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Friday, November 7, 2008

Hold the fondue

Yesterday we got in the mail one of those cellophane-wrapped packages of postcards advertising local businesses. As I opened the package and flipped through the glossy cards on the way to the recycling bin, it occurred to me that many of the retailers with coupons in this pack probably were skating on thin ice these days.

Clothing boutiques. Home remodelers. Furniture shops. Car dealerships. Theater companies. Fancy restaurants.

"Here's one," I said to the Mrs. as I held up a card. "'Urban Fondue.' I don't know -- in an economic downturn, one of the first things to think about cutting out is the fondue."

It's a heck of a bad time to be selling luxuries, or even high-end versions of essentials. Nordstrom got killed in October, with same-store sales down 15.7 percent.

Whole Foods also took a beating. Their problems may stem more from their recent acquisition of Wild Oats than from customer defections, but still, identical-store sales in October were down 3.3 percent from 2007. Not to mention that they got sued last week for price gouging.

Even Costco's same-store sales were down 1 percent from the same month a year before. Folks are sucking in their guts and making do with less. A lot are probably wondering what kind of fondue you can make out of government cheese.

Comments (8)

If you've been following retail stocks these past few months; about the only major retailer doing well is WALMART. It will likely be a great time to buy retail shares after Christmas, when the bottom more or less falls out of retail sales after the holidays. That is if you have any money left to buy any shares.

From a source I have within Fred Meyer, their ident sales numbers are down on general merchendice, but food sales are propping them up to +2% or so.

However, that's still down from last fiscal year's 5.7% ident sales growth.

I'm just glad that a local outfit can manage to have *any* growth in this climate.

We thought about advertising in one of those postcard-packs but decided against it. Ours is still a new business and we're trying to figure out the best way to advertise without spending a huge amount of money.

We just opened in April, and October was our best month so far. We're hoping that people will continue to buy local for the holidays, (and beyond) so that small businesses like ours will survive the recession.

@ Renee: Nolo Press puts out a great book called "Marketing without Advertising" that I think is a must for any small business. It's probably in the library, so you don't even have to pay for the education.

Fondue might be extravagant, but I suspect the cheese like "velveeta" might be making a come back.

Thanks, George! I'll look for that - I'm always looking for inexpensive ways to get the word out about our shop.

I prefer Suburban Fondue.

Jack, it's getting to the point where the only businesses that are thriving are the printers of those stupid coupons. Hell, when Powell's Books is reconsidering its long-awaited renovation of the Burnside store, most sane individuals would take that as a sign that going nuts on advertising might not be the best option right now, but the folks advertising urban fondue generally aren't sane people.

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