So much of running a business is intuitive. You read the signs. Body English. Overheard conversations. Gut instinct. When I buy something in February for delivery in October to offer for sale in November, it is a real leap of faith. Faith in the future, in your taste, in the customer's taste. And now, in the economy. The very real question right now is whether we will still be here in 6 months. Will the artist still be in business? Will our customers still be shopping?
I am reading the signs. There are mixed signals out there. I see large groups of people out SHOPPING! This is interesting on a lot of levels. Camaraderie amongst friends, the need to get out and have some cheap entertainment (browsing can be very cheap). And sometimes you get a snowball effect. One person finds something and it is contagious. If I only get one or two sales out of a lot of people, it is one or two sales I would not have had otherwise. Plus every time you get a group of people, you get hint dropping, which can translate to business down the road.
Back to signs. The signs in the neighborhood right now are "SALE", "Construction Ahead/Sidewalk Closed", "Going Out Of Business", and "For Lease". We always have a certain number of the last one. But there are a lot more of the second to last one then there have ever been. A sign of the times, for sure.
It makes for an interesting vulture moment for us. Show cases and shelves are now available. Some too expensive, some nice, but beat up, some lovely with heaps of potential. The glass gallery has some jewelry cases for sale. Good price, but they are red formica. Still, we are eclectic. I can work with it. It is a sign that I need to seriously redo my jewelry displays - something we have known for ages. You can't sell jewelry if it is not well displayed. Our old cases are cluttered and hard to see into. The tops are cracked and scratched. There is one I just can't get the lights to stay on. Re-imagining the gallery space is not something that is easy for me. I am too familiar with it. And it is hard to rearrange the furniture when the house is full of guests. And their luggage.
More interesting signs. At last month's Hop, almost everyone paid with cash. That is very unusual and is a sign of nervousness. A sign of an unwillingness to spend beyond means. This month's Hop was the opposite. I saw very little cash. And we were having more big single item sales. This is a sign of optimism. (And a high number of out-of-towners, thanks to the Arnold Classic.) Still, I find it interesting and very hopeful.
Today is a lovely day for early March. Warm, a bit overcast, but very pleasant. People are out and about. Families with cabin fever, more convention visitors and neighborhood people happy to get finally get out and meet and greet. The restaurants are starting to put the outdoor seating back out. A sure sign of spring.
People cannot continue to be pessimistic. It is to hard to stay scared, as we learned under all those orange alerts. People are resilient. We will come back - as a neighborhood, a city, a state, a country. We are strong. We are smart. We are determined and we will not stay down. This economy is like a hard freeze. It kills that which is marginal making room for the strong to grow stronger.
So tell me, what's your sign?