COMMENTARY| Last week I heard a lightning-fast whoosh, then a loud thud outside my window. I knew without looking that time deposited another holiday season on my doorstep. Wow … 2012's almost over. As a small business owner, it's time to evaluate how me, and my husband's company fared in an election year. Currently, we're winding down our nineteenth year in business.
With no official year-end peek at the books yet; I already know sales are down. The presidential election took a bite out of profits. Frankly, a cold, rainy New England autumn didn't help either.
Election Year Influence
So, does a presidential campaign impact small business? Depending on the business, I believe that's a "yes." Around my local area of Massachusetts I didn't notice empty coffee shops, bars or restaurants during this election year: these establishments had plenty of customers.
Perhaps these businesses were thriving because people gathered to talk politics over coffee and drinks and dinner.
However, my company deals in distribution, sales, and service of outdoor play equipment. We sell high-ticket products. Based on past election years, we prepared for a drop in sales. This election year was different: sales nearly halted beginning late August.
As 2012 wore on, presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney stepped up their campaigning. When those campaigns went full throttle, potential "buying" customers trickled down to "browsers" who openly stated they were not making any expensive buys until after the election.
It's not what we wanted to hear. But it wasn't a surprise, so we focused on other ways to generate money for the business.
In fall, even in an election year, one out of three "We're just looking," responses turns out to be a sale: unfortunately, it wasn't the case this time around. Consumers were holding on to their money in the months leading up to November's election. We think it's safe to say our business is down 20 percent in sales compared with 2011.
Replacing Loss of Sales with Service Work
To cover lost sales and installations, we've leaned heavily on service work for the past few months. It doesn't make up for a 20 percent drop in sales; it does put money in the company. Following the election, we hoped business would bounce back to a degree. That may have happened had the weather cooperated.
The presidential election's over. There's about a month left to our business season. We're already looking ahead to 2013. It's time to move on.
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