Retailers want customers back - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Retailers want customers back

May 29, 2003

Albany - Store owners are hurting for customers. Businesses are still holding out hope for the economy to turn around.

Store owners admit they are seeing fewer people come through the door. Many point fingers at the attack on America and Operation Iraqi Freedom. We decided to compare months prior to September 11th until now to see how retail sales are doing in southwest Georgia.

Business is tough these days. Store owner, Bruce Bitterman, explains, "We see less people, less traffic. It's not what it once was."

Bitterman owns Friedman's Clothing store in Albany. His business is different from pharmacies, restaurants and grocery stores. He says, "You have to wear clothes, but you can wear other clothes."

Meaning Bitterman has to work harder to entice customers. He has added sales, specialty items and recently started tuxedo rentals. After all, weddings and proms are a continuous revenue. He explains, "You always need to think of different ways and different items and services, whatever to increase your bottom line. So, that is another way to do it."

We compared the months of January to April, which reflects consumer spending in Dougherty County from November to February. Here's what we found. Early 2001, before 9/11, to the beginning of 2002, retail sales tax distributions had a significant decrease of 6.74 percent. From 2002 to April this year, sales tax collections got a little better with a decrease of .65 percent. But, you can't ignore the fact that retail sales have dropped more than seven percent over the past two years.

Bitterman wasn't surprised at the numbers. He would like customers to spend money in their hometown to help the local economy. But until then, Bitterman, says, "We're here to stay, we're going forward. We just keep working harder to get better."

We also spoke to a few "recession proof" store owners, like pharmacists, who say they are stable year-round.

posted at 6:15PM by kathryn.simmons@walb.com