No doubt it’s going to be a tough year.

I’m sure the heart-wrenching stories are all around you, too. My brother, a small business owner, is worried he won’t be able to make his next mortgage payment — or the one after that. His established landscape-design business began to slow down last June. He let go seven employees over the summer (more than half of his staff) and has two trucks he’d like to sell because he doesn’t think he’ll need them in the spring — but there’s no one buying them.

My friend and her husband each lost their jobs. They are able to earn rental income from an apartment they own, but their expenses are high and their oldest child will enter college this fall.

She claimed they are “watching their pennies,” but then admitted she recently bought a Wii game system for herself, just because she “couldn’t resist it.”

I’m still scratching my head over that one, but in a way, I can understand it. These are confusing times at best. As consumers, we seemed to move rather quickly from a fair economy to a frenzied one – many people still aren’t sure when to spend it and when to hold it.

At the time of this writing it’s one week before Christmas. On this morning’s radio news was an interview with Salvation Army representatives in Chicago who said that – no surprise – donations were way below normal and the organization didn’t think it would reach its goal of $12 million this season. “People just aren’t giving,” said one of the Army’s bell ringers. “They’re holding on to their money.”

Holding on to their money is what SDM’s editors are also hearing from companies like yours. Our Industry Forecast Study, which we’ve conducted annually since 1982 among SDM’s subscribers, shows that — for the first time in the 27-year history of the study — dealers and integrators predict that total industry revenue will decline by 7.8 percent in 2009. The annual industry revenue in 2008 reached $48.5 billion (Read the article beginning on page 40.).

“We have noticed a softening in sales for last quarter 2008 versus 2007. Not so much in loss of jobs awarded, but in clients exhibiting a more conservative and cost-awareness approach,” Rob L. Kimmons of Kimmons Security Services Inc. told SDM. Kimmons Security specializes in security for the water and wastewater industries.

“The overall economic slowdown has people frightened, so that even if they have disposable income, their investments are down, their retirement funds are in the tank and they are concerned about the future,” reported Wayne Boggs of Richmond Alarm Co. “They are holding onto their money, and not spending it on anything, least of all security systems. Other businesses are experiencing the same thing we are and simply don’t have the funds available for security.”

Some say the economy will drive crime rates higher, which in turn will increase demand for security systems and services. There’s no better place to be right now, they think, than in the security business.

There will be those prospects in 2009 that are still willing and able to buy the Wii — as well as invest in security for their homes and businesses. There will also be those that aren’t — those who wait and see if things get better later. The challenge will be to find and capture the spenders, as well as to convince the “wait-and-seers” that an investment in security offers high value and measurable return on investment.

Can you say the same about a gaming system?