Thursday, July 30, 2009

Dive on in, the water's warm!

You don't live near the Deschutes River for long before you become leery of that come-on.

To me, all this talk of recovery and green shoots is just fine. But I'll watch everyone else dive in, and I'll watch comfortably from the shore.

I see no sign of recovering in my store. I'm exactly the same pace down (about 20%) that I have been over the last year or so. I am getting large numbers of people in the door, but very few buyers. I can't be totally sure it's not my store, but since my inventory is --if anything -- better than it was a couple of years ago, that seems unlikely.

Plus I hear verbal evidence that people are being frugal. Putting stuff back after they are quoted a price.

Because of the seasonality of the Bend economy, even if there is some kind of recovery, we wouldn't be seeing most of it until next summer. Maybe an uptick at Christmas, but I doubt it.

Meanwhile, we have the off season.

Something that no one is talking about, but which seems super important to me.

I started seeing the steepest declines in September of last year, about the time of Lehman Brothers going under. Up until now, the declines in sales have been compared to a slow 2008. Starting in September, we'll be comparing to a cliff-diving September of last year.

Another drop from there really would be significant.

7 comments:

blackdog said...

In tough times the non-essential purchases are what gets dropped first. I can't think of any merchandise that's less essential than the sort of stuff you sell, Dunc. (Meaning no disrespect -- I know it's high quality and all that, but it's certainly stuff people can live without.) So your sales might not be the best gauge of how the economy in general is doing. A better gauge would be sales of essential and semi-essential items -- clothing, cars, household appliances. I suspect we'll see an uptick in such items before we see one in things like comic books and fantasy action figures.

Duncan McGeary said...

I think what I sell is almost outside the normal market.

I've done well when the rest of the country was doing poorly, and poorly when the rest of the country was doing well.

This is the first time that I've seen the actual one on one correlation with the outside economy.

I don't think people not spending vacation is going to change, whether they are buying essential or non-essential stuff.

You should see the number of Powell's candy bags I see!

Duncan McGeary said...

Business is business. Just because I sell comics doesn't mean I can't figure out what's going on.

Like I said, anyone is welcome to think it's getting better.

But I see what's going on downtown, and it's worse than you think. We already have a bet about that....

Duncan McGeary said...

We keep having this conversation.

To me, books are a necessity. Yes, even comic books.

New clothes are a luxury.

Besides, what downtown is "essential" because I'm talking about downtown.

blackdog said...

"Like I said, anyone is welcome to think it's getting better."

I don't think it is yet. I just don't see the future in quite such apocalyptic terms as you do.

"We already have a bet about that...."

No we don't, because we never agreed on what we were betting on, other than "I'm right and you're wrong," and without a definition of what constitutes "right" in this context it's a meaningless bet.

But if you want to propose something SPECIFIC and MEASURABLE to bet on, I'm your huckleberry.

"To me, books are a necessity. Yes, even comic books. New clothes are a luxury."

I would venture to guess that given a choice between buying school clothes for the kids and comic books for themselves, 99.9% of consumers would buy the clothes.

tim said...

"I would venture to guess that given a choice between buying school clothes for the kids and comic books for themselves, 99.9% of consumers would buy the clothes."

You don't seem to understand comic book buyers.

Bend Economy Man said...

I bought plenty of baseball cards at Pegasus in the '80s when the economy was in the dumps. Was it "fiscally responsible"? No. But very few kids are fiscally responsible.

The nonessentials that I think are really being hammered now are the bigger-ticket items that Joe Sixpack typically takes out credit to buy. I'm thinking RVs, motorsport toys, furniture, appliances. Applying for a loan is a "reality check" where a third party steps in and evaluates your ability to repay.

But I think that the tendency to blow money on stuff you don't need is not something that poverty cures. The things that the money gets blown on just move downmarket.