Handbook to Retail Resurgence in an Age of Chaos

Starting with a mindset intent on rebuilding,

As if it were not already hard enough with COVID-19 and subsequent restrictions on most businesses, 

The Star Tribune reports that over 500 local shops and restaurants sustained damage just in Saint Louis, costing over $500 million. One can only imagine what this will come to nationwide.

We stand with those protesting racial injustice.

Still, brick and mortar retail needs to find a way to get back on its feet in the wake of considerable damage done. Much of this was to family owned businesses. 

People need to find a way to work, especially in light of the mismanaged government response to helping individuals and small businesses. Unfortunately, most of the funds from the payment protection program, designed to prevent companies from laying off workers, went to companies that didn’t need it. Some of the companies make public statements about giving the money back. However, for many small businesses, it was already too late, especially restaurants.  

Anyhow, moving on. I have urged others to exclude from support most CHAZ-esque movements, which threaten to subsume businesses, seize their assets illegally and replace an admittedly unjust legal process with even more chaos and anarchy. For those who don’t know, this is in effect the establishment of Antifa-led warlordism in urban neighborhoods. Fighting racial injustice is not the same as creating a new cashless society run by a disorganized mob. 

It has been important for us to strike a balance in thinking about these challenges, dealing with the damage done to our spirit and motivation, while being certain that we’re standing on the right side of history. 

Whether you are the owner of a small jewelry shop or the CEO of a large retail chain, you can start by eliminating racism in the way your employees treat customers and subverting it in your org as well. As we all know, actual progress against racial equality requires using more than just a logo change. And people who know your company personally will also be able to detect when your ‘wokeness’ is simply a publicity stunt. This has been happening quite a bit in the corporate world, recently.  

In this article, I share some thoughts about recent events and explore solutions for retail store owners getting back to business while respecting racial, moral, health and legal issues. This is not as an ostensible authority, but rather as the proprietor of a small business interested in participating in the dialogue around retail chain protection and resurgence right around now.

Riots and Protesting

We empathize with those experiencing pain, anger and frustration caused by long-standing systemic racism that has continued to manifest throughout US history.

Still, we cannot help but feel saddened when local businesses are looted and set on fire.

The aftermath of the LA riots should serve as a stark reminder that businesses seldom return to communities where their stores have been looted in the past.

And, a significant portion of those destroyed have been minority-owned.

Of two random individuals who smash a store window, how are we to know which one was brought to this point by rage over racial injustice and a genuine desire to create so much havoc that the powers that be would have no choice but to finally institute systemic change, and on the other hand, someone who is caught up in the moment or is purely opportunistic?

And even in the latter case, how can we judge people who have undergone economic oppression, exacerbated by the quarantine and their inability to work for months or maybe even longer, even if they are looting?

Again, much of this chaos can be reasonably blamed on a host of factors, including lack of government support, race riots instigated by the murder of George Floyd, COVID-19 deniers, including those who think that mask wearing is part of a government conspiracy. As for this, as long as we have people in the country who refuse to take the health of others seriously, this crisis could be ongoing. 

Irrespective of the root cause, owners will soon have to start figuring out how they’ll get back into business and, to some degree, try to protect their assets and start the slow process of growth again.  

Rebuilding

Now, let’s focus on rebuilding. 

The bonds between people in local communities were part of what prevented rioting in areas where protests stayed peaceful. 

Even during the LA riots, in circumstances where almost a whole city block of businesses was looting, there are cases of one or more of them being saved. This largely happened due to the fact that locals had personal relationships with those who both owned and worked at these stores. 

This is not to say that local business owners are at fault for being subjected to looting. 

Nonetheless, part of the job of a local business leader is to help contribute to the cohesion of the local community, to give back when possible, and to be there to mentor others who may be interested in opening their own businesses one day.

Boarding up Your Store 

Unfortunately, for many, it’s probably already too late to think about this, and now is the time for ‘damage control.’ Initially, a few practical things can help. 

If you are still in an ‘at risk area,’ you will probably want to board up your windows. There may be a way to do this without causing any damage to the property.  

The following method works if you’re able to remove the windows or if they’ve already been shattered. Hopefully, you can just simply remove the store windows without too much difficulty.

You’ll need some pieces of plywood, an assortment of bits, bolts (as long as eight inches) and two-by-fours for each window, likely one plank for every three feet of window length, vertically. 

