Columnists Chuck Koehler The Retailer’s Perspective: It’s a Brave New World

The Retailer’s Perspective: It’s a Brave New World

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You know, I've been doing this jewelry thing for over 30 years now (yes, I started when I was 2). I've often wondered lately what my life would have turned out like if I hadn't answered that ad for ‘warehouse help needed' that Best Products placed in the Dallas Times Herald in 1978. Where would I have ended up if I hadn't looked at the paper that day? What do you say we explore that... kind of like ‘It's a Wonderful Life,' - starring me.

Back in ‘78, as a 17 year old teenage boy, it's pretty easy to figure out what my priorities were. In order of importance: Girls, Girls, Girls, Cars, Girls, Girls, Girls, Rock and Roll, Girls, Girls, Girls, Working on Cars, Girls, Girls, Girls, and finally just fixing stuff... just kiddin', the last one was Girls, too.

I actually thought at one time I was going to end up in Hollywood building custom cars for the movie business. Funny thing though, I ended up in Nashville building custom jewelry for the music business. But, what if I'd ended up in Hollywood?

I'm sure I would have landed a job in a body shop somewhere fixing normal people's cars for a few years before I was ‘discovered' by someone like Chuck Barris, the king of cars in Hollywood. But, once I was discovered, I feel certain that I would have worked my way to the top of that business and owned my own custom car shop. I'd be building all the cars and gadgets that Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard would use in all their movies. I'd be successful, well known, and respected. But mostly I'd be ‘da man' that everyone in the movie business recommended. I'd be living the dream... until about a year ago. That was about the time when the movie business got hammered and basically shut down because of the recession. Then I'd probably be right where I am now anyway. Damn. Erase that one. Let's try a new scenario.

Had I not gone into jewelry, I would have probably gone to work at a lumber yard or hardware store chain. I'm sure I would have made manager in a year or so. Then I would have become the city manager. Then Lowes or Home Depot would have made me an offer I couldn't refuse and I'd be on top of the home improvement world. I'd be making deals with the biggest companies on the planet, living the dream, making the big bucks, and generally known as ‘da man' in that industry. Then, about a year or so ago, I would have probably gotten caught up in the second or third round of layoffs in the company due to the housing market collapse and I'd be about right where I am now. Yikes! Erase that one too. Next!

What if I had became a car mechanic since I was all into cars back then? I'm sure I would have started at the local Firestone or Goodyear doing tune ups and general maintenance. Then a couple of years later, I'd get gobbled up by the Mercedes dealership because I am a pretty awesome mechanic (really). Then, after a few years, I'd probably accept the job at the Ferrari dealership. From there I'd probably start my own automotive repair shop specializing in Ferrari and Lamborghini. I'd be on top of the world, kicking ass, taking names, and generally known as ‘da man' in that business. Then, about a year ago, the bottom would have fallen out of that business too and I'd be right about where I am now. Hey, who's writing this script? Where's my ‘and he lived happily ever after' ending?

In all reality though, I've come to realize that we're in a situation that we have no control over. All of us entrepreneurs out there would have been entrepreneurs no matter what. All of the top sales and management personnel would have been cream of the crop no matter the industry. We would have all started or led a company to success, jewelry business or otherwise.

As the economic recession is slowly becoming a thing of the past, the lingering results are still there for many of our colleagues. A friend of mine just got ‘that letter' that came via certified mail the other day. They probably aren't going to make it through this one with their company intact and that's a damned shame because they did nothing wrong. The recession just lasted longer than their resources. Hell, for the first time in 30 years I can see me being a casualty. Just give me one or two more big hits and I'm out. So far I'm still in the game, but what I'd like to say to everyone is this:

No matter what happens, you were on top of your game before The Great American Recession hit. You took the risks, you drove the company, you made the payroll, you lived the American dream and showed everyone else how to do it. If your company doesn't survive this mess no one is going to think any differently about you. If General Motors, Chrysler, Bank of America, AIG, and Merrill Lynch, with brightest minds from the best schools on the planet can't figure it out, how is the independent retail operator supposed to? You rose to the top once, you'll be there again. Say a little prayer tonight for my friends and all the other ones that might not make it because times are just hard and pockets can only be so deep.

My personal theory is still that around September/October the economy will be in a solid recovery mode and business is going to become closer to normal than it has been the last 12-15 months. It better like that because I now know where the bottom of my resources are; Right there in front of me, staring at me every day. Get away from me. You're ugly. I've never seen you before and I don't ever want to see you again.

Now, back to "It's a Wonderful Life." I seem to remember my other interests was girls. Let‘s try this again... "I'm shipwrecked on beautiful tropical island..."


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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