Friday, April 22, 2011

A Small Piece of the New Economic Reality <~> Guilty Pleasures Lost & Found

If I saw this coming 25 years ago, I am guessing the folks with 6 inches of letters behind their name saw it too.  We just could not keep up this Ponzi Scheme economy forever.  And maybe the last rush of greed a few years back that pushed us over the edge was a result of the smart guys getting one last dip in the trough before the reality of economic shift hit main steam America. 

That most of American Business chose to profit from this shift instead of prepare for it with new strategies does not leave me feeling any confidence that our mover and shakers have the country's interests at heart.  American business has lived on short term policies to maximize profit now instead of long term planning that would have set them up to face the reality that the US is going to have to make room at the top.  Because of their ham fisted efforts and self centered greed, they have probably ensured we won't be just making room at the top, we are going to be pushed off.

It is what it is and certainly out of my hands.  All I can do is adjust to the new realities coming at me, or let them take me down. 

There are a myriad, no, thousands of small realities forming that will change the dynamic of what is the US economy in the next 10 years.  My reality is but one small part of it.  I represent the small retail store trying to make it's way among the muscle bound chain stores and Internet Hydra.  All my whinin, pissin and moanin is done.  Fairness has nothing to do with it.  I deal with it or I don't.
In retail, brick and mortar operations like mine had basic rules and goals that seemed to be shared across the board from one retailer to another. With the advent of the discount chain store and the rise of the Internet, all these rules have been tossed.  Classic profit margins designed to cover fixed costs, cost of goods, payroll, and leave the owners with some jingle to save or play with have been shot in the ass.  I used to aim for a store wide margin of 40%.  I only remember hitting it one year back in the 1990s, but we had many years of 38% or so.  Now I have to keep my doors open on 25% or less.  That leaves precious little other than some coffee money and maybe a new pair a pants every 6 months.

But again, it is what it is.  Rather than allow the Internet or the Chains low ball me out of existence, I am meeting them head on.  It finally dawned on me that holding my price and not being flexible was just driving customers into their arms.  10% profit is a damn site better than no profit. 

Okay, so I have finally come around.  But the rules change here in mid-stream has me floundering some at the moment.  I realize that in order to survive in the new economic reality, I have to have every phase of my operation under control.  The margin of error has narrowed dramatically.

Which brings up Guilty Pleasures.  Bear with me, there is a connection.  I just need to re-locate it.

All this recent entrepreneurial intensity of mine has created a writer's block.  It seems I have completely turned all the synapses still in existence to the chore of pulling my bike shop out of the hole.  I have none left for my creative writing.  As I write this now, I am experiencing serious guilt and remorse over the hour wasted not focusing on bike shop shit.

It was on the way to the bike shop yesterday that I realized how much I miss writing just for shits and giggles.  I don't care what I write about, I just truly enjoy the effort of putting words together that make sense.   That they sometimes do make sense is but icing on the cake.  It is the process of creativity I am missing, not so much the finished product.  Writing has become a substance abuse thing for me.  I am seriously jones-ing here.

Riding my bike used to be a guilty pleasure.  That seems to have changed over the last 20 years or so.  At some point, I do not know when, riding went from an escape mechanism to a requirement of my job.  Owning a bike shop and not riding is certainly possible.  Matter of fact, many bike shop owners do not ride.  But I felt obligated more and more to ride because of the business and less just for myself.

And now that gas is closing in hard on $4/gallon, I feel even more pressure to ride.  Commuting by bike just twice a week will save me $8.  Add in the health and fitness benefit and  to not commute by bike when possible would be stupid.  Unless of course my pockets suddenly got deeper.  And last time I checked, they seemed to have shrunk. 

Coming full circle here, I guess it just amuses me that no matter how priorities change, there is always that which you should do and that which you want to do.  The trick is finding the balance point.

Next post - Alcohol and why I stopped being a tee-totaler.  Or something else.  It's certainly a crap shoot.

Keep it 'tween the ditches................................................................


The Blog Fodder said...

Farming has been going that way for years. The middle breaks even, the top makes a buck and the bottom fall off. Every new technology makes a few dollars at first for the early adopters but eventually just trims the margins a bit more and a few more fall off the bottom.
Remembering what is important - writing and biking for you - among the daily wrestles with living within the margins keeps one sane and with some purpose.

Demeur said...

I stop to consider all the things I've done over the years and for the most part I've had some fun doing them. As crazy as that may sound. And that is the really important part.

So at the most critical times I'll break into "Are we having fun yet?" And that seems to make it all right. Because let's face it your still doing what you're doing so there must be some pleasure in it.

Einstein once said don't worry about success. Do what you like doing and success will follow. Or something to that effect.

Mr. Charleston said...

It seems to me that businesses like bike shops, surf shops, skateboard shops, and the like are totally whimsical and at the leading edge of extinction. But it also seems like there are always a few of them around so there must be demand enough to keep them going. Maybe with the certain to come increase in gas prices bicycles will become a necessity instead of a hobby and business will flourish.

I have to observe that from my own experiences, bike shops are either owned and operated by young enthusiast snobs who have no time for the casual rider and who come and go like the seasons, or by folks who take an interest in other folks and are always involved in, or sponsoring, civic events and fundraisers and therefore, build a steady clientele that sticks with them over the years. Seems like you're in that second group.

I wish you luck.

Randal Graves said...

You worry too much. Remember, in 20-30 years, we'll all be soylent green for the young and fit toiling in the rich man's crap factories.

Ol'Buzzard said...

In the early nineteen nineties I was offered a chance at early retirement. My wife and I considered the options - we could take the retirement and probably keep the wolf away from the door or work another eight or ten years and be more financially comfortable. We chose to take the retirement and I have never regretted it. We live tight and I have even had to go back to work a time or two in order to adjust to the always renewing economy. But, our time together and the freedom from demands we have enjoyed is priceless.

They say when you die your life passes in front of your eyes – I want mine to be an adventure (if possible a double feature) not a Shakespearian tragedy of work work work .

the Ol'Buzzard


I want one on those 3 wheel bicycles..they are $250 at house of satan(walmart) and I may go ahead and get one and just not use the truck here in town, only for trips to wakko..which I try to make all my drs apts on the same day so only have to make one trip..