Friday, October 24, 2008

Small Business Activity Shows Indicators Of Slowdown

Many of those who are watching the economy closely keep their eyes open for new reports, data and analysis from major sources. But another place to look for clues about the economy is in anecdotal and statistical evidence from small business owners--the ones who are seeing the effects of immediate the numbers in their day-to-day lives.

Nelson Villanova, for example, owns Eddie's Shoe Repair, a 15-year-old business that sells shoe and luggage shines at $4 a pop. Since August--when the economy started its rapid shift from bad to worse--he has seen a sharp drop-off in business of 25 to 30 percent.

Other declines showing that businesses are clamping down on their wallets are widespread. Office supply sales have declined every month since December 2007, FedEx shipped 10 percent fewer overnight envelopes this summer than last and business jet take-offs and landings were down by 18 percent in August.

Damon Bae, general manager of Manhattan-based Fancy Cleaners, has seen an uptick in customer preference for bulk dry cleaners rather than boutique dry cleaners as consumers try to stretch their dollars to the max.

Sales at Andrew's Ties, a Madison Avenue shop which sells handmade Italian silk ties at $49 to $99 each, have been declining since March, according to general manager Yannis Tselepidis. The start of the sales drop-off coincides with the collapse of Bear Stearns.

Michael Ingbar, owner of New York-based MFI Art Company, has seen corporate buyers cutting back in the past 12 to 18 months. Companies laying people off, he said, are not in a position to buy art.

And in San Francisco, Jack Mardack, marketing director of Eventbrite--a company that handles online registrations for events and conferences--has seen less interest in large, formal, industry-wide events and increased interest in smaller, local events. Networking events priced at $100 or less are particularly popular.

Source: BusinessWeek

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