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Last updateFri, 22 Sep 2017 12pm

Chuck Koehler

The Retailer’s Perspective: The things I deal with on a daily basis

Keeping up with my internet properties

I have a hard time thinking of my various websites and such as properties, but they are, and they are mine, and I have to maintain them and keep them current.  And man, there is a bunch of them - Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Etsy, blah, blah, blah. Somebody make it stop! Just because I don’t like to do it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to be done. That goes for you out there too.

General marketing  

Even though the internet has become a major player in how we all market our stores and businesses, there is still the old school method of boots on the street and getting the word out in conventional and unconventional ways. Which reminds me, my donation to the Nashville Humane Society silent auction fundraiser is due today.

Facebook and all of their changes

I just don’t understand what the heck Facebook is doing with their news feeds. I’m sure it has to do with money, but the way they restrict who can and who can’t see your business page befuddles me. If I like a business page, I want to see everything that business posts. If they post too much, I’ll decide to limit what I see. I really don’t need Facebook’s help in this. But, since I paid Facebook a lot of money to break the 5,000 likes barrier for my business page, why are they limiting the audience that I PAID THEM FOR? Grrrrrrr.

Gemology

This usually comes in the form of, “Is this diamond real?” Or, “I just bought this off the internet and I want to know if I got ripped off or not.” My response is generally, “An appraisal is $125.” That usually culls the herd real quick. However, if someone found a stone that looks like a diamond in a parking lot, I’ll tell them yes or no. But, if you hand me something that looks like a diamond and about 50 pieces of paper that describe the history of diamonds and in depth explanations of diamond grading (the standard protocol of internet sellers; overwhelm them with paperwork and they won’t realize how crappy of a deal you gave them), then I just tell them we don’t do appraisals. An appraisal is a legal document that I sign my name to and it stays around forever. Some of these internet deals are just so shady that I don’t want to join the party… forever!

Bench work

Usually the only stress free part of my day. Regardless of all of the advancements in technology, I still get to catch things on fire and hit things with hammers every day.

Watch batteries

I swear, sometimes I pay all the bills on watch batteries alone. I charge $10 to install a watch battery, and we do a bunch of them. But I’m still amazed that people want to know how long I guarantee my $10 battery in their $5 watch. I mean seriously, its ten bucks! But recently we posted a sign in the store that says “Anthony Jewelers assumes no liability for damage to watches while installing batteries.”  Sometimes cheap watches fall apart when you touch them. I know this because people come in every day with broken, cheap watches wanting me to make them ‘good as new’ for less than the $19.95 that they paid for it 4 years ago. If a watch comes apart while I’m changing the battery, I just hand it back and say; “Sorry, it fell apart.  Time for a new watch.”

Ring sizings

Honestly, ring sizing is still too expensive with gold at $1,300 an ounce. Before the recession I averaged about a 98% capture rate on sizings and repairs. During the dark days of the recession I averaged maybe 10%.  Now, I’m up to about 50%. This is mainly due to the fact that what used to cost $35 now costs $135 and people just say “no” about half the time. Trust or no trust.

Gold price questions

Why do people always want to know the price of gold? They’ll be in for a watch battery and want to know what the price of gold is today. I guess it just fascinates people. They want me to tell them all about how the commodities markets work - like I know. I’m a jeweler, not a commodity broker. They want to know if they should buy gold now - like I know what it’s gonna do in the future. I’ll only be interested in the price of gold when it’s back to $400 an ounce. Then I’ll like gold again. Till then, ugh.

Remembering the recession is receding

Like I said earlier, I’m at about 50% of what I was doing pre-recession. Like so many of you out there that got stung hard, I’m still a little gun shy about a lot of things. For those of you out there that have seen my presentation about navigating a crisis, you’ll know what I mean when I say I have to remind myself constantly that I’m on the right side of the chart heading down. If you haven’t seen that presentation (then you need to), it means that the world fell apart several years ago, not yesterday. It’s not falling apart today and I have to constantly remind myself of that.

The DOW at 17,000

You know, I was never a market watcher before the recession and now I’m obsessed. And it’s not because of the money I have in the market (the recession relieved me of that), it’s because it’s an indicator of overall job security in America. For the last 30 years, regardless of the state of the economy, the jewelry repair business was very steady. Even when sales from the showcase were flat or non-existent, repairs paid the bills. But the job losses were so severe when the DOW was crashing in 2008 and 2009 that for the first time in my career, the jewelry repair business just stopped. I had 24 trade accounts in August, 2008. In August, 2014, only one of those trade accounts is still in existence. Ouch. The DOW at 17,000 means jobs are stable and I’m looking to move that 50% capture rate back up to 98%.

