People ask, How’re you doin’? It’s nothing personal, it’s business. I, and they, as individuals, may be doing just fine — healthy, clothed, still breathing (as my father likes to say about his 86th year).
No, the question refers to business, as in, “How’s business?” The reporter from the local paper asked the question the other day. The answer? It ain’t great. It ain’t even good. It has its moments. But the word I get from chatting with many of my fellow Hood River business owners is that things are slow.
So, is it the normal seasonal downturn? Or is it the economy? Or can anyone even tell why people don’t show up, don’t spend, don’t bother to tell you why they aren’t in your store, floating your boat? After all, you can talk with the people who DO come in, but they aren’t the problem — they’re the life preserver.
One sales person put it to me bluntly today, “I had to kiss a lot of ass yesterday to do $500 in sales.” She also noted that her customers appreciate shopping for a locally made product, because they know the money stays local — it doesn’t go to China, or Bentonville, or wherever.
But convince the local shopper, caught between (still) high housing prices and wages (if they have them) that are 66% of those in Portland, that they should support the local merchant, and not the big discounter. Tough sell. Which may be why the sales person also admitted to hitting the food bank to balance her budget.
The short of it is, merchants are “hanging in there.” They’re waiting for better weather, more out of town shoppers, a bit of a return to recreational shopping. As one retailer put it, people don’t need what she sells, so she feels a little contradiction in wishing people would return to the mindset of spending on what are purely “wants.” But she does wish that. Don’t we all?