Monday, August 31, 2009

A writer in our midst...

A customer of mine, came in with the first chapter of a book. It immediately caught my attention that the spaceship captain hero of the piece, a degenerate drunk, was named Duncan McGeary

But it also caught my attention that ... well, it was good. Really good. Especially for someone who had not apparently showed his work around much. I told him I liked everything about it -- except the name of the main protagonist.

Anyway, I twisted his arm to come to the Farewell Bend Writer's Group, and I encouraged him to get connected to Bend Blogs, so more people could read his stuff. His name is Jared Folkins.

Today's story, on acloudtree blog, is awesome. I loved it.

Holy crap!

I woke up this morning to find that Disney has bought Marvel comics.

This is like finding out you have a new boss. Makes one a little insecure.

The last time Marvel made such a drastic move, they wiped out 2/3rds of the comic shops in America. (They broke up the traditional distribution route, trying to distribute their own comics. They were wretched at it. Eventually, we arrived at the Diamond monopoly we have now.)

I've always thought that Disney has totally mismanaged their own characters, when it comes to graphic material. Hopefully, they'll leave Marvel alone the way Warner Brothers leaves DC comics alone. But I ain't counting on it.

My own suspicion is that Disney will be more inclined to try the mass market route, whether that's smart or not.

It accelerates my move into books, as a safety valve.

I'm sure I'll be talking a lot about this in the future.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Less than zero.

The Bulletin has a full court press on the idea of 'recovery.'

Oh, my gosh, where to start.

"Signs of Stability Amid Another Decline."

I suppose a corpse looks pretty stable, until the rotting gases inside make the body jerk. O.K. That's overstating it. But lack of movement isn't stability.

Back when the sport card market began to collapse, it was a constant mantra for me to say, "It can't drop any further." Finally, Linda said to me, "Why can't it drop to zero?" I'd built four stores on top of a bubble, 8 employees, and me the Little Dutch Boy running around plugging holes. I had built the four stores with the thought that "even if" sales dropped in half, I could still pay the overhead.

And instead, I was seeing sales drop like a huge iron safe dropping through the floors of a building. The real floor, as it turned out, was the ground.

Oh, sure. I'd hear stories that 'other' shops were selling cards well, or that the national market was healthy, but for me? Once sales dropped below the level I could maintain the stores, they had dropped to --Less Than Zero.

The only thing for me to do was to close or sell the other three stores as fast as I could manage; and in the process I racked up credit card bills that took me another 10 years to pay off. -- Less Than Zero, as in 10's of thousands in debt.

Sports cards are still around, but sales dropped to Less Than Zero for one store after another, one sport card distributor after another, one card manufacturer after another. They disappeared into a black hole.

You can tell the public that sales are picking up, but if they are Less Than Zero for you, your friends and family, or your local neighbors, then such "stability" might as well be in China for all it matters.

"Building permits 'are so close to zero there's nowhere to go but up," quotes the Bulletin.

No. They can be Less Than Zero in effect; as in tearing down existing housing, as in brown lawns and peeling paint and squatters and crime, as in bankrupt furniture stores, as in repossessed boats and cars, as in FDIC takeover of banks, as in foreclosures flooding the market, as in intervention by the government.

(Paul-doh is saying the same thing better over on Bendbubble2.)

But I leave you with the thought -- oh, dear, how negative can I get? -- that it can indeed go somewhere else other than "up." It can go to Less Than Zero.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Reality takes hold.

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.
--Philip K. Dick

Leave it to the most paranoid writer of all time to nail the truth of it.

I've been looking for a way to say this for a long time. It pretty much makes moot all the talk, all the media spin, all the hopes and desires, fears and failures.

It is what it is.

There are a plethora of articles about the "New Frugality"; a paradigm shift in spendings. I don't think I believe that. I think people still want to spend money.

The reality, if anything, is more alarming.

They simply don't have the money to spend. I feel as though most of the drop off in sales I've seen have come from a very basic fact; some of my customers have lost their jobs, others have had their income cut back.

So what I've seen is people simply dropping their comic shelves, period. No cutting back. Either they buy or they quit. And once they quit, it's unlikely I'll get them back. But like I said, most of the ones that quit were rumbling about lost wages or lost jobs or moving out of town. Real stuff. Not some amorphous, "Gee, I think I'll be careful with my spending, now...."

I think the cutting back for frugality is more or less a media invention, at least from the perspective of Pegasus Books. Having money and choosing not to spend it, isn't the same thing as not having money at all.

The New Frugality makes it sound as though the situation is within our control. Whereas, a downturn because people are broke is much more serious.

Both things are going on, of course. But saying that people are "being frugal" is almost an excuse, in my opinion, to not do anything. "Oh, it's just people being careful." Not, "It's people who are broke, and in debt up their ears, and in trouble."

Haves and have nots. Those who have a steady job, and those who don't. Those who have health insurance, and those who don't. Those who have an affordable mortgage, and those who don't.

Frugal is all well and good. I'm all for it.

But being broke makes being 'frugal' a joke.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Sorry, not impressed.

With the BAT. The number that really caught my attention in today's Bulletin about the Bend transit's millionth rider (actually boardings) is that the little old system of Dial a Ride that existed before Sept. 2006, was carrying 104k riders a year. So, with all the infrastructure and false starts and increased routes and new buses and all the rest, they only managed to triple those numbers.

Also, unless I'm missing something, the ridership hasn't really increased since the first year. 346k boardings in the first fiscal year, times three years, is the million boardings we're about to reach. That seems pretty stagnant to me.

Like I said, not impressed.


There's an interesting map all over the webazine world which shows potential future changes to the climate of America. (Everything turns orange, as in hot, and red as in scorching.) It would be even more interesting if every map I've seen didn't leave off the entire west coat of the continental U.S.A. Because, you know, Oregon, Wash. and California really aren't part of the country. I wonder how Alaska and Hawaii feel?


So a staff person has left the office of a politician. I'm impressed. By the fact that she managed to get a section Headline from the Bulletin out of a simple job change. Now that's lobbying.


At least one other person has caught the significance of the 4th quarter for retail stores.
KeyPoint Partners Retail has this very succinct statement:

Since September 2008 comp store sales at many retail firms indicate dramatic year-over-year declines. Consequently, we are about to complete the worst 12-month retail cycle since the Great Depression.”

It was September 2008 when the economy went into freefall. You remember: banking failures, stock market crash, financing woes - all the things that can force commercial development to a screeching halt. Oh, and a brutal acceleration in retail sales declines."

So here's what to watch out for. If there is ANY further decline, even if it's just a fraction of the decline from the previous year, it's a compounded decline. Which would put us into our third year of compounded declines. A 5% drop may sound like a dramatic improvement from a 20% drop, but it's in addition to the 20% drop; a 25% drop. And 2007 wasn't exactly a positive year.

I'm sure, though -- positive, in fact -- that the media will put in a real positive spin on this. Add that spin to the likely unpredictable and seasonal month to month statistics, and you will have 'everything is turning up roses' type headlines.

My hope is that I'll equal last year's fourth quarter, this year. Then I might buy into the idea we've hit bottom.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Talking to brick walls.

Books currently on display in the window of Pegasus Books:

My Year of Meats, Ruth L. Ozeki
The Giant's House, Elizabeth McCracken
Motherless Brooklyn, Jonathan Lethem
The Pilot's Wife, Anita Shreve
Dead Sexy, Tate Hallaway
The Dogs of Babel, Carolyn Parkhurst
Jewell, Bret Lott
Sea Glass, Anita Shreve
The Map of the World, Jane Hamilton
Case Histories, Kate Atkinson
Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden
Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt
Night Moves, Tom Clancy
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Lisa See

Comment of woman walking by, "Oh, it's mostly science fiction...."


Comment of regular blog reader. "Oh, you have so much more stuff than I expected. You have lots of books!"

Double sigh.

See here's the thing.

Advertising and promotion is all well and good. Signs, and displays, and talking and blogging and jumping up and down in a monkey suit are all fine ideas.

But they can't overcome the mightiest hurdle of all.


A set mind.

When I brought in new books, I knew that it wouldn't matter to just about anyone who had been in my store in the last 25 years. They would continue to think of Pegasus as what they made up their mind about Pegasus when they first visited. Whether it be comics or cards or toys or science fiction or whatever.

On the other hand, the majority of new visitors are open to the idea that I'm a bookstore because they actually believe the evidence before their very eyes.

That's great. I can build on that.

Here's another situation that arises ten or fifteen times a day.

Customer walks in and asks, "Do you have Native Plants of North America?"

"We carry almost exclusively fiction," I say.

Completely blank look. Not the answer they expected. No, would suffice. Yes, would be good. Don't know, is what they expected.

"So you don't have it?"

"Probably not. We do know -- novels...."

Slowly, perceptively, the understanding of what I'm saying enters their mind.

But I don't want to just say No. This is my opportunity to do a little marketing, one on one, the most valuable kind. So I make the effort. If I just say, "No," they leave and are never the any wiser about my store. Sometimes, they'll brighten up and say, "Oh, great. I've been looking for a good read!" and actually walk over and start looking around.

But it can be frustrating.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

An avalanche, I tell you.

A couple of business article caught my attention this morning.

First, there is this article from the Chicago Sun-Times;

Avalanche of store closings coming, study says.
August 26, 2009

"As many as 10,000 retail stores will close nationwide this year, led by clothing stores, electronics and food-and-beverage stores, and department stores, in that order, a study released Tuesday shows.

If the forecast holds, the store closings this year will be nearly double that of last year, when store closings stood at 5,100, said Sandra Reese, a principal at Grant Thornton LLP's offices in Chicago. Last year, the biggest store closings occurred in electronics, followed by home improvement-furnishings stores and in third place, apparel stores..."

" closings are expected to soar 270 percent, to 3,000 store closings this year from a year ago, while department store closings are expected to increase 61 percent, to 422, this year.

Though bookstores represented only a fraction of the total, their closings are forecast to jump 500 percent from last year, to 400 stores.

The only store category that is forecast to close fewer stores is home improvement, where store closings are projected to decline 57 percent, to 480 stores this year."

Those are some eye-popping statistics.

Twice as many store closings.

Clothing store closings 270%

Bookstores closings 500%

Furniture and home improvement (which had it's biggest avalanche last year) closings 57%.


Speaking of bookstores, Borders announced their earnings. (From ICV2).

