Columnists Chuck Koehler The Retailer’s Perspective: The year that was...Whew!

The Retailer’s Perspective: The year that was...Whew!

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How about 2008? That wasn't a lot of fun was it? In my three decades in this industry, that was probably the hardest year I've seen... period.

So many crazy things happened last year that I was having a hard time remembering them all. Gold went to $1,000 an ounce. Platinum was over $2,000 an ounce. Gas went over $4.00 a gallon. The global financial markets melted. I decided to go back and see what I wrote about each month and see how right or wrong I was. I added where the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DOW) was at the start of each month to illustrate what happened to that segment of the economy during the course of the year. The DOW made such a slow decline that most people missed it until the total meltdown in September and October.

January
Advertising 000
(Dow 14,000)
In this article I wrote about the difficulties of advertising in today's media saturated environment. Well a year later it hasn't gotten any easier that's for sure. The one thing that I did learn from all of the feedback was advertising and marketing is essential 52 weeks a year. Not just in the month of December. If you're going to be a retailer, you'd better think like a retailer and advertise and market your business year round. I haven't found the perfect advertising mix yet, but I'm still trying.

February
Watch Batteries for Fun and Profit... or NOT!
(Dow 12,000)
I learned in February that a whole lot of jewelers out there have some really gross and funny stories about customers and their watches. The best one was the guy that had the worms growing on the bottom of this band....Yuck!

March
Dealing with $1,000 Gold!
(Dow 11,800)
When gold started going up in 2007 no one really paid much attention as it sat in the $600s most of that year. Then in September, 2007 we saw $700. By November is was in the $800s. By the end of the year it was over $900 and continuing to climb. By March of 2008 the price of gold had everyone's attention... especially the media. In the middle of the month gold went over $1,000 an ounce and the whole world went gold crazy. Retail jewelry stores became overnight pawn shops and buying gold off the streets was all the rage.

April
Recession? Oh what an ugly word
(Dow 12,600)
By April of 2008, if the media wasn't talking about the price of gold they were talking about the impending recession. How bad will it be? When is it going to hit? How long will it last? I remember my thoughts while writing this article were that the media should just shut up about it and maybe it would go away. Yes, I know I'm kind of in the media too, but I wasn't harping on it 15 hours a day, seven days a week. I only wrote about it once and it was just letting everyone know what I was doing to prepare for the worst if it hit. Guess what? It hit! But not for 5 more months.

May
Random thoughts and news
(Dow 12,700)
This one was fun because it was just a bunch of cool things I'd been made aware of that I thought I'd pass along. It was in this article that I wrote about using LYE to clean jewelry before repair. I got more feedback from that tidbit than anything I've done in years. Funny thing though, lye has been pulled off a lot of shelves because it can be used in the manufacture of crystal meth. Huh? Most Ace Hardware stores still carry it in their plumbing section if you haven't been able to find a source.

June
To buy or not to buy???
(Dow 12,200)
By June even Thurston Howell, III was going through his jewelry box and finding old jewelry that he hadn't worn since his adventure on the three hour cruise. Everyone, especially the affluent, were selling their jewelry because they had heard they could get a fortune for it. For the first time in over two decades selling your jewelry wasn't an act of desperation. It was the "in" thing to do.

July
Let's Talk Shop(s)
(Dow 11,100)
As the in-store bench jeweler is in danger of becoming extinct, this column was just a peek into the dark underworld known as the "trade shop." Pretty soon trade shops are going to become chic. I just know it.

August
Volunteers needed
(Dow 11,700)
This one is still coming to fruition. I suspect in early 2009 it'll be even more so. Basically I was talking about how there is going to be a rash of store closings if the economy really goes into a recession and trained sales personnel are going to have to get creative to convince store owners to hire them. Gone are the days of sitting around waiting for the next customer to come through the door. Now it's about reaching out on your own and finding sales for you and the store. I'm still waiting for my volunteers.

September
Recession? What Recession?
(Dow 11,200)
Oops. I missed that one, didn't I? In reality though, I submitted this column the first week of August. At that time, large segments of the jewelry industry weren't affected yet. At this point in the year the recession was more of something you heard on the news incessantly. Not a real event. At this point the DOW was still over 11,000 and there didn't seem to be a lot to worry about. What was really hitting everyone hard this month was $4 a gallon gas. It had an impact on everyone's business, but not a life changing situation for most of the jewelry store owners to which I talked. It was more like a big ugly bump in the road. The funny thing about the whole gasoline situation was by January of 2009 gas is back below $2 a gallon. Not one new refinery came on-line and not one new oil well was drilled in Alaska or the Gulf of Mexico. It was just a crazy anomaly I suppose...

October
Do you do appraisals?
(Dow 8,450...Yikes!)
Hah! The only thing most people remember about this one was the image of the old, dirty guy licking his ring like an ice cream cone. I actually still crack up about that guy. But, I still stand by my position that I will no longer render any professional opinion about a piece of jewelry for the public unless I'm being paid for a written appraisal. What I do remember most about this month was the realization that the entire economy of the United States, and possibly the globe, could vaporize. For the first time in my life I was actually panicked about the economy. The jewelry industry nationwide came to a grinding halt, and all I was hearing was, "This is the worst I've ever seen." I concur with that statement. I've been through countless recessions and economic slowdowns in my career, but I've never seen a total nationwide work stoppage. That sucked! And the worst part of all was it wasn't even close to stabilizing at this point. I was truly scared for the first time in 30 years in this business. And as another first, I actually developed a "Doomsday Plan" in the event the economy totally failed. Scary.

November
Let's talk shops duex
(Dow 7,800...double Yikes!!)
I can't stress this topic enough (Okay, maybe two articles in four months is stressing it enough, but I really think this is important). It is my prediction that in the next ten years over 90% of all jewelry repairs will not be done in jewelry stores. When I started in this business in 1978 every jewelry store had a bench jeweler AND a watch maker on staff. I'd bet today that less than 50% of all jewelry stores have a jeweler on premises. I don't know of one jewelry store right now that actually has a watchmaker on staff. If in 1978 I would have predicted that watchmakers were going to become extinct, you would have said I was crazy. But 30 years later that's the case. So call me crazy, but by 2019 in-house bench jewelers are going to be extinct as well. I met a store owner recently whose bench jeweler quit on December 2nd and she didn't have a backup plan. I think every store owner should start really paying attention to what shops are out there... just in case. But once again, the thing that really had my attention in November was the total global economic meltdown that was still melting.. and melting... and melting. Please. Somebody make it stop!

December
And another thing...
(Dow 8,500ish and holding)
Heck this was just last month (about the Level One monitoring) so I won't re-live it here. But the economy is slowly starting to recover. The panic selling of stocks looks like it's leveled off. Oil prices are back where they should be. Wall Street is starting to get back on track and housing looks like it's going to start turning around finally. I'm cautiously optimistic, but at least I'm not scared anymore.

January 2009
I have no idea what to expect this year but I do know one thing; you'll have to cart me off to a mental institution if we have a repeat of 2008.

Chuck is the owner of Anthony Jewelers in Nashville, TN. Chuck also owns CMK Co., a wholesale trade shop that specializes in custom jewelry and repair services to the jewelry industry nationwide. You can contact him at 615-354-6361 , www.CMKcompany.com or send e-mail to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 
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