Thursday, April 30, 2015

Overheard in the Garment District

Yesterday, I was in a store I have mentioned here on the blog a few times.  A fun store, historically tightly packed with goods, but yesterday, noticeably lighter, roomier, more navigable...

I overheard a long conversation the owner was having with a business patron, but this was only overheard, so I have no permission to share it here...

I contemplated a piece of leather for a bit, priced higher than a finished bag made of the same quality leather would cost, and changed my mind. I would buy the leather if reasonably priced, of course, but I am unwilling to also donate to the rent fund.

The district is definitely pushing these small stores out.  These businesses can't afford the rents anymore, and the landlords won't bend.  They can't afford to move elsewhere, because there are no better deals in places they hope to find customers. It's business, of course, and sad... but true. For this particular business, it sounds like they are reaching the end of their run, as no further negotiations will be entertained by their landlord.

As I eavesdropped on a conversation between the owner and the professional designer customer (who works from his home studio after being pushed out of an industrial space due to rising rents), I heard some real specifics about how the landlords are absolutely unwilling to entertain any consideration for the length of time they have been good tenants, occupying the same spot, etc. I have to say, though, I get it.  There is no incentive for the landlords to allow them to stay, when so many people with deeper pockets are clamoring for those spots. It hurts, but it's true.

How is this showing up in the fabric stores?  For those at street level, far more mediocre goods at higher prices, stores going out of business, and pushier sales staff. The pluckier business owners it seems, can make a good run after moving "up" in the buildings. There are rent affordability challenges on every level, though. Yes, they lose foot traffic, but then, many of my favorite places aren't at street level.

So here's the good news.  The best places are still knocking it outta the park with what they have to offer.  It just seems that only the strongest will survive in this environment, and what we get as customers is fantastic quality goods from the places who really know how to bring the best quality to us.