Sales Decline Accelerates at Borders
$45 Million Loss
Published: 08/25/2009 01:27pm

"Borders Group reported a $45.6 million loss from continuing operations in its second quarter (ending August 1) on sales down nearly 18%. Borders same store sales were down 17.9%; Waldenbooks sales were down 10.8%; total consolidated sales were $616.8 million, down 17.7%. A big chunk of the losses came from various adjustments, many related to the company’s restructuring.

Borders CEO Ron Marshall attributed the tough quarter to the costs of reducing inventory in Borders’ weak categories (CDs and DVDs among them) and increasing inventory and emphasis in stronger categories (e.g., its additions of toys and games in the kids department, see “Borders Adds Toys and Games”).

The sales decline was worse on a year over year basis than it was in Q1 (see “Sales Decline 12% at Borders”). Barnes & Noble sales were also down by a greater percentage in Q2 than in Q1, although at much lower percentages (see “Barnes & Noble Sales Slip 5%”).

The amount of inventory reduction, $208 million, vs. the year ago period was roughly consistent with where it was at the end of Q1."

It appears to me that Borders is doing exactly the thing I was warning about a few days ago.

Things aren't working well, so they're making radical changes.

The time to make changes is when things are going well. The time to burnish your core business is when things are going wrong. They're doing the opposite.

They're correct that they need to change their business model, but -- from all accounts -- their bookshelves are looking skimpier and skimpier while they open 'new' concept stores and bring in outside product. (toys?!)

It's as if you really hated your job, and you hear they're hiring on the other side of the country, so you pack the spouse, the two kids and the dog in your old beater, and take off.

You get halfway across the country before your car breaks down at a rest stop and the next thing you know you are on the corner with a cardboard sign saying, "Must feed kids and dog."

As unpleasant as it may seem, the better thing to do would be to stick to your bad job, cut back in everything else you do, try to save a little ahead.

If worse comes to worse and you lose your job, at least you are in familiar territory, don't have to move in the middle of a crisis, and can make use of available help.

It looks to me as those Borders zigged with it should have zagged, and is now zagging when they should be zigging.

(Don't you hate it when I use technical terms?)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The customer is always right.

"The Customer is always" in the same way your mother-in-law is always right.

It's best to just agree.

Best to keep on good terms. You know, she only visits once or twice a year so you don't really have to change the way you do anything, and it never really has to be challenged cause with any luck she'll be gone in a couple of days.

But I don't think I'll shock anyone's sensibilities if I say, the customer isn't always right, but like your mother-in-law saying the most outrageous things, it's best to ignore and pretend.

The customer's information or knowledge is most definitely not always right. You know, I've only been doing this for 30 years or so, and everyone off the street is more right than me?

And finally, the customer's tastes aren't always right. But it's best to let them have their favorites without comment. Everyday someone will ask for a book or a comic that I dislike, but it doesn't matter what I like. I will say, even, that it's not a matter of what I like or dislike, but that some stuff just sucks.


The customer is most definitely always right when they buy something.

Let me repeat that -- because we want the customer to buy from us, we'll always agree with them.

Pretty cynical, if you ask me. The customer ought to be thinking what this means when a big box store (or small retailer) butters them up by saying they're always right. How can that be?


If you think about it, retailers say this not for your benefit but for ours.

So WE agree to everything YOU say, no matter how outrageous?

"Oh, yes, ma'am. Abba is so much better than the Beatles."

"Absolutely, sir. The Black Hole is a much better movie than Star Wars."

How condescending can you be?

It makes about as much sense as going to the doctor, and asking the doctor how you're doing and the doctor say, "How do YOU think you're doing?" "I think I'm O.K."
"Well, you must be right," says the doctor.

We all act like we're cynical about marketing, and yet at some level of sub-conscious, some marketing ploys are so insidious, so crafty, that we buy into them. Because it strokes our ego?

If we had a friend who told us we were always right, we'd think them a toady, a brown-noser, a wormtongue. We wouldn't think they were much of a friend.

We admire people who speak truth to power, no matter the consequences. Any smart power player would appreciate that.

You the customer are the power.

But you don't want us to speak truth.


I had a couple of customers in yesterday looking a the S.F. and Fantasy books. One comments to the other that he never reads S.F. because they always pull out a gadget or a magic spell to save themselves.

My hackles rise.

That's only true in the most general of senses, and not all that different than any other kind of novel. I've only read a few books like that in the genre, and they were very early in the history -- E.E. Doc Smith, for instance.

Most are way more complicated and sophisticated than that.

Or I could've quoted Sturgeon's Law.

Or I could've quoted Shakespeare:

And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy

But I left him blissfully ignorant, just as I must almost all people's opinions of comics.

And I was rewarded by the purchase of a Watchmen graphic novel.


But only if they want to stay wrong.

This and that.

I don't believe in ESP, per se. That is, I don't think anything supernatural is going on, just that the human brain is so complex that the tiniest signals are picked up, passed on, and synthesized.

You can't be a retailer for long before you start to see weird patterns.

Yesterday was a perfect example. I got young couple after young couple coming in the door. Mostly in the 16 to 22 year old range. It started becoming really remarkable about half the day through, and continued on through the rest of the day.

Not only that, if they weren't a boy girl couple, they were likely to be a couple boys or a couple of girls. If they weren't a young couple, they might be an older couple.

But couples all the way.

It got so I asked, "Is there something going on downtown?" You know, something that was bringing that particular configuration of humans?

The only thing I could think of, was that maybe C.O.C.C. was starting up -- introduction day, or something. But that's grasping at straws.

Sometimes it's just a mystery.


Couple of girls asking for the Crow.

Out of curiosity, I looked at the copyright. 1981.

"Wow," I said. "Guys with eyeliner wearing black have been around since 1981."

"They've been around for hundreds of year, if you think about it," one of the girls said.

" fact, I believe they sacked Rome," I said.

Times like this, I wish I could draw. A tribe of Emo Boys with ear-rings and fountain pens, throwing sacks over the heads of Romans.


When we saw the ad for Inglorious Basterds at the theater, my wife turned to me and said, "I don't want to see that."

A couple of nights ago, we watched Mama Mia. I absolutely squirmed through the first 10 minutes, as the most girly flick I've ever seen giggled and squealed and bounced and trilled (or in the case of Pierce Brosnon, croaked) over my manly senses.


She owes me.

Big time.

We're going to go see Inglorious Basterds.

(Though I have to admit, those ABBA tunes are pretty catchy....)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Taking stock; A Tale of Three Bears.

I see the economy right now as a tale of 3 bears.

The stock market is a panda bear.

The national economy your everyday black bear.

And the local economy as a 1000 pound Mama Grizzly, (URSUS HORRIBILIS) and you've just stumbled upon her two cubs.

Panda bear, cute and cuddly and living in a world of it's own.

Actually, you couldn't really call the stock market cute and cuddly, but it certainly lives in a world of it's own. I'm actually expecting the market to go up in the next quarter, and I've pulled all our IRA funds out of cash (.000000006% or something like that) and into a 'conservative' mutual fund, for Linda (Pioneer Stratagic Income Fund), and into the other funds I'm already invested in (Evergreen and Eaton Vance) for me.

The Contrarians are betting on a 10% drop in the market, so I'm going all contra--contra on their ass, and saying it will go up, at least until the end of the year. After that? I think the national economy will muddle through. (More on that in the Black bear section.) I was telling my broker, that I don't go to Vegas, so I'm getting cheap thrill by checking the stock ticker every week or so.

Yeah, yeah, Jesse, I'm a babe in the woods. But I'm hoping for a little of that "God takes care of fools and Englishmen" beginners luck.

Besides, I'm still young -- well, relatively. I can wait the decade.

The Black Bear -- leave it alone and it will leave you alone.

Usually, that is. Sometimes the bear will get kind of gnarly on you, especially if you go to bed with a sandwich in your pajamas or something.

Anyway, I believe the national economy isn't going to get much better very fast, that it will APPEAR as though things are improving. As I've pointed out several times lately, we're about to double up on the extreme drop of last September. (Remember? Lehman Brother, Merrill Lynch, AIG and John McCain flying to Washington to save us?)

I'm thinking they are going to try to avoid extreme inflation or extreme deflation, or first deflation and then inflation, or whatever -- the experts seem split on this.

Everything else -- it sucks.

Grizzly times.

Local Economy -- Holy Cow. Stay in your cabin, there are Grizzly's out there looking to feed their young.

I've got a bet that at least two local banks will go down for the count. I didn't pick the one that actually went down, and there isn't much time left in the year, so it looks like I may be buying my friend a CD of his choice.

I think the housing is so much worse than anyone knows.

And commercial, don't get me started on commercial.

A year or so ago, I counted about 10 locations on Greenwood for rent. That actually shrank to about 5 for awhile, and a couple new ones have come on. But the alarming part is the 5 who haven't rented -- for SEVERAL YEARS now. I don't think the landlords are quite willing to go down to nothing, and that's probably what it will take.

So, looking at downtown, we've managed to rent the spaces relatively quickly until now. Lots of turnover, really, 3 of the 6 spaces in the building across from me have turned over in the last 6 months or so.

But I'm concerned that we might start seeing the Greenwood phenomenon downtown over the next year or so -- spaces stay vacant much longer because rents refuse to drop.

But the biggest thing for me, as a retailer, is that SUMMER IS OVER. That's big deal. Summer and Christmas are when I make enough money to weather the rest of the year. Christmas is still coming, and they haven't yet managed to cancel Christmas, so that's a plus.

Summer turned out at the higher end of my expectations. It's possible August will be my best month, both in sales and in rate of decrease from last year. With Christmas coming up, I'm pretty sure I can stay off the trails the Grizzlies are stalking.

But I think the six months after that, January to June 2010, are going the be Huge Mama Grizzly Bear season.

When a "SALE!" isn't a "SALE!"

I've always avoided storewide sales. I figure I'm just training my regulars to wait for the cheaper prices.

It's not that I don't sell stuff at a discount, but I find a verbal "I'll give this to you for a cheaper price" works better for me.

For instance, right now I'm selling the anime and manga at a steep discount. If you buy 2 manga, you get another 2 manga free. If you buy two anime, you get the third anime free.

I intend to shrink back the space devoted to these two products, and then bring in only the best-sellers.

I believe that the big boys -- the mass market -- know this, as well. I believe that almost every "SALE!" they have was designed from the start -- factored in from the moment of production. Which, if you think about it, isn't really a discount, but simply a lower price that has profit built in.

