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David Brown

Dark Economic Clouds Loom on Horizon, Says David Brown

Negative sentiment is appearing.

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CONSUMER SPENDING IS a matter of confidence, and declining retail sales can often be one of the first barometers of economic sentiment. The trend we have seen since early in the year has been further backed up by the economic news which, despite positive reporting from many listed companies, has brought a storm cloud of negative sentiment.

Fears of rising interest rates, even though they may have been slow to happen, will dampen consumer spending. The threat of trade wars with China and an increased cost of imports and reduced income from exports are playing on investors’ mind. We’ve seen a drop in the Dow Jones reflect this fall in confidence, and it seems likely that there will be some further belt-tightening going on in the foreseeable future.

Below is a comparison of the individual monthly data for September versus the same month last year.

Our same-store September data year-to-date showed a decline of 0.52 percent in the rolling 12-month sales figure compared to September 2018. Average store sales for the 12-month period to September was $1,579,921, down from $1,588,204 at the end of August. This has extended our run of declining sales to eight months when our rolling 12-month sales stood at $1,629,755.

So what’s caused this to happen? Ever since the financial crisis in 2008, governments all around the world have increased the amount of money that is in circulation. Their logic? That more money encourages more spending.

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To a large extent their strategy has worked, as if you hand out cash to the “man in the street” he will naturally spend it. Now you might be wondering how this works. Governments don’t appoint cash dealers to stand on street corners doling out dollar bills. They will generally do it through the banking system in one of two ways. The first is to print money, either figuratively or literally. These days most money travels electronically, so it usually consists of blips on a screen. This money is made available to banks to lend as mortgages or credit card debt – which allows it to filter its way through to consumers. The other way they can do it is through debt – treasury bills and government bonds can be issued to finance the government deficits that are increasingly the norm for most countries. These are effectively a demand on the government to repay later. These debts are viewed as ironclad, as a government is always able to guarantee its payments (by printing more money, but this can cause its own problems as you will see!) So the government can control the money in circulation by selling more bonds (which takes money out of the system) or buying back their bonds (by putting more money into the system re-purchasing the bonds).

Now this all sounds pretty simple, but it can come at a price. Printing money can cause the value of a currency to decline (like any rule of supply and demand, the more of something there is the less anyone will pay for it). A declining dollar can make exports more competitive, but it does raise the cost of importing goods because you will need more dollars to buy the foreign product so this will lower demand for goods. Creating more government debt can be a way of mopping up the money, but it can lead to higher interest rates as lenders get more nervous the higher debt you have (even for governments) which is happening now.

There is a lot of debt, both personal and government, that is sloshing around the world. Personal debt is high because of all the money that the governments have injected in the economy through the banks.

Now that the government is tightening the money supply, there is a nervousness that many of those with high borrowings won’t be able to deal with the increase of interest rates that will now happen as money becomes tight again. The fiscal stimulus of money being injected into the economy may have kicked the can down the road, but to throw in another cliché, the chickens may be about to come home to roost.

David Brown is president of the Edge Retail Academy, a force in jewelry industry business consulting, sell-through data and vendor solutions. David and his team are dedicated to providing business owners with information and strategies to improve sales and profits. Reach him at david@edgeretailacademy.com

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New York Jeweler Picks Wilkerson for Their GOB Sale

Jan Rose of Rose Jewelers, located in Long Island's famous Hamptons beach district, explains how she chose Wilkerson for her closing sale. Jan's suggestions: reach out to jewelers who have been in similar situations to find out what worked for them, and look for a company with experience in going-out-of-business sales. Once you've done that, the final step is to move ahead and trust the process.

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David Brown

How Eating Right Is Like Managing Your Inventory

The right items and advance planning can make your business fit.

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KEEPING YOUR INVENTORY in order is a little like painting the Eiffel Tower … you no sooner get to one end than you feel you have to repeat the process all over again!

Inventory is a dynamic part of your business. It is constantly in flux, and as such, difficult to manage. However, having a good system will go a long way toward helping you keep your inventory under control.

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There are two aspects to your inventory: what you buy and what you keep. It’s the buying part that contributes most to what is left after the customers don’t want it, so let’s start with that first.

Food dieting consists of what you eat and how much of it you consume. Buying inventory is the same. There is what you buy, and then there is how much you are spending. If your diet consists of eating healthy greens, vegetables and fresh fruits, then part of your food diet will take care of itself. The same is true of ordering fast sellers — make these the mainstay of your inventory diet, and you will take care of a good 70-80 percent of the inventory you will need to consume. That leaves the remainder — the combination of poor choices and overconsumption that can cause the most problems (I’m still talking inventory here!).

