For retailers on Elk Avenue in Crested Butte, Colorado, it's bad enough that the economy is negatively impacting sales, but during mud season there are virtually no tourists and many locals leave town. These retailers are both hearty and ingenious. They prove that you don't have to look to global corporations for lessons on creatively reducing operating expenses while simultaneously improving upon a reputation for client service excellence.
One retailer, Cottonwood Tees, is among several on Elk Avenue who are closed for the "off-season," but who post a sign like this on the door:
"We're currently closed for the off-season and will reopen (at a date specific). In the meantime, if you have a T-Shirt Emergency, please call me anytime, and we'll open the store for you."
I asked the owner of Cottonwood Tees about this approach. She stated that (like many retailers in town) she lives just a few blocks from the store. Opening the store on an as needed basis not only helps reduce operating costs, but when you open the store as a special favor to the customer, you win positive word-of-mouth and a customer for life.
As you think about cutting costs (regardless of your business), take a page from the retailers in Crested Butte. They send the message loud and clear that we may not be here at the moment, but make no mistake, we'll come when you need us.
Those are the kind of people we like to do business with, and they're the kind of businesses that will still be standing when the economy turns around.