Question and answer section
A note from Rick Karp
Recently I had the pleasure of working on the sales floor during our special sale in April. I had a ball! It was fun to assist customers and greet longtime patrons as lifelong friends. I’ve worked in the Cole Valley store since I was a teenager, and I’ve grown up with many of the neighborhood’s longtime residents. My responsibilities as the CFO of our family-owned business require me to work on the business more than in it. During my time working the sale I was reminded that nothing compares to the nonstop meet-and-greet on the sales floor. Visiting with customers, I’m often asked, “How’s business?” I thought I’d let you know.
Take a walk in your neighborhood and count the vacant storefronts. What you see is not pretty. The pandemic was not a friend to retail shops. The shift away from in-person shopping fueled the fire of our retail-killing Amazon addiction. Though we’ve returned to some of our prepandemic habits, retailers that survived the pandemic are not seeing nearly enough footsteps through their doors to counterbalance pandemic-induced population flight coupled with online shopping.
How’s Cole Hardware faring? Fair at best. There’s a lot going on in our stores as usual, but sales are still way down from prepandemic 2019. Your generous patronage enables us to care for our staff and their families. This becomes increasingly challenging, however, as fewer visitors to our stores results in declining sales. Coupled with the continual march of increasing expenses and declining sales, it’s difficult to make ends meet and run a profitable business. It makes for many sleepless nights, but who needs sleep anyway?
We’ve been examining how we can adjust and are doing the hard work of going over finances with a fine-tooth comb, eliminating as many nonessential expenses as possible. It’s a delicate balancing act, because many expenses that seem “nonessential” are funding elements that make Cole Hardware a unique and rewarding place to visit, shop, and work.
So, yes, business is just fair. I’m an optimist, though, and spring is here! Hardware Happy Hour and other fun events are planned for the coming months. It’s gardening and grilling season, and our stores are chock-full of what you need, and lots that perhaps you don’t need but can’t resist, like an oh-so-cool octopus mug and more! Please come visit and find what you need or are tempted by here with us.
As we do the soul-searching and hard work necessary to keep our business viable, I encourage shoppers, with a bit of urgency, to reflect on how individual shopping choices affect the fabric of our local communities. As a longtime champion of small business I am surely biased, but I hope there are enough like-minded individuals who see value in vibrant and varied in-person shopping corridors to keep them bustling for years to come.
The convenience and breadth of online shopping are undeniable. But communities depend on engagement. So the next time you need something you know your local shop can provide, stroll through your door instead of scrolling from your couch. Your local small businesses need you.
Our friendly stores and helpful staff await you!
Feel free to share your thoughts, recount an experience at your favorite local business, or just say hello. I can be reached at [email protected]. I look forward to hearing from you.
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