Reprinted from December 1996
In an effort to teach children that one must work for rewards people sometimes sell candy bars and cookies which are carried door to door by well meaning children. The profits are then divided up between the group or troop. These ventures are popular and money is honestly earned, but what does it really teach children?
I have employed many, many people over my career of 40 years in the business. Young folks come to us with this Girl Scout or Boy Scout mentality that because we are here and nice people, customers are going to beat a path to our door. They also see this in stores like Walmart, K-Mart, Target, etc. If they are willing learners they soon discover this isn’t true. If a young person has the opportunity to work in a jewelry store before they decide to go in business for themselves they might make it.
On the other hand, there are many people who decide jewelry is a glittering attractive business and enter it with the idea it has high mark-up and ready customers, and they ultimately do not make it. Jewelers who struggle to turn a profit should realize many newer lavish stores are really hobbies or until recently perhaps tax write-offs.
There is a store in our city which deals in luxury items which are not jewelry related. An article appeared in the paper about their success saying one sales girl had turned almost half a million dollars in sales in a year. These are exclusive items. It was told about how she started as a maid and worked her way up to a buyer and finally was an enormous success.
If one is to believe she was away from the store perhaps 2 days a week and went on buying trips, one would have to realize she was selling an average of $4000 a days if she worked 250 days a year. In a large city this might be possible, but in El Paso the population is about five hundred thousand and the median income is thirty thousand a year. Poverty is rampant on both sides of the border. To believe this is a realistic figure readers would have to believe she was splitting sales with other clerks thus suggesting the store was grossing in the millions. She would have had to have rich and willing customers buying in the eight hours a day they ere open and she was on the shift.
Anything is possible and one cannot discredit this story entirely. If a jeweler carries expensive lines of watches and other jewelry they have to think about their customer base. In their area, how many customers can afford a ten thousand dollar watch? How many would be willing to buy a ten thousand dollar watch, unless heavily discounted? Does this merit carrying the line with a tremendous investment, which if not sold immediately, will be taxed heavily by the city, must be insured, and subject to theft? Wouldn’t such a jeweler be further ahead to put perhaps $300,000 into the stock market and not risk all these possibilities?
Each jeweler has to answer for his/herself. We in El Paso have seen the failing of about ten jewelers in the last year. Some of these jewelers were excellent jewelers knowledge wise and knew about stones, etc. One in particular was likable, had been in the area for years and carried these expensive lines for years. If he did not stay, what was the problem?
The only common problem seems to be our area does not have the clientele to support guild stores successfully over a period of time. Advertising can eat up the profits. The jeweler who departed was well liked and honest. No one can claim to have heard a bad word about him. How is it others replace him with an inventory which would choke a horse and advertise more than the big chains?
Probably every jeweler in every area has seen this. They also see stores pop up, perhaps, with a discount front, although not necessarily, and then they go bankrupt in a few years. People like me – other jewelers like me – have seen such things repeated all over America, where it seems they take the money and run out on the creditors.
Many people cast a wary eye to El Paso saying, “Drugs, that’s it. The drug dealers keep those stores in business.” I don’t believe this is true because if it were so, we would have seen them in our store and other struggling jewelers would be uplifted by the profits. It is simply not the case. In large and well-established stores, especially in large cities where people can fly in from anywhere, probably they sell ten thousand dollar watches daily, but the rest of us struggle with more realistic figures and prices.
RB used to say, “Martha, everyone wants a Rolex, but nobody wants to pay for a Rolex. They want it for a discount or second hand, but in our store you would grow old if we stocked them because there are not enough moneyed people in our area to support, on a consistent basis, watch lines of this type.” Since RB was never wrong, I have to agree him!
Some expensive items are sold here, of course, but in most smaller cities it is doubtful the sale of such large items can be counted on a daily basis over a period of time. Of course, RB was making these prophecies ten or twelve years ago. Maybe things have changed. In any event, we work on these watches and when sold, they provide business for all the watchmakers in the area.