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Thread: Teens, $$$, and Downtown

  1. #1

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    Teens, $$$, and Downtown

    Hi all.

    I'm doing a little research about teens spending habits, potential to shop at local businesses, and perhaps even something about keeping them entertained as a way to reduce vandalism, etc. for the local Main Street.

    Basically, our small downtown is filled with the traditional stuff (department store, grocery, pharmacy, furniture, applicanes, etc.), but virtually nothing for those under 40. Anybody have any sources of information on this subject?

    Thanks!!!

  2. #2
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Does your town have a high school? If so, you might be able to work with the school to get some information. You might be able to do some surveying using kids at the school. Lots of high schools around here have a statistics classes for juniors or seniors. It could turn into a class project for them and some good PR for your city. This might be a good idea because your data would be more local.

    Since I'm only 22, I can probably tell from my memory what I spent money on and what I saw others spend money on in high school (this is not scientific):

    dates & hanging with friends- restaurants, movies, miniature golf, etc.

    music- stereo equipment, CDs, guitar/other instruments, etc.

    clothes- teens tend toward big boxes like Old Navy

    junk food- a candy store might not be a bad idea, maybe integrating it with the pharmacy

    bribing people to buy alcohol for my friends & I

    Something like a teen center with pool tables, study rooms, internet, etc. might work well. That would atract teens to your downtown to spend money but still keep them out of trouble after school.

    This may not be much help to you since you're probably looking for more concrete data.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  3. #3

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    All great ideas.

    I did find some information from Teen Research Unlimited (www.teenresearch.com)

    We've surveyed the kids to see what kinds of stuff they want, but what I want to take to hte powers that be is something to the effect of "we're turning our backs on $xxx per year!" or "Cities that integrate services for the young attract the creative class", etc..

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Mud Princess's avatar
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    American Demographics had an article on teen spending not that long ago. You might want to check your local library for back issues in the last few months.

  5. #5
    Member Cullen's avatar
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    Video games are attractive to kids from relatively young ages (7 or 8) up into the college years. A video arcade could be something that would appeal to teens and other kids.

    Comics and cards (basball, superehero, etc.) are things that kids and sometimes teens can get into. These stores tend not to do so great, though, especially around now.

    A lot of towns are getting skate parks. These allow teens and younger to skateboard on ramps and other obstacles that they may be searching for throughout the town. These seem to be quite popular and well liked by the skaters and teens in general as it is a cool place to hang out. People often come from towns away to skate at the skate park. They can be pretty small and relatively cheap to put in. They require perhaps as much space as a few tennis courts. It also saves much curb space, planter space and lip space from being scraped by skateboarders, and keeps them from skating on the street with cars as they might otherwise do. There are still saftey concerns, but these can be regulated with usage rules such those requiring a helmet and padding when using the equipment.

    Another good draw is an independent music shop. Teens will love this. It must be independent though, not something they could find at the mall. It would have to stock titles in specialty genres that one cannot find at the mall, som on vinyl.

    do not underestimate either that teens would like a good bookstore and coofeeshop together. If the coffeeshop aspect is focused on enough with the bookstore, then you may end up with a nice central meeting place for much of the town, of any age.

    I hope my ideas help.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I don't have much help for you, but a few words of caution. Every couple of years or so I get someone come into my office with a "great idea" of creating a teen center because of all of the disposable income kids have nowadays and how there's no place in this community for them to go, blah, blah, blah.... Six months later they have closed their doors, and if they are lucky, have only lost a few thousand dollars. Here's a few "lessons learned."

    - Kids don't have a lot of disposable income, and what they do have is spent on a few narrowly focused categories, such as music and trendy clothing. Often, these things also have a very narrow market. I'm in my 30's and too old to shop at Old Navy. Are there enough teens in your market to support the retail teens want to buy?

