Monday, December 28, 2009

Another Bookstore Closes...but What's Wrong with this Picture

Here's an article from the Omaha World Herald about the Confluence Books, Bistro, and Business Center closing in nearby Bellevue. What led to this store's closing? Well, you'd think it might be price pressure from Amazon and the big-box retailers, a move to many categories of books being replaced with online searches, more competitition for leisure time from video games, streaming movies, and social networking.

Hey, even though it's still a small percentage of the market, I wouldn't have been surprised if Kindle, Sony, and other ebook providers were causing the hit to the business that the owner's couldn't handle. As a business center, you're probably targeting business customers, and they might be more enthusiastic than some about loading titles onto a reader for business trips.

Or how about the financial meltdown? Wouldn't a good reason be "My business tanked because of the change in financial conditions, but my landlord wouldn't renegotiate my lease, I couldn't figure out how to cut my payroll, or I couldn't get a large enough draw/salary (depending on how the owner was organized) to cover my mortgage?" I'd accept that.

But no, here are the reasons that the owner cites:
--Minimum wage increases
--The county, state, and federal tax burden
--High interest rates and inability to get credit from banks
--The daunting prospect of health care reform.

I don't usually criticize folks on this blog, but it strikes me that this is not a candid assessment of the business failure. It almost seems like the square peg of closure is being used to fit the round hole of the owner's pet causes.

Wouldn't this be like me saying I am struggling because we're spending too much money on standardized testing in education and school administration, and not enough on teachers that can foster reading and creativity? (We could have a drink and discuss this someday, but I would probably insist on inviting my high-school-teacher sister along to really liven up the discussion).

I'm not arguing the politics--that belongs in someone else's blog. I'm just saying that most of these costs were there when the business was started, and a business plan should have helped determine that the store was not feasible. I actually found the article a wake-up call, because it reminded me of my original mantra, "It's all about the numbers", and I think I need to focus more time on financial matters. I'm spending the rest of the day on figuring out my work credit card bills.

Now I'm not very hot on the current health care bill either. But that's more because under the way the Senate bill is written, Wisconsin has to subsidize....Nebraska! Read the article in The New York Times.


The health care reform book on my to-read pile is T. R. Reid's The Healing of America. I've had great feedback from customers, and really enjoyed his book Confucius Lives Next Door some years ago.

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