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A New Economic Indicator; The Donut-meter

We just wrapped up two shows here in Arizona (the only 2 shows we are doing this year in Arizona) and gross sales are down by about 35% on both shows. There could be a wide variety of factors contributing to lower sales but the only thing these two shows have in common is the economy.

The Quartzsite RV show draws largely snowbirds and retirees. This audience is known for being incredibly frugal to the point of aggravating. Last year we sold coffee and donuts and we had to stop giving away free samples because the same snowbirds would make laps around the show and keep asking for free samples all day long. We had a similar problem with the individual sugar and creamer packs disappearing because little old ladies would grab handfuls of sugar and creamer and stuff them in their bag to take back to their $200,000 motorhomes!

The Tucson Gem Show is a wholesale show. Only buyers (in theory) for retail outlets should have the proper credentials to admit entry into this event. Most of these folks are business women in town with a mission and set of objectives. They are not on vacation. They are not enjoying a fair or festival. This audience eats out of necessity not because it’s a treat.

While at the Quartzsite show we would have our rush from 8:30 am until about 11am serving coffee and donuts as breakfast to vendors and snowbirds coming to the show. At the Tucson Gem show we hit our rush from about 1:30pm to 4:30pm selling mid afternoon snacks or cold drinks.

The problem with both shows was attendance. There simply wasn’t as many people at these events as last year. People are citing gas prices as a probable reason for the snowbirds but the economy is the common thread linking attendance and sales at both shows.

We made enough to get by the next three months in Mexico and finish building out the entertainment booth to hit the road in mid June- but not by much. We will be penny pinching the whole time.

The good news, the entertainment bookings are guaranteed income not dependent upon attendance or sales. That means we transitioned just in time if the donut-meter is correct about this seasons sales.

We have one big show scheduled in September for the donut booth and I would like to try and add one or two more to fill some gaps in our schedule and pocketbook. But based on the word on the street and the general malaise of attendees at the last two shows, I would suggest that the economy is not getting better as indicated on television. In fact, I would guess that things are actually getting worse for the average person.

While we all hope the economy improves sooner rather than later, I have a sinking feeling that we are in for one more dip before some actual real growth is felt among the working class. Will this take a year? Two Year? More? I don’t know.

The only thing we can do is keep our expenses lean and mean and then try to enjoy our time together. The good news, we’re just about past all the massive overhead that binds one to a 9-5 gig. We struggle to balance our income needs but maintain our vision of spending time on the water with our family as the first priority. On first blush many people say, “Oh you’re living the good life!” and we do think it is a good life but not an easy life. We still struggle day to day, as many people do, trying to make ends meet and we STILL are no closer to actually having ANY savings what-so-ever.

On the other hand, I can’t expect to rise like a Phoenix from the ashes in two years after spending two decades building a business that crumbled with the economy in one year. We are laying a strong foundation for a business with strong growth potential that meet our needs when we ‘re-designed’ our life after going bust. This year looks better than last year and I think that’s about the best I can hope for at this time.

I think that anyone can re-design their life. If you’re unsatisfied and feel trapped in a hamster wheel job with no apparent way out I think you CAN stop the madness called you’re life and move towards fulfilling a deeper need in your life other than more ‘stuff’. It’s hard work requiring diligence and sacrifice. More importantly it requires some enduring faith.

But, hey, what’s the worst that can happen?

I go get a job.

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