Monday, 26 August 2013

The Road Behind

Last week I visited some stores in the Vancouver area.  One of the malls I visited was Lougheed Mall in Burnaby, BC.  I expected a degree of nostalgia.  You see, for a few very important months of my life in 1988-89 I worked there for Mappins Jewellers.  It was during that time that a friend of mine told me about a cousin who worked at the same mall.  I ventured downstairs to the Cotton Ginny to introduce myself to her one day.  A few days later in front of Mappin’s Sandicast display on December 2nd, 1988, I asked Jana out on our first date.  I couldn’t wait for my shift to end.  After Christmas, the hours from Mappins weren’t quite so abundant and a friend recruited me to come work for him.  I returned to Lougheed Mall frequently over the following months to visit Jana, and buy her treats from the Cookies by George kiosk.

Fast-forward 25 years.  Mappins is gone from the mall, and I couldn’t really tell which clothing shop is in it’s place.  O.B. Allen and Ben Moss are gone.  Cookies by George moved and Cotton Ginny is gone.  The parking lot has been reconfigured and built-up so I couldn’t even envision where I used to park.  Businesses come and go but the people and experiences live-on.  I met my life-partner in that mall.  I remember Dwight, Tom, Irena, Demetre & Kelly with whom I worked, and I’ve seen and heard-tell that some are still in the jewellery business.

No trace of that store remains, but the impact of the people I worked with is an inescapable part of me.  I witnessed some very effective sales-people, and caught invaluable sales techniques.  I learned that individual commissions can lead to conflict and resentment.  I came to understand that chain-stores would never suit me quite right.  Even though I was low-man on a pretty high totem pole, I resented the cutting of my hours and it drove me to prove to them that they overlooked a “diamond in the rough.”

It makes me pause to take stock of where I’m at today.  If my future-life unfolds in unexpected directions, what will I take away from working with Steve, Lilian, the amazing retailers (some of whom will remain friends forever,) and from my valued industry colleagues?  Take a moment to thank God, or fate or the universe for the people around you who contribute to your success, to your character and who you’ll take with you as the years march on.  Better yet, find a way to thank them for being part of your life today!

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Edmonton Show Report

What an interesting three days in Edmonton!  As some of you are aware there are new owners in place for the Western Canadian Jewellery Expo.  For Phil and his crew, they wanted to make sure that their inaugural show was both exciting and secure.

For excitement, they moved the show opening reception to Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse.  The lower level was cleared of tables, and an open cocktail reception (sponsored by Jewellers Mutual and the Canadian Jewellery Buyers Group) welcomed those of us not out on the Marriott’s patio with Corona.  Although a bit warm down there, Ruth’s Chris put-on a great reception featuring rib-eye sliders that were to die for.  The show also featured a draw for a brand new Lexus; not just a one or two year lease, the whole car – sponsored by Gold Star and Canadian Jeweller Magazine.  The winner was De Vo, owner of Paris Jewellers (as if he needs it!)  This year, the sixth annual DiGem Evening of Decadence was moved to The Sutton Place Hotel, and the beneficiary was Little Warriors; a very worthy charity who not only work on prevention of child sexual abuse, but are building a camp to act as a treatment center for victims.  There are three treatment centers in Edmonton for rehabilitating sexual predators, but this will be the first in Canada to treat the victims.  Well-done Connie and her team!  Yours truly was among those who shut the place down after dancing-up a storm to the awesome Dr. Zeus and the Blue Whos.

On the safety side, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much security at a jewellery show.  When a lightening strike set-off an alarm, the Convention center was locked-down for two hours on Saturday afternoon; traditionally the busiest day of the show.  Edmonton’s finest were strolling the show sporting automatic assault rifles during all show hours.  I witnessed a police dog sniffing around under the loading dock ramp, and three Suburban’s full of tactical squad members were present for the mobilizing of the armored cars at the end of the show.  When Steve was within a few blocks of the Convention Centre on Sunday afternoon with our rental truck, he was pulled-over by the police, searched and questioned to ensure that he didn’t have a van-full of bad-guys.

To my knowledge there were no security breaches, and that was likely because of the extraordinary effort of all security staff.  I heard second-hand that when the new owners launched their website for the all-new “Canadian Jewellery Expos” that 600 out of the first 1000 hits were from Columbia, a prime source of both emeralds and jewellery thieves.

While the extra security may sound intimidating, it made me feel safe and secure so that we could enjoy the most important networking event of our year.  Congratulations to Phil & Geoff Payne and to Lilie Ford for keeping us safe and providing the ideal meeting-place for our Canadian jewellery industry!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Between Shows...

I just returned from Toronto for the CJG buying show, and am repacking for the Edmonton show.  The definite highlight in Toronto was seeing Wayne, Joanne and Elyse Austen.  Hearing them share about the heart-breaking damage from flooding was equally haunting as it was heartwarming to hear the staggering amount of money that members had thrown into the hat for them.  As CJG President Wayne Fisher announced, “if that doesn’t bless your blesser, then you’re blesser must be broken!”

Looking forward to Edmonton, and more confident buying.  It’s been a few years since the 2008 economic meltdown in the US, and lesser degrees of slowing in parts of Canada.  Since that time the tone of buyers has been anywhere from fearful to cautious to slightly optimistic.  This year in Toronto I perceived a confidence that retailers are at a place where business is more predictible, and they’re choosing new product strategically.  The days of, “maybe this is the year that things will break loose,” or “hopefully we don’t have another crash,” or “we’re still overstocked from those boom years” seem to have faded into the past. 

When you look back on the ups and downs of the past 20 or 30 years, you recognize that highs and lows both come and go.  If you want to go for the gusto, you might over-extend your inventory during high-times.  If you want to protect yourself, you’ll pull-in your horns during every negative blip in the market.  If you think 20 or 30 years forward, your course will be dictated by the business you want to develop, rather than the numbers that rose or fell last year.  Buying is a tough job, but that’s where the shows give you a huge advantage.  You can see full selections of the latest product and compare in a timely manor to make the best possible buying decisions. 

If you’re still unsure about coming in for the Edmonton show, I encourage you to go for it.  You just might discover new designs, or new lines that will revolutionize your future.  You could also win a brand new Lexus, and that wouldn’t suck either!  See you there.

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