Confessions of a Mighty Retailer

 

2015 has arrived fast and furious, right on the tail of 2014 Christmas Season. But with the end of each retail season comes some reflection and some sad news. Not all retailers made it into 2015. Many of them were my friends, stores that loved my jewelry brand and were passionate about selling it. Stores that strongly believed in talent and creativity. They closed due to changes in the economic climate, in consumer shopping habits and due to the overwhelming presence of mass merchant dominance (with very slim margins, huge markdowns, and high volume). Many of these small retailers been in business for 20-40 years and truly believed in supporting “hand made in the USA – keeping jobs and talent in the USA”. So this post is a little confession of the life as a retailer, a small but mighty retailer I may add. A retailer makes ½ of the annual revenue in the last Q of the year (ie. Christmas Season). To supply their store with adequate qty and unique merchandise for the season, they have to travel to many tradeshows (big expenses start here) and order months in advance (and pay for it all before it arrives to their doors!). So the average retailer will dip very deep into their savings to merchandize their shop in anticipation of strong business (that they have no way of truly predicting). Yes, these wonderful brave small retailers put their savings and hopes into it each and every season. They do not get a luxury of terms big retailers get (some get up to120 days before paying to their bills, and most will pass returns and discounts back down to their suppliers). And then the season comes…and consumers get to see all these $$$ commercials about discounts here and discounts there…They are truly tempted to ease through the shopping season without leaving their sofas and with maximized discounts/points/coupons. Yes, be honest, we are all tempted!!!! And so the battle begins. I have been a retailer for 5 years (5 Christmas Seasons) and a jewelry supplier to 400 retailers around the country – for 8 years. And here is what I see as a trend – shopping does not really begin at small retailers until the second week in December, after all Black Friday, Cyber Monday and many other new corny-named shopping dates. We are being conditioned to wait for deals. It is no longer last Q (Oct, Nov, Dec) – it is now tightly compacted into 2-3 weeks of December. So how are these mighty hopeful retailers to survive that, year after year? How are they to spend money with suppliers? How does that impact suppliers? How does that impact uniqueness and diversity of products design? They all must be either really crazy or really PASSIONATE about what they do, what they sell, what they represent. We all beat our chest as proud Americans, but how do we show it when it comes to such simple things as spending our money? We are so rich in talent here in America – artists (ie. suppliers), people with unique taste and innovating marketing on min/no budget ideas (retailers). We all would love to not only survive each season, but grow and thrive. But we need consumers on board with us! We need you! When you shop, how you shop and what you buy – it matters to the progress, innovation and the economy more then you may realize. Each and every purchase matters. Without small retailers focusing on unique taste, on where merchandise is made and by whom, no small brand/supplier can survive. There are so many talented artists that live, eat and eventually make it – all because small retailers gave them a CHANCE (clothing designers, jewelers, glass/pottery/artists in every medium). Without the unique expression of personal taste and competition from small retailers, we would be left with large retailers rubber-stamping “fashion” that is mass-manufactured overseas or same huge brands with deep pockets that we’ve seen for years, that would mass-produce at every price point without competition from small artists moving the fashion industry forward. We would lose these beautiful little shops we all so love visiting and having in our neighborhoods. They are the face of our neighborhoods. They are the parents of the kids who go to your neighborhood schools. They donate to your schools and local charities. They are these people in grocery stores in checkout lines. They are any of us and many of us future. They are our future children. So, please think of your personal impact on the economy as you pull out your cc… PS. Valentines is this coming weekend. Please spend some of your gift money on a present that is made in USA 🙂 Jewelry is not a bad start!