Bartle: It’s not the customers’ fault


A plethora of local businesses closed up shop in Maricopa this year including Fashions by Cexi, Trax Cafe, Ramsey’s American Grill, Gifts, Games & Gadgets, Wireless Central, Maricopa Home Loans, Austin’s Gifts, Fidelity National Title, First American Title and two Century 21 offices. I think everyone agrees that such a fate is not only devastating for business owners, it’s also a bad omen for our city.

Where there’s a difference of opinion is the cause.

Are high rents a factor? Absolutely. Can the city do more to help businesses? You bet. Can residents spend more money locally instead of in the Valley? Of course.

Retail and office lease rates of $26 per square foot triple net, which means the tenant also pays for utilities, maintenance, insurance and real estate taxes, are commonplace in Maricopa. These rates are ridiculously high for a small market like Maricopa.

But they’re ridiculously high for a reason: It’s market value. While it’s easy to blame “greedy” developers and landlords, the fact of the matter is that they would not be charging such high rates if we weren’t paying them, keeping vacancies low. Economics 101 taught us that high demand plus low supply yields high prices, and until demand lessens or supply increases, landlords are going to continue to charge high rates and maximize their profits – and I don’t blame them.

Maricopa has everything to gain – or lose – based on the small business community’s success – or failure. Of course, the direct financial benefit of increased sales tax revenue is easy to calculate. But the indirect impact of whether or not our city changes its reputation and becomes known as a business-friendly city – for big and small business alike – will help determine whether Maricopa thrives or merely survives.

A couple big obstacles impede Maricopa’s growth, including additional roads to the Valley and railroad over/underpasses, neither of which will be resolved in the foreseeable future. The city can boost economic development by taking simple actions: limit the bureaucracy that prevents the timely issuing of permits, provide outstanding customer service and help businesses set up and prosper here.

City Council’s passing a holiday reprieve on the sign ordinance (see related story) is a step in the right direction. Let’s hope a trend develops.

There’s a mindset, however, that the string of failed businesses is the residents’ fault for shopping in the Valley instead of patronizing the local businesses. It’s not.

I applaud every single entrepreneur who takes the risk of opening a business. It oftentimes amounts to seven-day work weeks and suffocating responsibility for a wage less than could be made working for someone else.

But using your life savings to open the Widgets R Us store you always dreamed of does not automatically entitle you to a drove of loyal customers.

Many ingredients go into a successful business, including:
• A product (or service) people want
• Something that differentiates the product – and company – from the competition
• A means of distributing the product – it could be in $26 space along John Wayne Parkway or in cyberspace
• Price points commensurate with the value provided the customer
• Great customer service ensuring they buy again (and refer their friends)
• Effective promotion so people know about the above things (yes, successful businesses advertise)

By doing this, businesses will create demand for their products and their companies which will, in turn, attract customers.

In an Aug. 26 opinion piece (click here to read), the owner of since-closed Fashions by Cexi wrote, “The small business owners are in desperate need of your patronage.” (And I agree with him.)

In response, Forum member “CptPizza” wrote, “I will not buy a local product simply because it’s local. I, like many others in town, work very hard for the money I earn and will not waste it on an inferior product or service simply because it’s local.”

“nancyj1922” echoed that sentiment: “I won’t just shop here to spend money; it has to be something I want and worth my dollars.”

In a recent editorial, Terri Kingery, executive director of the Maricopa Chamber of Commerce, wrote, “How many of these early entrepreneurs will this community lose before we, the residents of Maricopa, get it? We have to, not need to, look local first!”

I agree that we local residents should buy from local business owners whenever possible, but that’s Maricopa residents’ option, not obligation, to do so.

Many factors contribute to a company’s success or failure, among them is the support they receive – or don’t – from the local community – the lifeblood of any Maricopa retail shop. However, I believe it is the obligation of us business owners to create awareness of our products that meet customer demand at a fair price – and earn the business of local residents.

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