Instead of drilling the plywood directly into the walls and window frame, try bracing the two-by-fours behind the frame (storeside) and drill long bolts street-side through the plywood directly into the braced planks indoors. This will result in the plywood and two-by-fours being braced into the frame; without any damage to the property.    

On the other hand, if you’re not able to remove the windows, you may need to just simply drill one or more layers of plywood into the building itself. It’s unfortunate to have to cause more damage, but this could pale in comparison to the cost of looting that may follow.

Security and Self-Protection

If you have the resources and are in a particularly at-risk neighborhood, you may want to find armed security as well. Most parts of the country have had peaceful protests during the day, and the looting generally doesn’t start until nighttime. To save resources, you may want to set security hours at or around the beginning of curfew limitations. 

In hotbeds of violence and looting, including Las Angeles, Philadelphia, New York, Portland and a number of other cities, 24 hour security may be required to prevent looting. 

New York has been particularly dangerous, given that the Mayor’s calling off the police from arresting rioters, temporarily. The unrest seems furthermore unlikely to be quelled earlier than otherwise due to additional lenience on police who are out of line in provoking protestors.

Portland has also been one of the centers of protesting and looting almost every day for over a month.  

In cities like this, business owners may essentially be left to their own devices. So, how can you protect your business if local law enforcement proves to be ineffective?

It is generally not advised that you stand guard outside your shop personally, even if you have the relevant professional training. 

However, if you feel you have no other option and are determined to stand guard, just be sure that you are as ready as possible for the potential heightened tensions and dangers you may face. If you plan to arm yourself, you should be well apprised of the particular firearm laws in your state and should only be willing to discharge a firearm under circumstances where your life is in danger.  

Also, be warned that police officers may not be objective or trustworthy in carrying out their, especially when they encounter minorities wielding firearms. Abuse of security guards has taken place mistakenly, including arrests of those simply standing outside their storefront while trying to defend their property from looters. 

Mistakes have even included the accidental police shooting of a security guard. Keep in mind that ‘fear of the police’ is often used as a prejudicial sign of guilt. Undertrained officers may see this as actionable.  

Police officers may easily be confused or may be prone to violence with little to no information about what you’re doing or the surrounding circumstances. The risk of this could compound if you are armed. If you are addressed or challenged by a police officer, be sure to clearly and calmly identify yourself and your purpose for being there. Follow all lawful commands, and avoid making any quick movements, particularly if you sense that the officer(s) are on-tilt or slightly agitated.   

In some cases, jewelry store owners have removed valuable items from their stores to avoid the risk of theft. If you have a secure location and feel comfortable doing so, it’s often far safer to remove the product from your store and to choose to do so at some point early in the morning.

Obviously, you do not want to be openly carrying valuables in the street during prime protest hours and certainly not shortly after those in the night-time. If this seems the ideal option, you can always return the valuables to your store when it is safe to open your business again. 

Savings 

If you’re used to being a high roller, it helps to take a closer look at your spending. I’ve known people who make upwards of six figures and save hardly any of it. Spending only for bare necessities will give you far more runway to get through future months. I moved from an expensive three bedroom apartment in Mexico City to a humbler abode in another neighborhood. Don’t buy what you don’t need!

Getting Relief 

First of all, we should acknowledge that the government’s effort to provide relief to small businesses as a result of COVID-19 turned out to be ineffective. Relief money went out very quickly with little screening to the wrong types of businesses. Even businesses that tried to return the money did so too late. These small businesses needed a lifeline to survive, and for many, this proved seriously crippling. 

I wouldn’t expect anything different from government relief due to the protesting, rioting and looting. So, there are several places to turn. Of course, store owners should seek help from their local communities in relief efforts. This may relate to protection of business assets and property, community fundraising etc. 

The problem is that it seems that aside from a few, the economic woes are pretty much impacting most everyone. 

However, many local businesses should also be entitled to insurance compensation for property damage. Expenditures could be serious for insurance companies these days, so be ready for ongoing attempts on the part of your insurance company to reduce what they owe or to avoid a payout entirely. Be prepared to be resilient in the face of a ‘no,’ to follow-up insistently and to potentially even seek legal counsel when it comes to this. Clearly, they should pay what they should pay. But, nonetheless, more active and assertive claims have a better chance of being fulfilled. Any time there is a crisis like this, insurance companies aggressively try to cover their losses.  

Aside from this, the internet can be a powerful resource for compensating those who have suffered injustices. Unfortunately, in this case, it seems that riot relief funds have had a lot of trouble gaining any progress.

