Friday, March 23, 2012

Downtown turnover rate.

I have to wonder, a little, if the length of this downturn has caught Bend businesses by surprise.

It certainly is within the perimeters of my original guesses -- that it would be at least seven years, but I suppose I thought it would be seven years from top to bottom back to a regular growing rate (it was going to take much longer to reach the levels we saw in the boom -- and then only because of natural inflation).

Now I'm thinking it might be 6 or 7 years down and bumping along the bottom. (I started beating last year's sales levels, but not dramatically, about 9 months ago. I need to see the store consistently beat a 'positive' month before I'll think we're on our way up again.)

Now that we're about 4.5 years from when I first started seeing a drop-off (September, 2007) it certainly looks like it's got a long way to go.

At least from the number of businesses that have opened downtown, there seems to have been a lot of optimism. I've been saying for some time, that new businesses are not necessarily a reflection of strong business (they haven't opened yet, how do they know?) but of pent up demand for downtown space, overflow from the last boom, natural optimism, and perhaps not acknowledged much, the lack of opportunity for jobs and/or the lack of adequate space elsewhere.

Whatever it is, we're lucky that it's happening. I was driving Cameron home from work the other day, and we drove though the Oxford Hotel block of downtown and he commented how "empty" it all looked.

I said, well, it's probably no worse than 15% empty, and there were times in the past when downtown was half empty.

But he's right. A 20% or 15% or even a 10% vacancy has a noticeable dampening effect.

The turnover downtown is starting to look dramatic to me, and the closings list is slowly catching up to the openings list.

Still, I think that downtown will stay strong. Where else can you open in Bend and have immediate foot traffic?

One would hope that any business opening nowadays is aware that it is a long hard slog, and that all the talk of a resurgence is just that until it actually, truly happens.

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