Trying to gauge the economy is like looking at shadow's on the wall (See Plato's Cave Metaphor below.)
Most information I get is dated, or slanted, or whitewashed, or referring to something else. All I can do is try to glean clues from the dancing shadows.
For the first time, I have another set of data to work with, I'm not completely on my own trying to figure out what's going on. Linda's store is seeing a slight slowdown, but nothing like what Pegasus has gone through.
Meanwhile, there are several comic dealers in big cities who say they are doing very well.
Normally, I might dismiss these claims. (Or just feel jealous of them.) But this time, I see both results as hopeful. I always say, my store doesn't exist in isolation, and therefore if others are doing well, the potential exists for my store to pick up.
But I do think Bend is -- as usual -- in a kind of unique situation, and downtown is unique within Bend.
I noticed this summer, for instance, that a huge percentage of my customers were employed in the 'growth' industry. So I expected a fall off this fall and winter. I didn't expect to lose some long term customers, without so much as a word from them. They just stopped coming in.
Sort of disappointed in them. I expected better, I guess. At least a fair warning that they weren't going be able to pick up all the comics I'd piled up for them.
Overall, there seems to me to be a inexorable logic to the slowdown. Gravity has reasserted itself. Again, this morning, there are reports of only 22 building permits issued, keeping the rolling average at around 25 per month over the last year and a half or so.
Just out of curiosity, I counted the furniture store ads in the yellow pages, (not counting Antique stores) and found about 24 listings. At least 4 of those are gone.
The inexorable logic is that 24 stores furnishing 24 houses (building permits could be a garage extension, or a new deck, but let's pretend) means one house to furnish per month, assuming that people buy in Bend, assuming that they don't buy second hand, assuming that they don't already have their own furniture.
You can use the same inexorable logic on plumbers, electricians, painters, ect. ect.
I've been saying that the last 3 years were an illusion, and my sales figures seem to be confirming that. It's not fun, but it's O.K. since my overhead is no higher than it was 3 years ago but it does require an adjustment.
At least, that's the way I read the shadows.
Plato used the analogy of the cave to illustrate his idea of forms. The analogy goes like this:
Imagine several prisoners who have been chained up in a cave for all of their lives. They have never been outside the cave. They face a wall in the cave and they can never look at the entrance of the cave. Sometimes animals, birds, people, or other objects pass by the entrance of the cave casting a shadow on the wall inside the cave. The prisoners see the shadows on the wall and mistakenly view the shadows as reality.
However, one man breaks free from his chains and runs out of the cave. For the first time, he sees the real world and now knows that it is far beyond the shadows he had been seeing. He sees real birds and animals, not just shadows of birds and animals.
This man is excited about what he sees and he goes back to his fellow prisoners in the cave to tell them about the real world. But to his astonishment, they don’t believe him. In fact, they are angry with him. They say the shadows are reality and that the escaped prisoner is crazy for saying otherwise.
2 days ago