I ask myself daily what are the markers for a recovery in the retail industry affecting little mom and pop shops like Crescent Moon at The Cotton Exchange. Should I be optimistic simply because we have had some upswing in foot traffic through the shop? Should I be optimistic because it seems more people are spending a little more than last year this month? For Mike and I it is not a case of optimism vs. pessimism. There is no choice, we have to be optimistic or we would need to close our doors. But optimistic or not, we have to make daily decisions to operate responsibly. That has meant stocking less inventory and more frequent ordering, cutting expenses (less paid advertising, more free networking and social media) following a plan, and consulting mentors on critical decisions. It has meant no employees. (Maybe a Sunday or two off together each month).
Last summer the tourist/visitor from out of state stayed home. They promoted it as a “staycation”. Being located in a tourist destination area this was not good. This year so far in June we are seeing customers come back with their families that we haven’t seen in 2-3 years. How do we know? They tell us. One of the benefits of being a mom and pop shop is we talk personally to our customers, we get to know them a little. We are grateful they have remembered us and chose to stop in again.
I have read articles, industry analysis, and blog gurus throughout the recession and several have polar opposite opinions. From my way of thinking many (not all) are simply guessing when they speak of recovery and current economic conditions. Too many variables to run through their algorithms I believe and not enough common sense applied. Throw in a few big egos and there you have it.
For Mike and I here at Crescent Moon, our little 465 square foot shop, the marker is our customer. Talk to our customers and they tell us how things are. Buying something for themselves versus for a gift to someone else tells us they’re feeling more confident. Cutting out the unnecessary item was the first to go in late 2008 and it slashed our bottom line over the next 2 years. Yep, our customer at the counter or browser in our shop is the best focus group we have and they provide us with direction each and every day. All we need to do is listen.
Optimistic, you betcha!