Published on: March 20, 2008Now available on iTunes
To hear Kevin Coupe’s weekly radio commentary, click on the “MNB Radio” icon on the left hand side of the home page, or just go to:
Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe, and this is MorningNewsBeat Radio, available on iTunes and brought to you by Webstop, your first stop for retail website design services.
It always is sort of sad when a store goes out of business, and a lot worse than that for the people who actually own those stores.
I’ve gone through two going-out-of-business sales in my life, and they were among the more wrenching experiences that I’ve ever had. They were clothing stores where I worked my way through high school and college, and even after college when I was an eight thousand dollars-a-year newspaper reporter and needed to keep a second job.
In both cases, the owners brought in these companies to run the sales, and they brought in all this crappy clothing to sell at huge markdowns, and it seemed as if it wasn't just that the doors were closing, but that the souls of these places were being ripped out. I remember it being horrible, just horrible…and I wasn't an owner, just an employee…albeit an employee who felt pride of ownership because my bosses made me feel that way.
I mention this because of two stories I saw this week about independent supermarkets. One story was in the Republican-Herald in Pennsylvania, where a supermarket called Hanrahan’s in Mahanoy City has closed.
According to the story, the store has been there for six decades, “filling and sometimes delivering grocery orders to older residents, butchering meat at the deli and selling a few handfuls of penny candy to youngsters.”
When economic tightness and tougher competition combined to make things difficult for the Hanrahan family, they say they tried everything from changing suppliers to reducing their advertising expenses. Then, they decided to try to sell the store…and when the word spread, customers assumed they were closing for good, and business got worse. And now, they’re closed.
And then, about the same time I read that story, I got a note from the folks who own the Blue Moon Grocery in Easthampton, Massachusetts, which has been put up for sale by the owners, Deborah Robinson and Lisa Mascaro, who apparently have decided to move onto other things. They say that they’ve established a market for specialty and natural foods that now can be exploited by a new owner … and I hope they are able to sell the store and that the new owner finds success. On the other hand, it probably is a tough time for any store that is labeled as “upscale,” what with the economic hard times that seem to be sweeping through the country. And I hope that they don't suffer the same fate as Hanrahan’s – that by putting the store up for sale they create the impression that the place is closing, and that the shoppers simply go elsewhere.
I haven't been to either of these stores, so I cannot judge how good or bad they may be, or how well they served their neighborhoods, or whether they really have been competitive. But I feel bad for the owners, regardless…because when you have your own business you invest your heart and soul in it – not to mention your money – and when the end comes, it is dark and never pleasant.
And I wonder how many stories like these we’re going to read in the next few months and years. Too many, I fear.
I do know one thing, though. I would urge anyone concerned about their ability to compete to factor into their thinking the fact that conventional wisdom is exactly that – conventional. That’s a good time to break the mold, change the model, and find new ways to connect to shoppers.
Because I suspect that in coming days, the same old, same old isn’t going to cut it.
For MorningNewsBeat Radio, I’m Kevin Coupe.
- KC's View: