize this reality,” said Saquella.

Saquella said merchants are hoping that continued decline in gas prices, improved consumer confidence with a new president and a December government stimulus package could boost consumer spending higher.

The MRA forecast is based upon a representative survey of its members and a review of industry data and economic indicators. Only 5 percent of survey respondents said sales in the third quarter provided positive momentum for the holiday season and only 20 percent said sales were even or ahead of last year.

Top Producer Honored

WILLARDS – Gary Waldych was awarded honors for being top producer for October at Atlantic/Smith, Cropper & Deeley. This is the fifth time he has made this achievement in 2008.

Mutual Fund Roster Expands

OCEAN CITY – Effective immediately, Vanguard mutual funds will be added to Merrill Lynch’s mutual fund roster for portability, so you can now transfer existing positions in Vanguard mutual funds to Merrill Lynch.

Included with the agreement, dividends, etc. can be reinvested and Vanguard 401ks can be moved to Merrill Lynch IRAs in-kind. Vanguard’s mutual fund accounts offer simplicity and convenience, are among the lowest costs in the industry, and can be used to help meet a wide variety of investing goals. Vanguard is in the top three in the nation with jumbo 401k plans and the nation’s largest pure no-load family fund. Because Vanguard keeps their fees and operating costs low, more of your investment returns remain in your account, working for you. This difference compounds over time, helping to improve your chances of meeting your long-term financial goals, a press release from Merrill Lynch said. For existing Vanguard clients, they now have the opportunity to receive face-to-face financial advice from Merrill Lynch advisors.

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