Monday, December 8, 2008

My first Recession.

This is my first full-on Recession (with a capital R). Because of other factors, I barely noticed the other (little r) recessions.

What about all my supposed expertise in downturns? Well, those were product bubbles, which is a different species of animal. The overall effect may have been similar, but the reasons and dynamics were isolated to my store (and stores like mine) alone.

As I've said, in some ways this feels very comfortable to me. But in other ways, I'm having to react differently and do different things in different order than I have in the past. I have experience, but this also so new and so big that I can't be sure I'm making the right decisions.

I want to see this as a new case -- not fight the last war.

Of course, I'll know I made the wrong choices if they come back to bite me. Whereas, making the right decisions may result in not much more than the status quo, or a smaller downturn.

Maybe that's all I can hope for.

I'm thinking there aren't very many Recession proof businesses; just businesses that are affected less than others.

So I'm learning things about Recession on a day to day basis. (Good reason for a daily blog, huh?)

The information was all there, but I just wasn't able to be able to focus on it.

I saw a big downturn coming, but I really wasn't sure how it was going to affect my business. Would comics prove to be Recession proof? Would Downtown Bend continue to get affluent customers? Would tourists continue to come?

I think I'm starting to get some answers.

First of all, the answer was sort of there in my memory banks. Mike Richardson started Pegasus Books in a little hole in a wall on Greenwood in 1980, within a year he had expanded into a space next to it that was 4 times bigger. And a year later he had shrunk back to the original space. And less than a year later he had moved Downtown. (Amazing to realize that all happened within a 3 year span -- it seemed forever back then.)

The Reagan Recession was the Bend Depression. Sales of comics and especially games fell off the face of the earth.

The other piece of information was observing my customers this summer. I started to realize that the bulk of my regular comic buyers were in their late 20's or early 30's and were heavily involved in what I call the 'growth' industry. This is the demographic that seems to me to be most vulnerable the economic shock: often married, with bills and debt. And sure enough, I've seen a very big drop off in this group.

So much for comics being Recession proof. I'm still not hearing that from other comic retailers, but the biggest drop off happened in September, so it may be too soon. And I know from the previous Armageddon in comics (95'-2000') that most shops won't admit to anything until it's too late.

Meanwhile, though, summer overall was pretty good, and it was obvious that affluent tourists were still spending money. I'm hoping that this will continue on into Christmas, though the news is much worse this winter and no snow would be a bit of a disaster.

I always say that knowing a downturn is coming is a lot like being told that a guy you see coming down the street is going to sock you. Forewarning doesn't make it hurt any less.

But the real kicker is to realize that I may actually get hurt worse than businesses that were less prepared and less knowledgeable simply because of the kinds of things I sell. This could be a bitter pill, I suppose, if I let it. But you know, what does it matter? More power to them. In a sense, if they keep making money they might just generate a little to go my way.

In fact, I'm not sure it does me any good to compare to other businesses. Pay attention to my own situation.

I can pat myself on the back for carrying the other 50% of my product. Most of it is much less dependent on regulars and much less of a cash-flow drain. Books continue to do well, and the card games, so I can be glad I'm diversified.

But I'm still learning new things about how Recessions work on a daily basis.

Thing about Christmas, I won't really know how the store is doing until the out-of-towners arrive in the second half of the month, and the big surge at the end; and by then, it's too late to make orders.

So I'm erring on the side of caution.

P.S. Noticed the Bulletin has dropped the Business section on Mondays -- because, you know, there's nothing going on in the world of business these days.

Much more news about kittens and puppies, I guess.


BilboBend said...

I'm thinking there aren't very many Recession proof businesses; just businesses that are affected less than others.





Proctor & Gamble, ...

Alcohol, Cheap Alcohol.

BilboBend said...

I still say people will stay at home more, and play games.

Back to the basics, monopoly, scrabble, ... got to have games the whole family can enjoy.

Then add the booze, get a deal with Silver Moon or JC's on a coupon basis where you can promote games & booze,

Perhaps you can do a coupon for a break on filling a growler at JC's or SilverMoon when people buy a game. Then you can put signs out front promoting the connection.

You control the coupons, on your sales, and don't pay silver-moon unless they pass back to you the endorsed coupons.

Then get the local 'cheap' places to promote you as a game shop. They all have games, but often people want to play at home.

For instance its cheaper to have a growler at home, its 1/2 price.

I'm not sure how you can market 'comics', I'm sure your already covered with your wifes shop on selling used-fiction, or any escape books.

You actually might have too much space, you know your 'real' customers don't really care where you are, you don't need employees, why not move your OP into your wifes place, your always talking about how much space she has.

Good Luck, ... I can see you out there promoting 'A game & a Beer ( or wine ), ... sort of like Dinner & a Movie'.

Even in the Great Depression people spent nickels on movies and comics, or books. The real problem is marketing.

Also with the NAZI parking thing going on downtown, I suspect that as the locals get HIT with the $100 tickets by the brown-shirts they'll be staying away from downtown, as most can't afford a parking ticket.

Thus another reason not to be downtown.

Your getting old, I mean how much longer can you do this alone there? Maybe ten years??

You bought the place in 1986, as a kid, maybe you ought find some young-in in this recession who wants to be in biz???

Then you & your wife could take ALT days running her shop, no employees, and still sell what you want to your preferred customers.

Duncan McGeary said...

I don't care what they say, Bilbo. Sometimes you're very perceptive.

I've thought about all those things. I still would rather keep my own store, if possible, but that are all things I could do, if I need to.

blackdog said...

"Perhaps you can do a coupon for a break on filling a growler at JC's or SilverMoon when people buy a game. Then you can put signs out front promoting the connection."

Good idea but the OLCC would never allow it.