As we’re about to enter another Christmas selling season, I’ve been noticing something that is making me very happy. I’m not losing money anymore. I can’t really pinpoint when that exactly started, but honestly, who cares. I’m just glad it started.
I can, though, pinpoint exactly when I stopped making money... October, 2008. For me, and for most jewelers out there, it was like someone turned off the money faucet and then didn’t tell us how to turn it back on. Of course whoever turned off the money faucet forgot to turn off the expenses faucet too, because those damned bills never quit coming... not once. So, how did those of us left standing get through the worst economic recession in the last 100 years? Beats the hell out of me. I don’t know about the rest of you, but for me it was pure luck, because I sure as hell didn’t know how to navigate that damned thing.
Right before the recession started I remember all the news media droning on and on and on about a possible financial collapse just over the horizon. I remember thinking that if they’d just shut up about it, it might go away. Well they didn’t shut up about it and it didn’t go away. It steam rolled right over us and the rest of the world in a pretty big hurry.
The media then droned on and on about how it was going to take years to recover. Well, they were right about that one. So, are we fully out of the woods yet? I think we all know the answer to that question is NO! But we’re also not lost in the middle of a huge forest anymore. It’s more like we’ve finally found a stream and we’re just following it ‘til it leads us to civilization.
What I think caught everyone by surprise in this recession was the overwhelming amount of job losses. If you just lost your job or you think you’re going to lose your job, you just don’t go into a jewelry store. There’s no reason to. If you can’t eat it, drink it, or drive it to work, it was a luxury and it had to go. But here it is, 3 years later and it’s just not as bad. I’m just not sitting here panicking anymore. Instead, I’m sitting here worrying about keeping up through the Christmas season.
I went back and re-read the columns I had written about this time in 2008 and at that time the recession was still looming, but it hadn’t hit yet. People were worried, but no one had really lost money yet. No massive layoffs had occurred, and the financial markets were teetering, but not collapsing. Well, that changed and money was lost, massive layoffs did occur, and the markets did collapse... and continued to do so for quite some time. But you know what? It’s not happening now.
I keep hearing about a ‘double dip’ recession, but they’ve been talking about that for a couple of years and it hasn’t happened. When the markets began to fail in 2008 there was a very real reason that that happened. That system was built like a house of cards and someone kept putting more cards on top until it finally went BOOM! But, although not all of the problems have been solved, enough of them have been addressed so that there is really no underlying reason for the economy to go in the toilet again. At least not for another 100 years.
As with any economic downturn, luxury businesses are the first to go and the last to recover. But something I’ve noticed lately is that even luxury businesses have bread and butter, day to day, basic cash flow sales that start to come back first. In the jewelry business that’s the basic services like watch batteries, jewelry repair, and appraisals. When you’re about to lose your job of 20 years it doesn’t make a lot of sense to get your jewelry appraisals updated because you might have to sell it if you get laid off.
Three years into this thing, and a year or two into the recovery, the jobs picture has stabilized and people are beginning to do things they put off several years ago, like get their jewelry repaired. Jewelry doesn’t go bad if you leave it in the jewelry box for a couple of years before having it repaired, and millions of people did just that. I’ve had so many men come in lately with their wives broken jewelry that they couldn’t have repaired two years ago and are having the work done now as a surprise. It’s kinda touching actually.
So what happens from here? Beats me. I’m just happy to be back in the world of positive cash flow again. And maybe after Christmas I’ll take that vacation I’ve been putting off since ‘08 because I have money now. Carnival Cruise Lines here I come. Anyone want to go with me?
Well, look at the calendar, it’s time to get busy. Everyone have a great holiday sales season.
Note to bench jewelers: Don’t forget this winter to use Mary Kay Satin Hands hand soap. This will be my 3rd winter to use it and my hands haven’t cracked or split once since I started using it. If you don’t have a Mary Kay rep, feel free to use mine: McKensie Morrison, 615-517-8081 or www.MaryKay.com/mmorrison7605. You’ll be happy you ordered it... I promise.
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.