Last updateWed, 20 May 2020 12am

The Retailer’s Perspective: Horizontal Plane Syndrome

About a million years ago, I moved to Nashville, TN seeking fame and fortune in the entertainment industry. During that time, I ran the largest film and video studio in the city. This was in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, when country music videos were the hottest thing in entertainment. It was a good time to be alive.

Film and video soundstages are interesting places. They are big, cavernous, wide open spaces, with very high ceilings. This is so you can build multiple sets at once, and hang lights and cameras from the ceilings. Soundstages are ever changing. They are like pop-up cities. One day there are 400 people there. The next day there are zero people there. It was on these zero people days I learned about Horizontal Plane Syndrome.

If you had to host a pop-up event for 400 people, what is the first thing you need? Tables and chairs! In our studio, we probably had over 100 folding tables that were neatly stacked along the back wall. If you needed a place to stack some stuff, you could grab a table, set it up, and within seconds, bam, you had an instant horizontal plane.

At the end of any shoot in the studio, the freelance crew would load out all of their equipment, staging, lighting, and such. Then they would fold up all of the tables and chairs and restack them neatly against the back wall. In the beginning, I’d tell them to leave about 10 tables out in case I needed them for something. And, lo and behold, I’d walk out into the studio the next day and all 10 tables had something stacked on them. It was always me that had to go out and clean the crap off of the tables before the next shoot loaded in. I soon learned to have the crew fold up and store every single table because Horizontal Plane Syndrome is real. If you create a horizontal plane, someone will stack some stuff on it.

I’m sure many of you right now are thinking: “That’s a great story, Chuck. But isn’t this a jewelry industry related publication?”

Yes, it is, and I’m about to get to that. In this very competitive retail environment we find ourselves in today, you’re not guaranteed that next year is going to be the same as this year. I saw a great quote recently that said: ‘Biggest Lesson: Don’t ever think it can’t happen to you!’ I know that’s true because it happened to me.

When I found out I was losing the lease on my cute little store, a lot went through my mind. Horizontal Plane Syndrome was just not one of them. Now that I’m right in the middle of my move, it’s all I can think about.

I’ve always wanted to have a t-shirt made that says, ‘Help, I’m remodeling and I can’t quit’. When I moved into my 2nd location 13 years ago, it was much bigger than my original location. At that time, I had the luxury to spend a few months building out the space to accommodate my needs. When it was time for the actual move, I did it in one day. Of course it took me a year to unpack, but I was out of the old space and into the new space on the same day. Then, it took me 13 years to create hundreds of square feet of horizontal planes to organize everything that it takes to run my business.

As I started moving last month, Horizontal Plane Syndrome was front and center. Let me explain. First off, I needed to empty everything that was on a shelf, in a cabinet, or in a showcase, and put it in a box. Then, I’d place the box in the middle of the floor. Next, I’d take the horizontal plane off of the wall, and also place it in the middle of the floor. It didn’t take long before I ran out of middle of the floor.

When the big day arrived, I hired professional movers to move all of the big stuff and the heavy stuff, which took two highly coordinated days (and went off without a hitch). But, since my new location is only a mile away, I decided to move a lot of miscellaneous shelving and boxes myself over the next week or two. I’ve got a lot of crap. And, I learned that just because it fit in the old space, doesn’t mean it’s going to fit in the new space.

But slowly, and surely, it’s all coming together quite nicely. I was thrown a curve ball about 10 years before I expected it. I was already in the process of setting up a ‘worst case scenario’ plan in case this happened in the future, but I was about a year away from implementing that plan. Then, worst case scenario happened first! That plan is still in the works, regardless of this situation though.

Since I went public with my situation, a lot of readers have reached out to me to keep them informed of what I’m doing along the way. There are a lot of your colleagues out there facing the same situation I just faced. Independent jewelry stores closing down, all over the country has been a disturbing trend for the last decade.

Before the big move, I could have gone through everything and cleaned house before packing. That way I was only moving what I was keeping. Instead, because of the short timetable, I opted to just throw everything in boxes and move it all. Then, as I unpacked the boxes and put things away, not everything made the cut back to its place on a horizontal plane. A lot of it went in the trash after the move.

I wouldn’t do it that way again, but I didn’t really have the time to do it any other way during this move. I knew last summer this was probably going to happen. I wish I would have started preparing better, but I didn’t.

The one thing I can say about moving is this; Horizontal Plane Syndrome is real. We all have storage, be it desks, filing cabinets, cupboards, shelves, cabinets, and containers, to keep stuff off of the middle of the floor. When you move, you realize the most valuable real estate you own is the middle of the floor in the old place, and the new place.

I’m now in my new space, my customers are finding me just fine, and I really like it. I’d been thinking about making this change for a while, and this situation forced me to do something I’d been thinking about anyway. The main road in front of my previous location of 13 years went from being a busy road, to a nightmare. It was no longer an asset. It became something that all of my customers complained about. Now, I’m a mile away, two blocks off of that same road on a side street, with easy access in and out.

I feel for everyone out there potentially facing the same situation - good luck. Moving sucks, but if you know you need to do it, just get it over with. Sitting in a dead end situation is way worse than getting the move over with and starting your new life. I wasn’t being kicked out of my old space, and could have maybe stayed a year. But, I could never be comfortable knowing that at any moment I would be forced to move on someone else’s schedule. I wanted to do it on my schedule. And it’s kind of nice to get it behind me and not be worried about getting that certified letter in the mail with the words; ‘You’ve got 60 days to vacate’.

And, guess who just sold his house (and doesn’t know where he’s moving to), and has to pack up the house he’s lived in for the last 17 years? I’m gonna need a strait jacket pretty soon.

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.