Oh, sure, they have Clearance sales -- but, there too, I suspect most of them were factored in. I read once, that the OUTLET MALLS ran out of seconds and remainders almost immediately, and starting producing cheaper product for the sole purpose of selling out of these malls.

Cheaper as in -- well, cheaper. As in, you get what you pay for. Either this product never needed to be at the higher price in the first place, and the lower price is an admission of that, or they have done skimped on some part of the production in order to achieve a lower price.

Yeah, yeah. Higher volume makes cheaper prices. But the same point remains. If higher volume has created cheaper prices, than that should be the regular price, not the "SALE!" price. See what I mean?

I think the consumer has figured it out, mostly. They don't much respond to sales unless they perceive them to be real.

They still respond to "GOING OUT OF BUSINESS" sales, though. They need to be more skeptical of these, too. There is at least one furniture store that had a super califfragilistic "Going out of Business!" sale, and has popped back up in the same space under a different name. (Quietly, I noticed, as if they are abashed.) I know of a jewelry store who has done that at least twice.

Most people don't know that what's happening is, a third party comes in after the owner has removed the best pieces, and starts selling their own junk. After 90 days, they're gone, and the cheap crap they sold is unreturnable.

Meanwhile the former owner has a burst of cash, most of the same inventory, and all they have to do is open under a new name.

Here too, I think some of the consumers are becoming savvy. I've noticed that these second and third incarnations are a little more humble, and do less well.

There is another store downtown that I once added to the "Leaving" list because I could swear I saw a "Going Out of Business" sign. Then, a few weeks later, I was driving by and there was another sign, "Clearance -- not going out of business" and I dutifully removed the listing.

The story I recently heard was, the owner(s) found out that you can only "GO OUT OF BUSINESS" for 90 days, and had to revert to a Clearance Sale.

Lately, I noticed they had the "Going out of Business" signs back up, so we have to figure they're serious. At least, under the current name.

Makes you wonder, don't it? I mean, I could conceive of a business plan that was something like this.

Stage 1: Open a new business with a splash. Have huge sales and events.

Stage 2: Run the business for awhile -- if it's hugely successful, keep running the business.

Stage 3: If business starts to slow, have huge "CLEARANCE" and "INVENTORY REDUCTION" sales.

Stage 4: Start telling your customers you may go out of business, and you'd rather sell them the product at vastly reduced prices. Have "CUSTOMER APPRECIATION" sales; private party SALES, etc.

Stage 5: Stop replacing the product. Keep the profits. Run down the store until is stops paying the bills.

Stage 6: Sell the GOING OUT OF BUSINESS sale to a third party, but first remove the last of the 'good' stuff into a storage space.

Stage 7: Spend 90 days on the GOING OUT OF BUSINESS SALE.

Stage 8: After a decent interval. (a month or two?) open under a new business name with your infusion of cash.

Stage 9: Rinse and Repeat.

Like I said, I think you can only get away with this once or twice. And if you're business is successful, why would you want to do it? (For the Money.)

I belong to a couple of business bulletin boards, where there has been a fairly constant phenomenon. A business owner starts making noises, and you know changes are in the offing. Finally, they announce they are "Going out of Business."

I swear to you, about 90% of them make the same statement after a month or two of sales. "I wish I had known I could raise this much cash, or I would've stayed in business."

But of course, the reason they are raising so much cash is because the consumer has read their intentions to quit, and are buying. If you dare to NOT close, you will be punished. A few have tried that, and since the dynamics of whatever was driving them out of business didn't change, once the influx of cash is gone, so are they.

Big surprise, huh? Business is cynical.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

My last Sunday.

Let me be clear; only Sundays!

More and more, Sundays are looking like a lost cause. It isn't so much that people don't come in, but they have almost no intention of buying anything. They are on a downtown stroll. So, I'm going to be good with closing starting next Sunday on....

Regulars will adjust, I hope. I hate to do this to the other merchants, after spending so many years encouraging them to open. Just talked to Wendy across the street at Trivia Antiques, and she said she was having a good day.

Even so, I still don't want to hire anyone, and I can't work every day. Like I said, the impact on the bottom line is minimal when I do the math. Take out the cost of goods, and assume that regulars will be back on the rest of the week, it doesn't amount to much. I'll miss the occasional big day, but I'll also miss days like today where I did 60% of the numbers of people as a regular day, but only 15% of the sale.

So there you go.

The last three Sundays have been so crappy, that I don't feel bad about it. (Despite the fact, that this month will be my best month of the year, both in totals and even more importantly, by the smallest drop since last year....)

I should also mention, that I had huge Sundays all through July, probably because of the events. Before any of you yell, "Aha!" I want to point out that I've always been in favor of MOST events on Sundays, even in the Summer. O.K. well, maybe I've not been totally consistent. But, in general, I like events on otherwise slow days and weeks, and not so much on otherwise busy days, you know? It's the Fridays and Saturdays I wish they would avoid...

I'd close early today, except I've never closed during posted hours in 25 years, and I don't want to start now.

NOTE: Icing on the cake. Heard a couple drop something in the back of the store. They left hurriedly. Something told me not all was right, and I went back where I found they had dropped a entire glass of something, spraying water all over my books.

Here's the thing.

Accidents happen.

I caught it in time to wipe off the paper goods without damage. Good thing I checked, because this couple didn't inform me of the accident.

NOTE #2: Just to leave me with a twinge of doubt, my last customer of the day spent 125.00. Argghhh.

Or should it be, Dear Agent?

you know, for the inevitable bidding war.

What's the harm in trying? A couple of hundred pages of printing costs. Perhaps a blow to my ego.

I already have the material.

I would think it would need to be roughly chronological, with a few edits and transitions, to play out the overall theme of small business in a boom and bust.

I certainly have hundreds of pages of material I wrote in my business journal, before I started blogging.

I might need to hire Tim to edit the manuscript.

Anyway, it's just a thought.

What do you think?

Dear Publisher,

Dear Publisher,

I have operated a small bookstore, PEGASUS BOOKS, in Bend, Oregon for the past 30 years. For the last three years, I have been writing a blog called, "The Best Minimum Wage Job A Middle Aged Guy Ever Had," recounting the adventures and misadventures of small business in a boom and bust town.

So far, I haven't missed a day. Many of the entries have to do with local doings, but many others are about the day to day process of running a small business. I always thought I'd write a book about how to run to run a successful business, but I thought the "Minimum Wage" part of the title wouldn't be much of a come on.

Recently, a customer suggested a different tack, that just reading about how a Mom and Pop enterprise operates would be of interest to some people.

Enclosed you will find 10 random entries, that will give you a flavor of how I write and what I write about. Or, you may visit my blog, The Best Minimum Wage Job a Middle Aged Guy Ever Had at or better yet, just google the title of my blog.

If you google DUNCAN MCGEARY you'll find I wrote 3 fantasy novels in the early '80's which are widely available on the web.

Please let me know if you are interested.


Duncan McGeary
Pegasus Books
Bend, Oregon 97701

Are people leaving?

I have a friend who invented a new technique in a housing production (I won't say what, cause you might figure out who it is.)

Anyway, when I first met him, he was installing the product himself. But he wanted to jump to production and selling the material and technique to others, so he got himself a big warehouse.

Yesterday he was in the store and saying he was moving to Southern California.

"I just can't ship from here," he said. "It's inconvenient."

That, folks, in a nutshell is why is will always be difficult to lure any major production to Bend.

He also mentioned that "Let's Make a Space" was leaving.

I always wince when someone comes to Bend and goes all Hollywood on us. A local T.V. show, complete with host with foreign accent, big trucks and billboards and fancy store and ubiquitous logo's and the whole, "we're going to show you how it's done."

First of all, there is almost bound to be a backlash.

Secondly, it isn't that we all don't want nicer spaces. But we can't afford to hire someone to tell us what a nicer space should look like! That takes stupid money, extra money you can just throw away to let someone else tell us how to do the job, (much less actually do that job) and very few of afford to do that, and those of us who can, probably want to do it ourselves, thank you very much.

If I had any advice to give to people who move to Bend to open a business, it would be ---tone it down. Settle in. Show us your stuff. After a decent space of time, then you can start to brag.

Anyway, that plus the nearly empty streets made me wonder again: are people leaving?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Hey, just ask if you need anything....

I'm going to let you in on a little secret.

It's business sacrilege.

I don't pursue every sale.

Oh, I'm open to every sale, but I don't pursue every sale.

I figured out after many years of business that I want the customers who want me, not the ones I have to aggressively pursue. I don't want the customers who don't want me.

If I lose 10% of my sales, but shed 90% of the aggravation, it's a fair deal.

Sales aren't everything. Job satisfaction is at least as important. Bringing enthusiasm to work every day. Especially if you want to last not just a few years, but decades -- a career.

I've always said, burn-out is almost equal in danger to not making money.

Let me give you an example. I had one of my tech friends in the store yesterday (who always seem puzzled that I can't figure out my POS) and while we were talking a Mom and a teenage girl came in.

"Do you have any manga?" the girl asks.

I point to my 3000 volumes. "Right over there. By the way, if you buy 2 you can get the 3rd one free."

"Wow!" the girl exclaims. "Neat!"

So the friend I'm talking to looks at me with a thumb's up smile.

But inside, I've already done the calculation. Because I've done this calculation all summer long. The reason manga is on sale, is because I've given up on it. I've quit ordering all but the best-sellers.

So inside, I've already figured there is a 95% chance this girl won't buy anything, despite my offer. So I keep talking to the friend.

Sure enough, 15 minutes later, the girl and Mom quietly leave.

Why didn't I go after them? you ask. Because I know from experience it probably wouldn't have mattered.

I tell you what. I'll give you this: If I aggressively pursue every customer who walks in the door, dote on them if you will, butter them up, talk them up, ferret out their interests, explain and cajole, and on and on....I probably would end up at roughly 10% more sales.

For 90% more effort.

One of the advantages that new businesses have is they still have the energy to do that. They are bright eyed and frisky and bushy tailed and they haven't quite figured out that they will have to triage if they don't want to wear themselves out.

Another example. As I started writing this, a 12 year old buy came in on his own and started looking around.

"If you need any help, let me know," I say.

"Thanks," he says.

As I'm writing this, he's looking around. He asks, "How much are the Star Wars figures?"

"They are all individually priced," I answer.

"Oh, now I see that...."

He wanders around for another couple of minutes, and starts heading to the door. Should I follow him, say, "Hey, anything you were looking for we didn't have? I know where everything is, so just let me know."

Sometimes I do that.

