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Last updateTue, 14 Jan 2020 10pm

The Retailer’s Perspective: Staying in your own lane

First things first - I’d like to say thank you, and God bless you, to everyone that reached out to me with words of encouragement during my recent crisis regarding losing the lease on my store. It’s nice to know there are so many kind and compassionate people in the world. Words cannot express how much that means to me. But, during this trying time, I learned a few things.

A quick update on my situation; my prayers were answered, and a comparable space opened up one mile from my current location, and the cost is actually less. I signed the lease, and will move sometime after the first of the year, probably after Valentines Day. Whew!

For those not in the loop, the shopping center where I’ve been for the last 13 years (and hoped to be for the next 13 years) was sold to a developer who’s probably going to bulldoze it and build condos. Nashville has been experiencing an unprecedented economic boom over the last several years, and me and my fellow merchants all became victims.

While many would say being in a booming city is a good thing, it has its drawbacks as well. They’ve been literally knocking down every single building they can buy and building high rise apartments and condos. What they haven’t been building is retail centers. In essence, they’ve paved paradise, and put up a parking lot.

Thirteen years ago, when I was looking to move from my original location, Nashville wasn’t the ‘It city’. I was trading apples for apples when it came to the price per sq. ft. of retail space. I was moving because my original neighborhood had changed over time and was no longer a viable retail destination. I spent months looking at what was available, and all of the prices were comparable to what I had been paying. That’s all changed now.

Over the last 5 or 6 years in my market, there is less and less retail space available because it’s all being bulldozed for condos. What is available was mostly built for big corporate chains like Target, Costco, Best Buy and Mattress Firm. They aren’t building commercial property for small mom and pop type operations like me. And, anything that is available is at least 4-5 times the price I’m paying now. Talk about a bummer!

But, during this time period, I had an epiphany. In order to cover that kind of overhead, I would have to become a high volume jewelry retailer, something I’ve never been. Why would I want to spend the rest of my life struggling to do something I already know I’m not very good at? Why would I even think that just because I’m paying 5x the rent that suddenly I’m going to ‘make it’ in the high volume retail jewelry business? I’m not, I won’t, and I can’t. Its here I realized I need to stay in my own lane.

Back before the internet, when people HAD to buy their jewelry from actual jewelry stores, I did okay simply by default. When the internet came around, and people had other options, I still did okay, but not as okay as before. Then came the recession and a lot of us didn’t do okay at all. A lot of us just hunkered down and survived. So, here we are at the start of a new decade and I get to make a new start, so I need to do it right.

Over the last 3-5 years, with the proliferation of social media business groups, I realized I was never really even doing okay. There are so many people out there that do what I do so much better than me. Through the power of social media, I can see there are so many people out there that have a knack for filling their showcases with the next hot trends. And, they also have a knack for actually selling those hot new trends to retail customers right there in their retail stores. I don’t have that knack. I never have.

I remember during the recession, when many of us were struggling, there were always stories about those stores that were posting record numbers. There were store owners that were having their best years in their store’s 100 year history. For a time I tried to duplicate some of what they were doing, only I didn’t get the same results. We all know that there are some people out there, that everything they touch turns to gold. I realized that everything I touch turns to silver. It’s kind of a letdown, but not as bad as everything I touch turning to doo doo!

So, as I was looking at all of my options over the last several months, I made the decision that I need to stay in my own lane. I’m never going to be that person who dreams of opening a second and a third store. For those of you with those dreams, go for it - if it’s your lane.

I have an acquaintance that owns a few Ferraris. We got to talking one day about one of his Ferraris that he was selling. I asked, “Why do I see those cars for sale right after the owner just completed a $5,000 service?” Heck, if my car needs a $5K service, I’m selling it before, not after. He told me that those cars are investments and you have to maintain them to exact factory specifications. If he didn’t do the $5K service at the right time, it would lose $20K in value. I was like, ‘Man, that car is nice to look at, and nice to think about, but I wouldn’t want to own one!’

So, as I was forced to make a major change in my future, I reflected on what I want to do, and what I don’t want to do. I’m happiest in the shop. I like being in my showroom, but not selling jewelry out of the showcases. That’s not my lane. I like being in my showroom taking in repairs, changing watch batteries, sizing watch bands, and selling custom pieces. I’ve made a good living doing those exact things for decades. Why wouldn’t I want to continue that, and eliminate the things that aren’t in my lane? There is more and more competition for retail sales, and less and less bench jewelers to service those pieces that people are buying at all of these new competitors.

My new location will be more geared to the lane I’m in now, and the lane I want to drive in for the next decade. I like being a custom order and repair store, as well as a trade shop for the industry. That actually sounds fun to me. And, if I don’t like it, I’ll make a change and do it differently in the future. We can’t just coast like we used to.

When faced with potentially huge new overhead costs, I realized I just don’t want to be that person with $2 million in inventory, 15+ employees, open 7 days a week, 12 hours a day. To me, those are nice to look at, but I wouldn’t want to own one.

Now, the big question: Who has a pickup truck and wants to help me move?

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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