Friday, February 3, 2012

Has the Economy Really Turned a Corner? A Small Business Perspective....A Mixed Bag In an Election Year

I have written before that I, myself, a small business person of many years, would actually see
the recession weary economy--would actually get stronger as the months before the next national election, this coming November, 2012.

For most small businesses, with retail and online offerings, it is no secret that sales fell off a cliff
when the recession started and no matter what anyone says, or reports (unless you are in the oil
or insurance business), business has not come back to the level it was prior to the recession.

Many of us have been holding on, figuring that business had to improve at some point, but for many, I have found, they have lost their ability to even be optimistic. That is one of the reasons, I believe, that there is so much emotion built into this coming election. People are tired
of this suffering and they somehow think that electing a new leader will change that, or that staying the course is the best option.

I really do not care, and many of those who know me might now believe me, but I simply want my business and my employees to be better off than they were a month ago, a year ago or even
two years ago--but that is not the case and I am right there with them.

Those hopes of better times and more business due to the election, due to the improved job numbers, and monthly governmental reports--all seemed to indicate, especially with today's jobs report, that times are actually getting better. Allow me to indulge some of what I saw and heard in the last week.

I was visiting Las Vegas on business last week. A giant concrete show was just ending, but when I was there midweek, the town was pretty empty, no gambling tables were full and most if not all of the casinos were at less than 60% capacity. Then I saw two to three construction sites half done, work abandoned, like a giant sculpture of our times: incredible promise and beauty, unfulfilled. Then I heard that some homes actually went up a little.......when I returned to one of our retail stores, I was helping a customer who had come in looking for a box and some packing supplies. He was shipping an auto part. I asked him if this was for his business, and he told me
that it was not; that he was picking parts off his car to be able to pay the rent, selling them on eBay. I gave him some free materials for his shipment.

I then dealt with a customer who sold an old beer sign to someone on eBay, and it broke in transit and the buyer nixed the sale through Pay pal, so the customer was out $250.00.
She called us screaming, like we had assaulted her, as Pay pal took her food money, apparently.
She blamed us and then I asked her for a little time to put the facts together and do an investigation on her behalf, as the service we provided to her was from another one of our
local Las Vegas outlets.

I spoke to the manager who handled the transaction and recalled the details and had put together a file, just in case something happened. He told me that he informed the customer
that in order to prevent damage, she had to protectively pack this item with cushioning on all
six (6) of its sides, as just wrapping the item with Bubble Warp or Paper, would not ensure its
safe arrival. After, we do this for a living, we always inform the customer so they can decide
if they want to take the risk or pay the cost of doing it right.

This customer chose not to do it right, for two reasons: one, today, the package carriers charge for size and packing this sign right meant that she would be charged more for shipping it, due to the enlarged size, and two, she did not want to spend the money to have us guarantee pack the sign.

This was not about fairness, equity or what she did not do or if she got what she bargained for,
as all of that was true, but she was just going crazy cause she had no money to feed her children
because Pay pal took her money unilaterally.

I hope that the jobs numbers are actually true, as help needs to come quick to those who need it most, and the problem from my perspective, is that these recoveries are often uneven and unfair as sometimes, the rich get richer before the poor or middle class gets better, but I am not
talking about politics here, it is just that housing, which got hit hard in this recession, affects those in California, Nevada and Arizona more, as that was our economic core driver in the past, since we do not make or manufacture anything in the west anymore.

I have seen signs, as some might suggest that our business--selling moving boxes, helping people move, small loads, packaging and crating, stock boxes, packaging aid, shipping, moving, etc., are all activities that lead to more activity. If a customer buys a few moving boxes, and moves, he engages all kind of services, from alarms, furniture, carpet cleaning, maid service, painting, plumbing, remodeling, construction, water bottle service, not to mention a new customer for the dry cleaning, the hear salon, the restaurant, etc. They used to say that one move results in 7 other moves as a domino effect, but I really am not sure how that number was obtained.

I do know that we are seeing more activity in some of our stores on the west side of Los Angeles,
our locations in the bay area have seen more improvement too. I am hopeful that these are signs of improvement, but I definitely do not want to do a forecast as I have been hopeful before, too. But I am hopeful that with this election and with the hope for better times a head, considering how long we have been under this recession, one can't help but hope that maybe, just maybe, better times are really on the way. For all of our sakes, lets hope so.

1 comment:

  1. Good article. I always start to wonder about (question) many of the positive news articles regarding the economy that start showing up near elections.