For 12 year old boys coming into my store alone, I don't. Because I know that 90% of the time they won't buy anything.

But what about the 10% of the time they do? Well, 90% of the time that they do, they'll actually buy something anyway, even if I'm not talking to them, chatting them up. They'll pick out what they want, and come up to the counter.

My senses are very finely tuned at this point. I know within a minute or two if you are likely to spend money. I try not to throw up any roadblocks, in case I'm wrong.

The most important thing, I think, is to have an intuitively organized store, the smooths the transition between browser and buyer. Make it as easy as possible for the customer to find what they want, and be open to any questions.

But pouncing on them, doing the whole salesman thing, while it might bump up short term sales, in the end just would wear me out, and wear out my welcome with the customer.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Book profits.

Well, I know where my profits are coming from.

I found out through the reorder process.

I successfully stuck to my budget in August. I still have ten days to see what sales will turn out to be. There wasn't the big dropoff in the middle of the month like there was in June and July, but there is often a big dropoff in the last week of August, as attention turns to school -- especially if the weather changes, so I still need to be careful.

So far, it's staying hot, and there is the added plus of school resuming later than usual this year.

Anyway, I started with a fresh (Sept.) budget this week. Because there is enough time still in the summer to affect sales, and because it all comes due on the credit card at the same time, I weighted half my orders into the first week. 15% will be next week, 35% the third week, and nothing on the week of Labor Day. (School starts, and tumble weeds will waft through my store for a week or so....)

If this all seems obsessive, it's how it's done.

So I made my reorder for graphic novels, and replaced pretty much every book I wanted. I made my reorder for games, and replaced pretty much every game I wanted. I made my reorder for cards, and replaced pretty much every card I wanted.

All within budget.

I did my new book order the next day, because I knew it was going to be much bigger. I decided to double my order for books, because I had a record month in new book sales in July and was on pace to beat that record in August. I always leave a certain percent in my budget for whatever category needs to be increased.

I had intended to spend on 50% of the budget on books this week, and 50% in two weeks.

Well, I hit 50% and I wasn't even close to replacing all the books I'd sold. I kept going until the entire allocated amount was spent, and I STILL was only 70% toward replacing all the books I wanted replaced.

Much less adding any new titles.

So that's where the profits are coming from. It was hidden, because the sales velocity, the momentum, hasn't slowed the least. As I said, it appears I'll have a record month in new book sales again in August. Despite having sold so many significant titles.

I've mentioned before, it appears that having, say, 2000 great titles sells nearly as much as having 3000 great titles.

Obviously, though, I can't keep running down the inventory forever. And much of the sales momentum has been maintained by out-of-towners and tourists. When Fall starts, individual book sales are going to matter more, and shortages are going to impact more.

So I want to get back to the beginning of summer inventory -- plus.

How do I do that?

First thing I'm going to do, is see if August stays good. Right now, my average would result in profits about 1000.00 over estimate. So, I've decided, any profits over the projected estimates will be used to buy books.

If I don't end up with 'extra' profits, I'll have to contemplate buying more books on credit. I started off the year with a 5000.00 charge on books, which I've paid down at 500.00 a month and I am down to my last 1000.00. If I added another 1000.00 in books, and kept the 500.00 payment schedule, I'd have it paid off by the end of the year.

I always want to enter the 'dry' season with as little debt as possible.

It's important to reinforce successful products. And even more important not to let the momentum fall. (Building momentum from a dead start is ten times harder than keeper current momentum going...)

So either way, I'm going to make more orders.

Finally, I think this year will probably end without me making the big leap into 'frontlist' ordering -- (see Aug. 8 entry). I'm still concentrating on the 'backlist' -- books I know are good. Either favorites, cult, or classic. More than uses up my budget.

Was at my sister Tina's house last night, and the stack of new books that she has on her table always remind me of what I'd be up against. They all have Costco tags, and are half the price. Not sure when or if I'll go head to head with Barnes and Nobles and Walmart and Costco on 'frontlist' books.

I guess when I run out of 'backlist' books I want to carry....

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Update: Downtown openings and closings.

Did this only 4 days ago, but looked out my window and saw Ivy Rose Manor has a Store Closing sign. And there has been news about the Downtowner moving into the Summit. I see this as a closed business, folks, though I suppose it could be argued.


Singing Sparrow Flowers 8/16/09
Northwest Home Interiors 8/5/09
High Desert Frameworks 7/23/09
Wall Street Gifts 7/--/09
Ina Louise 7/14/09
Bend Home Hardware (Homestyle Hardware?) 7/1/09
Altera Real Estate 6/9/09
Honey 6/7/09
Azura Studio 6/7/09
Mary Jane's 6/1/09
c.c.McKenzie 6/1/09
Velvet 5/28/09
Bella Moda 3/25/09
High Desert Gallery (Bend) 3/25/09
900 Wall
Great Outdoor Store
Luxe Home Interiors
Powell's Candy
Dudley's Used Books and Coffee
Game Domain
Subway Sandwiches
Bend Burger Company
Showcase Hats
Pita Pit
Happy Nails


Ivy Rose Manor 8/20/09
**Downtowner 8/18/09 (moving into the Summit location)
Chocolate e Gateaux 8/16/09
Finders Keepers 8/15/09
Colourstone 7/25/09
Periwinkle 6/--/09
**Tangerine 7/21/09 (Got word, they are moving across the street.)**
Micheal Cassidy Gallery 6/15/09
St. Claire Coffee 6/15/09
Luxe Home Interiors 6/4/09
Treefort 5/8/09
Blue 5/2/09
**Volcano Tasting Room 4/28/09**
Habit 4/16/09
Mountain Comfort 4/14/09
Tetherow Property 4/11/09
Blue Moon Marketplace 3/25/09
Plenty 3/25/09
Downtown Doggie 3/25/09
**King of Sole (became Mary Janes)**
Santee Alley
Bistro Corlise
Made in Hawaii
Stewart Weinmann (leather)
Kebanu Gallery
Pella Doors and Windows
Olive company
Pink Frog
Little Italy
**Pomegranate (downtown branch)**
Pronghorn Real Estate office.
Speedshop Deli
Paper Place
Bluefish Bistro

High finance

So I take in my little paltry IRA contribution this morning. I'm going to D.A.Davidson. Dad has had Jim Fleck as an adviser for about 35 years or so, and I'm dealing with the next generation, Jason Fleck. I don't know, I doubt I'd get much attention except for Dad's estate.

Anyway, I'm standing at the outer counter for several minutes, before my wife figures out there is an inner sanctum (which is why I brought her along). Silly. So I sign over the check, and Jason comes out to greet me, and I hurry away. (we were late for work) I'm sure they were rolling their eyes after me.

It's not much money, but I figure I can do this for another 8 or 10 years, 12k per year, and maybe I won't be depending solely on S.S. We made a full contribution for 2008 with Linda, but at the last minute I held back on my contribution because it would've brought my operating expenses way down, and I've sworn to keep a nice cushion for the sake of keeping the stress at bay.

And as long as I'm making contribution, I decided I would indeed 'time' the market using my own instincts. Last time, I did it in mid-March, and my IRA increased nearly 1/3rd, despite missing the bottom by about 10 days. As I've mentioned before, I think the economic news is suddenly going to 'look' good for a few months, as we start to double up on last years collapse.

Not that I think the economy is actually improving by much, but that the stock market will think it is. The 'experts' are now calling for a 10% correction, and I'm prepared for that to happen, but I think the next quarter is going to be up.

If nothing else, it gives me a reason to check stock prices every day...


Speaking of reality vs impression, I pick up the Cascade Arts and Entertainment magazine once in a while as a lark, and came across this statement in the article, "GALLERIES SEE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL."

"Cautious Optimism' seems to be the buzzword at local art galleries, with an uptick in sales in recent months daring many to hope that the worst of the recession might be over as consumers reject the resounding negativity in today's media and start to pry open their wallets with a renewed sense of confidence."

Hoot! There are so many things wrong with this paragraph, I don't know where to start. I really shouldn't pick on the reality challenged, but come on.

I especially love the juxtapositions of two different levels of adjectives in the same phrases:

"pry open -- confidence"

"uptick -- hope that the worst might be over"

That paragraph is just plain conflicted.

But, hey, maybe they're right. All the galleries quoted in the article at least were doing well enough to advertise in the magazine....


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

No Customer Roll for You!

Because I didn't work yesterday.

Linda volunteered to work for me.

I did have to go in around 1:00 for an hour training session on the POS. Completely disruptive to business, which is why I've been scheduling these sessions before work, but both Aaron and Sam wanted to do it at 1:00, and I wanted to make sure we were all on the same page.

Sam has missed two sessions, I have missed a session, and -- showing that Aaron is human after all -- he missed one session.

I'm just not quite getting there. There are a couple of major issues I haven't quite figured out. Part of it is my own reluctance to learn a new system. I find myself paying attention for only a period of time, and then my brain shuts down. (Aaron says he sees it in my eyes...)

Part of it is that I need to import some information from my book publisher.

It's like the information is slowly coalescing into something solid, but it's still a little blurry.

And part of it is that this is the absolute worse time to be taking on a big new task. I'm so busy with customers that my head is spinning. Huge foot traffic, lots of little transactions, and very little time off. I can't stop everything midstream. Just the hour of training yesterday made that very clear.

I asked Sam how many other stores had my system, and he said 150. Out of 3000. "Are there other stores who want it?"

"Oh, my, yes. We have a HUGE waiting list."

I hope they don't lose patience with me. My 90 day training window is rapidly closing, but Sam said they'd extend it if needed.

I've set a tentative date a few weeks from now to spend an evening doing inventory with friends and family. I'm giving myself until the end of September to make the full transition. It should be easier to deal with all the hiccups if I have a third or half as many transactions to deal with. (Probably about a third less sales, but more than that in customer count....)

I know it needs to be done, I realize that I'll end up really appreciating it, but damn -- being my own boss, I give myself too many outs.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Time to do my IRA.

I know you're not supposed to try to time the market.

Why not?

It occurred to me this March that the stock market had dropped by half, and if ever there was an opportunity to time, it was then.

So I put my money in around one week after the bottom, and it's gone up considerably.

A few days ago, I wrote a post how -- starting in September -- sales figures are going to start looking a whole lot better. Why? Because sales went into the tank last September, with the Wall Street holocaust. So instead of comparing year to year figures with a slow but not disastrous Sept. 2007 through Aug. 2008 (my sales went down starting in Sept. 2007, but moderately) we'll be comparing sales with a relatively horrid Sept. 2008 through Aug. 2010.

