Yuba-Sutter stores guardedly optimistic about 2013
Mom-and-pop retail shops in the Yuba-Sutter area have a mixed yet guardedly optimistic business outlook overall for 2013, according to a sampling of store owners.
When asked how she felt about business prospects in the new year, Karen Thomas, owner of Sierra Seating, a furniture store at 1606 B St. in Marysville, said, "I'm cautiously optimistic. I say that because of what I've been hearing about Marysville's new city manager (Walter Munchheimer), hoping that he can take a once-vibrant city and get it turned around."
"For someone who's invested time, money and energy in a business, we need it to be a business-oriented town where people want to come and shop," Thomas said last week.
Tracy Schneller, owner of The Mercantile gift shop in downtown Yuba City, said, "Hopefully, it's going to drastically pick up. It's too soon to tell."
"The only thing I can say, reading the newspaper, is that other people are being very optimistic, so I'm being optimistic, and I try to ignore people who are negative," said Schneller, who moved her store from downtown Marysville to 769 Plumas St. in early 2012.
Perhaps she was encouraged by recent unemployment figures.
California's jobless rate fell below 10 percent in November for the first time since the recession began. The 9.8 percent unemployment rate reported on Dec. 21 by the Employment Development Department is the lowest since January 2009 and down from 11.3 percent in November 2011.
Yuba-Sutter's unemployment rate also improved. The rate for Yuba County in November was 15.1 percent, and Sutter County's was 16.2 percent. Both had fallen from 15.9 and 17.1, respectively, a year earlier.
However, US consumer confidence dropped in December. The Conference Board said on Dec. 27 that its index fell last month to 65.1, down from 71.5 in November. That was the second straight decline and the lowest level since August.
Downtown Marysville shopkeeper Ahmad Hamdan's outlook for 2013 may reflect that shaky confidence.
Hamdan, owner of Jenan Fine Rugs & Decor at 512 D St., said, "It's gonna be terrible. I don't know how we're going to survive one more year."
"The economy is bad," he said. "The stores are full but not selling anything; there are no customers. I don't know what to do with all this inventory."
However, at the other end of the spectrum is Robert McBratney Jr., owner of The Western Depot, a model train store on Sierra Avenue in Yuba City.
Asked to describe the outlook for his business this year, he replied: "Bright and sunny. We're still in a growing pattern."
"The bulk of our business goes out over the Internet — about 90 percent. Last year was one of our best years ever," he said. "Things are good even though the economy is in a downturn because people are staying at home and doing their hobbies."
Despite their differences in business outlook, the shopkeepers surveyed were uniform in their opinion that the state's 0.025 percentage point hike in the sales tax, approved by voters in the Nov. 6 election, would not have much of an effect on their business, although for different reasons.
Thomas of Sierra Seating said: "I think people are well-aware of a tax increase. However, I don't have large-ticket items, so I don't think it will keep people from purchasing."
The Mercantile's Schneller had similar thoughts: "I don't think it will (have an effect) for us because we don't have big-ticket items. What is it — only one penny for every 10 dollars? That's not enough for people to get upset about."
"I can understand (the impediment) for things like cars — those people are definitely going to feel the impact of the sales tax increase," she added.
The most pessimistic, Hamdan said: "There's no business anyway. A sales tax increase won't matter because this city is dead already."
"I supported the tax increase. They should raise it another quarter of a cent just for Marysville, to maintain historic downtown Marysville," he added.
McBratney of The Western Depot also felt it wouldn't have an impact on his business.
"A quarter of 1 percent rise in the sales tax will not affect my bottom line at all. We don't collect sales tax on the out-of-state sales we do on the Internet," he said. "That's the law."