By Michelle Graff

It's that time of year again when retailers get ready for the big holiday rush. The orders have been placed. The new merchandise is coming in. The holiday wrapping paper and bows are set, and you're ready to go. You have extended yourselves financially to ensure that you can give your customers a fresh and exciting selection of jewelry, and many of you go into the season owing a lot of money to your suppliers. You take a lot of risks to have an appealing store that will bring customers in and have them leave with beautifully wrapped packages. You don't just do it for the sense of pride that it gives you: There is a financial reward for you at the end of December that you hope will let you keep your stores open during the winter and spring months that follow.

One of the difficult things about being a retailer is having to accept returns. Most stores today have a fairly generous return policy, but small retailers have a particularly hard time accepting returns because, for them, the difference between a good season and a bad one can often be in the amount of returns. When a customer buys an item and removes it from your inventory during the critical holiday season and then returns it to your store in January, you may end up sitting on that piece of inventory for years until it is sold again. But this is part of the risk of business and you accept it as such.

Many retailers are not aware that when they take credit cards as payment for goods sold, they are taking a second risk as well. First, remember that when you accept a credit card for goods or services sold, you're being assessed a fee by the processing company for not only the cost of the goods but the tax as well. So, in effect, you are being charged a fee on the tax. If your tax rate is 7 percent and you sell an item for $10,000, the tax is $700. If you have to pay 3 percent to your credit card processor, that amounts to $21 of additional charges that you, as the retailer, must pay. The total fee for that $10,000 sale is now $321.

Are you also aware that when the item is returned to you, the credit card company will not return its fees? The credit card processors feel they have accepted the risk at the time of the sale and therefore they deserve to keep the fees they have charged despite that the merchandise has been returned. Can you imagine telling your customers that even though they have returned the goods sold earlier in the season, they will not receive any money back because you took the risk of selling it to them and that it may now have to sit in your inventory for years to come?

The small merchant has always been in a difficult battle with bigger business. The banks and credit card companies in recent years have found so many ways to charge for so many things that they are making it harder and harder for the small merchant to stay in business.

Editor's note: James Alperin owns James Alperin Jewelers in Pepper Pike, Ohio. If you would like to share ideas on how to deal with this credit dilemma, comment on this story.

Get the Daily News >
National Jeweler

Fine Jewelry Industry News

Since 1906, National Jeweler has been the must-read news source for smart jewelry professionals--jewelry retailers, designers, buyers, manufacturers, and suppliers. From market analysis to emerging jewelry trends, we cover the important industry topics vital to the everyday success of jewelry professionals worldwide. National Jeweler delivers the most urgent jewelry news necessary for running your day-to-day jewelry business here, and via our daily e-newsletter, website and other specialty publications, such as "The State of the Majors." National Jeweler is published by Jewelers of America, the leading nonprofit jewelry association in the United States.