We're almost bound to slow the drop, or bottom out, or even show signs of improvement.

As I said, I think it's mostly illusory, the economy is anything but strong, the recovery will be weak, there's lot more bad news to come (commercial loans, etc.)

But still, it would be hard to find a worse time than the last quarter of last year.

And, finally, we are talking about the stock market here, and they are all about illusion.

Customer Roll, Day Three.

I'm going to post one last day of this, but give you my conclusions here above, so you can skip reading it if you wish.

One thing that really leaps out at me is the sheer number of customers. When I did this for a few weeks back about 7 years ago, I had very different results. 80% of my sales back then were to regulars, even in the summer. I think the customer count was at least 35% less back then. I had nowhere near as many book and game sales.

Ironically, in the midst of a slowdown, my location has become almost central to downtown. The stores around me have become more retail. The parking garage and the restaurants and the new buildings all bring by more people.

So with my sales only being what I consider average -- or what I projected -- but with high customer counts, it means I'm making much less money per customer, but I have so many more customers that most of the shortfall is covered.

Much as I love regulars, and much as they are the 'base' of my business, I've always felt the more people who shop with you, the safer you are. My spread is very wide right now, which is healthy.

I've had years where sales were much higher, but one or two "Hot" product lines usually accounted for it. Thing about "Hot" products is they always cool Always.
Having a wide spread of 'lukewarm' product is much less risky.

It bodes well for the future, what with the new Hotel opening, and even more retail space available to the east of my store. It means a bit more interaction work with the consumer, which can be exhausting, but that's the price I pay.

And finally, if I may pat myself on the back: it wasn't necessarily obvious that this would happen. I sensed that I needed to expand my appeal to a wider range of people; especially since I was paying rent rates that reflected the higher foot traffic. A couple of competitors going out of business spurred me to add new books and boardgames. And the opening of the Bookmark provided me with all the used book material I could ever need.

Still, as I say, it wasn't obvious. It was good decision making, and I'm proud of that.


Wife and son of regular. Bought shelf. 1/10th average, right there. Wife bought four used Nora Roberts, for 1.00 each.

1 guy, 27, looking at new books. Bought Lullaby, Palahniuk and Sirens of Titan, Vonnegut.

1 guy, 20, looking for a graphic novel about X-Men, but so vague I can't puzzle it out. "I'll look at home," he says. LWB

1 guy, 20, looks to be friend of above guy. LWB

Dad and 2 kids, asked for a comic for 10 year old girl. Pointed them toward Bone. The daughter who was with him, "Yeah, that's really good." He left without buying. Um...why did he ask? (LWB Left without buying.)

Old regular, says, "I'm confused, you are always changing things..." Went over to comics. Asked for Stardust, "Because I saw the movie..." Showed him the novel and showed him the hardcover graphic novel, and he chose the prose.

Couple, directed them used books. Left without buying. LWB.

2 girls, 13, calling each other 'dorks' for coming in. Girl bought Elvis (black leather) standup.

1 guy, 75, looking at cartoon books. Wife, and kid. Looked a Muth's "M". Said a friend's likeness was used. Left without buying. LWB.

1 lady, 40, looking for children's series, Old Witch, Devlin. LWB

1 guy, 50, looking at books. Bought a used paperback, 6.00.

1 guy, 30, looking for "Art of War." LWB

1 guy, 60, buying two .50 books off sidewalk. Was 'aware' of used books section.


Mom and two kids, asking for maps. Gave them the cheap giveaway, and pointed them toward Bend Mapping. Dad and two more kids came. Foreign, German? Asked for R. Crumb books, showed them. LWB

1, guy and wife, asked for the "limited edition" magic set coming out, told him I'm getting all of two and they are already reserved for regulars. He bought a pack of 2010.

Guy asking for 'limited' magic set came back. I called my supplier and found out that -- I'm not getting any. But it did turn out I was getting a different limited set, and was offered over the phone one more at 20% higher. I asked the guy if he wanted to buy it, and he said yes. Half the normal margin, but an extra set already paid for. 70.00.

1 guy, a 'old' regular (regular I haven't seen for awhile...) Bought 4 regulars.

1 guy, 20, looking at new books. Asked for Joker books. Showed him my Batman section, and the graphic novel "Joker" which is closest to the movies. LWB

Couple, 1 kid, plus 1 guy. Looking for soft sleeves, which somebody bought me out of yesterday. Told them I'd have them back in on Friday. Sold two 1.00 boxes.

1, guy, 17, wandered around. LWB. Sunglasses and earpieces -- O.K. Leave him alone.

Couple, looking at books. asked for Razor's Edge, I've carried it new before, but didn't have it. LWB

Couple, looking at books. "This is a great store." "That means you're not going to buy anything...." gave him a big smile. LWB

1 guy, 70, LWB

1 guy, bought the new book, City of Thieves.

Couple, girl asked for Narnia, showed her my hardcover compilation. Guy asked for Arkham Asylum, because there is a new video game. Told him I'd have one by Thursday, and sold him the Joker G.N. the above guy turned down. heh.

1 guy, looking for Perfect Storm, found him a used copy. 4.00.

Couple, 70, looking for a Hitchhiker's Guide toy set, offered it to him for 50.00 bucks, time to move it. Said he'd come back. They almost never do. Looked at my retro space ships. LWB

Couple, looked around, asked for old Star Wars cards (which haven't been produced for about 10 years, now. LWB


2 kids, with box of books to sell. Sent them to Dudleys. LWB

1 guy, regular, leaving for Antartica, wanting Flash Gordon before he leaves....LWB

2 guys, 19, looking for Teen Titans. Bought a comic set,

1 regular, bought a comic.

1 regular, and daughter. LWB

1 guy, 20, LWB,

1 girl, 17, looking at manga. Made the 2, get the third one free offer. She wanted me to special order Inu Yasha's. LWB

1 mom, two kids. Looking at toys. LWB

1 lady, 60, looking for Axler series, used. Didn't have any. LWB

1 guy, 40, looking at sports cards. Bought 10.00 worth of supplies.


1 guy, off the street used books, 4.00

Couple, looking at art books. Powell's candy bags. LWB

2 girls, 16, looking at t-shirts, manga. Bought a Lenore graphic novel.

1 guy, 20, bought 6 packs magic.

Couple, 40, looking at books. Told me the Heavy Metal's made him feel 'young.' "Oh, you got old? No reason to leave them behind, you know." Ended up buy three new Gaiman books. Good Omens, Star Dust. Talked about how much we loved Jack Vance.

1 guy, foreign, looking for postcards. LWB

1 regular, bought 7 comics.

4 kids. Wrong part of the store, but they look to be leaving on their own. LWB

1 regular magic browser. Bought 3.00 worth and 1.00 used book.

1 regular,wanted a good S.F. Sold her Lord of Light.


1 regular, artist I haven't seen for awhile. Asked him if he was still doing art. LWB

Couple, 1 kid, looking at books. Bought new Moby Dick, 2 Grafton, used.

Dad and Mom, Granddad and 3 kids. Bought two Pokemon figures. Coraline, Deathnote 11, and Halo action figure.

1 guy, bought Beckett price guide.

1 regular book buyer. Went over the S.F. section. Sold him a Jack Vance, and two Poul Anderson.

1 girl, looking at new books. Was going to buy a new I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell; but sold her my used copy, instead. Is that a good thing or a bad thing for me?

Couple, told them about books. LWB

1 guy, 50, just cruisin... Wanted Iron Man statue, which I sold when movie came out. LWB

Couple, looking for a frisbee. LWB

93 People in so far.


1 girl, 25, LWB

1 guy, 60, looking for Some Came Running, didn't know the author, but knew it was by the author of From Here to Eternity, and I knew that was James Jones. Not in print. LWB

1 guy, 60, wandered store and LWB.

Couple, sent them to the books. Bought two used books.

Couple, looking at cards, posters, the Dude, Munchkin -- aimless, I do believe. LWB

2 guys, looking at magic. Bought 7 packs.

1 guy, 70, bought 3 .50 books.

Couple, looking at art books.

1 guy, 25, looking at graphic novels.

1 regular, books and comics. Gave him a couple of free books for going to bank for me.

1 lady, 60, wanted "mystery/romance"; asked her the author, and she didn't remember. Showed her "romantic suspense". Then she said Harlequin and I don't really carry Harlequin....

Couple, wanted Geology of Central Oregon Roadside book, and told them I didn't have it. They asked where to go, I gave them directions to all the other bookstores. But told them they might be best served going to the High Desert Museum bookstore. Used local interest books NEVER last past the first person who sees them.

2 ladies and a girl. Girl brought in .50 used book, and they went to look at the other books. Wandered into the comics....Offered them an 8.50 book for 5.00, turned me down.

1 guy, 16, looking for manga. Asked what the manga deal was. Paranoid about his bike. Told me he rode all the way from Redmond. Bought one manga.

1, girl, 20, bought Final Fantasy Art Book and Ask a Ninja; handbook. I think that put us to our average. Lot of people to get to the average....


115 people. Not quite average.

Very busy to do under average. Not a lot of comic people show up on Mondays and Tuesdays; pretty much depends on tourists and casual customers.

I was doing my first September orders while this was going on, so that may seem like it seemed so much busier than the actual total reflects.

I've worked out I think a pretty good budget for September. The only difference between what I originally intended, is I added 500.00 to my new book budget.

I wasn't able to do the book orders today, so I'll do those tomorrow.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Better than dirt sandwich.

I have to admit, I was one of those who was skeptical about the Old Mill district. Now, I'm glad it's there. It's served as a safety valve for downtown, attracting the national chains (who need bigger, newer spaces with more parking). Hard to imagine now what Downtown Bend would be like if the Old Mill hadn't happened.

Then again, there might have been some fill-in south of the core, or along Greenwood and Franklin. But more likely, very few of the older buildings now standing -- such as the one my store is in -- would have survived the Franklin Crossing treatment. Just as few locals can afford the Old Mill, almost no locals could've afforded downtown. (Bad enough as it is...)

I was one of those who didn't have fond memories of the Old Mill: dirty, dusty, noisy, greasy, dangerous, smelly. I remember one time digging my toe into the 'soil' down there, and finding about 2 inches of oil.

It isn't the 'old' Bend, but the Old Mill is nicer than a pile of dirt.

Customer roll, day two.

Customer roll, day two.

