A competitor from the next county is opening a store in the town we left.
This seems stupid to me. Our county can’t support two stores like ours. We are the big dogs in our county, and we have watched five other competitors open and close during the time that we have been open. Under normal circumstances, we would be watching them closely, but have no reason for real alarm.
But in this case, we are not operating under normal circumstances.
A quick recap, for those who have not spent the past year closely following the vagaries of my job. I have worked for a small specialty retail store for the past sixteen years. For the past ten, I was the manager of the store. Just about a year ago, the owners opened a second store in the town to the north. It looked like a mistake to me, and in fact it was. Because of leases, it was my store that closed nine months later. Since that time, I have been taking care of the website, doing conferences and workshops and sales visits, and generally enjoying being the outside person. For back to school, the busiest time of the year, I have been in the store — the second store, in the other town — four days a week. I am not at all sure what will happen come September. I could go back to the outside job, which would be fine with me. My employer, The Empress, could insist that I continue to commute to the store, in which case I would probably look for another job. Or, because of the amount of bad feeling about our closing the local store, the number of customers naturally lost in a move, and the costs of the failure of the two-store plan, we could go out of business entirely.
We were feeling pretty optimistic about the business. If the upcoming season is good, we should be confident about the store again. My own situation is still uncertain, but that is my own choice.
But now we have a direct, local competitor.
A few years ago, our town had a quilt shop. It was an excellent shop, with good selection and wonderful, knowledgeable staff. We are a small town, but there was enough business to support a quilt shop. A second one opened. It also was a wonderful store. The quilters divided their business between the two (and of course continued to buy all that they could from the big-box discount stores), and both went under. This is what normally happens in these cases. Both go under.
This is not what people think will happen. No one thinks, hmm, if I shop at that new store, I may end up with no store at all next year. They think that there is a new store, how exciting, they’ll go to the grand opening, it will be nice to have more choices, how pleasant to have two stores, how handy to have a store in their own neighborhood again. If I were a customer instead of a worker, I would switch — after all, my old store left town. What did they expect?
I stopped by the competitor yesterday. Their space is empty, but there are large signs in the window. They are advertising for a manager. To my husband, this is simple. I am not sure that I will have a job in September, even if things go well for our store. A job just like the one I had for fifteen years is available in my neighborhood, on a flat road that I can drive on in the winter. I should apply for that job.
I could not do that to The Empress, of course. My husband doesn’t understand that. Nor does he see that I could do something that would be a betrayal of people who are almost like family to me, and still find myself out of work if both the stores go out of business, which strikes me as the most likely scenario.
Going for relentless optimism, of course, I can remind myself that we had orders from Virginia and Indiana yesterday, and that this new competitor could persuade The Empress of the importance of the website and the other things I do, relative to the physical store, and give me a stronger case for continuing as a telecommuter.
Today is in theory my day off, but it does not feel like one. I have the computer work to do, and then must take #2 son to the dentist, and then I have a work-related meeting. In the afternoon, I have the youth choir, Bible study, bells, and then choir. I ought to do some housework in there somewhere.