Thursday, 4 December 2008

Futons, Comedy and The New York Times

Not too sure if this would work here at The Futon Shop, but I admire their desire to increase and promote their business. This artice appeared in The New York Times on 3rd December 2008, by Kristina Shevory.

The full story can be found at the following link:

Small Stores Find Ways to Drum Up Traffic

The owner of a futon store outside San Francisco started running comedy shows.
Small businesses are always searching for ways to differentiate themselves. But with fewer people out buying, some of the businesses are doing whatever they think will draw in customers.
“This is a buyer’s strike,” said Eric G. Flamholtz, a professor emeritus of management at the Anderson School of Management at the University of California, Los Angeles. “People are holding back and not spending any money. So you have to give them a reason to come.”
Holding special events also can be far less expensive than regular advertising. And in a slowing economy, advertising and marketing budgets typically get trimmed. A recent National Small Business Association survey of its members found that 49 percent planned to start new advertising or marketing this year, down from 54 percent in 2007.

“They’re trying to market with little or no extra money,” said Molly Brogan, the association’s vice president of public affairs. “People are doing more on the Internet, any free thing they can.”
Nor are the special events just for young businesses. Even well-established businesses, like Mary’s Futons in San Rafael, Calif., have been feeling the pinch. Fewer people are buying new futons, and more futons are being brought in for repairs. Mary Hughes, the owner, said she thought a comedy show would be the perfect thing to do because “everyone loves comedy and I wanted to meet women.” A theatrical producer was less than convinced.

“ ‘Lady, are you crazy?’ ” Lisa Geduldig, the producer of Kung Pao Kosher Comedy in San Francisco remembers telling Ms. Hughes. “ ‘I don’t do little futon stores; I do professional venues.’ ”
But after Ms. Hughes cornered her and begged her to do one show, she finally agreed. The first, “An Evening of Lie-Down Comedy,” was held in March and did so well, they added a second. When that one sold out, they added another. That, too, sold out. Proceeds from the tickets go back to the comedians and Ms. Geduldig. If more than 100 people attend, Ms. Hughes gets a small percentage of the ticket sales.

“I get the publicity and that’s worth more than the money,” Ms. Hughes said, though in a later interview she said she was taking over management of the shows.
One recent Sunday night, a hundred people milled around the futon store, nibbling on cake and catching up on gossip. A window display had been turned into a stage, 30 futons were turned to face it and salespeople were doing sound checks. Raffle tickets for a water fountain and beanbag chair were being sold at the door and a line of people snaked away from a sales counter doing service as a concession stand.

Ms. Geduldig threaded through the crowd to the stage, clambered on top and welcomed everyone to the show. “This is a futon shop,” she said. “Feel free to fall asleep.”
Everyone laughed. The show had begun.

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