Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Paul Tittl's Little Shop of Horrors

Why Paul Tittl's business model is bad for Wisconsin.

Freshman Assemblyman Paul Tittl is a pleasant enough personable guy.  He has to be in the tough small retail business he has made a hardscrable living at for a couple of decades now.  He sells sewing machines and vacuum cleaners in an ancient general store in downtown Manitowoc.  You don't survive in small retail unless you develop some skills.  He is a fast talker who can reel off the virtues of the latest Hoover and leave you convinced that you got a pretty good deal.  He can never compete with the big retail stores like Wal-Mart that sell the same basic product  and if he can't sell it to you he will fix the big box unit when it breaks.  He takes what he can get.

His experience in his shop have trained him well for fiscal conservativism.  The notion of investment and growth has never occurred to him.  Instead, his spending is trimmed to what ever business walks in the less than inviting door.   The lack of investment shows.  Hard times or good, the spending determines profits or loss.  Never what lack of spending does to sales.  Never what lack of sales does to profits.   Success is defined as lack of failure.   He has not failed but has failed to thrive.

Paul Tittl's Vacuum and Sewing Center customer base is essentially women.  While this may rankle feminists who do not want to hear any statements tying women to domesticity.  Sewing is a gender dominated activity and while house cleaning may be a more level playing field these days (I do the vacuuming in our house) significantly more vacuum purchases are made by women than men.  Retailers ignore gender at their own peril.

And then of course, there are the politics.  With abortion and guns at the top of the list and the shop often doubling for Republican HQ, inhabited by a collection of gruff TEA Party men even a more moderate male customer would rather avoid.

A self fulfilling anti-customer agenda
Any politics can be bad for business but his support for so called "personhood" amendment and the much hated "ultra-sound" legislation are seen by many as anti-woman, a customer class a sewing shop cannot afford to alienate.  Certainly  there are conservative women.  But successful businesses spend a great deal of time trying to attract customers and avoid controversy and alienation of their key demographic.  You will never see Fleet Farm supporting PETA.

But, Paul cannot see the customers he does not have so the dire nature of the economy is confirmed.  If customers do not come into the shop it must be because of the government and high taxes. Tight spending is validated.  The downward spiral is business as usual.  He is a survivor of hard times of his own making.

Tittl's shop is the perfect metaphor for the Walker economy.  Its just scraping by which means it has to be working because it hasn't crashed yet.  In reality,  our economy has lagged since Walker took over.  Just like Tittl and his shop Walker believes in his own mistakes and uses the outcomes to validate them.  Just like Paul, Scott fails to acknowledge the commerce that could have been.

But in Tittl's case perhaps the shop is not his first priority?  In a past Legislative run he adopted the slogan "Your full time Representative"  expressly promising to close his shop if elected.  While he has back tracked on this more recently he still used the slogan in the 2012 race.  It is in fact the only full time job with benefits Paul has ever held.  With now frequent absences of the shop's key man the future of the shop will be interesting to watch.  Fifty thousand plus retirement and benefits can look like easy money to a guy used to just scraping by and the office space is maintained a little better.
Nice work if you can get it!
Campaign promise to close his shop still deployed in 2012