Sunday, September 25, 2011

Community Is Our Business

If you look at Altadena, CA,on a street view map, you'd see that we're a very spread out community.  There are actually four different "main drags" in Altadena - starting from the West, we've got Lincoln and Fair Oaks, Lake Avenue in the center and Allen to the East.  This sprawl of neighborhoods and commerce centers make it a challenge for law enforcement, but we're very lucky to have our Los Angeles County Sheriffs, who do such an admirable job of keeping us safe.
Photo Credit: Tim Rutt

I was honored to attend the Grand Opening of the Altadena Sheriffs Station on Saturday, accompanied by Rose West of Curves on Mariposa representing Altadena's Chamber of Commerce.  Struck by that fact that violent crime here has taken a notable downturn, I feel very grateful that our Sheriffs now have a new, upgraded station to conduct their business in.  The building's design is a nostalgic nod to the era the original Station was built in, and it carries that theme faithfully throughout from the vintage lettering on the glass insets on the interior doors to the old jail, now used for storage.  The completion of the Station's renovation gives me hope that this is the start to the much-needed renovation of the North Lake Business District. 

Just like the Sheriffs make our community their business, all of us at Webster's FS make Altadena our business as well.  We don't just sell products at our store, you see.  We give our all to be of service to our fellow residents and guests at all times. Many customers feel comfortable calling in to ask questions about happenings in the community, and we think that's a great thing!  I'd like to encourage people to tell their friends to feel free to contact us if they'd like - not everyone has a computer or internet access, and we don't mind helping people find what they're looking for.

Happy fall, everyone - have a great week ahead!  Next week we'll talk about the next Fancy Food Truck Friday and our own Wines For A Passionate Evening of Poetry coming up on October 15th.....

Lori & Scott

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Distinguishable Difference?

We're embarking on an adventure this week at WFS.  We'll be reading the book entitled "Different" by Youngme Moon.  When I saw "we", of course I mean me, but I will be discussing it with Scott and our crew when I finish reading it. I became fascinated by watching this video, found on a Google + post by Mari Smith, and I can't stop thinking about the book.  I'm thinking about all the ways that WFS truly is a different sort of retail store, and that many of our ideas, such as what I term "cooperative commerce", are innovative. 

I'm excited to read "Different".  I'll leave you here with a little taste of the book, and when I finish it, I'll report back to you on how much I liked it.  I'll also be pointing out what I learned from it, and how I think our store can benefit from the information.  Or maybe, it'll be how our community can benefit.....we'll see.

 -----------------------------------------"Different" by Youngme Moon--------------------------------------------------

"There is perhaps no better way to get a glimpse into the mass consumption values of a culture than to visit the place where the inhabitants of that culture purchase the stuff of daily living—soap, food, shoes. If aliens were to visit a grocery store or a drugstore in this country, they would have to conclude that we are a people hooked on the pleasures of picking needles out of haystacks—of selecting a cereal among an ocean of cereal boxes, of selecting a bar of soap among an ocean of soap bars. And in many ways, they would be right. We take for granted how frequently we thrust ourselves into the position of having to make purchase decisions in the face of overflowing product profusion."

"There are truisms in business, just as there are truisms in sport, in play, and in life—self-evident, obvious truths that require little or no persuasion. Buy low, sell high. Know thy competition. Listen to your customers. These are the axioms that have not only achieved the status of conventional wisdom in the world of commerce, they have become part of our modern business reflex. And because these wisdoms have become congenital almost, when they are called into question, we tend to be not just defensive, but dismissive."

"The metaphor should be obvious. The central premise in part 1 of this book is that in so many consumer categories, differentiation has become hard to come by because we have fallen into a pulse of competition that in and of itself has become an impediment to its emergence. In part 1, I also contend that businesses that find themselves locked into this particular pattern of competitive engagement have become masters at producing product categories filled with heterogeneous homogeneity, or dissimilar clones if you will. Which is to say that they have become masters of a particular form of imitation. Not differentiation, but imitation. Yet because this particular form of imitation is cloaked in the vernacular of differentiation, the myth of competitive separation lives on in the minds of the managers running these firms. Meanwhile, the emperor has no clothes and most consumers know it."

"....As a percentage, the number of companies who are truly able to achieve competitive separation in their respective categories—to break through the noisy clutter, to create genuine emotional resonance with consumers—is depressingly small, and yet these outliers have much to teach us about the limitations of some of our most deeply held business assumptions. So while part 1 of this book may read like a critique, part 2 will read very much like a celebration, of these iconoclasts and their ways of doing business."


Oh man....I'm really looking forward to this!

Have a fantastic week, my friends!

Lori & Scott

Sunday, September 11, 2011

SB 469 - Good For Your Community?

Tucked in the back op-ed section of the August 29th edition of the Los Angeles Business Journal, economic development consultant Robert J. Rodino wrote an interesting piece entitled "Gains From Wal-Mart Style Stores Not So Super".  In it, he discusses State Measure SB 469, a proposal that would require California cities to conduct economic impact studies before approving large, super-center type stores, and the criticism it's getting.

The argument that this measure would inhibit economic growth here in California's communities stems from a misunderstanding of the dynamics of the retail business.  Rodino says, "The impact of Wal-Mart style superstores on the businesses in local communities is often just the opposite of what superstore advocates claim".  This is something that the Americal Independent Business Alliance has been talking about for years now.  During studies conducted in 2003, and updated in 2010 for the city of San Diego, Mr. Rodino documents the dynamic he coins "retail cannibalization" - the tendency large superstores have for sucking the life out of a community. 

"Consumer retail expenditures are dependent on consumer income", Rodino states.  "Developing a Wall-Mart style superstore in a mature urban market does not alter consumer incomes and does not alter their expenditures.  Superstore gains in sales largely come from the surrounding retailers' losses.  While a portion of sales can be made up from consumers coming into a trade area, i.e., into the city of Los Angeles from outside the city, this is rarely sufficient to satisfy superstore annual sales volume.  Regionally, there would be little or no net new retail sales growth, since retailers outside the trade area would correspondingly lose sales volumes".

He goes on to cite other instances of the devastation a large superstore could cause.  He advises that advocates for business need to be asked what businesses are they advocating for - giant corporations or local small businesses?  He says, "Nationally we accept the idea that small businesses are job creators.  Why does this change for local retailers in Southern California?"

Why do we see that disparity here in SoCal?  I'm no politician, so it's a mystery to me.  Local, independent businesses have been proven to be the drivers of job creation, innovation and the lion's share of economic development in cities and towns across the county.  I can only imagine the economic stimulus these overreaching corporations get from our local, state and national government, without making good on their promises to stimulate the local economy.  But there it is, happening around us every day.  Read up on SB 469, and please vote to keep your communities unique and vibrant - choose small business over big box business!

This has been a public service message from Webster's Fine Stationers - thank you for reading!

Have a wonderful week ahead, my friends!

Lori & Scott