Sunday, June 24, 2012

Hey guy! Quit waving that beer arou....oh, damn.

Because it's expected of me, I'm going to do my yearly lament about street closures. Certainly not a "tirade" these days, because I've given up any hope that things will ever change. I make sure I have other people working at my store on these days, and accept them like I would accept a hailstorm or something.

Still, I'll keep pointing out the emperor has no clothes, because -- well, the emperor is butt naked.

These street closures don't help business. Certainly not on the days they are held, and I've seen absolutely no evidence they help on the days they aren't being held. And it isn't just me.

I know it doesn't stand to reason. But there are lots of things in business that don't stand to reason, and yet there they are. If you examine the evidence -- it just ain't true.

For example: The massive success of the superhero movies must mean I'm doing really well selling comics...right? Actually, they have zero effect. This was a surprise at first, but since we've gone through year after year of blockbusters with the same limp effect, well -- there you have it.

Evidence -- Pshah!

It's a harmless illusion mostly. It probably doesn't hurt that people think that. It might hurt someone who is inspired to open a comic shop, I suppose. Or a new shop who over orders comics in anticipation, but the knowledge is pretty much out there among the comic community, so fair warning.

Anyway, I've detailed all the reasons I don't think street closures help business. Every spring for the last 6 years -- look it up. (I don't think it is just my business --but I can only prove my own business.) Admittedly, they don't hurt quite as much as they used to, because I've tried hard to mainstream my inventory, so I suspect it these street closures now hurt me more like they hurt other downtown business, instead of the extreme effect they used to have...

I've asked around a lot, and my opinion that these events don't help business is widely held, but rarely talked about. No one wants to rock the boat.

So, anyway, I got the sales total for Saturday, and it was mediocre. Less than almost every other day this week (and we're talking weekdays versus weekend.)

Then it occurs to me! They are holding the Bite of Bend every *other* year, alternating with the Old Mill district.

So I look up the same Saturday as last year's Bite of Bend, and we did ---nearly twice as well last year without the street closure. (I usually find the same kind of differential when I compare street-closure summer weekends with weekends before or after, very similar results.)

Evidence -- whateeeeeever, right?

Because you see, when summer comes, the streets are full of shoppers. Normally.

Unless you distract them. Unless you put a beer in their hand and fill the street with revelers. Then they tend to, you know, revel.

Today, the street was full of revelers and nibblers, bless their bloated little tummies.


Martha said...

Yesterday Sunrise asked if I thought you were working. I just laughed at him at and explained the many reasons why that was such a silly question.

By the by, we're glad you're back. :)

Duncan McGeary said...

Thing is -- these results are consistent, year after year. But they are so counter-intuitive, that no one believes them.

They say, "It's just you, Duncan."

But I'm selling books these days, so that is even more evidence to me that it isn't just me. Plus, when you ask around you find -- there are a bunch of stores that do worse, a few that do O.K., and a few that do great. But the vast majority are so new or so unaware, that they simply go along.

But I say, "Do no harm" should be the watchword here.

So what am I going to believe, the evidence of my own lying eyes -- or the reassurances by those whose job it is to put on these events, those who come down to these events, those who work them, and those who receive advertising dollars and the other large lobby personages who have developed around them?

The history of all these events go back to when downtown Bend was struggling and desperate and it was then that these events were useful.

At some point, they stopped being useful and just became ingrained in the system, take it or leave it.

I'll repeat, I'm not against the events, I'm against street closures.

Duncan McGeary said...

Just count how many street closures there are between now and the end of summer, realize that this is the Peak season for tourists and that we do wonderfully well when downtown is just downtown, a shopping zone. And that every time they close the streets, I'm making less than I could have, and that I'm not the only one.

But -- the emperor has maintained the illusion for so long that it's now accepted that he's wearing a magnificent suit.

Duncan McGeary said...

If you remember last year, you had the owner of the Blacksmith -- a long time business owner who knows the difference between effective and not effective, and he had opened two restaurants downtown.

They ended up closing, and he attributed it at least partly to the street closures.

Even he seemed to back down a little under the onslaught of "How dare you take away our fun!" And now he's back to taking care of his own business which isn't on closed streets, so he won't be agitating anymore, I suppose.

Still --- you got to admit that was interesting. He wasn't new, he saw what the street closures were doing, and he had the natural reaction of WTF?

For a moment there, I thought something might happen...

Duncan McGeary said...

So if closing streets is good for business, than the logical extension of that idea is: Close the Streets permanently.

And sure enough, some towns have done this. But, to my eyes, to their detriment.

When I was at the U of O I quit going to anything but the outskirts of downtown Eugene. It felt dead and vaguely threatening. I just hated the feel of it.

And I think most people have agreed BUT -- they kept the downtown mall year after year. I'm still not sure they've gotten rid of it completely.

