Two downtown Racine retailers are seeking to organize other downtown businesses such that they cooperate for the good of all downtown retailers. So far, the group has suggested that downtown retailers stay open later on Fridays during the Christmas season and to offer limited Sunday hours. I can support this initiative as I have been preaching, and practicing, the notion that we need to better accomodate our customers with longer hours. So far, so good.
Now I have a sneaking suspicion that this group may offer some suggestions that I will not be able to support. Perhaps it is raging paranoia on my part, but I will not be in the least surprised if they will initiate a program to increase cooperation between retailers by "suggesting" which products or product lines a retailer may sell. It is my sincere hope that they do not take this step.
I very much want to have cordial and cooperative relations with fellow retailers downtown. Yet there are limits to the kind of organized activities that I could support. As a firm believer in freedom, I would resist and oppose any efforts by a group of people to tell me how to run my business. The phrase "mind your own business" seems particularly appropriate in this context.
My hope is that downtown retailers who are struggling will take a hard look at their internal operations rather than mistakenly assume that there is a collective solution to their business concerns. Are your products interesting? Are they displayed in an attractive manner? Are they priced to move? How do you treat your customers? Do you complain to customers about business? Do you manage your employees well? What is working? What isn't?
I want Racine to have a bustling and successful downtown. As such, I want my neighboring businesses to succeed, as it is better to have a thriving business next door than to have a vacancy.
My advice to downtown retailers: Focus more on internal operations and less on collective action.