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Snow, retail economics, munchkins

The snow, especially when it's just come down, is really magical to look at. It doesn't really show up that way in pictures.

Thursday night's DVD-with-dinner was "Robbert Gibbs Discusses Retail Economics and Downtown Ann Arbor Business". A reall thrill ride! No, actually it was pretty interesting. Mostly it was about applying to downtowns what mall designers know about maximizing retail sales, the goal being to attract business into downtowns. Some claims:

  • Traffic volume and parking availability (yuch) are big factors; when traffic is routed out of or around downtowns, business moves out to the freeway interchanges (where the traffic is). Most pedestrian malls don't work.
  • Visibility and accessibility are important; hence storefronts should be glass (without paper or blinds covering it), have lots of entrances, and should be close to the street and the sidewalk. Stuff like trees seem to be a frequent point of contention--citizens' committees will always ask for them, but they have to be placed carefully so as not to the block the views of stores.
  • Small independent retailers have a very hard time generating enough sales to support themselves. They often can't afford to hire someone to mind the store for them, hence can't stay open after working hours, which is when many of the sales are. (People often want to be able to stop by on the way back from work.)
  • Big "anchor" stores attract so many people that they can demand hefty incentives. But they provide advertising and bring enough customers to support lots of smaller stores nearby.

I came home Friday by way of the library, and stopped a few minute to watch the 18 & up Mario Kart tournament. Why is the library into these video game tournaments? I have no idea. Anyway, it was amusing to watch, but 18 & up seemed to mean, well, about 18, so I felt a bit out of place.

I also stopped by the co-op and picked up a few things, then we had a late dinner and watched "Numb3rs", the crime-fighting-mathematician TV show that Sara likes.

When I get up on the weekend and look out at the snow my first thought is usually just to stay home in my bathrobe and maybe read a book. But somehow I managed to get myself outdoors this morning. We went to juggling for a couple hours, had dinner with the jugglers at Banditos, then came back to our place for a game of "Super Munchkin". Which isn't anything special as a game, really--the fun part is the silly twists and cartoony artwork.

We sat around and chatted a while afterwards. When we'd resorted to showing them Hawaii pictures, they were finally driven off.