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Commentary: The Business

Andy Koehn: Together All of Us Stand

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These financial times could prove to be the best thing that ever happened to the jewelry industry — forging partners, not rivals.

I for one am sick of the doom and gloom, so let’s talk about something good that may be happening as a result of these unprecedented economic times. I believe (hope) that we as an industry will be more partner-oriented as a result of this economy, and I think it’s already happening.

It’s a little hard for me to admit but our soft November is starting to show itself. I’m getting a few collection calls as of late … which I understand but hate just the same. One such call came in yesterday but something was different. The voice on the other end of the line was … how do I put this … friendly.

 

The times, they are a changin’.

That is very different from the way it used to be way back in … oh … last year. I bought my store 10 years ago when it was drowning in red ink. I’m not ashamed to admit that because we worked hard and smart to change it. I remember the shame I felt when I had to talk to James in the bookkeeping office of a popular wedding ring company. He was a tele-wise guy who called to get money and held our orders hostage until we paid up. He didn’t care what my issues were because he didn’t need to. I vowed that once I paid them in full I would never buy from them again. And so I haven’t.

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But things are different this time around. The Jameses of the world still call for money, but they are doing it in a way I can only describe as cordial. This little gesture points to bigger and better things in my opinion. Maybe these times will make it crazy clear that we, retailers and suppliers, are in business together.

I’m suggesting that politeness means things are on the upswing!?

Yes, that is exactly what I’m suggesting, at least in terms of the vendor/retailer relationship. I believe the truly great companies, the leaders of the new marketplace, are taking a kick in the shorts with the rest of us, but with a completely different reaction. They seem to understand that a stronger partnership with their retailers is the surest way out of this mess. As naive as this may sound, maybe this economy will change the very culture of our industry from “Me Supplier-You Retailer” to “We are in this together. Let’s find a way to help each other sell more jewelry.”

Together we stand, divided we fall.

Open and honest dialogue goes a long way when it comes to dealing with monetary shortfalls and corresponding solutions. These unprecedented financial times could very well prove to be the best thing that ever happened to the jewelry industry. Who of us, vendors and jewelers alike, doesn’t feel stronger when we stand with others in pursuit of a common goal? Treating each other as full-on partners can’t but help turn things around … or at the very least, make this business more pleasurable. (What a concept!)

The goal is easily identified … sell more jewelry, together. Choose your partners wisely … find the vendors that understand we are an extension of their business, and as we succeed, so do they and vice versa. Start by listening to the voice on the other end of the phone. They will tell you a lot.

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As partners we can and will solve the roadblocks that stand in the way of reaching our mutually agreed upon goal. The more we understand each other’s issues the more likely we are to come up with solutions together. As we solve and sell, the money will take care of itself. Then the voice on the other end of the line won’t be a wise-guy, but a welcome business partner.

 


 
Andy Koehn is the owner of Koehn & Koehn in West Bend, WI.

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