Thursday, April 23, 2009

Locals stay put....?

The Bulletin has an article about local movers noticing a "drop in business." They come to the conclusion that people are staying put.

Boy, this sure doesn't jibe with what I'm hearing from my customers.

The same way that a few years ago, I'd get the excited comment, "We're moving to Bend!" nowadays I hear a much more subdued, "We're leaving Bend."

So much so, that I've dusted off the "Getting out of Dodge, huh?" phrase.

Anecdotal evidence, to be sure, but pretty heavily weighted to outflow.

My guess, people are

1.) Moving themselves.

2.) Waiting for the school year to end.


Nice little Requiem essay in the Source from the owner of Santee Alley.

But really, there are a couple of things in it that I take issue with. I don't want to add to her low (bitter-sweet) spirits, but I have a couple of questions.

The first third of the essay is complaining about parking costs, (7.00 per day) and even talking about avoiding the parking guy.

I'm sorry. Go to the base of the parking garage, Minnesota Ave., find the Diamond Parking office, buy a monthly parking tag for the garage for 45.00. Don't try to dodge the parking tickets, go to work five minutes early, park in the garage and walk the three or four blocks to your store.

At least you make it clear you 'brown bag' your lunches, but the parking thing really threw me.

Secondly, her statement that rent should be around six percent and never more than ten percent had me breaking out my calculator.

I paid 12.5% last year; if I remove the Triple Net part, it came to 10%. But I include my location as advertising, which makes it a bit more affordable. Still, asking for 6% in Bend isn't going to happen for any reasonable location.

We ARE overpriced on Rent, I'll give you that.

Finally, her comment. " keep your clients coming in the door you've lowered prices forty, sixty, or higher...."

Well, not if you want to stay in business. This is the equivalent of eating your foot to avoid starving. I've done this in the past (call me PEG-LEG), but I've tried very hard to avoid it this time.

I don't want to add to her misery, but just wanted to point out that equations are not set in stone; I've accommodated the higher rent as part of my overhead -- though is really is the explanation why I'm sole worker right now, and don't advertise but depend on downtown foot-traffic.

She catches the up and down momentum of business well, how a few really good days can revive your spirit, and a few really bad days can throw you back down into the dumps.

It can be very hard to read the future -- 'Summer is coming, I had a good weekend, maybe things will work out.'...sort of feeling. But my rent is already due....

Finally, I have to like that she mentions Libby's Garden that she passes on her way to work, because it was named after my master gardener Mom, Libby McGeary. I'm glad to know that is still noticed.


Jelement said...


I think the numbers I threw together on the civilian workforce increase goes against the idea that people are on their way out. The Bend MSA civilian workforce has increased almost 5% in the last five months.

Will be interesting to see if theory that people are waiting for school to get out holds. June and July are typically the months with the largest workforce increases (1.79% and 0.99% average since 1990). September and October have the largest decreases (-1.34% and -0.61% over the same period). I assume most of this is seasonal workers from other areas who spend their summer here. If people really do leave in June/July, and we get the end of summer drop as usual, then come November things could be looking pretty slow around here.

Unknown said...

The Oregon Employment numbers indicate that growth in civilian workforce is almost entirely from people living here re-entering the workforce (retirees going back to work, 1-wage earner households converting to 2, etc), and the schools are already reporting statistical drops in enrollment. I reported this for my Apr 3 story.

Ethan Lindsey

shopping monkey said...

Poignant essay, well done...and I'm right there with her. But yes, to keep rent at 6-10% of revenues is nearly impossible. In retail, anyway. You'd have to do a ton of volume to get those numbers (you could certainly do it if you were a bankruptcy lawyer with a small office). Right now, I think downtown rent is hovering at more like 20-35%+ of gross for many retailers, and you have to include that NNN... it's all cash flying out the door. Add cost of goods, utilities, misc. and staff (we had to let ours go, too), and hey! There's nothing left. Or minus nothing, some months.

And the parking thing. I didn't realize the Mirror Pond lot was so expensive, and hate to say it, but there are 4.3 weeks in a month, which brings parking charges there to about $180 a month. WHoa. I thought $45 a month in the garage was kind of expensive, but the convenience was worth it. Besides, get two tickets and you're there anyway. I was constantly recommending that people park in the garage, and always surprised at how many locals didn't even know about it. Or forgot about it.

Anyway, I'm really sad to see another downtown business close its doors. Glad that the restaurant scene seems to be on the upswing...

H. Bruce Miller said...

Ethan, thank you for doing honest reporting about the economic situation in Bend. God knows we get none from the local media, except the Source now and then.