Tuesday, January 9, 2007

It's been very slow the last few days, and once again I'm struck by the notion that it may not matter how good my store is, or how well stocked, or how nice I am, or how great the presentation.......it may not matter....... if no one comes in. The tourists are gone, for the moment, and the locals are trying to pay off their Christmas excess. Happens every year.

Someone told me once that you can't tell the business health of a restaurant by how busy it is on a Friday or Saturday night; the restaurant makes or breaks by how they do on Mondays and Tuesdays.

I've taken that to heart and applied it to all retail. You can't tell how well a business is doing by how they do in the Summer or Christmas, but by what happens on a cold, windy Tuesday in January. If I wasn't actually working on those days, it would be an interesting experiment to take a little counter and click how many people walk by in the Old Mill district, or the corner of Bond and Minnesota, or the Outlet Mall and compare it to a Saturday in July.

That's why I've pretty much quit railing against the Walmart's of the world; I went with my wife to Walmart (to pick up a prescription for a sick friend, no really), after an incredibly slow, rainy day at my store, and the parking lot was packed, absolutely hopping. I realized that there was no competition going on between me and Walmart. I was a flea on it's hind end.

Actually, a bit of a liberating thought.

What really confounds me is that I have regular customers, who come in every week or two weeks for their comics, which arrive every Wednesday. The other stores downtown don't even have that advantage; and I wonder sometimes if their business model is more like; Make lots of money one day, and very little the next.

I have one really dud of a day that I can't seem to do much about. Tuesdays, the day before my regular Wednesday shipment. As usual, the comic world is a day late and a dollar short of what the rest of the retail world has figured out. New cd's, dvd's, books, games, are released on Tuesdays for most of retail. But the comic world, for some reason, has decided to let Tuesday fall flat.

Mondays are usually average busy, and I do all my reorders for the week. Tuesday are a dud. Wednesday's are crazy, trying to put comics away. Thursdays my reorders arrive. Friday and Saturday are just busy, and I just don't expect much from Sundays.

One of the real reasons I've pretty much gone my own way downtown, and paid very little attention to the other downtowners, is because I've felt that they spent way too much time on questionable promotions, and way too little time on the basics. Such as being open on Sundays.

I believe Bend could have the same kind of bustling Sundays as Sister's does, if we could somehow convince all the stores downtown to open every Sunday without fail, and keep it up for a few years.

Instead, it's hit or miss. Even when a store tries to open on a Sunday, if they don't get an immediate response, they tend to give up way too quickly. It takes a year or two -- or ten --for even your regulars to realize you're open. But once they know....

Sometimes I see clumps of tourist wandering around on Sundays, looking lost. What a missed opportunity. Instead, the downtowners seem to spend all their time worrying about whether the litter is being picked up, or if we have the right Christmas decorations.

It has gotten better, I admit. But I don't think we'll get the Sisters effect until we get 95% of the stores to be open.

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