Some businesses thrive in bad times

While the recession has hit many business sectors across the state hard, some businesses thrive in times of economic instability, selling goods or services that cater to the changing needs of a financially unstable population.

For instance, while sales in retail stores are down, thrift stores are flourishing. Shoppers are less inclined to buy new, as falling retail sales, even in the midst of the holiday shopping season, can attest.

But Heather Weste, retail manager for Family Outfitters, a Manchester-based thrift store whose profits support the organization Families in Transition, said sales are up at the organization’s two Manchester locations.

“There are lots of new customers from all economic backgrounds,” she said. “People in suits — you see a wide variety of people come in to shop.”

She said sales have increased for everything from clothing to furniture and attributed it to the tightening economy.

“I think people are being forced to be creative with their money and to make their money stretch farther than they have in the past,” said Weste.

Some people also are opting to fix the old rather than to buy new.

Warren Ciotti of Ye Olde Cobbler in Portsmouth said he has seen an increase in business, although many of the shoes brought in cannot be repaired because of their low quality. But, he said, people are “trying.”

“A lot more customers are coming in the door,” said Ciotti.

Kevin Noterman, owner of Kelley Street Tailor Shop in Manchester, said his business always is steady no matter how the economy is faring, but the work he’s asked to do changes. When the economy is strong, people bring in new clothes to be fit and tailored. But when the economy is bad, “they’re trying to make the old clothes last a little longer,” he said. During these times, he said, people would rather pay to replace a zipper than to buy a new coat.


Of course, in a credit crisis, with housing foreclosures on the rise and many out of work and unable to pay their bills, business has increased for credit collectors and repossession companies.

Jeff Call of Northeast Repossession in Barrington, a company that specializes in automobile repossession, said his business has gone up in the past few months.

“There are a lot of people out of work, not paying their bills right now,” said Call.

“I think a lot of people are overextended,” he added, citing as an example people whose rates may have increased on their adjustable rate mortgages.

“They had to pay more for their home,” he said. “If you had to keep a roof over your head, I think people would rather keep their home and let their car go if they had to.”

Bob Martucci of MDC Recovery Services in Goffstown, a credit collection company specializing in commercial debt, reported an increase in business as well, not only with existing clients but also new and smaller companies that often have never dealt with collections agencies before.

Despite the new clientele, it is tougher to collect when the economy is down because many companies simply cannot pay off their full debt.

“Yes, we have seen an increase,” he said, but “from our bottom line it probably hasn’t changed much because we have to work harder to collect it.”

Martucci was not sure how long the increased business would last, but said he does not expect demand to drop anytime soon.

“I can’t see it changing for a while — that’s for sure,” he said.

The recent increase in home foreclosures in New Hampshire means a busy time for auctioneers. According to the real estate transaction tracking firm Real Data, 3,151 properties in the state went to foreclosure sale this year as of mid-November, compared to 2,072 in all of 2007, 1,060 in 2006, and 459 in 2005.

Auctioneers are so busy, in fact, that calls to six auctioneers in the state were fruitless: all of their receptionists said they were booked solid.

Skip Reilly, owner of Skip’s Gun Shop in Bristol, said sales have remained steady despite the troubled economy. He attributed the boom in sales to fears that gun control laws will be strengthened under the incoming Obama administration. He said most gun manufacturers have sold out of product.

But Reilly also said a lot of people have been coming in to sell their guns to make money.

Also finding a high demand for her services amid economic uncertainty is Raven Duclos, a Manchester-based psychic who has been in the industry for over 30 years. She said her business is doing “exceptionally well.”

In the past six months, Duclos said, her business has probably tripled, with the subject of her readings shifting to a more financial focus.

“Even in the worst of times, people want to know what’s happening with them,” she said. “Most of the people with businesses seem more concerned. They want to know what is forecasted.”