After four very lean years of losing money, and barely staying open, it is hardly a secret why many businesses can't afford to keep extended hours now.
Increased hours and/or jobs require a large increase of sales/income to compensate. We often hear, “There is no guarantee that being open will generate sales, but there is a guarantee that being closed will not.” This is true, but it requires a huge sacrifice on the part of business owners to gamble their limited resources at a time when they are already swamped in debt.
Let's be clear, to stay open based on the ferry schedule, means approximately 33 more man hours a week per person for an establishment that was usually closed at 5 p.m. and on Sundays. Even at minimum wage, that is about $500 a week per person when you factor in all the employee costs and benefits. To cover this increase, sales would have to go up at least $1,000 a week, again per person. When you look at the actual costs, you can see its not a simple matter of keeping the doors open until 8 or 9.
Not that long ago, there were items in this newspaper reporting the huge number of businesses that were in arrears with their business taxes because they were just not making enough money to pay them. The principal plus interest on these debts were creating crippling burdens on many establishments who were bravely staying open in spite of the economic climate. If the ferry passengers are making a difference in the bottom line of a few lucky places, then bravo for them, but let's not lose sight of the fact that for many folks, their debts still hugely outweigh any profit they have seen thus far.
A good couple of years might – just might – let these folks get out of debt so they can start to actually show a profit, hire more people, and stay open longer.
Many stores are doing the best they can, and sure, that's probably not enough, but for this summer, just like the ferry itself, we have a few challenges that are going to take a little longer to work out.
Main Street improvements will help the look of the town greatly, but the empty store fronts unfortunately will remain. We can only hope there will not be more of them in the months to come as businesses juggle the fine line of profitability.
In my humble opinion, if the town really wants to help small business owners stay open longer, a good start would be to reduce the debt - or at least the interest - they are carrying on their overdue taxes.