Local businesses feeling the sting of infected economy
December 14, 2008 by Staff
Last Monday may have been the day it was made official that the U.S. was in an economic recession, but many local establishments could have stated that fact months ago.
In a region as diverse as Five Points, an area where local eateries, salons, coffee shops, pharmacies and clothing stores converge in close quarters, the verdict for the majority of the markets is the same: things are not looking good.
“Business is pretty damn bad,” said Kasey Farriba, a junior from the University of Georgia currently working at Slippers.
She added that the prospect of the shoes and accessories store going out of business is “very real.”
There have been days, she said, where not a single purchase was made, though a 40 percent off sale for the Thanksgiving holiday did generate some revenue, more on that day alone than in past weeks combined.
Peter Thompson can relate.
The owner of Archipelago Antiques, Thompson has seen sales fall from 30 percent to 40 percent for the year, a trend he said started last December.
“The other antique shops are fairing just as bad as I am,” he said.
“There are three others in the neighborhood. One is out of business, the other two are selling things other than antiques now.”
Thompson added that he doesn’t feel the threat of going out of business, but if it does come to that, he will be able to manage.
“I’m not worried about it,” he said. “They’re other things I can do.”
Harold B. Hodgson owns the local pharmacy that shares his last name.
Sales for his establishment have fallen from 10 percent to 15 percent over the past few months for over-the-counter drugs, with business looking to continue on the decline.
Unlike the other two businesses, Hodgson has had to perform layoffs – one to two over the last several months – in order to keep his market open. The majority of those fired have been college students working part-time. He stated that he has not had to let go of any of his full-time employees. . .yet.
Nevertheless, he tries to conduct his store like “it’s business as usual,” he said. “I’m just trying to be as upbeat as possible.”
While it might appear to be bad news for all, not every business is floundering.
Brian Molloy, owner of The Hub Bicycles, does not answer the question of how his business is fairing in the same way as the others above. Instead of beginning with a sigh, or a nervous smile, he looks confident and assured when he delivers his one-word answer: “Great.”
Further investigation into his response reveals it to be a little misleading. Molloy is doing well, but mostly in comparison of his business to that of the surrounding chains. Sales are expected to be up by 20 percent by the end of the year, due in large part to UGA students.
“A lot more people are on campus with bikes,” he said. “I feel like we contributed in some way.”
However, like most others, Molloy was hit hard when November emerged. Sales dropped by 10 percent.
“March to August, we were rolling,” he said. “But the middle class usually buys, and they’re not spending.”
That led to Molloy, like Hodgson, laying off all of his part-time help. If the store is not doing the amount of business expected of it, he said, then he cannot afford to pay employees who are not working full time.
Molloy, however, anticipates a profitable upcoming holiday season.
“The week before Christmas, it gets really busy,” he said. “We’ll sell lots of bikes.”
Michael Joyce is in good spirits, too.
“Business is good,” the owner of Studio Hair Salon said. “The economic downturn really hasn’t had an effect on us.”
Though the influx of customers has slightly decreased, with clients coming in every four or five weeks instead of every three or four weeks, profits have barely fallen, even with the presence of six other salons in the area.
Additionally, Joyce doesn’t have to worry about layoffs because “we’re all independent contractors,” he said.
“That’s probably helped.”