    - Kids do have a place to go. They always have, and always will. They go to friends' homes, they go to the mall, they hang out in the parking lots of Casey's (you small town Illinoyers know what I'm talking about), they go to the beach - the point is, they go somewhere and find something to do. The last thing they want is for some adult to give them "a nice, safe, place to hang out." They don't want supervision. If you build it, they won't come.

    - This especially does not work when the teen center is run by a religious group or consortium. Good intentions never make up for a failure to understand the target's desires.

    - Teens and "adult" businesses conflict. I don't mean pron. A men's store in your downtown does not want to be located next to an arcade. Teens can be loud, They can be intimidating to the elderly. The ride skateboards on the sidewalks and turn planters or other street furnishings into something to try their moves on. They can become dangerous or a detraction from downtown.

    My suggestion to you is to program activities to keep kids in the parks, cages, schools, prisons, or other places in which they belong. Sure, point out to your businesses information that they can use to sell to the teen market, but don't try to force the teens on them, don't overestimate the positive impact they might have, and don't forget teh negatives.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Rumpy Tunanator's avatar
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    Originally posted by Cardinal
    My suggestion to you is to program activities to keep kids in the parks, cages, schools, prisons, or other places in which they belong.
    LOL, there goes my lunch.

    Uhhh, kids like video games. Maybe a small video store might do the trick or a magic shop.
    A guy once told me, "Do not have any attachments, do not have anything in your life you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you spot the heat around the corner."


    Neil McCauley (Robert DeNiro): Heat 1995

  8. #8
    Member Wulf9's avatar
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    Fast food (but be careful). I worked in a downtown that was struggling. I am convinced that the turning point was a Taco Bell. Interestingly, it was built into an existing pedestrian storefront and looked like a downtown store rather than a Taco Bell. Kids started coming downtown.

    One of the follow on businesses was a coffee shop that also dispensed drugs. So many disruptive kids crowded the sidewalk that it forced a couple of legit businesses to close before we finally go the coffee shop to close. It's now a Starbucks.

    The downtown merchants expected an explosion of rich older folks from the downtown program. What they got was a very vital downtown based on kids and entertainment (kids being defined as high school and college aged).

  9. #9
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    Originally posted by Cardinal
    - Kids do have a place to go. They always have, and always will. They go to friends' homes, they go to the mall, they hang out in the parking lots of Casey's (you small town Illinoyers know what I'm talking about), they go to the beach - the point is, they go somewhere and find something to do. The last thing they want is for some adult to give them "a nice, safe, place to hang out." They don't want supervision. If you build it, they won't come.
    We have two casey's in my hometown (streator, 14,000). Kids don't hang out there, they hang out at the automatic car wash. The strip mall kicked'em out, casey's booted them. THe cops harrass the kids that sit on their trucks and talk about crap at the local hangout.

    every teen center they opened in streator did well. However, for one reason or another they developed a stigma of being a place where the 'bad' kids hang out and soon went under.

    Most kids in small towns do have somewhere to go and unfortunatly or fortunatly it's spending money on beer and "the pot."

    skate parks, movie theaters, late night restaurants/coffee places i think would tend to do better than anything else.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  10. #10

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    Lets try again...

    Discussion seems to have strayed from what I was originally asking for. So, to answer some of the comments already posted, here's the story:

    - We are a small town of 10,000 in RURAL MAINE. We have very limited space in our downtown for a lot of new stuff.

    - There are no big cities, strip malls, or shopping malls nearby for the kids, so I think we can count on more of their money than towns with an Old Navy next door.

    - We have a indoor skatepark already. Its a major draw for kids from across the state (skating in Maine through the 8 month winter!!!??), which exacerbates the problem of having nothing here for kids. Unfortunately, It only appeals to the skaters in town. The rest of the kids are bored.

    - We have 2 coffeeshops already. One closes at 3pm and the other at 8pm (in general, Mainers go to bed early (see post on timezone shock in FAC). Teenagers don't go to bed so early, though.

    - We have a hobby shop which sells trading cards, model rocket stuff, comic books, train sets, etc. Good for hobbies, but not a 'hangout'. Only appeals to a certain sector of kids.