2 ladies, 70, looking for old mysteries, like Sayers, Tey, "because they're clean."

Couple, looking at independent comics.

1 guy, looking for "All About Bend," sent him to Dudley's.

1 lady, bought 50.00 worth of card supplies.

Dad and kid. Went over to comics. Kid bought 2 comics. Really -- the KID bought 2 comics, and a unicorn came in with them...

Couple -- didn't catch them. Left while I was talking to the following,

1 Regular. Asked about Battle Royale novel, and was surprised I had it. Put it under the counter for him later.

Mom and 2 kids, asked for Pamela Walls books. I'll look into ordering them next week.

3 kids, wandered around.

1 lady, bought a couple of used books.

1 guy, looked around, but talking to previous lady and didn't get a chance.

1 guy, 60, looking for a economic newspaper, which even Barnes and Nobles had.

1 guy, 23, talking on a cell phone, bought 4 Venom comics.

Couple, guy bitched about comic set for 14.00. Showed him how it was the first 4 issues, and that the book that covers the first 3 issues was 13.00. Eh.

1, guy, 45, asked for an economic periodical. Showed him an old copy of Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.

4 kids, on scavenger hunt, wanted my business card.

1, girl,16, bought 16.00 worth of cheap books of sidewalk.

Couple, looking for science books.

Couple, 60, went into the comic section, directed them to books.

1 lady, 80, looking for a "bridge" book.

Couple, old regular, talking old times. Talking about high school reunions, and how I won't go back to my high school because all I'd see is my old druggy friends, and it turns out he's an DEA agent. "This was 40 years ago!" I exclaim. Bought Eternals for half price, the two Death graphic novels, and a hardcover of Sandman #1.

Mom, Dad, 4 kids.

Mom and kid. regulars. Bought two boxes, 3.00.

Couple, looking at books.

1 lady, 60, looking for the Julia Child Cookbook. Ummmm, right.

1 guy, 22, looking for comic book "price guide." Put back the Wizard. Offered him last months Wizard for half price. Refused. I'm his monkey.

3 girls, 22, looking at used books.

Dad and 2 kids. Asked for 'original' Dragonlance. Have them new, showed them. Bought the 3rd book, and Feast of Crows, George R.R. Martin. Told him about Lois McMaster Bujold...

Lady off street, bought 2.50 books.

Young couple, nothing.


53 people over four hours, usually would do about 1/2 a normal day on a normal half day Sunday, did only a third.

Closing Sundays looking better and better.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Update. Downtown openings and closings.

I wanted to get confirmation on Chocolate e Gateaux before I posted this.

Finders Keepers I had on this list before, because their windows were plastered wit FOR SALE signs, but I never saw a Going Out Of Business Sign until this week.

Northwest Home Interiors is in the Mountain Comfort space.

A couple of the For Lease signs on my block have actually stayed up for almost a month, which has been unusual.

On the corner of the Franklin Crossing Building, a sign in the window, "Opening Soon; Singing Sparrow Flowers."

Keep me up to date, folks. If you have any confirmation, let me know. Again, the dates are when I feel I have confirmation, not when they actually open or close.


Singing Sparrow Flowers 8/16/09
Northwest Home Interiors 8/5/09
High Desert Frameworks 7/23/09
Wall Street Gifts 7/--/09
Ina Louise 7/14/09
Bend Home Hardware (Homestyle Hardware?) 7/1/09
Altera Real Estate 6/9/09
Honey 6/7/09
Azura Studio 6/7/09
Mary Jane's 6/1/09
c.c.McKenzie 6/1/09
Velvet 5/28/09
Bella Moda 3/25/09
High Desert Gallery (Bend) 3/25/09
900 Wall
Great Outdoor Store
Luxe Home Interiors
Powell's Candy
Dudley's Used Books and Coffee
Game Domain
Subway Sandwiches
Bend Burger Company
Showcase Hats
Pita Pit
Happy Nails


Chocolate e Gateaux 8/16/09
Finders Keepers 8/15/09
Colourstone 7/25/09
Periwinkle 6/--/09
**Tangerine 7/21/09 (Got word, they are moving across the street.)**
Micheal Cassidy Gallery 6/15/09
St. Claire Coffee 6/15/09
Luxe Home Interiors 6/4/09
Treefort 5/8/09
Blue 5/2/09
**Volcano Tasting Room 4/28/09**
Habit 4/16/09
Mountain Comfort 4/14/09
Tetherow Property 4/11/09
Blue Moon Marketplace 3/25/09
Plenty 3/25/09
Downtown Doggie 3/25/09
**King of Sole (became Mary Janes)**
Santee Alley
Bistro Corlise
Made in Hawaii
Stewart Weinmann (leather)
Kebanu Gallery
Pella Doors and Windows
Olive company
Pink Frog
Little Italy
**Pomegranate (downtown branch)**
Pronghorn Real Estate office.
Speedshop Deli
Paper Place
Bluefish Bistro

Customer Roll...

Just as an experiment, I thought I'd blog a day's worth of transactions. I realize this won't be terribly dramatic to most people, but I found it an interesting exercise.

I'll talk about my conclusions at the bottom.


1 Guy, 21, asked me to reorder latest Walking Dead. Bought Wolverine comic set, Reborn (Capt. Amer. comic), two packs, Alf and E.T. "I dare you to eat the gum."

1 Mom, 5 kids. Oldest bought Naruto graphic novel, youngest was dragged out of the store after a tantrum. (All had Powells candy bags...) Middle kids, knocked over Mech Warrior display, asked price of dice...didn't buy anything.

1 Dad, herding the kids out of the store.

1 Guy, 20, asked for Uncanny X-Men, showed him current issue, and led him to back-issues. Asked for Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, showed him first book new, and 2-4th books used. Leafed through Star Wars graphic novel in front of the register. Asked for Pokemon, showed him packs, asked for older binder, told him I didn't have one. Bought 2 packs of Star Wars cards.

Young couple, directed them to used books, they asked for Stuart Woods novels, showed them where they were, they bought a used Woods hardcover.

1 lady, 60, asked for "Rare, 1st Ed.'s" Told her I only carry 'reading' copies. Looked at LeGuin book, leafed through new hardcover copy of All Aunt Hagar's Children, Edward Jones , leafed through new Shel Silverstein books, leafed through Ten Little Indians, Sherman Alexie (looking for 1st editions?) said thank you, and left.

1 guy, 26, first regular (in that I recognize him). Bought Kid Colt comic, and laughed at the Big Lebowski toys...

1 lady, 40, brought a .50 book off the street. Told her about our used books, and she said she'd bring her husband back.

1 lady, 35, wanted stamp supplies. Sent her to Mt.High Coin.


1 Dad, 45, 1 kid, 17, asked for magic. Showed them, and left them to look. Dad bought 4 packs. Kid brought up two commons, told him to take them free.

Couple, brought in by 'stamp' lady, asked for "used Harry Potter", told her about our new copies, she shook her head and left.

1 guy, 30, looked at boardgames. Tells me he's a teacher, looking for 'historical' games. (told him he gets 10% off for being a teacher.) Tried to explain Euro games. "I might be back." ***He came back and bought Agricola.***

Couple, looked at books, carried around the Owly toy for awhile. Left without buying.

1 Dad, 3 kids, looking at comics. Bought 4 comics, and Boba Fett standup.

Mom, Dad, 2 kids. Kids asked for Killer Bunnies. Bought 4 used books and Bunnies game.

Couple, looking at new and used books. Bought Dying Earth, by Jack Vance,(because she had read article in the N.Y. Times; "Why haven't I heard of him?") and Iain Banks, and Amber Spyglass.

2 young girls, looking at manga and anime. Bought two manga, got the third one free.

1 regular, went directly to the books, sat down and looked T.P.'s. Bought used A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole.

1 lady, 60, looking at new books. Bought 2 used trade paperbacks.

1 guy, 35, looked at games. Asked for Settlers of Catan. Arrgggggh! Told him I'd have them back in stock on Thursday.

Young couple, looking at books. Left without a word. (Too busy to get to them, dang it.)

Mom, Grandma, and kid. Kid wanted to look at all the toys. Proceeded to drop them on the floor. Started looking at the comics he shouldn't be looking at. Told them they weren't for kids. (I don't think my tone was anything but directive...asked regular if I'd been out of line, he said, no -- maybe a little short, but certainly not rude.) Tried to direct them toward the kids comics. They took offense and left. "We'll spend money somewhere they want us..." Am I supposed to let him look at hard "R" comics? Mystified.


Couple, looked at books, left.

Couple, asked for dice. Bought 6.

2 guys, one a regular shelf customer. Bought 12 comics.

Mom and 2 kids. Asked for a book for school, didn't have it in stock. Looked up exact title and author. Time of Butterflies, Julia Alverez.

Mom and 2 kids. Mom looked alarmed, and dragged the kids out of the store. Hmmmm.

1 guy, 70, bought 50.00 worth of sports cards. Talked over old times.

1 guy, 70, bought an old EC comic reprint, showed him the Archives Editions....

1 lady, 35, looked at books and left. Didn't have time to talk to her.

2 kids, looking at books. Stayed forever....

Couple, 70's, looking for Room with a View. Didn't have, added to reorder list.


1 guy, 70, looking for the book, I found exact title and author online, A Great Day to Fight a Fire. Another guy, 70, came in to take him away.

1 guy, 60, looking at used books. Bought a used Alice Sebold book.

2 kids, 16, asked for a Dark Heresy module. Bought a set of dice, and a different Dark Heresy module.

1 guy, 30, didn't see him until he was walking out. I'm talking too much.


Mom and daughter, looking for school book. Looked at their list, knew that I had one of them, Founding Brothers, by Ellis, which they bought.

Mom and dad and two kids. Mom bought an Alice Walker paperback. Again, found a kid looking at a R rated comic, told the parents that, they acted like they didn't hear me....Finally got them to look at the 'all ages' Supermans and Batmans and Spider-mans. Left without buying any...

One regular. Bought a Wizard Magazine, prepaid on a book, and started to say how he buys stuff with Dr. Strange, made him a deal on my Dr. Strange statue, and he put 40.00 downpayment.

Two couples, 60, sent them to the books. One asked for James Michener, bought used The Drifters.

One young couple, didn't have time to greet them because I was talking to the above family. They left before I could say anything.

Young couple, 17, one with ice cream, told her I couldn't allow that anymore. She left, he stayed. Then he left. (Have found too many ice cream stains....) He came back asking for Spawn comics. He left.

