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Groupon to Blame for Fly Bird's Closing?

Owner laments the deal she said helped shut the store's doors.

Fly Bird had flocks of happy customers.

But now that the Lake Street store has closed its doors, owner Julia Nash is throwing down the gauntlet against Groupon, saying the daily deal site was partly to blame for sluggish business at her beloved store, according to a Wednesday Journal story.

Nash told Wednesday Journal the store participated in a $15 for $30 worth of merchandise Groupon offer in fall 2010.

Was it successful? That depends on whether you're the bargain-seeking customer, or the store owner who realizes you've parted with your inventory for half-price.

Nash has said many of the first-time customers who dropped by the store never came back. Which is a conundrum for small business owners that aren't in, say, restaurants, where Groupon-toting patrons may be pleasantly surprised by a meal and return later, sans Groupon.

Looks like that wasn't the case at Fly Bird, which made its eight-year run in Oak Park selling kitschy trinkets.

As a recent Onion A.V. Club article notes, "in the late-2010 economy, it’s not hard to imagine fewer people were dishing out the dollars for quirky Jesus ashtrays and the like."

All of which raises the question: If you're a local business owner, how are you navigating the dearth of daily deals? Have you found a secret sauce that makes it work? Or are they more hassle then they're worth?

Full disclosure: Patch offers a daily deal product, which is sold by our local advertising managers.

David Gulbransen March 15, 2012 at 03:53 PM
I love Fly Bird, I've bought many things there, I did *not* participate in the Groupon (I generally don't), but I cannot agree that Groupon puts anyone out of business. First, there are enough cautionary tales from business owners about Groupon out there (that first time Groupon customers don't typically become regulars, that Groupon "discounts" have costs--it's not free advertising, it's a *paid* promotion). A quick web search or two can provide any business owner with the information they need to decide if running a Groupon is really work the costs. If a business owner doesn't do that due diligence, that is _not_ Groupon's fault. As you noted, the economy hasn't been gang-busters, and unfortunately, stores like Fly Bird that sell kitschy cool stuff suffer more than a grocery store. A person's gotta eat... they don't need (although they are cool) trinkets. And especially in the days of on-line retail, not just Amazon, but even sites like Etsy cut into the market for a shop like Fly Bird. I'm really, very, very sorry to see Fly Bird go. I support any local business, but Fly Bird I liked not just because it was local, but because they sold cool stuff. I think they are just a victim of changing consumer expectations and the economy.
Liita Forsyth March 15, 2012 at 04:40 PM
As an advocate of all things handmade, it's very sad to see Fly Bird go. Interestingly enough, the wildly popular Renegade Handmade folks let their brick and mortar go too....in order to focus on the craft shows which have grown like fire across the country and now even in England. I also have to say that I despise Groupon from a vendor's point of view. I participated in one of the competing deals and it's been horrible to schedule events with people when you have no contact information. They call separately and it's impossible to coordinate events that they've signed up for. Small businesses beware!!

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