Last updateThu, 01 Dec 2016 10am


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.

The Retailer’s Perspective: September 15th...

Yeah, I know to most people it's just another day. But this September 15th is one of the most important Tuesdays of the last couple of years. Why you ask? Let me explain.

For most people, the fourth quarter is the end of the year. Not for me. My fourth quarter is what I consider the beginning of my year. I've always been busy as I can be in the fourth, first, and second quarters. And, I've always been dead in the third during June, July, and August. So for the last couple of decades September 15th is the end of my fiscal and mental year. And, just like in the spring when the first buds are appearing on the trees, around the middle to the end of September some retailer is starting to advertise something about Christmas and it shocks me back into reality and my entire routine and mindset change back to work again.

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

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.

The Retailer’s Perspective: And you looked so normal walking in the door...

Sometimes you can spot ‘em getting out of their car and sometimes they just outright surprise you. Yep. It's the crazies. They're baaaaccckkkk.

I had just perfected my new barbecue chicken recipe - I pre-boil my chicken for about 30 minutes in any number of spices that I have laying around (I change this every time), then I take it off the stove and set it aside til it cools, then put the stock pot in the fridge to chill overnight. In the morning, I pour off the water and put the chicken in a zip lock baggie and put it back in the fridge til that night - just absorbing all of those flavors. Right before dinner I put it on the grill to heat it up and just barely burn the BBQ sauce and it's a "no knives needed" masterpiece. The leftovers come to work with me for lunch because it's even better the second day. It was right here, just as I was taking my first bite, when she walked in!

The Retailer’s Perspective: Recession Recovery 101

Man, what a crazy ride we're on lately. I don't know about you, but I'm just tired of it! I am soooo ready to just get back to "life as I once knew it".

The other day when I was having a "to hell with all of this... I quit" moment, something occurred to me. What would I do if I just walked out? No one's hiring. Anywhere I could find a job would be way worse than what I'm doing now. The proverbial "I can just get a job flippin' burgers at McDonalds" is no longer valid unless you've got a masters degree in finance or psychology because that's your competition right now. Life as we once knew it is not the reality right now. Will it get back to normal? I think so, or at least some reasonable facsimile thereof. But here's what's going on in my mind at the moment.

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