The business news this past week has been abuzz with stories about retailer bankruptcies, increasingly vacant shopping malls, and the looming threat of an economic recession.
Those trends are ominous, but it a blackly humorous way reminded me of some of my own misadventures in retail.
I was managing an electronics store, and it happened to be in one of the less-desirable malls in the city.
The mall wasn’t horribly run down, but it was in an older part of the city, and the residential neighborhoods in the immediate trading area were dominated by assisted-living retirement communities, group homes and halfway houses.
Which is a roundabout way of saying that the mall’s clientele weren’t necessarily all in the market for big screen TVs and elaborate HiFi stereos.
That was an understatement. There were some days where the traffic count – the number of people who walked into our store – was abysmally low.
We hypothesized that there was some mysterious force that kept people from entering our store.
In time we started to refer to it as “The Force Field” or just “The Bubble.”
As a result we had to hustle very hard to make a living at all.
That was the upside, learning a more intensive work ethic than the average retail stereo salesperson.
The downside was that no one believed us about the challenge we faced.
We took a lot of static about it from my boss, the regional manager.
He was eventually challenged on it, and was dared to spend a Saturday in the store.
That Saturday, when the regional manager worked a shift in our store, and no word of a lie, the only people who wandered into the store was someone from one of the group homes, and their caregiver.
“Holy cow,” our regional manager confided, “you were right about the force field.”