A Retail Slump Threatens an American Dream
Milwaukee – Young Rae Cho has been selling hiphop clothing in the inner city for 20 years after immigrating from South Korea. He stayed in the neighborhood through the good years and bad. But now he is frightened for the first time, not because of crime, but because of the economic downturn.
“September [was] real slow. I got nervous, you know, scared,” Cho said, “October [was] more slow!”
September usually marks the beginning of Cho’s best period, which lasts through the end of the year. But last month, he said sales were down more than 50 percent from the same period last year. It’s the worst he’s ever seen it and that makes him worry about having enough money to send his two kids to college. His oldest child is 16.
So he’s made some changes. He’s putting more items on sale. He’s closing an hour early.
But perhaps the biggest change occurred six weeks ago when he bought a shotgun and handgun. Cho said there has been an increase in armed robberies in the neighborhood because of the economic hard times. He can’t afford a security guard like he’s had in the past, so he’s arming himself. He hangs the shotgun on the baseball hat rack to deter any would-be thieves.
The recent drop in sales has also made him look at the presidential election more closely. Cho supports John McCain because of his message of lower taxes, but he fears a McCain administration would not help the inner city as much as Democrat Barack Obama. And his business depends on a strong local economy.
“I don’t know which one [is] better,” Cho said, “I’m thinking now.”
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