In the same way that meal planning can reduce overeating or making poor food choices, planning your purchasing will work the same way. We recommend an open-to-buy budget as the most effective way to do this. An open-to-buy will balance what you are selling with what you are buying. Think of it like a calorie checker that enables you to eat once you have burned enough fat. The open-to-buy will track the money released from outgoing inventory that is then freed up to spend on new product and let you know how much this is so you don’t over-buy. This will help you to keep your inventory situation from becoming any more bloated.

So what about the surplus inventory that is aged and isn’t going anywhere now? This is the same as the few extra pounds that might be sitting around your hips — it’s one thing to stop the increase, but it’s another thing entirely to get rid of that unwanted fat.

Much like systemizing your buying with an open-to-buy program, you can systemize the aged inventory with a series of means to move it on. This can consist of a variety of options that work well for you on a regular basis to keep that aged inventory from clogging up your store arteries. I’ll talk more about these options in the next article.

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David Brown

6 Solutions to Short-Term Cash Flow Problems

Problems can arise if you aren’t vigilant about how your receipts and payments are tracking.

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MANAGING CASH FLOW can be an urgent issue for any business. Problems can arise if you aren’t vigilant to how your receipts and payments are tracking. Sometimes, you need a solution that can give you quick and easy cash to keep you going. Here are some of the best options you should consider.

1. Get short-term financing. If you feel the situation can’t be resolved without external help, then short-term financing, such as a line of credit, can see you through. It has the added advantage of being able to be repaid when the funds are no longer needed, keeping costs to a minimum.

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2. Long-term financing. This can be a longer process and will generally involve putting up assets as security for a more permanent arrangement. Although this may result in a larger sum of funding, be careful: your assets and debt should match in terms of time frame. Using long-term debt for short-term cash flow needs can be a recipe for disaster (as can short-term debt for long-term asset purchasing). Long-term debt should be used primarily to purchase assets that provide long-term returns to the business, not as a means of “tiding you over” until things get better. You need cash flow every day, but you only have so many assets you can draw against.

3. Speed up recovery of receivables. Although retail is normally a cash business, there may be some areas in which you run an account (e.g., insurance companies) or other parties with whom you have a good relationship. In these circumstances, it’s important to manage the repayment process. A discount can be an effective incentive for this.

4. Get a larger deposit. Your customers are often your best means of short-term funding. Increasing your deposit on custom jobs from 20 percent to 50 percent can add several thousand dollars permanently to your bank float.

5. Manage your repairs. Follow up consistently with repairs that aren’t collected. This is dead money sitting that is easily forgotten about because the items don’t belong to the store. You have an investment in those items you need to recoup.

6. Sell surplus assets. Inventory is often the first choice for doing this, but is there other equipment or assets you no longer need? If you’ve ever run a garage sale, you’ll know how much cash you can round up from extra stuff you have — the same may be true of business assets such as old desks, tools and display cabinets you no longer use. Don’t assume they are worthless just because you will recoup much less than what you paid for them.

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David Brown

4 Ideas to Liquidate Your Extra Post-Holiday Inventory

Extra inventory left over from December could hurt your 2019 sales.

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THE BUSY DECEMBER SEASON is now behind you — it’s time to relax a little and recover from the most hectic time of the year … or is it?
The start of a new financial year can still carry something of a hangover from the December festivities you’ve just enjoyed, and foremost in this is the issue of your surplus inventory.

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Unfortunately, this product can be a blockage to your ability to refresh with new purchases as it ties up cash flow that can be reinvested. Here are a few steps to follow in order to keep these items moving:

1. Determine how much of it there is. You can do this in two ways. First, print a stock list of items that you have more than one of. Second, print a stock list of all items over 6-9 months old. These two reports will show you the total dollar value of what is blocking your reorders.

2. Complete a physical stock take. Are these reports correct? Chances are that during the busy December period, there have been some errors in inputting, so you need to reconcile the value of the report with what you have on hand. In particular, check spare drawers for double-ups of your fast sellers.

3. Determine how you will liquidate this product. Is it time for a storewide sale? Can you offer a selection of these items in a “specials” showcase? What about your mailing list — could you make an offer to your best customers of an exclusive January deal on some of these items? Could you incentivize staff to move it on? There are a myriad of ways to promote shifting these items to your customers.

4. Don’t forget vendors and other store owners. Check with vendors in case they may want to replenish their own inventory. Often, they may be closed for manufacturing or receiving their overseas shipments during the early January window and may be happy to take back some items to fulfill other orders. Also, many of your fellow group members may be looking to re-stock some of these items, especially if they were part of a group promotion. Why not be their vendor for your own surplus product?

Fortunately, jewelry isn’t perishable, and you still have many opportunities to sell these items, but don’t allow them to sit around unattended. It can take a conscious effort to move these slower items on, so the sooner you start, the sooner you can get this money back into the bank.

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