    - We have a concert venue, but it usually runs the local choir & symphony an really hokey folkey stuff.

    - We DON'T have an arcade, theater, or music store. (though there's a great indy music store in the town nextdoor).

    Basically, I'm trying to convince the folks at Main Street that we should be actively recruiting these kinds of businesses for the few vacancies we have downtown. I have a clear picture on what we should recruit (we surveyed the kids).

    Main Street is set on recruiting businesses like home decor, kitchenwares, and fine dining (we have 3 'fine dining' places already). They are under the impression that kids are bad for downtown and have no money (I know otherwise). Basically I want to "wow" them with how much money they're sending out of the community because they fail to (and almost refuse to) cater at all to the kids, and how much potential money is coming into town because of how many teens are coming from all over for the skatepark.....

    So, again, anyone out there have any source of information on teen spending habits, success of mixed-age business districts, or anything similar? Thanks.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Why not, like, ask the kids?

  12. #12
          mentarman's avatar
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    Originally posted by mike gurnee
    Why not, like, ask the kids?
    Read, then post.

  13. #13
         
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    check out how other major urban areas around the world designed their downtown districts to cater to all age populations. For example, London, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro, Miami, Brussels, Paris, Luxembourg, etc.

    I think facilities that cater to the needs of teens today would be great. Target, Walmart, K-Mart, Payless.

    Also resource places such as counseling centers where they can also receive tutoring; 24 computer lab, coffee houses, dance clubs, comedy clubs..places where young people can have fun. What also would be great is entertainment hotspots like arcades, billiard rooms, bowling, skating.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian H's avatar
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    Originally posted by missUrbania
    check out how other major urban areas around the world designed their downtown districts to cater to all age populations. For example, London, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro, Miami, Brussels, Paris, Luxembourg, etc.
    I am not saying you are wrong (because I am not sure what you are meaning), but how does Miami (where I live by the way) cater to all age populations?
    "Those who plan do better than those who do not plan, even though they rarely stick to their plan." - Winston Churchill

  15. #15
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    Re: Lets try again...

    Originally posted by MaineMan
    Discussion seems to have strayed from what I was originally asking for. So, to answer some of the comments already posted, here's the story:

    - We are a small town of 10,000 in RURAL MAINE. We have very limited space in our downtown for a lot of new stuff.

    - There are no big cities, strip malls, or shopping malls nearby for the kids, so I think we can count on more of their money than towns with an Old Navy next door.

    - We have a indoor skatepark already. Its a major draw for kids from across the state (skating in Maine through the 8 month winter!!!??), which exacerbates the problem of having nothing here for kids. Unfortunately, It only appeals to the skaters in town. The rest of the kids are bored.

    - We have 2 coffeeshops already. One closes at 3pm and the other at 8pm (in general, Mainers go to bed early (see post on timezone shock in FAC). Teenagers don't go to bed so early, though.

    - We have a hobby shop which sells trading cards, model rocket stuff, comic books, train sets, etc. Good for hobbies, but not a 'hangout'. Only appeals to a certain sector of kids.

    - We have a concert venue, but it usually runs the local choir & symphony an really hokey folkey stuff.

    - We DON'T have an arcade, theater, or music store. (though there's a great indy music store in the town nextdoor).

    Basically, I'm trying to convince the folks at Main Street that we should be actively recruiting these kinds of businesses for the few vacancies we have downtown. I have a clear picture on what we should recruit (we surveyed the kids).

    Main Street is set on recruiting businesses like home decor, kitchenwares, and fine dining (we have 3 'fine dining' places already). They are under the impression that kids are bad for downtown and have no money (I know otherwise). Basically I want to "wow" them with how much money they're sending out of the community because they fail to (and almost refuse to) cater at all to the kids, and how much potential money is coming into town because of how many teens are coming from all over for the skatepark.....