1 lady, 35, bought used Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, really beat up, for 2.00.

1 guy, 70, "Just Cruisin'..."

Young couple, didn't see them until they were leaving because I was dealing with above family.


1 regular, bought 4 comics off his shelf.

1 guy, 40, looking at art books. Leafed through Dragon's Dream, Roger Dean. Finally asked for Hyperion, Dan Simmons. Sold him a new copy of the first book, and twisted his arm to buy the second book, Fall of Hyperion because "you're going to want it." Sold it to him for half of the usual half

Mom and kid, asked for Taming of the Shrew. Didn't have it.

1 guy, 60, looking at used books. "Just wandering..." Bought a new copy of Drawing of the Dark, Tim Powers. "This is about brewing beer," I tell him. "I really liked Anubis Gates." "This is just as good," I say. Best sale of the day. That's a book I'm carrying because I love it so much.

1 lady, 45, bought .50 book from sidewalk. Same conversation I seem to have no matter how I phrase it..."We carry used books on the other side of the store." Alarm in their eyes..."You mean this isn't .50?" "Yes, it's .50, but it's cheap so I can let you know I carry used books...." "Oh...." leaves. This information seems to work about a fourth of the time, but still worth it if they actually go over and look.

2 guys, 18, looking at graphic novels. Asked for Walking Dead volume 9, showed them 9 and 10. Bought both.

1 lady, 60, looking for Christian books, Andrew Murray. Showed her our shelf.

2 guys and 1 lady, 60ish, looking for "Plant Identification" book. Found the L'il Abner books, acted all nostalgic. "Don't find these around anymore." Put it down and left.


1 guy, 40, looking at comics. Left.

1 kid, 12, looked at Family Guy toys, dropped one, asked for Harry Potter, showed him. Asked how much 18' Harry Potter figure was, told him. Asked if I had any smaller toys, said no. Kid left yelling out the door, "Can I have 40.00 for a Harry Potter toy?"

Dad and kid, looking for books on CD. Showed him what I got.

2 girls, 15, looking for City of Ashes, Cassandra Clare, which I already have on order for next week, but which I don't have in stock.

2 guys, 20, wanted X-Men toys, and Sailor Moon?

2 girls, 15, asked for manga Sabrina, Teenage Witch?

Mom and Dad, and four kids. Bought Eclipse, 3rd Twilight book, new hardcover at 10% off.


1 lady, 55, looking for a Brian Jacques book, which I didn't have.

3 guy, 25, bought Grimm Fairy Tales 2 and 3, Walking Dead 7 and 8, some S.F. used books, and a used DVD. Yertle the Turtle and another kid's book. Told me they were from Portland and had bought Grimm #1 last time. Nice. Just went 15% over average...

1 regular. Bought 9 comics.

2 guys, 1 girl, 18, didn't buy anything.

1 guy, 21, looking for good Joker comics, bought Batman, The Killing Joke on my recommendation.

Couple, asking for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, of which I had an 18.00 new copy. Offered it to them for 15.00. Didn't buy it.


If nothing else, it gives you an idea of the amount of detail I pay attention to. Also interesting how often my knowledge of the product helped sell it.

Notice too, the pattern that whenever I'm too busy to talk to people, they most often leave without buying....

Interesting that every time a toy was handled today, it was dropped. What's with that?

It being Saturday, had more 'young families' and fewer 'regulars' than usual.
This accounting doesn't really show how busy I was for most of the second hour, or how more paced (slower) the rest of the day was.

Shows how spread out the sales are; comics, games, toys, cards, card games and books, all sold.

It also shows how I sell a little bit of a lot of different things, instead of a lot of one thing. My combination is so unique, there is almost no way this information can be very useful to competitors, except as a curiosity.

I had 121 people in, and ended about 15% above average.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Store observations through the day...

You know how I always say that superhero movies do diddly squat for superhero comic sales?

Well, there was a recent, odd exception.

Out of the Wolverine movie came a demand for.....Deadpool.

Ironically, the Deadpool in the movie is nothing like the current incarnation of Deadpool, who is a crazy, goofy kind of guy, who can't stop talking.

The first issue of this Deadpool had a hilarious deadpan recitation of his history with all the changes and contradictions of a longtime superhero; he was born in New York, no he was born in Sante Fe, his father died when he was young, no his father was so and so..... It's true of all superheroes with any kind of history -- different writers and editors and so on....superpowers change, costumes constantly morph...

Is he a hero or a villain? -- Yes.

There isn't much Deadpool material available, right now, especially compared to Wolverine. For several years his title was combined with Cable, and Cable was the headliner. (If the title had been Deadpool and Cable, instead of the other way around, we might have something...) There's a couple of old 'classic' collections.

But for a character that only had a few minutes of screen time, he has really taken off....


Time to retire the Big Lebowski toys. Everyone asks, no one buys. I'm kind of tired of the noise, frankly. Suddenly, it's hip! Eventually I just wanted to pitch the old Austin Powers toys, (how many times would you like to listen to lousy mimics?) but the noise died down just in time. Family Guy is also very annoying; as well as being a theft problem. Who'd have thunk?


The Powell's candy bags have me re-thinking the possibility of Pegasus bags. They are really noticeable and they stand out, and they have obvious promotion and advertising virtues. On the other hand, just had a customer with a bag of something colorful and I asked what it was and it turned out to be a Goody's bag. Not noticeable.

It's the square shape and the big bold and colorful letters, and the handles, I suppose. I suspect they are pretty costly, too.


I got a bag of Cthulhu figures in, just for fun. I had a customer marvel over my little plastic Cthulhu on the register. "You like that? You can have it..." I give it to him.

Before I know it, we're talking Cthulhu and he buys my Arkham Horror boardgame for 60.00. All because of a cheap little tentacled 'old god' totem giveaway.

I wish I had more "Cthulhu for President" bumper stickers...

Somebody should write a Cthulhu and Hobbes story.


What the hell happened? Another four groups in, today, wanting the base game of Settlers of Catan. Was it in the news or something? I'm trying to divert them to equally good games -- Ticket to Ride, Carccassone, but they are IMPLACABLE. They want SETTLERS!

I'll have copies in again next week, after which no one will want them, sure as day.


Had a guy call me and ask where he could be an "e-book." You'd be proud of me. I simply said, "I believe either Barnes and Nobles, or Amazon."

Another guy asked me where the "big" bookstore was in town. "Barnes and Nobles?" I said. "It's out past Pilot Butte."

"Could you give me directions?"

"I could give you very detailed directions to the two independent bookstores...."

He didn't think this was funny, and started walking out the door. As he hit the sidewalk I snagged him and give him directions. It's not like I can change things....


Friday, August 14, 2009

Bird herding and other tidbits....

Bird herding.

We get birds in our false ceiling in our retail building. Kind of startling when you open the back door and they fly up into your face, chirping loudly. Next door neighbor John and I opened the side door, and chased them from one end of the hallway to the other until they finally swooped under and out.


Ummm.....about rumors. I hear multiple rumors every week. Only some of them pan out, and some are told in confidence. I've heard three different rumors about the chocolate shop, the first two of which obviously didn't happen.

Just saying....


Joan Baez sure turned out to have good bones. I listened to her when I was a teenager, and here she is, still looking good.


I dreamed I was Obama last night. I was running around trying to meet appointments, and looking for a bathroom, and wondering if the kids were O.K. and trying to keep up a good front.

I spent the last part of the dream desperately searching my luggage for a tranquilizer.


I had two more lost sales of Settlers of Catan yesterday. Of course, I don't know if they would've actually purchased, but still....I've sold or could've sold more Catan in the last month than I did for the first 4 or 5 months of the year. Damn &%%*&^ budget....

But, you know? If you break a budget, it ain't no budget.

I just need to plan better, that's all. That and read the public mind.


Ponyo, the new Miyazaki (Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke....) movie, is in town. Past experience is that it will be here a week or two, only, so see it soon.


I had a guy in the store with a southern accent, and we talked sports cards for awhile. I asked him if he was vacationing, and he hesitated and then said, "No, I work with the F.D.I.C."

"Oh, working on the Prineville bank? Do they have branch downtown?"

"They're in the Franklin Crossing building...."

"That was their first mistake," I said, and he laughed.

He bought a couple of Pirates of the Caribbean packs and left.

Next day, I had another guy with a southern accent buy a couple of Pirates packs. "Are you from the FDIC?"

He hemmed and hawed and then finally allowed as that it was true.

"You seem reluctant to talk about it."

"People blame us," he said. "People are pretty angry."

"They blame YOU?" I asked. "Thank god you guys are around."

"Yeah, well....we get yelled at a lot."

Interesting. You could tell he really didn't want anyone to know who he worked for....

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Make hay while the sun is shining.

I made it through the week without reorders. So I'm done with August. Next week, starting around Tuesday, I can start ordering with a fresh budget for September.

It was hard not to pull the trigger -- especially since I ran out of Settlers of Catan again. I resorted to selling my own copy; and I could've sold 3 or 4 more copies, plus extensions.

Meanwhile, I still have an adequate supply of 2010 magic, even though this has been sold out at the wholesale level for several weeks, even though the resupply is going to be heavily allocated, and even though many retailers are charging more than retail price.

I've kept the fact that I have them at regular price pretty much on the downlow. Another one of my sayings is, "It is better to have the product at a higher price than it is to not have the product at all."

But I'm really reluctant to charge more than retail for anything, anymore, no matter how short the supply. I will if I have to -- if I get to my last couple of boxes, for instance.

But I'm most curious as to why I haven't had a run on magic. I figure most of my blog readers don't play magic, and most of my magic players don't read the blog, so I'm safe musing about it here.

My sales are right on line with projections right now -- actually, probably 10% better. I'm hoping that August won't do what June and July did, and sag drastically in the middle of the month. In two or three weeks I'll know whether I succeeded at turning a good profit or not -- and I'm hoping that if I do, it will motivate me to continue the process on into the fall, and especially into Christmas.

We're at that wonderful part of summer where people are just buying stuff -- mostly tourists, for whom everything in the store is new and interesting. It's a good time to lay off the reordering, and make some money, and then sit down at the end of the process and decide what I really want to reorder and what I can do without.

Also, people are in a bit of a summer routine now, and we aren't throwing as many distractions at them -- fairs and festivals and what not.

