Bakers Journal

News
On the rebound


January 23, 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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