 It’s up to you to decide whether you want to be in the same neighborhood, whether you want to take extra precautionary measures etc. I have traveled to over 45 countries and have seen it common in many places of the world to install metal grates at store entrances. As extreme as this may sound, it may be a necessary security measure to forestall damage in the event of another serious protest or riot in the future. 

Since we inevitably need to address the good, the bad and the ugly, it’s time to talk about COVID-19 too and try to discuss a few suggestions that may help here as well.

COVID-19

While public safety from COVID-19 remains a top priority, it is unfortunate that we seem to be having so much difficulty understanding how the virus spreads, the impact it has on health, ways of successfully treating it, and ways to prevent getting the virus, particularly by taking care of one’s own body. The updates are changing our information quickly enough that I hesitate to even link from this article to a health authority. 

The government has laid down a number of policies relating to business restrictions and personal conduct for public health and safety. However, it has given virtually no guidance as to how to keep healthy on a personal level. Clearly, a society with widespread obesity and vitamin deficiency is more susceptible to the virus. Keeping yourself and your family healthy, not only in terms of avoiding the virus, but also just in general, will make you better poised to deal with any challenges that come your way. 

Health officials in some areas have also declared that all public gatherings are off-limits, except for Black Lives Matter protests. Irrespective of whether this is the right choice, it is important to understand that irrespective of the moral importance of racial justice, those protesting are putting themselves at significantly greater risk of contracting COVID. This is said to be particularly true of those protesting at night, as sunlight may actually be more deadly to the virus than was earlier thought. 

Many of us have seen the images of hospitals in New York being completely overrun, for instance, where there clearly was a health crisis. Yet, we’ve also learned just in the past week that asymptomatic patients may not even be contagious. So, what is the appropriate balance to stop the spread of corona in a context where the lack of ongoing business could culminate in people running out of money and getting very desperate? What are business owners supposed to do when the CDC seems to change its guidance on coronavirus virtually every week? 

Business Operations during Corona

Initially, it will help to be apprised of the laws in your state and locality. Where I am based, I see some of the same people behind the counter every week when I go to the butcher, the convenience store and the market. So far, these individuals seem to be fine. 

This brings us to the question of whether there is a safe way to operate during COVID-19. Generally, when only essential businesses are open, this leaves jewelry retail stores out of luck when it comes to traditional retail operation. This is where ingenuity may be required to keep business going, unless you are ready to wait until brick and mortar retail is allowed to function again. 

Restaurants have addressed this by focusing on take-out. In some unique cases, restaurants have created meal kits and guides that are also deliverable, which customers can use to cook their own meals at home, using much better ingredients. Of course, for retail, online retail becomes one of the ideal options. Selling online still remains legal and safe. It may be time to think about opening up an online store. This will allow you to sell nationally and possibly even internationally. Historically, the jewelry business is most often family owned, and has not experimented very much with digital marketing. However, that shift may finally be required! 

Barring this, you may need some sort of air capsule at the entrance to your store, a way to test people that will garner almost immediate results, a vaccine, or something none of us have thought of yet.

Good luck in your recovery period, and feel free to reach out if we can be of assistance.

Moving Forward

Santa Prisca Silver is a wholesale silver jewelry dealer. We are based in Taxco, Mexico, where all of our pieces are handmade and at a minimum 925 sterling silver, one of the leading sources of Taxco silver jewelry. 

Check out our store, in case you need to resupply. We have a variety of items starting at entry-level. Minimum order is $500. Shipping to the United States is free.   

We also keep the blog regularly updated with content for retail owners, consumers, those interested in visiting Taxco some day, in the history of Taxco and those curious about the marketplace. 

Some find it worthwhile to understand what impacts the price of silver. Those interested in the history of silversmithing may want to learn about Taxco silver marks. The broader history of Taxco de alarcon may also be of interest. It may still be a long way off, but we’re sure that one day Tourism in Taxco will return. If you’re a new buyer, the sterling silver vs. pure silver distinction remains of key importance. Don’t get silver plated jewelry! 

If you’re in the business, here’s how we recommend greeting retail customers. Once you start to expand again, here’s a guide for hiring retail employees.

If you’re a jewelry consumer, here are some sustainable jewelry brands where you can shop ethically. Also, here’s a guide for cleaning silver jewelry. And, if you’re into gemstones, a guide to Burmese rubies as well as a more comprehensive guide to gemstones.  

Remember to reach out, if you need anything!