Karat Chat


Preparing for the Holidays in the Age of the Robots

With trick-or-treating still on the horizon, it is hard to believe that online retailers like Amazon are already starting to prepare for December’s holiday rush. As witches, vampires, and candied apples are filling the shelves of America’s convenience stores, legions of robots have invaded its warehouses and e-commerce fulfillment centers, the Wall Street Journal reports .  Major e-commerce companies are increasingly turning to cybernetic automation to process the millions of orders these outfits will receive during the holiday shopping season. And the future is now: advances in artificial intelligence mean that robots are capable of wandering warehouse aisles, picking out merchandise off the shelves, and sorting most customer orders. Old-fashioned homo sapiens are on hand to check their work and deal with complex or unusual tasks.

Robots moving boxes

These gents never take a sick day

E-commerce giants like Amazon will save big on payroll costs as their bionic warehousemen toil ’round the clock. They will no doubt pass those savings on to consumers in the form of hard-to-beat prices.

YOU CAN SUCCEED WITHOUT A ROBOT ARMY

Pease and Curren salutes

Retail Robots

Don’t have these guys on your side? Don’t panic- read our tips below!

our nationwide retail chain and large manufacturing customers who are able to reap the savings that come with the Rise of the Machines. But most of our customers, from independent jewelry stores to pawnshops, will not be able to rely on an army of drones to deliver value to their customers this Yuletide season. They should not despair. Here’s the good news for independent, brick-and-mortar retailers:

  • Retail (especially luxury retail) is up!  
  • E-Commerce’s Ridiculous Tax Advantage Has Been Thrown Out of Court: A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision levels the playing field by removing one grossly unfair advantage to e-commerce. Following South Dakota v. Wayfair , online retailers must collect sales taxes just like their brick and mortar competitors. The way is clear for mom-and-pops to reclaim some lost ground.
  • Space is Cheap: Vacant retail space in malls is at an all-time high , and rents are down.
  • The Economy is Surging: the hot economy has propelled bond markets to a multi-year high , signaling investor confidence in the U.S. economy.
  • Customers Want to Buy Jewelry in Person: Last, and most importantly, retail jewelers are especially well-positioned to survive the dot com craze. Particularly when buying fine jewelry, consumers rely on a firsthand look at the product that they can get at a brick-and-mortar store, and on their relationship with a trusted sales associate.

THREE TIPS FOR HUMAN JEWELERS PREPARING FOR THE HOLIDAYS

Pease and Curren has rounded up some expert advice to retailers on preparing for the holidays

for those of our customers who aren’t backed by a cybernetic horde.

Start Early: Bill Brunelle of independent retailers’ trade group United We Stand advises that “small businesses can – and should – start to prepare their holiday game plan early.”

Emphasize Local: Consumers dig the convenience of online shopping, but they also value fun local commercial experiences, such as farmers markets and community events. Retailers who participate in—or even organize—local events in the next couple of months will be in consumers’ minds when it is time to stuff the stockings. One forum for organizing these events is American Express’s “Neighborhood Champions Campaign ”.

A caveat: once the shopping season begins, retailers should focus their efforts on social media and radio spots. According to Apaar Arora of Planner Antoah Fashions, after Thanksgiving, the “customer is in the mood of spending[;] they just need the direction” on where to spend.

KonMari Your Cases: As the most attractive pieces are sold off during the course of the year, the natural tendency is for a jeweler to enter the holiday season with what has been left over. This is like a big-league baseball franchise tapping its farm team for the World Series. There is no more important time than the Holidays for valuable shelf space to be stocked with the most saleable merchandise possible. The latest craze in home decorating is the KonMari  method – holding each of your possessions in your hands and letting it go if it doesn’t bring you joy. Your cases deserve the same care! Before things get too busy, carve out time to go through every piece in your shop and weed out what has become passé. Now is the time to be thoughtful about what is occupying every inch of your cases, and to acquire fresh, timely inventory that will set the stage for a great profit in December.

Pro tip: Meredith Wood of Fundera has an inventory analytics blog  that is worth reading in this vein.

Santa and Retail

Santa’s workshop did not immediately respond to queries about whether it would be using elves or robots this year.

DON’T ROBOTICALLY CLING TO OLD, UNSALEABLE INVENTORY

Letting go of an old piece that refuses to sell is hard. You have to admit that your hunch in buying it was wrong. It can feel like the decision to pull it is what is costing you money, even though what is really costing you money is keeping a non-performing piece in the case (economists call this way of thinking “the sunk cost fallacy ”). The robots never have to change their minds, but we humans must always do what’s right for our businesses!

As you go through your inventory and decide which pieces will be snapped right up and which will cling to your shelves like barnacles as the waves of Christmas shoppers you pass by, Pease and Curren is here to help. When you make the bold decision to fill the shelves with what is new and lively, send the “barnacle” pieces to Pease and Curren for a great return. Ask for our proprietary stone removal process  and participate in our diamond bidding  service – you’ll wonder why you held onto your non-performing merchandise for so long!

 

Frank Curren has been watching a really smart and elegant retail jeweler (his mom! ) succeed for over thirty years. Before joining Pease and Curren he was a poverty lawyer at a Boston nonprofit, focusing on litigation dealing with consumer finance and debt collection issues.

Frank Curren