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Finding The Money (In Wisconsin, and Elsewhere)

  
  
  

This is not a good time at all to be a teacher in Wisconsin (or Indiana and Ohio, for that matter). It’s not a good time to be an owner of a teacher’s store there, either.

The turmoil regarding the state budget and public collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin has had and continues to have a profound impact on teachers, and the local retailers who sell to them and their school districts much of the materials they use in their classrooms.

For these retailers, the need for their materials in the classroom has not lessened, rather, it’s that the usual channels for paying for them have become frozen. Teachers and school districts have been dealing with tight budgets for at least half a decade. Now, teachers are even more frightened that they won’t have jobs, and if they do they might be at a significant cut in pay. School district purchasing agents are left wondering how much their budgets might be cut tomorrow, next week or next month.

Teacher’s stores are feeling the hurt. They’ve struggled over the years with tightening school budgets and with increasing online competition. Many have gone out of business, and those that have survived have proven to be very resourceful in their marketing programs. Now, with the latest political turmoil, even those programs have stopped delivering the usual payback.

In this environment, these retailers have no choice but to step out of the box, step out of their comfort zones, away from that which has up until now always worked. If the money’s not where it’s always been (but the need/demand remains) where is the money now?

For teacher’s stores, particularly in these states, there are few answers at the moment. If teachers and school districts can’t (or won’t) pay for these necessary materials, will parents? Will PTO’s? Are their fundraising possibilities that they can get involved with? Can local businesses be organized as a funding source? Are their angel contributors they can partner with? Do their colleagues in non-competing markets have any new ideas?

For these retailers, there’s a simple truth: Where there are kids, there’s always a way. Find the money.

Other independent retailers can learn from watching all of this unfold. There can be great comfort in doing things the way you’ve always done, but the box can also become a trap. In the end, we’re all in business, and cash flow is the lifeblood of business.

Every independent retailer today is looking for their next customer. For too many the old tried and true has proven to be tried and tired. If this is you, get out of the box. Perhaps your traditional customer base is now too financially stressed. Perhaps your store has grown stale, your assortments stagnant. Perhaps you’ve grown stale and are struggling to rediscover your passion. Perhaps your employees have followed your lead.

Whatever the reason, if your comfort zone has become too comfortable, do what these teacher’s stores are now having to do: Find the money!

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