    So, again, anyone out there have any source of information on teen spending habits, success of mixed-age business districts, or anything similar? Thanks.
    your asking a very tough question that probably doesn't have a clear answer for a town of 10,000. I would estimate most towns of 10,000 have a 12-20 age group of less than 2,000, most probably around 1,100 or so. This is a very select demo and unless there is more of this demo in nearby communities with the ability to transport themselves to your downtown, the amount of opportunities you can provide exclusivly to them might be limited the skate park and a juice bar.

    There are not many things, events, place that i can think of off hand that can adequately serve young demos as well as older ones besides ones that have been mentioned already, like the independent music store, or a coffee shop or restaurant with late, late hours.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    Not sure if your census provides this info, ours does to some degree. Is it possible to look at income levels for the target age groups to see how much money they really have? I'd also look at the education levels and incomes of their parent's and the workforce characteristics. This could explain local spending habits and tastes, more than main stream numbers.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  17. #17

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    Well, here's basically what I've done so far:

    I found some figures on average teen spending in an average week ($104, in case anyone cares). I got into the census and adjusted that amount for our town (based on median US income vs. median town income), multiplied it by the number of teens in our town (about 1000), and came up with a figure of almost $5 Million per year that our kids in town are collectively spending... mostly not at businesses in town. Apparently, they're driving all the way to Portland, or to the small Big Box sprawl area two towns over to spend their money.

    Apart from the 1000 teens in our town, roughly 1000 more come from other areas of the state to our indoor skatepark / teen center on a regular basis. Given the same spending power, those kids could add quite a bit to the figure. Now, I know its not solid science, but it gives a ballpark figure. And if I'm even a million or two off, it still makes a good point.

    So, I think my reccommendations will be for a music store, teen-oriented clothing, and a small movie theater.

    We are a small town, but since we are the biggest town for some distance and are the county seat and are home to the state's largest employer, our downtown is bigger and healthier (I believe) than most american towns of 10,000. And we do have 2-3 vacancies, for which Main Street is actively recruiting businesses. But they're recruiting for more of the same kinds of stuff, which will make our downtwon even more one-sided than it already is... most of the specialty retail (not the services or the two groceries, the dept. store, or the pharmacy) tends to be split pretty evenly between catering to the 50-year-olds and the tourists (most of whom are over 50). You'd be hard pressed to buy a birthday gift for your teenageer downtown.

    Even as a 20-something, I find there is very little to do, and very few of the specialty stores that suit me. But I'm happy enough here (being able to walk to 95% of my shopping is a big plus). But the kids must be going nutz.... and by all accounts, they are!

    Does all of that make sense? Any additional suggestions are welcome... and thanks for all the input thus far!

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Rumpy Tunanator's avatar
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    Re: Well, here's basically what I've done so far:

    Originally posted by MaineMan
    But the kids must be going nutz.... and by all accounts, they are!

    Does all of that make sense? Any additional suggestions are welcome... and thanks for all the input thus far!
    I lived in a small town for a short while as a kid, with a population of 600 or so. To put it this way, there really isn't something you can do for the kids, other than school sponser events or the library or some community center where all the bad kids hang out. We did have a video store where you could play games that you could rent, but that eventually went under. If your in the middle of nowhere I think that there would be more outdoor activities for the kids to do.
    -When there was nothing else to do we'd go fishing, go bridge jumping, hop railroad cars, build forts in the woods, have fires, have snowball fights and forts in the winter as well as sledding, get chased by the cops after curfew on are bikes (you'll never take me alive copper), break in to abandoned buildings, get chased by bulls and boars at local farms, etc. Eventually we got into the drinking and drugs while camping out, so there should be plenty for the kids to do if they like the outdoors and are creative.
    Maybe you should set up some outdoors activity program to keep the liitle hellraisers in line. Just a thought.
    A guy once told me, "Do not have any attachments, do not have anything in your life you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you spot the heat around the corner."


