Today’s Editorial for March 5: Economic restructuring

Just yesterday, we wrote about how, in this time of global economic crisis, it was a matter of survival of the fittest for business owners. We warned of the inevitable closure of businesses this year.

On page 6 of today’s newspaper there is a story about the closing of the Marquee Cinema, which under a couple of names, was a fixture on West Bay Road for some 37 years. It seems the competition from the Hollywood Theaters at Camana Bay was too much for the old establishment to bear.

It is easy for many long-time residents to become nostalgic about the now-closed cinema, and perhaps even feel a bit of sadness in its demise. But let us all be clear on one point: the consumer has spoken.

Yes, people here are drawn to new businesses that open, but the novelty factor for Hollywood Theaters has long since worn off. People go there now because it offers more choice and a better experience.

Some people will probably bemoan the fact that the Dart Group, with its superior capital position, is putting smaller companies out of business.

A similar argument has been made about the retail stores Wal-Mart and Target in the United States. Despite the claims, people still flock to Wal-Mart and Target, probably because they offer desirable products, convenience and good prices. People might remember nostalgically the personalised service they got at the Mom-and-Pop stores that closed because of the retail giants, but they certainly don’t miss the higher prices and lack of variety.

To paraphrase American transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson, if you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door. And so it is in all market-driven economies, including Cayman.

What businesses here must do now to survive, whether they offer goods or services, is to build a better mousetrap, metaphorically speaking. And that mousetrap better be offered at a reasonable price.

Most economists are now agreeing that the current financial woes of the world are not just a normal recession that will give way to business as usual when it is over. Most see this as a fundamental restructuring of the world economy that will lead to a new economic paradigm.

Get-rich-quick is a thing of the past. As one guest speaker in January’s Cayman Business Outlook conference put it, the days of double-digit returns on investment are over.

What this means for businesspeople here and everywhere is that they had better make their operations more efficient, more innovative and more consumer-friendly. It means doing more with less and making profits by earning them with hard work and streamlined operations.

If businesses expect to survive in the new economic frontier, they’d better be willing to outshine the competition, and in tough economic times, this also entails offering attractive prices. Those that can’t will simply perish.

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