Column: What It Feels Like to Close My Store

IndependentsNov 15, 2016

Column: What It Feels Like to Close My Store

Retailer James Alperin details the thought process behind his decision to close the suburban Cleveland jewelry store he’s operated since 1983.  

Recently, there was an article in National Jeweler that addressed the large and increasing number of jewelry business that have closed. If you add up the closures in manufacturing, wholesale and retail in the United States and Canada, you get the amazing number of 777 in the first six months of 2016.

Retailer Jim Alperin owns James Alperin Jewelers in Pepper Pike, Ohio. He also is the author of two novels, “The Moscow Team” and “The Emerald Necklace.”That represents a doubling of closures at the retail level and three times as many closings at the manufacturing level as compared with the same period in 2015, which, by the way, saw an increase in closures over 2014.

We all know that we are in an industry that is in great flux. You don’t have to read the articles to know this; you can see it clearly in your daily business. The economy, the internet, our casual society and, of course, the not-yet-understood millennials all have a part in changing the way our industry traditionally did business. Let’s not forget that election years also tend to have a negative effect on business.

Uncertainty about what direction our country will take in the future has people holding back on many purchases, not just in our industry. By the time this article gets to press, that’s one question that should be answered, although the nation is greatly divided and there’s no doubt that half of the country will be unhappy with the results.

Some jewelry businesses are, without question, doing well and enjoying growth, but for those that are not--and there are a lot of you out there--what is it like to have to deal with declining sales and perhaps closing your business? That’s what I want to address today, as I have made the very difficult decision to close my store after nearly 34 years in business and more than 42 years in the jewelry industry.

Like so many baby boomer retail store owners, I never was very adept at using a computer. I’m on Facebook to keep up with my friends, but when I hired a company to run a store Facebook program for my business, we found out shortly thereafter that my customer base, being older, didn’t look at Facebook; we ran a contest and only six people entered, one being my workout partner.

After 10 months of a 12-month contract, the

person with whom I had signed the agreement called me to say she was letting me out of the contract because she was unable to develop any interest with my customers.

Constant Contact is a format for small businesses to reach their clients through email marketing. I sat at my computer and figured out how to send out monthly emails. A few were opened, but I didn’t see any increase in my business. After a couple of years, I got frustrated and lazy, and finally this past year stopped sending emails.
You’ve spent a lifetime building your business, not closing it, so hire a professional who is not emotionally attached to your business. It’s not going to be fun, but they can guide you through the process and help you get you the biggest return on your investment by selling more of your inventory than you could on your own.
In 1983, when I opened my store, I didn’t carry silver jewelry. We were a fine jewelry store and, to me, that was costume jewelry, not something that fit into our merchandise mix. And wouldn’t you know it, today I have tons of silver jewelry, doing what I can to bring down the price point and show fashion-minded pieces to my customers. The problem with lower-price-point items is that we never got enough traffic to cover our expenses by selling less expensive items.

The list of things all of you are doing to keep your businesses going is endless. These are just a few of the things that I’ve tried. So, what is it like after spending more than half of my life in my store to have to close it? Those of you who are facing the same dilemma know the sick feeling in your gut that comes with this terrible decision, yet there is a sense of relief in knowing that the unhappiness that comes with going in to work in a frustrating situation every day is coming to an end.

I was given wise words by someone in our industry when they said, “No one goes into business planning on going out of business.” We all think when we go into business that it’s forever, but we find out that all of us, one way or another, must sell, close or transfer our business to the next generation. The day will come when we have to say goodbye.

I also once was told, “One of the hardest lessons to learn in life is learning to let go.” But here’s how I’m doing it.

I’ve hired a company to help me go out of business, and I would suggest that if you find yourself needing to close your store, you do the same. If you need your house painted, you hire a painter. If you need electrical work done, you hire an electrician. You hire professionals to do jobs that you are not proficient at doing yourself.

You’ve spent a lifetime building your business, not closing it, so hire a professional who is not emotionally attached to your business. The professionals will help you let go and move on to the next stage of your life as smoothly as possible. It’s not going to be fun, but they can guide you through the process and help you get you the biggest return on your investment by selling more of your inventory than you could on your own.

I started writing for National Jeweler 10 years ago, and in that first article I talked about the demise of the mom-and-pop drug store. When I opened my store in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, there were three independent drug stores, all providing a living for the owners and their families. That changed long ago and today there is only one CVS.

I said then that the druggists were not at fault. They had given good service and fair prices to their clients. They kept their store clean and neat and knew you by name when you walked into their stores. What changed was the market, and that’s what we are seeing today in our industry; the old ways just don’t work anymore. If you are able to change and adapt, you’ll survive.

My best wishes to all of you who have taken the time to read this and the many articles of mine that National Jeweler has been kind enough to publish. I hope that I can continue to add something to the industry that I love in future articles.

The holiday season is just around the corner, again. Make it as great as you can.

Retailer Jim Alperin owns James Alperin Jewelers in Pepper Pike, Ohio. He can be reached at
James Alperinwas the owner and operator of James Alperin Jewelers in Pepper Pike, Ohio for more than 30 years. He is now retired.

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