Brick and mortar issues

There’s a reason a lot of things are cheaper on the internet - they don’t have the myriad of expenses associated with having a retail storefront. Plumbing problems, HVAC problems, case lights burning out, case light ballasts going out ($$$$$), equipment breaking, “Chuck, the printer’s not working,” “Chuck, the computer’s not working,” “Chuck, I can’t get on the internet,” “Chuck,” “Chuck,” “Chuck.” It never ends. I have none of those problems with my virtual store.

Mail and e-mail

Good Lord, don’t get me started. Just trying to decide what needs to be addressed and what is junk is overwhelming when you own a business. The junk mail people have gotten really good at making their crap look important, and the important mail people have gotten really bad about making their crap look like junk mail. E-mail dings going off all day are relentless.

Selling jewelry and waiting on customers

Oh yea, somewhere in the middle of all this minutia, I’m supposed to find the time to actually do what I’m in business to do… sell jewelry! Seriously, where will I find the time?

Who’s going to the Atlanta Jewelry Show? I’ll be in the Southern/Mid-America Jewelry News booth just to the right of the main entrance on Sunday. Come tell me about your craziest customer.


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. If you would like to contact Chuck or need a speaker or instructor for your next conference/event he can be reached 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: Cha Cha Cha Changes...

The old saying, “Times change, people don’t,” is so very true. I’m still the same person I was back in 1978 when I got into this business. But boy, the times and the business sure have changed. Some I like and some I don’t.  But, regardless of whether we like it or dislike it, it changed and we have to deal with it.  Let’s look at some of the changes…

The Retailer’s Perspective: It’s a CAD CAD World...

They say that change is inevitable, and I agree. So many of us complain about how the internet has changed our businesses, but in the next breath talk about how much we love it in general. But the internet wouldn’t be in business without one other little invention that has rocked our world even more - the computer!  I guess the computer has just been around long enough that we forget that we used to run our businesses without the benefit of five or six of them in the store.

The Retailer’s Perspective: An opinion or three...

For some reason here lately, I feel like passing on some knowledge to my younger readers out there. I remember when I first got into this business in 1978, I couldn’t read enough trade articles trying to learn the “Dos & Don’ts” of this industry.  Most of those articles were written by people trying to sell me something, so it was geared towards convincing me that what they were selling was a great idea, even if it wasn’t. So this article is not going to try to sell you anything.  Instead, I’m going to state some facts and give you my opinion about them to try and keep you from making a mistake and learning the hard way.

The Retailer’s Perspective: Mistakes, misconceptions, wives’ tales and outright lies...

Throughout the years, I’ve heard them all; oil your opals, clean your jewelry with toothpaste, diamonds can’t break.  I haven’t written about this stuff in a couple of years, so I thought I’d write a column for the newer members of our industry, and put a few of these rumors to bed… for a couple of years at least.

The Retailer’s Perspective: Every... Single... Year!

You know, it never fails to happen every year, but it still amazes me just the same. What I’m talking about is the audacity of some of the people that show up and expect impossible things from me… at Christmas!  So, now that I’ve slowed down a little, I thought I’d tell you a story or two of what happened during this last Christmas season.

The Retailer’s Perspective: Now that the gold rush is over

I’ve seen it twice.  Once in the early ‘80s, and then again starting in 2007.  What I’m talking about is the out of control gold prices that set off a mad panic and creates a gold rush. 

Through the last 4 or 5 years, I didn’t participate in it.  I know, I know, I lost out on millions and millions of dollars - or so I’m told.  But honestly, I don’t think I’m really worse off for sitting on the sidelines.

Here’s my thinking:

For as long as I’ve been in the jewelry industry, I’ve never bought jewelry off the street. I’ve always had a personal issue against the practice.  Usually, when a customer comes into a jewelry store, it’s one of the happiest times in their life.  It’s a birthday, an anniversary, someone’s about to get engaged, someone just got engaged and needs their new ring (that I sold) sized, or someone’s about to get married and shopping for wedding bands. 

But, there’s another side too.  Sometimes people come into a jewelry store at the worst time of their life.  That person that they thought they were going to spend the rest of their life with just showed his or her true colors and “happily ever after” is just a slow moving train wreck circling a bottomless drain.

Sometimes it’s the loss of a job and they need money, and it’s the house or the ring.  But, you know what I’ve discovered from decades of observing from afar (since I’ve never really participated)?  Whatever you pay them for their jewelry usually doesn’t fix their problem.  Yes, it might buy them a month or so, but the underlying problem still exists.  Now, they’ve still got the problem, but not that precious piece of jewelry that’s been handed down from generation to generation.

