Thursday, June 22, 2006

Powell, Wyoming 'Merc' - Some Info

The Merc opened in July 2002. The store sells affordably priced clothing and shoes for the whole family. With a Wal-Mart Supercenter just 20 miles away in Cody, some Powell residents predicted that The Merc, like most small town stores focused on basic needs, would fail.But so far the store has been remarkably successful. It's met vital local needs, boosted sales at other downtown businesses, and even turned a profit. During its first year, The Merc took in $500,000 in revenue, outpacing projections, and generated a profit of $36,000. The earnings were reinvested and used to expand the store from 7,500 to 10,000 square feet. Founders cite several factors in The Merc's success, including top-notch customer service and a board made up of experienced local businesspeople. With no debt to service or stockholders demanding high rates of return, prices can be kept relatively low. "We're probably not quite as low as Wal-Mart," said store manager Paul Ramos, "but we're close and we usually do better than the mall up in Billings." Another significant factor in The Merc's success, according to board member Ken Witzeling, is the community's sense of ownership. "When you walk down the street and talk to people about the store," he said, "they all refer to it as 'our store.' Not 'the store,' or 'that store.' It's 'our store.'

Read more here.

Also, an article in the Casper Star Tribune here.
"Everyone wants to know what we're doing and how we're doing it."

The answer to the first part of the question is "pretty good." It has been three years since 800 community investors plunked down one or more $500 shares to put The Merc in business. Last year, the community-owned business cleared $560,000 in gross sales and shareholders should see "sizeable" dividends in the next few years, said Ken Witzeling, a retired pharmacist who sits in the president's chair on The Merc's Board of Directors.
"We've made money since day one," Witzeling said.

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