SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


What's wrong with Jewelry Stores?
By Chris Parks


September 23, 2007

The current ballot initiative to limit the number and density of jewelry stores states that "It is in Ketchikan's best economic interest to establish and retain year-round businesses"; "Proliferation of jewelry stores in Ketchikan's traditional downtown area has resulted in a monotonous retail atmosphere"; "the proposed ordinance would help encourage a broader array of retail opportunities in the community's downtown core"; "The proposed ordinance would promote year-round services and trade". All of these statements from the proposed ballot initiative make the assumption that jewelry stores are 'bad' for our community.

The fact of the matter is that jewelry stores are 'good' for Ketchikan, here's why:

In 1990 our community had appoximately 14,600 residents, according to the census data; in 2000 we had approximately 14,000 residents; according to the Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development, as of 2006 the Ketchikan Gateway Borough has a total population of 13,174 residents. As we all know, this was caused mainly by the collapse of the timber industry and the resulting closure of the Ketchikan Pulp Mill, as well as a decline in the commercial fishing industry. Fortunately for Ketchikan, the cruise ship industry expanded rapidly just as our traditional resource based industries declined, and this helped us maintain a similar level of economic activity throughout the summer months, but we still experienced a continued decline in the winter months, resulting in an even more seasonally driven economy than it was before.

What effect did this have on the retail industry in Ketchikan? In a traditonal retail environment in the lower 48, a retail store on average makes money 9 months a year, and loses for 3; in Ketchikan, with the addition of a national big box retailer, a retail store on average only makes money 5 months a year, and loses for 7 months, making for a very difficult retail climate. This climate limits the type of merchandise that a business can carry, and must be something that the tourists and/or crew members will buy, to do enough sales volume to survive.

Jewelry store are one of the few retail business models that work in Ketchikan, because they can do a fair amount of sales volume in a relatively small amount of space, they require little or no warehouse space, and freight expense is a non-factor. In addition, most of the jewelry store operators work 80 hours a week here, and then spend their winters in another cruise ship port, where they invest their time and resources in a similar manner to make their business work; in essence, they've created a 9 or 10 month business model to make it viable for them to survive and thrive.

If this initiative passes, not only will we see boarded up businesses in the winter, we will also see more and more businesses boarded up in the summer, as we are already starting to see as result of our decreased cruise ship passenger count in the 2006 season. If this initiative passes, we will see less people willing to invest their time, money, and resources in a business here. Business investment is a risk, and if it were you investing your hard earned time and money, would you rather invest in a business that has potential to be profitable for 9 months a year, or 5 months a year?

Jewelry stores are good for Ketchikan, because they create a significate amount of economic activity and taxes that benefit the whole community.

Jewelry stores are good for Ketchikan because their existence here results in the cruise lines promoting Ketchikan as a shopping destination, which benefits all other businesses and tours in our town; it keeps Ketchikan as a 'must see' destination. To those who say retail stores are not what people come here to see, they want to see the real historic Ketchikan, remember this; Ketchikan has always been a supply port, from the days as a native fish camp, a supply point for miners and prospectors on their way to the gold fields, to the commercial fishing and logging industries, to todays cruise ship visitor industry. Ketchikan has always adapted to supply what travelers, business, and industry needs, and the current retail and business offerings today are just a continuation of that process; in fact, it is the reason Ketchikan survives and thrives.

Jewelry stores are good for Ketchikan, because they are owned, operated, and staffed by hard working people who spend their earinings here in our communtity on food, clothes, gas, rent, cars, apartments,homes,and more. Unlike other industries traditionally controlled by zoning laws similar to proposition #1, like porn shops, bars, and liquor stores, they don't create the social and economic costs to society that those industries do. Just look at the public record in the recent Daily News, none of those issues was caused by the existence of a jewelry store; the same cannot be said for those other industries.

To people who want to see more diverse retail businesses in Ketchikan, I suggest the following;

Vote for and encourage borough and city candidates that promote economic development; shop at local stores and businesses, including jewelry stores; and encourage a business friendly economic evironment in Ketchikan by voting NO on Proposition #1.

Chris Parks
Ketchikan, AK

About: "Retail Business Manager and operator for 9 years in Ketchikan, 19 years in the lower 48."

Received September 21, 2007 - Published September 23, 2007

Related Information:

Download Proposition I

Viewpoints - Opinion Letters:

letter Webmail Your Opinion Letter to the Editor



Note: Comments published on Viewpoints are the opinions of the writer
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Sitnews.


E-mail your letters & opinions to
Your full name, city and state are required for publication.

SitNews ©2007
Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska