Steve & Buried

That’s the best I can do at coming up with a headline.  My favorite store of all time, Steve & Barry’s, is going under for good.  Last week they announced that they had $100-$500 million in debt against $50,000 in assets.  That’s right; fifty thousand dollars against as much as half a billion dollars in debt.  Yikes.  Somehow their business strategy of selling everything in the store for $8 or less and carrying twice the inventory of your average Old Navy just didn’t work out. If you’ve not yet been to Steve & Barry’s, I have two pieces of advice:

  1. Go now.  Nothing in the store is over $20, so prices are already awesome.  If you wait for the liquidation to start, odds are good that their selection will be poor.
  2. Go to the store in the Schuylkill Mall.  Not only is this mall a fascinating enigma of 1970s-era planning gone horribly horribly wrong, but the Lancaster Steve & Barry’s is dark and tiny.  This one is huge and bright.  Added bonus:  They have a Chick-Fil-A.

As I pointed out the last time, everything in the store is cheap.  DIRT cheap.  A few weeks ago I picked up two wool coats, 8 dress shirts, two pairs of gloves, two polos, and two pullovers for a total of $110.  None of it was top-shelf quality, but it was all far-better-looking and far-better-made than what you’d get at Target for twice the price.  Their jeans are the exception; all the jeans I’ve bought from there have out-lasted all my other jeans.  No fade whatsoever.  Awesome.  Go; you won’t be disappointed unless you wait.

While I was digging around for this story, I came across a few other disturbing retail trends.  Rite Aid, for example, is back down to 1999-era post-fraud-announcement prices of 41 cents per share, putting it down 90% from its 52-week high.  It’s in the same boat as The Bon Ton ($1.13 per share, down from $15.06). You can buy a share of Talbot’s for half the price of a pint of water at HersheyPark, and McDonald’s refused to list Pier 1 on their Dollar Menu because it’s not expensive enough.  Even Sprint, the only publicly-traded wireless company, is being beaten down to $2.33 / share (and believe me, that’s low even for Sprint).  Circuit City, Tweeter, Boscov’s, and Linens & Things have already filed for bankruptcy.  And don’t even get me started on the whole GM / Ford / Chrysler LLC nonsense.

Of course, stock prices aren’t the sole factor in determining a company’s health.  But they’re a good early warning sign that trouble is a-brewin’.  And when I ducked out of the retail industry in late 2006, when I traded in my well-rounded management career for a shiny new IT career, my timing wasn’t accidental.  Consumer confidence had been slipping for years.  I saw this coming.  With payroll being most retail organizations’ single biggest expense, it stands to reason that staff trimmings are the first line of defense against a sagging economy.

(Well, smart development, conservative growth, and fiscal responsibility are actually the first three defenses, but nobody bothers with those pesky ideals anymore.)

So with Thanksgiving just a few days away, I’m thankful that I’m working for what is arguably one of the most critical (not to mention noble) state agencies.  I’m thankful that as far as job security goes, I’ve got about the best that anyone can hope for.  I’m thankful for my new promotion, and I’m thankful that said promotion has me playing with one-of-a-kind mobile data environments.  I’m thankful that democracy continues to triumph.  I’m thankful for the fact that, as of this exact instant, I haven’t yet been run over by a bus, eaten by an elephant, or gored by a giant squid.  And of course, it goes without saying that I’m thankful for all the standard fare:  my health, my well-being, my family and friends, and the like.  Perhaps most importantly, I’m thankful that I’m fortunate enough to be able to consider those things “standard fare”.

I’m going to be heading up to Parts North for Thanksgiving weekend, so I’m temporarily shutting down my short-lived re-Twitterizing.  Have a happy and safe holiday!