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The Customer Doesn’t Care About Your Burglar

Adam Gauntlett | 1 Nov 2011 10:00
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Final bit of advice: Always pay your supplier, on time and in full.

If you work in retail your relationship with your supplier is critical. If you don't pay your water, electricity or rent you might get a nasty letter, but there are usually laws governing what a utility or landlord can and cannot do to you, and withdrawal of service on a first offense probably isn't an option. On the other hand, if a supplier feels aggrieved, their first response is going to be nasty. They might, say, short you on those Vesten booster boxes that you really, really needed, preferring instead to send them to retailers who pay their bills. After all, it's a popular product in high demand, and why should they do you favors when clearly you don't live up to your end of the bargain? Or they might not tell you when new stuff is out. Or send only half your restock order. The list goes on. You can switch to another supplier, but no matter how big the market, suppliers talk to each other. They're like Santa; they know who's been naughty and who's been nice. Naughty news travels fast.

Vendors are like Santa; they know who's been naughty and who's been nice.

This kills a store quicker than the plague. The small claims court actions that can result from arguments over debt are really just the trash mobs in a boss battle that will probably TPK you, because not having what you need when you need it means your customers will walk. They may like you personally, but that doesn't matter. What matters to them is they get what they want. If the new edition is out this week, and you only have 3.0 on the shelf, you lose all those potential customers looking for the new stuff, and once they go somewhere else for their product, they won't come back to you. The sale's the thing, but you'll never catch the conscience (or wallet) of the customer if they won't even cross the threshold.

Our place didn't last. There was talk of selling it on to another retailer, but the new guy decided that a shop that had been burgled as often as we had was a poor risk, and it wasn't worth his time to take on our dusty inventory when there was no demand for out-of-date product. They opened elsewhere in town, so our white knight became our competition instead. Our final clearance sale came right on the heels of that announcement. Sic transit gloria mundi and thanks for all the fish.

Now don't let that stop you. If you want to open a retail outlet of your own, go for it. It's a hard business that eats capital, but it can be a lot of fun. I enjoyed almost every minute of it.

Except for those mornings when I had to sit in the middle of a shattered store, waiting for the police to show up.
But hopefully that won't happen to you.

Adam Gauntlett wants to get back into retail some day, as he misses the migranes. When not writing fiction, and RPG material for Trail of Cthulhu, his blog can be found at http://karloff-shelf.blogspot.com

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