One of the hardest parts about running a small retail business is dependence on the weather. Obviously, a snowstorm can bring business to a halt. The opposite is also true: owners depend on the nice days to bring in people and generate huge sales.
On perfect spring days, lay people might think about slowing down, gardening, enjoying our beautiful parks or just sitting on the back stoop watching the birds. Independent retailers are a different breed. They are thinking about the potential for a big day. A day big enough to offset the slow winter days. They need busy.
Sometimes I wake up and forget that I do not own a bakery anymore. Saturday was one of those days. As soon as I saw the gorgeous day taking shape outside, I felt the familiar pang of fear: did I have enough product on the shelves? Would people patronize my store? Would my employees show up for work, or are they planning to call in sick to enjoy the weather?
It is a sort of retailers’ battle fatigue. It took me a minute to shake off the visceral sensation that I had to run down to check on things at a non-existent store that had closed some seven years ago.
Instead, we walked to our neighborhood coffee shop, enjoying the warm spring morning. And indeed, it was packed. Six people ahead of me at a place not yet used to crowds. The staff did the best they could, learning in real time the efficiencies required to handle a customer surge.
The owner was behind the counter too, wearing an expression I remember so very well. A combination of gratitude and frustration as if to say, “Thank goodness you are here / where were you yesterday?!”
Don’t get me wrong: I loved owning a retail business and I often miss it. But I admit, I very much enjoy the freedom of not owning one. Especially on nice days. Cheers to all our small business people who braved the sunshine to go to work this weekend. I hope sales were good.