Bakers Journal

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Editor’s Letter: On the rebound


February 18, 2009
By Brian Hartz

It’s that time of the year again, when the harsh morning light of
February rudely awakens us to reality after the giddiness of the
holidays – with only a mild hangover, hopefully.

It’s that time of the year again, when the harsh morning light of February rudely awakens us to reality after the giddiness of the holidays – with only a mild hangover, hopefully. By now you’ve probably abandoned all those New Year’s resolutions and are well on your way to pulling the trigger on that winter getaway to Florida, if you haven’t done so already.

Yep, February can be a real bummer, so thank goodness our ancestors had the foresight to make it the shortest month. Oh sure, Valentine’s Day can be a boon to bakeries and pastry shops, but for married or otherwise attached men, plus single people, it’s often a major source of frustration, stress and even
depression.

So let’s ignore February and look ahead to the rest of 2009. All signs point to a difficult economic environment in the new year, but based on data announced in early January, the tail end of the holiday shopping season provided an unexpected boost for many Canadian retailers, including the baking industry. Despite low consumer confidence, Boxing Week turnout was robust, and the post-Christmas period as a whole seems to have been better here than in the United States, where shoppers were more cautious.

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Anecdotal evidence received by Bakers Journal suggests that sales of comfort foods were strong, especially items that can be easily sent through the mail, such as cookies. Joseph Montinaro, the proprietor of Dolcini by Joseph in Kleinburg, Ont., and West Finch Bakery in Toronto – and the subject of this issue’s cover story – says he was nearly overwhelmed by the number of mail-order requests received at his two establishments. Perhaps shoppers who thumbed their noses at those discounted flat-screen TVs chose instead to give the gift of baking. We’d certainly like to think so.

As Montinaro told us, the challenge of keeping up with unexpected mail-order sales unveiled a new opportunity. Although he’s surely busy running his two traditional, brick-and-mortar businesses, there’s no reason he couldn’t set a goal – or make a resolution, if you will – to create an online catalogue of items that are available to be shipped as gifts. He’s already taken the bold step of opening Dolcini, a high-end pastry shop, amid an economic downturn, so why stop there?

That’s the kind of attitude we need right now, as economists waver in their predictions of how bad and long the recession will be. With the new U.S. and Canadian governments both preparing stimulus packages, it would appear that we are in the bottom of the trough, nautically speaking, with nowhere to go but up. In the language of St. Valentine, we’re on the rebound, trying to recover from the pain of being jilted by a lover – in this case, the pre-2008 boom times, before the credit crisis and subsequent housing and auto industry near-death experiences.

It won’t be easy. Consumers will be content to let moss grow on their pocketbooks this year if the industry doesn’t motivate them to spend. This will require innovation, imagination and an eye toward a host of trends and issues, foremost among them pricing. Some bakeries, such as City Café Bakery in Kitchener, Ont., are implementing pay-as-you-wish and other nontraditional pricing schemes, and there’s a theory that says a recession is an ideal time to raise prices. We’ll look at that idea in an upcoming issue.

But for now, in a spirit of unguarded optimism, Bakers Journal presents our 2009 Buyers Guide issue, chock full of the information you need to do business this year and beyond. And to help you get through the longest short month of the year, we’ve also brought you some engaging feature stories, informative columns and your regular dose of new products and industry news. Happy reading. / BJ


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