Friday, October 11, 2013

The Off Season.

This time of year is always a wake up call about how dependent we are on tourism.

This is the off season.  The whole tenor of the store changes -- much less spontaneous buying, many more people looking for specific things, and most of all, 'broke locals.'  I'm not putting anyone down by saying that, it's just a fact that people tend to spend money on vacations more readily than they do at home. 

I'm always thankful that I have a built in clientele that at least lays down a base amount of sales.  It isn't sufficient, but I pick up enough stray sales to make it through.  It is the reason I've packed the store with so much stuff, of different varieties.  I think that is the only way to survive in a small town.

There's an article in today's Bulletin about how national chainstores are sniffing around Bend.  Well, first of all, we've already gotten most of the major ones, as far as I can tell.  I've always wondered if they think they made a mistake....

A couple of revealing comments:

"...even if they determine a profit isn't possible...they consider other factors, such as competition in a given market, growth opportunities and seasonal fluctuations, which are more extreme in Central Oregon due to tourism."

I remember reading one of the chain stores commenting that they wouldn't open in a town that had less than such and such a population -- and then said chainstore opened anyway, despite Central Oregon not having the numbers specified.

Interesting if Big Boys are truly aware of the "extreme seasonal fluctuations."  I've always thought that outsiders come to Bend and open businesses without really being aware of that.  It comes as a shock, I think.

I've always said -- if you want to open a store in Bend, go pick a street corner on a Tuesday in late October and count the passersby.  But of course by definition, that's not when they are here.  If the vast majority of people come in the summer and Christmas, then they are most likely in that number, right?

I think that the idea that Bend has a "much more dynamic market than they expect just looking at our population" is mostly bullshit.  In fact, I'd argue the opposite.  Our demographics mostly suck.  We're a big donut hole of a town -- a large number of minimum wage employees, and a overlay of rich folks, and a lousy middle class. 

So the rich folks, right?  Well, my guess is that in most cases, they spend their money elsewhere. 

There was a point in the lowest part of the Great Recession when we had more furniture stores than new houses built each year.  A goodly number of those furniture stores are gone...

 I've also always said -- I make money four months out of the year, I lose money four months out of the year, I break even four months out of the year.  If you're willing to accept those numbers, then Bend is the place for you.

Bend survives because of tourism, but it doesn't thrive because we are missing the middle class wages from some business other than those dependent on minimum wage jobs.  I don't think that is going to change any time soon.

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