More Americans Learn to DIY

From the NYT:

All of these consumers could praise themselves for their newfound frugality in the midst of an economic downturn. But every step they take toward self-reliance — each shrub they prune themselves, each cupcake they bake from scratch — hurts the people and small businesses that have long provided these services professionally.

These small, service-oriented businesses are run in storefronts on urban streets and in suburban strip malls, or sometimes just out of pickup trucks. Responsible for roughly 18 million jobs nationwide, according to 2006 Census Bureau data, these companies have long been seen as engines of America’s economic growth. Yet after years of explosive expansion, many beauty salons, dry cleaners, landscapers, dog walkers, nanny services and restaurants experienced slower sales growth or even decline in the final months of 2008.

Their services are suddenly, and painfully, being perceived as nonessential.

The question now for these businesses is whether demand will stabilize or, eventually, drop enough to force them to close. And the answer may depend on whether consumers’ new penchant for self-service is temporary or permanent.

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