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The Retailer’s Perspective: Facts and fictions...

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these so I thought I’d bring up one of my favorite topics... the wrong things people say about jewelry.

Diamonds can’t break because they’re so hard.

Wrong! Ask any jeweler who’s broken one - they’ll tell you different. Here’s the real story. There is a difference between Hardness and Toughness. Hardness is a stone’s resistance to scratching or abrasion. A diamond is the hardest natural material on the planet. The only thing that can scratch a diamond is another diamond. On the other hand, Toughness is a stones resistance to breakage or cleavage. A diamond, because it is so hard, has a relatively poor toughness. You can bump a diamond (hardness 10) into the corner of a glass showcase just right (hardness 6) and break it clean in two. Let a pair of pliers slip just right while you’re setting a diamond and you’ll break a chunk off before you can say Uh oh! And for the record, every diamond substitute to date will scratch glass.

The Retailer’s Perspective Okay, who’s to blame?

As we find ourselves here at the beginning of 2010, we start a whole new era of responsibility. Everyone that is except a lot of the banking and Wall Street executives that think no one is paying attention because they haven’t been caught... yet. It’s now time to start putting names with the economic disaster that was 2009. Let me explain.

The Retailer’s Perspective And, just like that…

Here we are at Christmas, 2009. If you’re reading this, you’ve managed to survive the Great American Recession up to this point. How did we do it? Beats the hell out me, but somehow or other we’ve managed to do it.

I’ve been wondering how this December is going to be different from last December and I’ve decided if there was ever an apples to oranges scenario this would be it. There is just no way most of us can compare the two at this point. I’ve been asking around to get some different perspectives and this is what I’ve heard.

“December, 2008 was the worst month in the 80 year history of this store.”

I heard that replayed dozens of times over the course of the last year.

“I’ve lost money the last four quarters. And this store has never had a losing quarter before last December.”

That came up a lot too.

“My July was better than my December last year.”

That one was me, (but I did hear that from several other people as well) but my point is this; This is not December 2008. It’s a brand new world out there now. Hang on a minute, someone just walked in....

That was cool. A lady just came in with 14 pieces of jewelry for repair (really, I’m not making that up) and paid the $438 in advance. While she was here she saw an antique cameo broach for $365 and bought that as well.... $803 - Yeah! That hasn’t happened in a while.

In December of 2008, the world financial markets were melting before our very eyes. Really bad decisions made by some really smart, really greedy people came back and bit them on the butt. They went down and took the rest of us with them, but that was the reality of December 2008. This is December 2009. Most people have really short attention spans and don’t remember what they did or what they spent last year. This is a brand new year and a brand new season.

I guess what I’m trying to say is the world isn’t melting this Christmas season, so don’t act like it is. People are going to spend again. Probably not like Christmas of 2003, but waaaay more than Christmas of 2008.

The underlying problems that caused the collapse last December are not here this December. Yes, the lingering effects are still front and center, but they are lingering effects, not the actual cause.

Hang on again, darn if it’s not another customer.

Once again, very cool. My customer just picked up a $295 repair. You know what’s significant about that one? I saw that very repair this time last year and she elected not to have the work done. Now that things are calming down, those jobs and those customers are coming back.

Will business return to normal? No. But business will return. It’s just that a new normal will be established. The decisions you make now are going to be your basis for the next decade and beyond. It’s a whole new beginning. Hang on, I’ve got to sign for a package real quick.

Sweet. One of my old trade accounts that’s been deathly slow for the last year just sent me a box of work. That’s the first time I’ve seen work from her in almost a year. I guess her business is finally picking up as well.

The way business was conducted for the last 20-30 years is over. Business is slowly coming back, people are finally starting to spend again, but the old way of doing things is dead (for several years at least...re: short attention spans). Throw away the old playbook.

What caused the financial collapse last year was a very real, very tangible problem. What caused people to cut back to only the bare bones essentials last year is not there this year. What kept people out of jewelry and other retail stores no longer exists in the capacity that it existed last year.

Way back in the summer I predicted the DOW would need to start bouncing between 9,500 and 10,000 before anyone took the recovery seriously. As I’m writing this, the DOW is doing just that, and this morning Ford Motor Company just announced a billion dollar profit. In December of 2008 Ford was just trying to stay out of bankruptcy liquidation. This Christmas they’re hiring. Like I said, it’s a brand new world.

There are countless factors that got us into that mess last year, and countless factors that are getting us out of it this year. But just know that we are getting out of it and it’s turning around. Even the major networks are mostly talking about the recovery now, not the collapse. The collapse is soooo yesterday’s news.

One thing I have heard quite a bit by the store owners and managers that feel the same as I do is this: “I’m worried that I don’t have the staff or the inventory to handle a good Christmas season.”

Now that’s a good kind of problem to have. Let’s hope we’re right! Get out there and sell something! I hope everyone has a great Christmas season and I’ll see ya in 2010.

Before I go, I’ve got two pieces of housekeeping. One, I need help. I’m looking for the company that I order my appraisal forms from and can’t for the life of me remember who they are. The forms come with a blue, yellow, and pink copy and are made for laser printers. Anyone out there know who that is?

Secondly, for all the bench jewelers out there. I have found something that is going to rock your world. Mary Kay makes a new soap called Satin Hands. It has those little scrubbies in it like pumice to really get your hands clean, but it also has a built in moisturizer as well. It’s like washing your hands and putting lotion on at the same time. Since I started using it, my hands and fingertips haven’t cracked or split once. It’s the best $15 I’ve spent all year. If you don’t have a Mary Kay rep, contact mine at 615-517-8081 or www.marykay.com/mmorrison7605 and McKensie will get it to you.

