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Although the United States financial crisis is not comparable to the economic situation in Europe, things are not going as well as they should. In St. Petersburg, Florida, the crisis has kicked into many people’s pockets. Although it seems that better times are coming, there are still local stores that struggle.
In Europe, people are tired of expressions such as financial bailout, risk premium or long-term credit ratings. In the United States, dramatic situations have been avoided thanks to the measures that drive America’s economic activity. However, there are negative issues here: the U.S. imports much more than we export and the unemployment rate has reached 8.2 percent. St. Pete’s small businesses say that people don’t consume as much as before, and some stores have closed as a result during the last years. Therefore, we can assume that people are suffering from the crisis in one way or the other.
Toonari reporter Ines Sanchez has out on the streets of St Petersburg, asking local business owners how the crisis has impacted their stores.
Bad or slightly bad. These were the most repeated answers from 24 local business. In particular, seven of them said that it was affecting them in a bad way, while eight said that was impacting them in a slightly bad way. For example, Spencer DeHaven from The Cupcake Spot says that “customers spend much less money than years ago.”
And in what way is the crisis affecting sales? Most agree that it has decreased the number of customers and how much they spend. There are also some stores that have been forced to lower their prices and to increase the number of on-sale events and coupons. For example, Sarah Gecan from Daddy Kool Records was forced to reduce the staff, expenses and inventory due to decreased income.
Meanwhile, six of the surveyed shops said the crisis was not affecting their commerce, that everything remained the same as before the global financial collapse.
Everyone agrees on one thing though: during periods of crisis, small businesses have to be supported somehow by governmental measures. “During the bad economic periods, it is necessary to support the local businesses because that is what makes the city keep on going,” said Sarah Gecan from Daddy Kool Records. And according to Rossana Gahhos from All Sewn Up Boutique, this works well in St Petersburg: “In St Pete there is a loyal customer base and everyone supports each other very well.”
The truth is that during crisis there are some types of businesses that are more affected than others. People still need groceries, eat out and even get tattoos or buy flowers. “I do not think there is an economic crisis,” says a food store manager, who prefers to remain anonymous.
On the other hand, there are stores that are run down by the crisis. One examples is the art galleries. Linda Smolski from An Artisans Gallery recognizes that she might close the store in September if the situation does not change. “There is no money for art. People just look at the pictures but they cannot afford them. There are a 99% of poor people and just 1% of rich and powerful. We have to change the ratio,” she says, remembering a better time.
Phugiyg Huyn from City Hair & Nails agrees with Smolki: “There is no business at all, my store is most of the time empty, we are facing a really bad situation.”
These store owners have come up with possible solutions. “There should be less government rules and regulations. They should let the business do their job instead of interfering so much,” says Alan Rulifson from Green Bench Flowers.
“More funding would help or at very least free advertising to help develop local community businesses,” says Davor Polster from a local grocery store.
Negativity surrounds merchants who see how things are not improving. “The news constantly reports that things are getting better, that real estate values are returning and that unemployment numbers are decreasing, but all we see happening is the exact opposite,” says Justin Chamoun from St. Pete Brasserie.
However, there are also people such as Badr Elamin, owner of El’s Menswear for five years, who stays positive and appeals to faith at these tough moments in life: “The key to success is to have faith in yourself and to develop your own human nature. In a business you have to treat everyone with honesty, loyalty, and integrity.”
It seems that businesses have struggled through the worst phase and that it is “starting to slowly pick up at least in retail,” says Aneesa Shakur from The Trunk Stylists.
“This summer is going much better compared to last one,” says Jennifer Kosharek from Eve-N-Odd gallery.
Let’s hope so.