07082020Wed
Last updateWed, 01 Jul 2020 1pm

The Retailer’s Perspective: And for my next trick, a plague of locusts

I mean seriously, that’s the only thing left! During this extremely trying time, it’s hard to figure out what to do sometimes. Do you go to work and sit there by yourself all day, or do you stay at home and sit there by yourself all day. 

I’ve been fortunate that I had some work stacked up and was able to go in solo and keep busy. That, plus the fact that I just moved my store, and sold my house and had to move personally, has kept me hopping. Now I need the economy to open back up before I run out of things to do and get bored. But, let’s talk about something that I’ve been wanting to address for well over a year. The scourge on our society known as Amazon Prime!

What? You thought everyone loved Amazon Prime? Let’s step into the way back machine and go back to the ‘80s and ‘90s. Believe it or not, Walmart wasn’t a national chain until 1995. They only started really expanding nationally in the early ‘80s. Prior to that across America, it was mostly locally owned businesses coupled with the local mall that had the chain stores and the mall walkers. Then along came Walmart. Ruh Roh!

As a consumer, Walmart was the bomb-diggity. You could get your oil changed while you shopped for a new mattress and an engagement ring. Then you could grab some burgers to throw on the grill for dinner. They had everything under one roof. How in the world could that be a bad thing? Well, we learned how when you needed a 5/16 thumb screw to repair that broken screen door on your basement. You got in your car and drove to the local hardware store, only to find out that it had gone out of business. 

At the time, people didn’t really put two and two together to understand why the local hardware store went out of business. It’s not because you didn’t buy enough of those oddball thumb screws over the years. It’s because you started buying your A/C filters at Walmart. You started buying your topsoil and spring plants at Walmart. If you needed paint to redo your guest room when you sent your last kid to college, you went to the Walmart paint department, not your local hardware store. Amazon Prime is Walmart cubed - and Primed!

Whenever I see the gray Amazon vans running around my city, I think of them like ants at a picnic. Or, more accurately, like roaches in a seedy motel when you flip on the light in the middle of the night. So, why am I so against Amazon?

This COVID-19 pandemic is going on as I’m writing this. My city is in lock down. Your city is probably in lock down as well. Businesses all over the country are ordered by law to shut down. For the first time in history, all 50 states are under a state of emergency. I’m shuttered because I can’t legally open to the public right now. But Amazon was deemed an essential business and allowed to operate as normal. Your local hardware store would be deemed essential and still open - if it was still in business. Your local pharmacy would be deemed essential and still open - if it was still in business.

All across this vast country, over the last 10 years or so, we have gone from multiple local options for needed emergency supplies, to a single source supplier. Guess who that supplier is? That scares the crap out of me! Because of publishing deadlines, you’re reading this a month after I wrote it. Everything could be, and probably will be, completely different between the time I wrote this, and the time you read it. That being said, I’m writing about what is happening right now, and why you should pay attention to it later.

Amazon has become the ‘go to’, one-stop shopping, for the majority of our nation. During this crisis, while everyone was ordered to stay at home, boxes were being filled in faraway warehouses, by people you don’t know. Then, there were reports that COVID-19 broke out in one or more of their warehouses. That confirmed everything I feel about the way our society has been trending. If Amazon would have been forced to close, America would have been screwed because we allowed our local resources to go out of business, simply out of personal convenience! And you thought it was terrible you couldn’t buy your oddball thumb screw earlier!

At a recent family gathering, I was discussing how I kept forgetting to buy a toilet brush for the bathroom in my new store. I decided that would be my one indulgence and I wouldn’t move my old toilet brush to the new store. I’d been to stores that sell them a dozen different times, and forgot every time. My niece, in her mid-20s, said; “Just Amazon Prime it. You’ll have it tomorrow.” I didn’t go into detail why I’d never do that, but it solidified my thoughts on what is happening. It’s got to stop.

During this pandemic, there are tremendous amounts of misinformation about stockpiles, or lack thereof, of needed supplies for the front line emergency workers. Let me give you a little inside info about how FEMA works. FEMA doesn’t really own or stockpile a lot of supplies like people think. Every county in the United States has to have an office of emergency management in order to get FEMA money. Those local offices spend their time planning for things like a pandemic outbreak, a flood, an earthquake, a hurricane, a tornado, and countless other bad things that could possibly happen in their region. 

These local agencies are grouped together, by region, because they usually all have the same basic concerns. Then, these concerns are sent up the FEMA chain of command. When FEMA approves their requests, FEMA buys the supplies and sends them back to be housed regionally in order to be ready for that disaster to strike in that region. In doing this, FEMA has supplies spread all over the United States, ready to deploy when needed.

Is the system perfect? No. Does it work? Most of the time it works pretty good. Is there a delay sometimes? Usually that happens when your local supplies start to deplete, and you have to look to surrounding regions to fill that request. But, this pandemic wasn’t regional. This one was worldwide. The supplies that were needed in New York were also needed in virtually every city and town in the world. Thus, there was an issue for about 2-3 weeks with the normal supply chain. Most of those issues have been resolved as of this writing. 

There is a saying when dealing with the government that goes; it will move at the speed of government. If you’ve ever needed a zoning change in a hurry, you know what I’m talking about. When you’re dealing with a worldwide pandemic, it’s becomes way more complicated. As of this writing, the supply chain has caught up. Medical PPEs have been arriving on massive military cargo planes that were pre-positioned all over the world. The curve is flattening. Social distancing is the word of the day. And my store is still closed for at least the next week or two.

For everyone out there that has attended my seminar on navigating your business through a crisis, you’ll recognize the charts that the federal government is using. Looks familiar, doesn’t it! 

Hopefully, if you’ve attended one of those seminars, you have a better understanding of what the emergency response is, and where you are personally on the chart. Remember, an MCI is personal! MCI stands for Major Catastrophic Incident, and MCIs ebb and flow. Your MCI is different from my MCI - even though we are all going through the same MCI.

Stay safe everyone. I hope that by the time you’re reading this, we’re all beginning to return to daily life again. What will be normal? No one knows. After 9/11, we all got back to normal. But it was a new normal that now included the TSA and removing our shoes to get on an airplane - which now seems normal. I’m sure there will be new ‘normals’ implemented after this one, but we are America. We will get through this.

Oh, and about that plague of locusts; if you live in the south, this is the summer of the 17 year cicada, so you will get that plague of locusts after all!

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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