Don’t work too hard this season.

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 email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The Retailer’s Perspective: Technology in a brave new world

About 2 or 3 years ago I was going to write about how retailers were dealing with the onslaught of employees bringing their personal cell phones into work. Right about then my cell phone rang and I got sidetracked and forgot.

Fast forward a few years and now we’ve got a whole new situation. MySpace, FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. have invaded the world. So now I wonder how everyone is dealing with it? Hang on a second, I’m getting a text:

The Retailer’s Perspective My new found love affair with the bulldozer...

I was born a long time after the great depression, but have known countless people in my life that actually lived through it. Many of our grandparents were shaped by it. But 3 or 4 generations later it's just ancient history... til now.

A man I knew very well was raised during the depression and it never left him. In many ways, even 70 years later, it was still a dominant part of his life. He became a miser after the depression and continued that way of life right up until the day he died. He had millions of dollars saved by the time he died, but never took his wife to Paris. Never took her on a weekend getaway to New York. Hell, he only took her out to dinner once or twice a year because they needed "to save money."

Someone asked me once why he wouldn't take his wife to Italy when he had so much money. I replied that if he and his wife went to Italy, he wouldn't do anything but complain about how much money it cost. He'd be too scared to spend any money and it would be the worst trip to Italy in the history of the world. The great depression ruined a lot of people's lives.... and I mean their entire lives, not just the years of the depression. But that leads to my point.

The Great American Recession is ending. Albeit slowly, it's ending none the less. What I wonder is how our generation is going to be affected by this major catastrophic incident? I know one thing for certain right now. I have a new found appreciation for the bulldozer. Let me explain:

For as long as I can remember, I've loved watching bulldozers work. It's a ‘guy thing' I know, but bulldozers are just totally cool. Moving tons of earth with ease. Then a big Caterpillar with a scoop shovel loads it into something called an articulated dump truck that moves it somewhere else for another bulldozer to push around. Sweet. Like most guys, I can sit and watch them work for hours. Then about a year and a half ago my fun ended. The bulldozers got parked.

All around my store is a huge new shopping center development being built. It's about half finished overall, but the buildings that were finished before the recession are 100% occupied (yes, that's where my Target is).

One of my favorite things to do every morning on my way into the store was drive through and see what work was done the day before. What pile of dirt got bigger. What pile of dirt got smaller. What building had a new facade, what building got the new steel. In at least 10 different places on this property was big heavy equipment doing what big heavy equipment does... building things. Then about 15 months ago, I started noticing 18 wheelers going into the development, loading up the big heavy equipment, and taking it away. Then one day all work stopped and it's been that way for well over a year.

I don't know exactly what happened, but I can guess. I'm assuming it was the same thing that happened to every other major development across the country. The financing got pulled and it was game over. A total work stoppage. I never realized how fast weeds would grow on a big pile of dirt that has been abandoned. Pretty fast and pretty tall, let me tell you.

It was during this 15 month period that I formed a whole new appreciation for the bulldozer. It has shaped my outlook and changed the way I see a lot of things. A bulldozer is not a piece of equipment. A bulldozer is an economic machine.

After a long period of inactivity, the bulldozers have started showing up again. Here's what I see now:

When the first bulldozer showed back up about 3 months ago, it was by itself. Just one man and one machine... or so it seemed on the surface. In reality it went something like this: The owners of the center got a new financing package in place. The owners called the bulldozer company and ordered one bulldozer and one operator. The leasing company got a check and paid the note on the equipment, the mortgage on the building, and they paid their staff. They in turn called a trucking company to come and move the bulldozer to the job site. The truck driver then got a check and delivered the bulldozer and then made a payment on his truck. Finally, the heavy equipment operator drives to the job site, starts the bulldozer and spent about two days scraping the lot clean. Since heavy equipment operators make a pretty good hourly wage, he probably paid his mortgage and took his wife out to a nice dinner and tipped his waiter handsomely. And that was the first two days.

Over the course of the last 3 months, there has been over a million dollars spent on the job site building a new grocery store, bank, and retail building that are going up. Every day, there are at least 40 pieces of heavy equipment on that job site and over 100 workers. The concrete guys are on one side of the site laying foundations for one building while the bricklayers are putting up bricks on the foundations that were laid last week. The steel erector crews are busy at work earning high salaries. The site excavation crews are in full swing at the back of the lot trying to stay on schedule for the next building going up.

But my mind goes even farther now. In 6 months or so, those buildings are going to be occupied. They are going to hang "Now Hiring" signs in their windows. They are going to order stock to fill their shelves. The factories that make the stock are going to get orders. Then customers are going to start coming in and spending money. Employees are going to get paid. Suppliers are going to get paid. Rents are going to get paid. For the next 20-30 years, this development is going to generate jobs, goods, services, and tax revenues.

It's not a shopping center, it's an entire economy that I've taken for granted my entire life. Not now. Within one mile of my store there are three major job sites with heavy equipment on them pushing dirt and materials around. Now, when I drive by and see a big Cat Bulldozer, I see progress and I see economic recovery. And I see a bright future for all of us again.

So, the next time you drive by a job site and see a bulldozer at work, don't just see the bulldozer, see the future.

Now, if they'd just start hiring some better looking bulldozer operators....



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.

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