Increase in Whatcom business closures in first half of 2014

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJuly 5, 2014 

It's shaping up to be a busier year for Whatcom County business closings and a slower year for business openings.

Through the first six months of this year I've counted 35 brick-and-mortar business closures, putting it on pace to be the highest annual closure total since 2009, which had 89 closures.

The lowest annual total in recent years was in 2013, with 55 closures.

By the end of June, I counted 57 brick-and-mortar business openings, which is behind the pace of 2013 and 2012 but on track to match 2011. The openings and closings are based on what I've spotted, press releases and reader input.

Looking over the business closures, I've noticed a few trends. Many of the businesses I talked to prior to closing listed online competition as a major factor in their decision. That was particularly true for businesses where technology is rapidly changing, like video rental stores, which now have to compete with video streaming. Businesses in other sectors listed problems competing with online companies on price.

For those who didn't list online competition, many said it was merely time for a change. Some owners were heading into retirement, while others were changing careers. One difference that I'm noticing with these closures is that financial distress doesn't appear to be as much a factor as five years ago. I'm not seeing the business bankruptcies following the closure compared to 2009, when liquidity was a big issue. Many of the businesses that have closed are doing so before getting to the point they need to file bankruptcy.

Something else I noticed, particularly in the second quarter, was the number of longtime spots that opted to close. Examples include Griggs Office Supply, Trek Video, Billy McHale's and Shrimp Shack.

As for openings, it seems to follow a pattern seen in recent years: Plenty of eateries, with many businesses starting with fewer than five employees.

In the coming six months I would expect an uptick in openings by larger companies, with Safeway at Sunset Square and Buffalo Wild Wings and Chipotle at Bellis Fair among those scheduled to open this fall. Local business closings tend to slow down in the second half of the year, particularly during the holiday shopping season.

OTHER TIDBITS

-- The Salon Next Door recently added spray tanning to its list of services and is celebrating its 15th anniversary by doing prize drawings throughout the month of July. The full-service salon is at Nugent's Corner on Mount Baker Highway. For details call 360-592-9304 or visit thesalonnextdoor.com.

-- A building permit was submitted for a 42-unit apartment building at 557 W. Bakerview Road, near Bellis Fair. The building will have three commercial spaces. A building permit also was submitted to put in a four-story, 28-unit apartment building at 3825 Primrose Lane, near The Home Depot.

-- A new liquor license application was filed for the Indian Flavors restaurant at 3930 Meridian St. The new applicants are Gurdeep Kaur and Rurh Singh.

-- A new liquor license also was filed for Portal Way Station at 6000 Portal Way. The new applicants are Rajvinder Kaur and Lakhwinder Malhi.

Reach Business Editor Dave Gallagher at 360-715-2269 or dave.gallagher@bellinghamherald.com. Read the Business Blog at bellinghamherald.com/business-blog or get updates on Twitter at @bhamheraldbiz.

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