    Neil McCauley (Robert DeNiro): Heat 1995

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    Kids like to go to other kids houses when the parents aren't home and drink. Why can't the grown ups get this.

    Kids don't care about book stores, indy music shops, etc. It can all be bought on line. I think Cardinal said it..."If you build it they will not come."

    Kids adapt and overcome to their surroundings.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    i wrote a fairly lengthy response to this yesterday but it never posted for some reason.

    anyway, to sum up, the problem with doing things FOR kids is that kids don't want adults to do things FOR them. They want to do it themselves. There are plenty of creative kids out there (15-20 year olds) who will create activities and find spaces for them if given the opportunity.

    Asking the kids what they want, maybe have a modified charette with them, is the best idea i've heard. If you're really interested in providing the ammenities that they need be careful not to pigeonhole them. They have quite divergent interests and tastes.

    I'm sure they already have their own music scene, who knows, maybe they're driving an hour or two to go to shows. I know i was driving two hours every other weekend to go to shows when i lived in NC. I can find out for you if you tell me what town you live in. (I've got the underground password ) Seriously, kids maybe reluctant to talk to an outsider for fear of having their venues shut down - it happens all of the time. Once kids are putting on shows in your town all kinds of other distractions (for kids) spring from it.

    I went to school with two kids who put on shows in their basements all through high scool and college. They now live off of their record companies.

    http://www.trustkill.com/home/
    http://www.ferretstyle.com/

    and here in Philly a kid from the main line (suburbs) started small and now his operation brings in $4000 a night.

    http://citypaper.net/articles/101499...v.stalag.shtml
    http://citypaper.net/articles/122399....story10.shtml
    http://www.r5productions.com/info.html
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  21. #21
    Quiet honestly, as a teen myself, when I lived in a town of 10,000 5 years back. There was basically nothing to do anywhere (let alone downtown.) There is no hope whatsoever for reviving somewhere that small.

    One or two coffee shops simply won't cut it. If the high school was located downtown or within walking distance then prehaps their is hope if students are allowed to leave for lunch.

    When living in a small town like that, when we wanted to do something we had to drive a couple hours to the nearest small city or head to the skating rink to pick up a girl from school to have sex with.

  22. #22

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    Well, again, we have talked with the kids, in the form of both surveys (i know.. .surveys, belch!) and charettes. We have heard loud and clear that they want really some very basic things - this straight from the kids - clothing stores, a music store, and a movie theater.

    We're not trying to build things for the kids without their interest or input, what I'm trying to do is convince the 95%-over-50-crowd at Main Street that we should offer at least one of these options for the kids, so that they will try to recruit these kids of businesses insterad of a floor covering business or a home decor business. See, the people in Main Street are of the opinion that kids are nothing but pot-smoking vandals and that they have no money. All of which is obviously untrue.

    A skateshop came in to town on the heels of the skatepark, and it is very successful. I would think a record store would be, too (as indicated by the kids). If the person who owned the record store was too lame / dumb to cater to the kids, then they won't be in business long, because we all know kids buy at least 50x more CD's than adults. And if so, then what has the town lost? they can just go ahead and put in the carpet store anyway.

    And to be completely honest, I don't feel entirely out of touch with the kids - I'm only just 24, and the other person working on this is a 27 year-old townie (who's sister recently graduated). We're not a couple of soccer moms who are completely out of it... and we do realize that we aren't on top of everything that's going on with the kids, especially the "underground" stuff, but we ahve a better idea than the rest of the oldies we're pitching the idea to.

    And, to be honest, I'm not looking to be all like "we have to give the kids alternatives to drinikng and drugs" because frankly, drinking and drugs were a pretty big part of my teenage years. My real connection to this issue is creating a well-rounded downtown that has stuff for people of all ages, not just 50 year olds, not just teenagers, but also young families, 20 year olds, etc. I figure that the teens are the logical place to start, because of their huge consumer power, and also because about 80% of the teens can't wait to get out of town because they're bored out of their skulls. Its hard to have a lot of young families and young professionals around when all the young folks leave town and never come back. This is a huge problem everywhere in Maine, except Portland (which is where most of the kids go!)