I read in an article a few years ago, that a few businesses were able to block any change because, for whatever reason, the mall had helped them. (Or, more likely, they had convinced themselves that it helped them.)

That's why I think Bend will keep adding events and making them longer and more disruptive until there is some kind of mini-rebellion, and then they'll back off for a year or two (By backing off, I mean letting one event go, or simply not adding any events that year.)

And then everyone will forget, a new city council will be elected, a new hyped up new-to-town business will agitate for more events, and off we go again. Every one of these events are WORTHY -- but altogether, they are bad for business.

Chuck and the Downtowners are true believers, I think. But even if they weren't, so many of them have jobs that are invested in the idea of street closures, that they are going to work naturally in that direction.

Chuck at least doesn't completely and utterly dismiss any concerns the way he did a few years's like, in the back of his brain, he may be coming to a different conclusion...

So I've been afraid for years the crazies will take over and close the streets permanently or semi-permanently. Fortunately, enough towns have done this and suffered, that I think the evidence is in.

What I'm saying is, closing the streets 20 or 30 times a year, especially during the PEAK SEASON, is damaging in EXACTLY the same way that closing permanently would be, only on a lesser scale.

But logic. Pshaw.

Duncan McGeary said...

O.K. Maybe this is turning into a bit of tirade, but I feel strongly that we Downtowners are shooting ourselves in the foot, and because I'm such a minority opinion, I feel I must argue the point.

Linda just mentioned that she had a couple of great days. Ironically, I always seem to have great days when the events are in the Old Mill.

Thing is, I'm not against the events, just the street closures. Farmers market doesn't hurt, probably helps. First Fridays don't close streets and bring down people to the actual businesses. (It doesn't help me, but I can go home...)

Off site events would be great. They built that whole section of the park near the Rademacher house and the NEVER seem to use it.

If it was up to me, I'd have the Christmas Parade and the 4th of July Parade, and that's it.

I don't think downtown Bend would suffer. We've done the job. We've arrived.

As a fallback, I'd try to have events on Sundays, but not Fridays and Saturdays.

But most of all, I would avoid the Peak Weekends.

Here's the deal. As a downtown business owner, I pay high rent throughout the year. Months like November and February can suck. (Hey, how about events then? Oh, yeah. Business sucks, so we'll come and block you when business doesn't suck,

But I know that we'll do very well in July and August. If left to our own devices.

But instead, we close the streets and invite outside competition (who doesn't pay the high rent all year) and worse, we point the customer toward the center of the street away from the businesses.

Our regulars avoid this, and I'm pretty sure the reason that me and Linda do so well on days when there are events ELSEWHERE -- is because people want to go where there is activity but not crazy activity.

I'm convinced these festival people barely notice the businesses -- take a video camera sometime and point it to the sidewalk and see where people's eyes are going.

Do they come back? You'd think so, right? But where is the evidence? My own observation is -- they really don't. Hell, if you already have them 20 feet away and they won't spend money, why would they make an even longer trip next time to buy stuff they could've bought the first time?

No, we've taught them that our shopping district is actually a free park, a place to get buzzed and watch people and... Huh?

That's fine -- just do it in the parks, or in the commercial venues designed for this purpose.

Distracting people, pointing them in the direction of competitors on what would normally be our busiest weekends of the year is -- JUST ---PLAIN---STUPID.

Duncan McGeary said...

Phew. O.K. I'm done.

Unless you of you bucko's rile me up.

Anonymous said...

gavin's closure had nothing to do with street closures, he had a hideous business model likened to denton's but with less experience. he is not even at his current location now. i understand your frustration, we get a really mixed bag depending on the festival's nature. but using gavin's example is counter-active. street closures were the least of his issues.

Duncan McGeary said...

Oh, I know it wasn't the street closures.

Still, he made some pretty cogent arguments at the time that the closures had hurt him.

Anonymous said...

Bite of Bend was in downtown last year. It was just on the last weekend of the month (26-27) instead of the 4th weekend like it is this year.

So on July 1 you will have two consecutive weeks for the same event to compare year to year.

Other businesses in downtown worried about the street closures should be looking at sales trends the last two weekends of June 2012 versus June 2011.

Duncan McGeary said...

Oh, then I'd be wrong.

Weekend against weekend, (that is, Bite versus Bite) we did good last year and not so good this year.

There are, of course, exceptions. Like I said, the differences aren't as much as they used to be.

I'd still rather not have street closures, overall.

Duncan McGeary said...

a little update. Just had our worst Sunday in months...

Leitmotiv said...

My brother and I went to Bite of Bend yesterday. I made the comment to him about the controversy surrounding the street closures and the impact on business. My brother immediately noted all the fencing blocking off immediate access to the businesses.

All the crowd you could hope for, but no immediate way to get into said business without a lot of hassle. All the businesses looked DEAD.