This is the first installment of Shop Talk, an occasional series of question-and-answer interviews with business owners in Alaska, with a focus on the state economy and how it is affecting them.
Stroll the aisles at Dollar Zone on Minnesota Drive at the corner of Benson Boulevard and you'll find water bottles for $2.25, bowls and food containers ranging from $1.65 to $2.50, some cooking utensils around $3 and a range of holiday and party decorations on the cheap.
The locally owned business, which has two Anchorage locations and opened in 2010, has seen its sales go up every year since opening even through Alaska's current recession, said co-owner Deb Parker. She talked to the Anchorage Daily News about how the state's economy is affecting their business.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and brevity.
What has the impact of the recession been on your business and how is the economy affecting you guys right now?
We're doing well. I know we are in a recession and things are hard. I know my customers are a lot more price-driven. I think Anchorage consumers in general know pricing and are really savvy with how much things cost. Value doesn't have to be a dollar — it can't be in Anchorage. But it's, how much is this anywhere else in Anchorage? OK, we're going to be better than that. … I spend a lot of time knowing what my competitors are doing, knowing what they're selling it for. And by competitors, it's not local anymore. If you're going to be smart, (it's) Amazon.
"Doing well" — how so?
Sales increases. Our traffic count is up. We're attracting a lot more customers. We're seeing a shift in people shopping to us — or people coming to us first, and then going elsewhere. And that's really all I want. Please shop me first, and if I can't help you, I'll tell you where you should go.
How have you adapted to Alaska's recession?
You can never, ever stand still, and you're always looking for ways to adapt. My team and I go through the store every month. We sit down and go, "this store's up this much, this store isn't up similarly, OK, what are we serving, how are we selling it, how are we merchandising it." We're constantly moving things, changing things, listening to our customers, bringing in new merchandise.
I'm curious about your concerns or approach to your business looking to the future as we continue in a recession.
I'm a lifelong Alaskan and I love my state. So, of course, I'm concerned for my state. And I want to see it grow and be successful and I think it is concerning. There's a lot of really big, tough issues facing us as Alaskans. You've got the budget, you've got … responsible management of our resources and development of that. So there's that concern, that if all that doesn't happen, I worry about population decreasing, which means fewer customers for me which means I have to work on getting more people in here.
We've been working really hard on different strains of getting the public to know about us. We're involved with schools. … Partnering, which I think you should do as a member of the community, you should participate in those things. I think you need to be smart about making sure as many people know about you as possible. Being involved and making sure more people know about you, so more people will shop you. Personally, my first concern is just for my state.