    PS - the high school IS adjacent to downtown, and downtown is quite a bit healthier and larger than most towns of 10,000 (I grew up in a different one). That's basically because we're the biggest town around and the county seat. Its not an issue of revival, its more and issue of diversification...

  23. #23
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    It sounds like you already have it together. Sorry to make you go through it again but that was pretty clear.

    I've seen it before and it really is a shame that people are so anti-kid . . . and then they wonder why the kids are dope-smoking vandals.

    Only having about 1,000 kids of high school age is tough, though. Isn't that the threshold of names the average person can remember? If i'm correct then it actually would be possible to know everybody in the town and i could see boredom being a problem but . . . the fact that the skatepark brings in a lot of out of town kids still keeps that door open.
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  24. #24

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    hmm

    Having just completed the last of my teen years (I've been 20 for only a few months), here are my two cents.

    My high school happened to have been built in 1953, when what is now the CBD of Virginia Beach was all farmland. The district grew up around the school, and now there are (count 'em) a Chick-Fil-A, Starbucks, SIlver Diner, Schlotsky's Barnes and Noble, Dairy Queen, Ruby Tuesday, Planet Music, Chesapeake Bagel Bakery, PF Chang's, California Pizza Kitchen, Coldstone Creamery, Taco Bell, and a whole shopping mall within walking distance. Granted, this isn't a downtown district, it's a suburb trying to create a mixed-use "urban" district out of a major intersection. But it looks like it's working. And I know as a high school kid, I loved having the independence to spend what money I had at many of the local establishments. No car necessary, and there was always something to do after school. I think they key for high school kids is accessibility. Granted, we were sheltered suburban kids in a city of 435,000, but kids are kids, most of the time at least.

    Now that I'm in college, when I'm home on breaks, I need stuff that's open late. So that means IHOP. That's it.

    -Ben

  25. #25
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Originally posted by MaineMan
    ...I would think a record store would be, too (as indicated by the kids). If the person who owned the record store was too lame / dumb to cater to the kids, then they won't be in business long, because we all know kids buy at least 50x more CD's than adults. And if so, then what has the town lost?
    Are you sure? Music downloading has seriously eroded conventional music sales, and over time is expected to become the prefered means of acquiring music. Even in the short term, can you expect music sales to be enough to support a store? Run some quick (unresearched) numbers. Lets assume that every person in your community of 10,000 purchased 8 CD's every year. This is undoubtedly high, but let's be generous. Sales of 80,000 CD's at an average price of $12 will lead to a total sale potential of $960,000. Assume that your music store captured a 40% share, or $384,000 in gross sales. If the mark-up on each CD was in the 30-40% range, you would be left with $134,000. Now pay your bills:

    Taxes - $50,000 (property, income, payroll)
    Rent - $15,000 (2400 sq ft @ $6 / sq ft)
    Utilities - $12,000 (gas, electric, water, sewer, tele)
    Employees - $12,000 (part-time)
    Misc. Business Costs - $18,000 (advertising, insurance, security, accounting, loss, fixtures, etc.)

    The net is about $27,000, and this really is being optimistic. What does the town have to lose if the business goes belly-up? Nothing. How about the person who owns the business? S/he has a lot on the line. The reason that your merchants are not listening is because of the risk involved for what is perceived to be very little return.

    I work in a college town of 14,000 people, with 6,500 people between 18 and 24 years old and 43,000 people within ten miles of the downtown. We can't support a music store. Wal-Mart has a music section.

    My point is not to be too critical of your merchants. They are in business for a reason, and probably have some good skills to be able to stay in business. Be realistic in what you are looking for. Perhaps one or two may adjust their product mix to add a few more items. If you want to explore it further, is there a Small Business Development Center or other business planning resource you could bounce these ideas off?

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