Hobby Retailers Hope Sales, Traffic Heat Up

The lazy, hazy days of summer are upon us, and hobby shops are hoping to avoid the summer slowdowns in sales and traffic that are common in the retail world.

Throwing more uncertainty into the mix is the nation’s economy, which makes it virtually impossible to project what sales and store traffic might be like compared to a typical summer. High gas prices and company layoffs have many retailers concerned.

In Janesville, Wis., Gil Lyne has good reason to anticipate his store’s sales will be lower this year. General Motors announced Tuesday that, over the next two years, it will be closing the assembly plant it operates in that city.

“People on the fence are going to cut back on their spending,” said Lyne, who owns Kryptonite Kollectibles. “We’re going to lose probably 3,000 jobs by 2010. It’s going to hurt us. People will be cautious. This year will be OK, but next year will be bad.”

In business for 15 years, Lyne has never experienced any news this dramatic for his community. He had been concerned that something like that might happen since the plant there makes sports-utility vehicles – a market being dramatically affected in the industry due to the high gas prices.

Steve James, Card Trade columnist and owner of The Bullpen in Hendersonville, N.C., said the early signs are also pointing to lower sales this summer for his store.  “If the start of summer is any indication, it’s going to be down,” he said. “For the first couple of weeks of summer, it was probably off by 25-30 percent.”

James blames the high cost of gas for his struggles, since he relies on a lot of tourist and regional traffic for his summer business. “We’re going to do some low-cost events to keep people coming in the store, like a customer appreciation cookout,” he said. “I just want to keep people coming in the door. We’re going to alternate high-
dollar events with low-dollar events.”

Rich Huemmer, owner of Uncommon Sports Cards in Richfield, Minn., is hoping a major road construction project in his area will not deter shoppers from coming to his store. He said he is going to be more aggressive with online sales efforts this year. “We are doing more online projects to compensate for lower traffic and our weekly e-mail updates will provide alternate routes to get to us,” Huemmer said.

Not all retailers expressed concerns about this summer. Tom Hopper, owner of Funtime Sports Cards and Coins in Cincinnati, is hoping a strong month of May is a harbinger of things to come.  “I did 64 percent better,” Hopper noted.

Jeff DeGraw is also planning on summer sales being normal or a bit higher at his store – Matt’s Sports Cards, located in Joliet, Ill. “I think it will be the same or a little bit better,” DeGraw said. “We do a lot of promotions and contests. We make them feel like if they don’t come in, they will miss something.”

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