I, too, have settled into a routine. Been getting along fine with the customers. Again, there has been a bit of damage -- my Kurt Cobain action figure has been dropped so many times that the neck of his guitar broke, several torn book covers -- but I suppose it could be worse. There is still a bit of price resistance going on that wasn't there a couple of years ago -- but when you get 135 people in the door, like I did yesterday, then you can watch the people who refuse to pay your price walk off with a shrug. I really can't do the price they're asking.

I still think it's a little odd that they won't spring for a 10.00 book that they are looking for. Even if they found it used, it would cost them 5.00 or more. And, I'm really not exaggerating when I say to them, "I carry this book new because I rarely see it used." Maybe it's the thrill of the hunt. But I unless they are extremely lucky, for most of these books they will have to visit a dozen stores before they find a copy, if that. Shrug. It's their time and money.

It's beginning to look like my fall and Christmas budget will allow me to buy a few thousand dollars worth of new books, over and above the maintenance budget. I'm looking forward to picking the best books I can find. I'm a sucker for beautiful covers; even though once they reach my store I don't have enough room to display them, dammit. I still haven't run out of classics, cult, and quirky books to buy....not really all the much guessing, yet. There always comes a point when you need more product, but you aren't sure what's good and what's not. But I'm not there yet with books. Which is fun.

Got to go to work early for my last POS session. (That just doesn't seem to be happening -- my own fault and seeds for a blog another day...)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Good news in the 4th Qt. Heh....

Let me be the first to tell you that, starting in September, we are going to see a huge surge of news articles about how the recession is over. The slowing will slow to a trickle, it may even start showing improvement!

Hallelujah! Glory be!

Sunshine and greenshoots!

Buy a house before it's too late!


Let me remind you, warn you if you will, that last September was when the economy went into the tank.

What the media and 'experts' will be doing is switching from the month to month vagaries -- trumpeting every upturn, downplaying every downturn -- to the year to year statistics, which up until this next quarter were so dire they needed to be hidden.

If I may use a boxing analogy.

The economy is like a boxer who got a huge blow to the head in Sept. of 2007, and was staggering around the ring trying to avoid his fearsome opponent, but he gets caught in Sept. 08 with a knockout blow.

What we've been seeing for the last year is that boxer falling to the mat, lying there dead for a few minutes while they inject needles of adrenaline directly into his heart. He's alive but barely, but the trainers keep throwing buckets of water on his head.

Starting next month, the fighter might be getting up on one knee. He's still woozy, he still sees little birdies and stars going around and around, but at least he's conscious.

But his fearsome opponent is out there circling, just waiting for him to try to get up on his feet.

Mark my words. We'll get nothing but good news in the fourth quarter. Things will look SO much better. But look a little deeper, and realize it's just coming up off the mat after a near death experience.

Oh, dear. Sports cards....

You really don't want me to get started on sports cards. They are like some bitter divorce, where I can't quit obsessing on how I was done wrong........



Too late, they've provoked me again.

First comes the news that Panini, an Italian sticker company, has purchased Playoff and received an exclusive for Basketball cards in 2010. Interesting. Maybe they can get some action going overseas....

Then comes the news that Topps has gained the exclusive for Baseball cards in 2010.

Leaving Upper Deck out of the picture. Which is just fine with me. Drive a stake through it's greedy evil heart, I say.

There's an article about it on Slate, which I've reproduced below. A maddening article, that is wrong in all the ways that the card hobby would like it to be wrong, but not even close to true.

How come it's wrong. An independent observer who has immersed himself into the history of sports cards?

Because he's been fed the wrong information. Much like Bend, most of the denizens of the sports cards world came into it long after it's growth stage. I'd be willing to bet that 90% of the current sports card participants weren't involved in the years between 1980 and 1990 when most of the seeds of destruction were sprouting.

Blame the decline on the 1994 strike? Sure, that sounds like a handy target. But the card hobby had begun to die at least three or four years before that. Too many brands and too high priced? That was the consequence of their choices, and not the cause.

They dropped the old fashioned card shops like used condoms and went directly to the mass market. That's what killed the hobby. Without card shops, what you got? Product. Pure and simple. It ain't no hobby anymore.

Too late to fix it. It's as dead as coin and stamp collecting.

At least it will simplify my choices. I won't have that stupid question, "Which is the best card brand?" anymore. As Henry Ford said about the Model A; 'You can have any color you want, as long as it's black.'


Can Topps Save Baseball Cards? Major League Baseball just signed an exclusive deal with the legendary card maker. Bad idea.
By Dave JamiesonUpdated Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2009, at 4:33 PM ET

Last week, Major League Baseball announced that it had struck a deal to make Topps the game's exclusive trading-card maker. This news was probably greeted with horror in Carlsbad, Calif., the home of Upper Deck. Topps' younger rival will maintain its licensing arrangement with the baseball players' union, meaning it will be free to print cards of Mark Buehrle wearing his deer-hunter's camouflage but not his White Sox uniform. For Upper Deck, the deal looks a lot like a death sentence, at least for its baseball division. But what does this new arrangement augur for MLB and Topps—will handing the entire field over to a single manufacturer turn around the ailing baseball card industry?

I wouldn't bet my mint condition Cal Ripken Jr. rookie card on it. The card business has been in a steep decline ever since the 1994 baseball strike. As children fled the hobby for Pokémon and video games, card makers have increasingly relied on adult collectors willing to shell out big bucks for flashy, premium cardboard. Baseball's solution to deal with this bloat has been to scale back on the number of producers. In 2005, MLB ended its arrangement with Donruss. (That same year, Philadelphia-based Fleer went under on its own.) The move to drop Upper Deck is just the league's latest attempt to make store shelves less cluttered and more inviting to kids.

But the problem with the business isn't that there have been too many card producers. It's that there have been too many sets—and too many high-priced ones at that. The card makers, Topps included, have not acted judiciously with their production rights. In the long run, I fear that giving Topps a monopoly on baseball cards might hurt the hobby more than it helps.

I've spent much of the last two years writing a book about the history of baseball cards, and I now know more about the history of baseball-card monopolies than I'd like to admit. Topps has been here before. In the early 1950s, the scrappy Brooklyn firm waged a fierce battle with Bowman Gum for the hearts and minds of grade-schoolers. Über-nerds like me refer to this as the Card Wars era. Topps proved to be a wily and relentless competitor, going so far as to develop its own scouting system so that it could sign rising stars to exclusive deals. Jim Bouton, the former Yankees hurler and Ball Four author, told me that he and all his minor-league teammates had Topps contracts put under their noses as soon as they showed up to spring training. The players, Bouton said, "lined up like they were getting their flu shots." They all signed away their rights for the token $5, known then as "steak money."

Topps bowled over Bowman, buying out its opponent in 1956 for a relative pittance. The company racked up so many exclusive player contracts that other gum makers couldn't get into this newly lucrative business. Fleer was in a position similar to Upper Deck's unenviable one today—it had to work around Topps' airtight contracts, leading to some comically bad card sets. In 1959, the only player Fleer managed to sign was Ted Williams. The company rolled out an 80-card issue featuring nothing but Teddy Ballgame—"probably 79 more cards of Ted Williams than anyone wanted that year," as a former Fleer executive told me. (The dreary card titles included "Williams Slowed by Injury," "Ted Decides Retirement Is 'No Go,' " and "Ted Relaxes.") Fleer didn't fare much better with the baseball cards they packaged with low-sugar cookies to circumvent Topps' exclusive right to stuff packs with gum or candy. One Topps salesman gleefully joked that the cookies tasted like dog biscuits.

The idea of a baseball-card monopoly may sound ridiculous, but it was no laughing matter to the federal government. In the early 1960s, the Federal Trade Commission carried out a long and costly investigation to determine whether Topps was violating antitrust laws. Lawyers for Topps and the government argued over the "bubbleability" of gum and the "flippability" of cards, among other issues. Ultimately, Topps was cleared of wrongdoing, and the company dominated the field until a less-favorable court ruling in 1980 finally opened the door for Fleer, Donruss, and eventually Upper Deck.

The long Topps monopoly was no boon to children. It was always during the competitive years that baseball cards thrived. In the golden age of the 1880s, aggressive tobacco companies put out so many high-quality sets that kids begged strangers on the street for the cards from their cigarette packs. During the Great Depression, children parted with their pennies only because the various gum sets were so colorful and attractive. The Topps-Bowman war produced the most recognizable card of the post-war era, the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle. Those cutthroat years also led to innovations such as the regular inclusion of player statistics, which had been hard to find until then.

Once Topps had the field all to itself in the '60s and '70s, the company's designs seemed to lose their pop. Some sets looked downright sloppy, like the one from 1969, when Topps dealt with player trades by airbrushing logos and shooting some players without their hats on. There was just one set of cards each year. If the company served up a turd of a set, kids were stuck with it.

Fortunately for collectors, Topps can't afford to be complacent these days. What was a $1 billion industry in the early 1990s has shrunk to about a fifth of that size. Topps' helmsman, former Disney CEO Michael Eisner—whose investment firm bought the company in 2007 for $385 million—seems admirably committed to luring children back to cards. The league apparently believes Eisner has a better shot at accomplishing that goal if his company stands alone.

While I have a hard time believing Topps' latest card monopoly will be a blessing for baseball or the card business, it's hard to feel bad for Upper Deck. Its ingenious co-founder, Paul Sumner, launched the company in the late 1980s with honorable intentions—to prevent the counterfeiting of cards and to cut out shady dealers. But it wasn't long before Upper Deck employees were referring to their pricey cards as "cardboard gold." The company played a large role in making the hobby more expensive. It also popularized the disagreeable ritual of seeding packs with insert or "chase" cards, valuable prizes inserted among the commons. Children bought these pricey packs as if they were playing the lottery; some parents of budding card fiends even filed a class-action lawsuit, claiming the practice was turning little Johnny into a grizzled gambler.

In spite of the hobby's troubles, Upper Deck has enjoyed some tidy profits over the years. Given the surprisingly long history of litigation surrounding baseball card production, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Upper Deck take its fight to court. Predictably, MLB's Topps-only policy has already raised some antitrust questions.

When I was a kid, there was no clear line between baseball and baseball cards. The two industries were always cross-promotional. MLB could do worse than turning over the card business to a company as iconic as Topps. But history shows that the great eras of baseball cards—the 1880s, the 1930s, the 1950s, even the 1980s—all benefited from a small pool of rival card makers forced to compete with one another to put out the best product. The only people who ever loved the idea of a Topps monopoly were the folks at Topps. Now, if the hobby continues to sputter, Eisner and Co. will have no one to blame but themselves.