As of now, we are even in sales with last year, at this point in the month. Which is a big surprise. If you had asked me at the beginning of the month, or even halfway through the month, I would've said, no way. I'm even beginning to relax a bit. Christmas wasn't canceled, nothing disastrous happened, all is well.
There's still a week to go in the year, but I can already tell that I'm going to end almost exactly where I started the year in terms of profits and debt. Maybe a bit more going toward home mortgage, and a little less toward inventory.
Which is also a surprise, because it seems to me that I had completely different tactics and strategies this year. So to end up in the same place makes me wonder if it's all just preordained somehow and all my planning is for naught.
It's very gratifying, too, that we ended the year with two up months. After years of growth, we had three months in a row that were down, Year over Year. (Aug. Sept. Oct.) So I had resigned myself to perhaps a few years of declines. I'd already cut back on my spending, but I'd hoped for the money I was saving to be profits, and instead it looked as though they would go toward just breaking even.
I'm even wondering, now, if those three down months were due to all the bad news in the economy, but that news hasn't relented and we've rebounded. It is nice that we've rebounded despite not overspending. It's nice that I stuck to regular margins, unlike what I'm hearing about most retail stores, and still managed decent sales.
I'm sure I'm a sore disappointment to the Bubble Busters, Paul-doh and Bilbo and all, but that was inevitable. Despite all my tough talk, I'm mostly an optimist. I always think it's going to get better. I see dangers everywhere, maybe, but I also always think I'll figure a way around them. I'm also just pretty much an observer, and not terribly interested in getting engaged outside my own business.
I have found, over the years, that cheering for a decline is just self-destructive. Good guys and bad guys alike get hurt. For example, if there was a slowdown that didn't affect me directly, but instead affected my favorite distributer, then it will end up affecting me indirectly.
Yes, I do believe Bend is way, way over-retailed, but I'm hoping we can weather the storm. I won't stop pointing out that the square footage of office space and retail space and that weasel word 'flex' space is completely crazy. I just don't see how it can end well. But if it does collapse, I'll just try to survive again. Survival will be success.
The Housing Bubble is over. Stick a fork in it. But I see a commercial bubble that is just as big in Bend, if not bigger, and it may be even more destructive to the local economy. And it hasn't even peaked yet, they're still announcing huge projects, so it's going to play out for the next few years.
We tried a few extra hours this Christmas, nothing too over the top, and they seemed to work. I haven't tried them in years past, because there was no point. But this year, (and probably last year if I had thought of it) seemed more like a mall with all the people walking around.
I have to admit that I was somewhat impressed by the Downtowner's ad campaign in the Bulletin. I liked the consistency, the look, and the frequency of the ads.
The Downtowner's would have had some right to tell the Bulletin to take a hike, after the glowing article they did on the wonderful downtown shopping IN PORTLAND. I mean, almost all the things they said about it could just as easily be said about downtown Bend. I do believe the Bulletin has an inferiority complex sometimes.
I'll be really interested to see how everyone else did. Though the truth may not come out for a couple of months. That motels are seeing only 60 to 70% occupancy rates really surprised me, because I hadn't been paying attention and because it wasn't much more than ten years ago when every motel and hotel would be full this time of year. A concrete example of overbuilding?
When I was leafing through Cascade Business News, I was just adding the square footage of every building on every page, and it went beyond any rational scope. Hell, ten years ago two malls were going out of business because they weren't fully occupied. Now, we've probably increased the square footage by 10 times as much, and added the extra burden of higher rents. Yes, there are more people, but the dollar can be split only so many ways.
The westside, to me, is the most out of control. There is the neighborhood concept, but I think Bend is just too damn small, even now, for that to work. Portland has neighborhoods, and they also have freeways and rivers and history separating them. Why would a Bend store limit it's appeal to an already too small population?
I'm home with a cold today. So way too much time to blather. Fortunately I was at the store for the first half of the day. Our Visa machine went belly-up, stopped printing, on a Sunday, two day's before Christmas. Murphy letting me know he's thinking about me.
I've kept my old over-the-phone account, but had planned on dropping it. Now, I'm glad I didn't. I'm just using that old-fashioned hand machine, which seemed to completely confuse Patrick. What is this generation going to do if a computer virus destroys all electronics, roll over and die?
4 days ago