Going, going, gone?

Published 2:05 am Saturday, November 8, 2008

For more than 17 years, the former Norris’ Meat Market, now L&S Cost Plus, has provided residents with a choice when shopping for groceries in Florala; however, that may soon change as its owner, Leron Geoghagan is contemplating closing its doors.

Geoghagan, who purchased the store a little more than five years ago, has watched his profits virtually disappear in the wake of the nation’s economic troubles.

“When I first bought the store, we were doing really good,” Geoghagan said. “Sales increased over 50 percent right off. Then around the first of June, which was when prices of everything started going up, we hit a brick wall and sales just stopped.”

Geoghagan said this time last year, weekly sales averaged between $30,000 to $32,000.

“Now, we’re down to around $25,000,” he said. “When expenses run $5,000 a week, it’s just not there. We’re a cost-plus 10 store, which means that the only profit we make is 10 percent of sales.

“That 10 percent doesn’t cover what we have to spend,” he said.

Geoghagan said the economics of his situation is simple.

“I have to take money out of inventory just to cover the bills,” he said. “We’re losing sales because I don’t have the product to sell. Less inventory means that people can’t buy what they want.

“So, anyway you look at it, I lose money,” he said.

And to the tune of $3,000 during the last two weeks, he said.

“The only reason I’m staying open to the first of the year is the employees,” Geoghagan said, speaking of his six-person staff. “These past two weeks I’ve lost $3,000. If it was just me, I’d have closed up the store, but I have to think of my employees.”

Geoghagan said he hasn’t had to reduce his staff, but has had to cut back on hours for employees, and he doesn’t expect this year’s holiday season to generate the revenue he needs to keep his doors open.

“I do what I can to get people in the store,” he said. “I try to find deals that people want and hope they come in and buy it. I don’t think the holidays will help. People are looking for the best deal possible, the cheapest they find.

“They buy the specials and the deals and not buy the other stuff that would make the extra money,” he said. “And in the long run, it just doesn’t work. If it doesn’t change around, I’ll have to close up and take my chances on finding another job.

“And that hurts,” he said. “I’ve worked almost six years at building this business up and it’s going downhill and I have nothing to show for it.”

Newly elected Florala mayor Robert Williamson said he hated to see the possibility of the store closing its doors, but understood the decision from a business point-of-view.

“Every business has some degree of an impact on the economy in Florala,” Williamson said. “To me, part of our problem with the economy is consumer confidence. When you see businesses closing, it doesn’t do anything for confidence. It steps up the level of anxiety.

“I hate to see (the closing) happen,” he said. “Anytime a store closes — be it a grocery store or any store — it hurts the city of Florala and its citizens.”