Thursday, May 10, 2007

"It has become increasingly more difficult to run a single store like mine," says Allen Drucker, who will close shop after 32 years." Caption on article in the Bulletin about a model train store in CA. going out of business.

Model trains, (and cars and boats, etc.) have been completely wiped out by the Internet. As Mr. Drucker says, ....."there is the looky-loo hobbyist who comes in checks out the latest... but buys almost nothing....then he buys online from some guy working out of a barn..."

Every time I curse the low price point of comics, and how difficult they are to order, I should remember that those two elements may be what keeps me in business. Many customers don't want to be hassled buying 3.00 items online, and it is difficult for any chain or mass market to figure out how to order something that comes in on a monthly basis, but which is constantly changing in story, content, format, creator's, price, etc. etc. It is because there isn't much money in comics that we are protected from a massive entry into the market by the big boys.

The very quirkiness of my store, while it makes it difficult to cash in on mass culture, also makes my store unique and difficult to reproduce.

Meanwhile, a few days ago the Bulletin blurbed that Mountain Supply had to close their Redmond store because they couldn't get qualified employees. Boy, did that sound familiar. My biggest problem when I had multiple stores was finding employees that would stick around long enough to warrant training. I'll never have extra stores again, because of that.

Then there is the jewelry store in Sisters that is closing up, Sharf Gallery. It basically comes down to it not being worth the effort, anymore. What's becoming a fairly constant refrain, is that these small stores are very difficult to sell. Most have to liquidate.

Finally, over at Slate, there is a defense of bubbles. How they leave infrastructure behind for the next wave of businesses. Well, I know that when the Sport Card Bubble burst, my infrastructure shrank from 4 stores to 1, so that's debatable. But what really came to mind was how Downtown Bend just keeps looking better and better despite the constant failures of small business.

Actually, the reason that the stores downtown keep looking better is BECAUSE of the constant failures. The stores are failing upward; a new owner comes along, fixes the place up, the rents rise, and the next owner has to bring even more funds to the enterprise and fixes the place up and rents rise, and then the next owner....

As I've said before, you can't always tell what's going from the outside.

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