My collective retail experience prior to my current position can be neatly summarized in one word: corporate. I enjoyed my time working for the Big Guys, especially as I was lucky enough to be a member of not one, but TWO grand opening teams for two different locations. The corporate approach to many operating procedures revolves around standardization, and with a pretty fabulous management team around me, I learned to take meticulous care of even the most insignificant details. When inspection time came and deadlines loomed, it was a comfort to know precisely where we stood as a store. Everything was quantifiable. We passed or we failed, and we always knew why and by how much.
A small business still runs on numbers, of course — without data, progress can’t be measured — but around this time last year, I acquired a deeper understanding of the fine balancing act that comes with a single store, constantly-varying inventory, and costs that change on a daily basis.
My training centered on the day-to-day functions related to store inventory: re-orders, special orders, entering new product, tracking item sales and pricing, quality control, order checking, and so on. I fell in love with the numbers, markup figures, ROI, and every incalculable iteration of figuring out what each piece of jewelry means to the store. This went beyond mere precision, it rolled right over into intuition. Clearly, I had a lot to learn.
Among my many lessons, I acquired an understanding of the many ways life can be made easier (or, of course, more difficult) in very tangible ways. For example, I learned…
… a new appreciation for vendors that list their gemstone count on the invoice. I spent one notable afternoon with a loupe pressed to my eye socket, counting and recounting diamond pavé and never coming up with the same number twice in a row. The final count was determined only after a lengthy game of telephone tag with the vendor and a very nice rep who seemed utterly baffled by my question.
… some vendors adore consistency, and others eschew it for no obvious reason. Why did the style number change? Why doesn’t this wedding band have a number related to, but unique from, its matching engagement ring? Why do you offer a special diamond quality for these earrings, but no corresponding identifier in the style number? Why are these pendants listed separately from the chains they come with? Why aren’t you returning my phonecalls so I can finish this tray of new product and let people buy it?
… to throttle down the jolt of fear that shoots through my body if I accidentally jostle an entire tray full of white pearl stud earrings that haven’t been tagged yet. In my tired mind, the pearls all look exactly the same and I would never, ever be able to separate them back into their appropriate pairs. Never. Ever.
… that I can memorize an insane amount of detailed information about hundreds of individual pieces, but am occasionally rendered incapable of entering a 9-character style number into the database without looking back at the invoice a dozen times.
… afternoon Starbucks runs are a gift from the gods, and are worth braving the heat/rain/snow in order to receive their life-giving contents.
Speaking of afternoon pick-me-ups, it’s my day off and I’m overdue for my date with some cookies and Trader Joe’s pumpkin coffee in my French press. Plenty more on my plate to do tomorrow!