Of course, I’ve got hundreds of friends and readers that think I’m dead wrong about this.  They tell me that the person was going to sell it no matter what, so why shouldn’t they buy it and take advantage of the situation since it was getting sold regardless. 

Here’s my thinking:

When someone is selling their jewelry, usually their life is coming apart at the seams for any number of reasons.  And I don’t care what you pay them; they are always going to think you ripped them off.  They bought the ring for $10,000 from you 4 years ago and now you’re offering them $3,200 (on a good day).  Now, you’re showing your hand.  You just let them know that when you gave them “the deal of the century,” you made $6,800 on the sale.  WHAT?  Now they know our little jewelry industry secret… we make 400% to 500% on every sale!

Now, you and I know that’s not true, but those people out there in the world we call our customers don’t know the little ins and outs of our industry.  Chances are you paid $7,800 for the diamond at the time, but now we’re in a recession and the price of everything has fallen - but they don’t know that.  And worse, now they don’t trust you.

Something I’ve also learned from being on the sidelines is that not everyone stays down.  Some people were born poor and will always be poor no matter what the economy and they will always use pawn shops as a bank.  But, most people are not like that.  Just because someone is going through a very hard time right now, doesn’t mean it’s going to last forever.  They will get through this and bounce back and eventually replace all of the jewelry they had to sell.  And, many of these people will come to me because I didn’t rip them off when they were down.  I can’t tell you the number of people that have said horrible things to me about other jewelers that I know personally, and will never go back to them for this very reason.

Is every customer going to feel this way?  Of course not.  But how many customers are you willing to lose by becoming a pawn shop as opposed to a jewelry store?  My decision was to not lose a single one.  My thought process has always been to stay on the happy side of the business, not the sad.  If a customer is going to feel betrayed by their trusted long time jeweler, then they are going to switch jewelers when their situation turns around.  Pick me!  Pick me!

Now, am I being a hypocrite because I have a consignment store that sells people’s unwanted jewelry?  I don’t think so because I’m pretty selective about what I take.  If they need the money, then I don’t get involved.  But, if it’s some jewelry that was given to them by an ex-boyfriend or husband and it’s been in their jewelry box for years, and they’re in no hurry to sell it, then I’ll sell it for them. 

Case in point; a longtime customer was married when she was 18 years old to an older man with lots of money.  It was a short marriage, and when it was over she ended up with lots of pieces of nice jewelry.  Fifteen years later, she’s been married for 10 years with 3 kids and a great life.  Her current husband knows she was married before, but her kids don’t.  She’s never going to give the jewelry to her children because it was given to her by someone they don’t even know existed.  It was just sitting in her jewelry box doing nothing, so she put it on consignment.  I sold several pieces and she used the money to take her kids to Disneyland.  Sweet.  She had no emotional ties to the pieces and didn’t really need the money, but she wasn’t going to just give them away to a pawn shop.

So, herein lies one of the big problems I’ve had with whole “become a pawn shop” mentality that’s swept the jewelry industry over the last several years.  Customers come to a jewelry store instead of a pawn shop because they think they’re going to get lots more money for their jewelry.  When in reality, most jewelry stores don’t pay any more than a pawn shop.  After a while, customers started wising up and shopping at several different places to see who would give them the best deal, and you know what?  At least here in Nashville, most everyone (pawn shops/jewelry stores/estate buyers/etc.) paid about the same thing, give or take a buck or two. 

So, once again, where did that $6,800 dollars go that they paid you when you sold them the ring?  How do you explain the difference? 

I spoke to several jewelers while writing this article and some agreed with me, but most thought I was nuts.  But, one jeweler in West Virginia told me that because she always encouraged her customers to get a couple of bids to really see what kind of money they could get for their jewelry, she was always a few dollars higher.  She said that she’s seen several of these people back in her store as new customers because she treated them fairly!  So that blows my theory to hell, huh?

I guess to wrap it up, in my opinion, when someone is forced to sell their jewelry to pay the bills, they are never going to feel they got what it was worth.  So if they are going to hate someone, hate someone other than me.  There is an old saying that the decisions you make today, you’re going to have to live with during the ensuing years.  So over the last several years, I elected to sit out the gold rush and be where I am today, richer or poorer. 

Who’s with me on this and who thinks I’m a nut case?  Write me and let me know what you think.

And, all you bench jewelers out there, don’t forget during these cold winter months to switch to Mary Kay Satin Hands soap.  It’ll rock your world and keep your hands and fingertips from cracking.  I haven’t had a single callous split in the years I’ve been using the product.  If you don’t have a Mary Kay rep, use mine.  You can reach McKensie at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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. If you would like to contact Chuck or need a speaker or instructor for your next conference/event he can be reached 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.

 

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