Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Was talking to my compatriot, Scott, of More Fun in Ashland, on the phone yesterday. Scott is one of the few retailers I know who actually likes to talk about business, though I think I wear even him out with my blather. I'm pretty intense about it, as you can probably glean from this blog.

Scott is the guy who inspired me to diversify my comic stock. It is the common wisdom in the trade that small shops and or small town shops can't sell independent comics. But if Scott could sell them in a town of 20k, I figured I might be able to do the same thing. He has Medford nearby, I-5, a 4-year university, tourists, and most importantly the Shakespeare Festival. I've got a bigger town and tourists.

I'm glad I followed his example, and it's worked very well for me.

Anyway, he had the patience to help me add a feature to my computer. Some new-fangled techgeek thing, whacha call it? Instant messaging?

I'm being dragged kicking a screaming into the 21 century. So, I'm now AOL under duncanmcgeary. Turned out to be easy, like most of these things, if you just have someone guide you through.

We have renewed our lease at the BOOKMARK, my wife Linda's used bookstore. It continues to grow, even after 4 years. It took to the 3 year mark to reach the level I had envisioned as success. We're doing O.K. if our biggest problem is too many books coming in the door.

We're going to start adding shelving, while keeping the neat and open nature of the store intact. I'm really gratified for Linda, after putting up with idiotic bosses in a series of jobs after we closed the Mr.View mall, is now her own boss and is excelling at it. It makes me a little itchy not to be involved in most the decisions, but I know that it's her store and I just need to tend to my own store. I've always felt responsible for our income, even when Linda was bringing in just as much with her jobs. Now, I feel like both of us have an income that is under our own control, not counting the vagaries of retail.

Finally, I just can't resist commenting on the Bulletin's housing article today.


Hey, it's even worse than I thought. In my business, whenever I have a down month on a month that supposed to be up, I call it a 'double whammy.' It hurts twice as much. Selling 121 houses in May is truly pathetic, especially since at least some of them are probably locals moving to a new house. It would be like inverting my Christmas sales with my September sales.

I can't help but think not only about the brokers, but the secretaries in their office, the air-conditioner repairman, the guy who mows their lawn. The ripples from this are going to be devastating.

Meanwhile, most people I talk to in my store continue to be either unaware or unconcerned.

Ironically, except in the case of the early 80's, which was more of a depression than a recession for Bend, my store has always done better in down times than up. Never quite understood why. But I'm not counting on good sales past the first of next year, and I'm going to keep a watchful eye.

Edited to add: Now that I'm on the subject of housing. This is playing out almost exactly the way I thought it would. I feel emboldened, empowered even, to make a prediction I never would have made a few months ago, not because I didn't think it but because I knew it seemed outrageous.

I think static population growth is not only possible, but probable. Oh, we may grow slowly, or we may decline slowly, but the growth rate we've seen is going to come to a screeching halt.

So 11 of the houses that sold last month were to millionaires? Say 2 people per house? 22 newcomers. Compare that to the probably hundreds of houses that came online last month and didn't sell. The people who built those houses are soon going to be looking for work (to build even more houses that don't sell??)

How many of the 111 houses left were sold to residents? Take some equity out of an existing home, put it on the market, buy a bigger house because you have a new baby and are clueless?

You've got the city saying that the town is going to grow xxx much, a guest columnist who thinks its going to grow 5 times xxx much. I'm on the side of the city, but only after a number of down years.

We had a boom in the late 70's in Bend, a boom that was different in degree, but NOT in kind. 2 new malls, lots of new subdivisions, and most importantly, a city wide sewer project, brought in high paying jobs. When that all collapsed, we had nearly no new building for the next 10 years, certainly in the commercial area of which I'm familiar. Any projects were renovations, like the Post Office or the O'Kane building. It wasn't until about 1980 when Fred Meyer came in, followed a year or two later by Shopko, followed by the avalanche.

But there was a decade of stasis.

The u-hauls and for sale signs at every other house on the block were really amazing.

What do people think is going to happen to the workers who have been making good money building these houses? Do we think they are going to hang around waiting for better times? Take lower wages?

What happens to a formerly high flying real estate agent when he can't afford the dues to the country club? He leaves, and starts fresh somewhere else.

It will be both economic AND social reasons that people will leave Bend.

I will further predict that once the exodus begins, the vaunted rich folks won't stick around either, because Bend will turn from a future Aspen to a down-and-out want-to-be. The people who will actually stay because of the mountains, the lakes and streams, the skiing, etc. will be less than you think. But even if they do, it will be proportionally like last months housing sales; 22 millionaires bought 11 million dollar houses. Not exactly a population explosion.

So keep saying that "People want to live in Bend." The economy doesn't care.


dkgoodman said...

Don't all "escape" industries do well in down times? When income gets tight or things are depressing, you escape to movies, books, games and comics.

Aren't there always lots of for sale signs at the start of summer? Most people don't put their house up for sale until the kids are almost out of school.

Duncan McGeary said...

"escape" industries. That's what I've heard, as well. And perhaps lower cost entertainment, too.

Yeah, the fact that there were half as many houses inventory in the winter, when houses don't sell, means that most of them weren't on the market for whatever reason.

The physical reality of too many houses doesn't change with the number of for sale signs, does it?

Anonymous said...

The physical reality of too many houses doesn't change with the number of for sale signs, does it?

I did a three hour real-estate walk last sunday.

For every sign I saw, I saw three lock-boxes on doors.

The theory here is that serial-sellers ( people who own several homes in a row ), don't want things to look bad, but the fact is sign's don't mean anything, you have to bike and walk and look for lock-boxes.

april said...

Do you read Top Shelf's blog? Here's a great post on diversifying comics offerings in retail stores (which I am so glad you do):

Duncan McGeary said...


Funny you should mention Top Shelf. If you go back a couple weeks on the Top Shelf blog (and mine) you'll see a nice review of my store.