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Boston receivers are upbeat amid economic concerns

by Tad Thompson | October 26, 2009
CHELSEA, MA -- There is a nice feeling among metro Boston's produce distributors, an upbeat mood that business is good, if not great. There is a prevalent sense that there is opportunity for diligent businesses that hustle and are watchful of accounts receivable. Boston apparently has few produce problems that are exclusively Bostonian.

Overall -- but not universally -- there is a concern about slow foodservice sales in New England. Business with foodservice purveyors is generally off, as is the case nationwide. Providing significant compensation for Boston's produce distributors are strong retail sales. As the nation enjoys strong retail sales nationally, Boston and New England are following suit.

One distributor, Susan Tavilla, the California vegetable buyer and salesperson for P. Tavilla Co. Inc., here, said that the New England economy is of "medium" strength. "I see people doing less. I go to restaurants and I see people getting in at the last minute without reservations." She added that the employment rate in Massachusetts is better than it is in neighboring Rhode Island and Vermont.

Every distribution company on the New England Produce Center, here, and Everett, MA's adjacent Boston Market Terminal, has its unique business position, thus there are inconsistent views of business factors. So, generalizations are dangerous when describing those businesses.

But one indisputable fact is that New England had 23 days of rain in June. Some receivers said that they had a tremendous sales summer anyway. Others, who rely on sales to resorts in Cape Cod and up into the New England lakes and coastline, saw their customers endure heavy financial hits to start the 2009 tourist season.

Common concerns on both markets involve credit and payment issues. Boston's receivers indicated that they are not unique in facing slower payment terms from customers. One Boston receiver expressed concern that the area's weaker receivers are capturing business with sales to those who take eight weeks or longer to pay, noting that this does not seem a sustainable business philosophy, and keeps some buyers in business for longer than they might deserve.

Businesses enjoy a wide distribution area -- throughout New England and into New York state, as well as into Quebec and the Canadian Maritimes.

(For more about Boston, see the Oct. 26, 2009, issue of The Produce News.)