Friday, August 14, 2020

Summer Repeat - I could Do It Better Myself - The Sales/Brand Manager

I wrote this back in February, before COVID-19. 

In reviewing it now, it seems like a million years ago.  But I thought it was worth looking at again as the entire nature of watch retail has now been turned upside down.

I Could Do It Better Myself - The Sales/Brand Manager

5:30 AM - The alarm goes off, and tempting though it may be to hit the snooze, you pull yourself out of bed, jump on your Peleton and commit yourself to another 30 minutes of fitness.

6:50 AM - Showered, you make yourself presentable, grab a coffee and fire up your laptop for the weekly video conference with HQ.

8:15 AM - your daughter calls to remind you that as it is your weekend, she will be waiting for you outside of school following STEM club at 4:00 PM.  You make a note in your phone and set the alarm for 3:45 to remind yourself.

9:05 AM - safely settled at your desk, you scroll through the "Butcher's Bill" to try and figure out why you got blindsided a few hours ago when HQ informed you that:

1.  You need to close Retail Partner A.  No real detail given.

2.  You need to continue to extend credit to retail partner Z, even though they have not paid their invoices for the past 5 months, hit you with $26,333 of "co-op" advertising expenses, and requiring a "junket" for the owner, the owner's current (not his wife) girlfriend, their assistant manager and 2 of their "loyal" customers to visit the HQ, factory, and maybe, you know if there's time, ski a little...

While reviewing all of the internal and external communication, you happen to glance up at a map of Los Angeles and it all becomes clear.  Retail Partner Z is opening up a new "fuck you" store literally across the hall from Retail Partner A, and demanding (literally) that your boss in Switzerland cut off Retail Partner A.  You then remember one of the pictures on the wall at HQ in New York with your boss, the girlfriend (not wife) of your boss, Retail Partner Z and half of the Los Angeles Lakers, courtside at the Staple's Center.

And of course, it just so happens that you are based in (or at least near) Los Angeles...

10:00 AM - Retail Partner A's store has opened.  You meet the owner and the two of you head out of the mall to a nearby restaurant so that you can speak in private.  Retail Partner A was the first store you ever opened an account for your first brand, some 20 years ago.  To his credit, Retail Partner A says he totally understands, he has seen this coming.  You personally really like Retail Partner A.  He and his wife have always sent your daughter both birthday and Christmas presents.  They insist on picking up the check even when they are your guests, they are old-school, shook Sinatra's hand type of retailers.  You excuse yourself for a few minutes, go out to the street and call your boss.  You explain that as a sign of good will, you need authorization to buy back the product.  Considering that most of it is still untouched (as it was just delivered 3 weeks ago), in the wrapping, you can simply walk it across the hallway to Retail Partner Z when they open.  Your boss is in agreement so long as 90% of the pieces are re-sellable.  You do the mental math (you looked at the safe count while you were speaking with Retailer A, and there are 13 pieces that have some wear, which tips it to 15% of the inventory.

You go back in, tell them exactly what your boss told you, but suggest that they take 6 of the slightly worn pieces that are the most likely to sell, and blow them out at 40% off, ensuring that the store can make 10% profit off of them, and be in compliance for the buy-back.

You suggest an early lunch (it is now 11:45) and once again, Retail Partner A grabs the check and will not let you pay.

12:50 PM - You walk Retail Partner A back to their store, and take a moment to make some calls before your next appointment - 175 feet across the mall's "hallway" to visit the soon to be opened 5th location of Retail Partner Z.

Retail Partner Z makes you wait a good 20 minutes in the construction area.  Once done, Retail Partner Z excuses himself, and Junior (second born son) takes over the meeting.  In a very short timeframe (less than a year) Junior has managed to piss off every brand rep he has come in contact with, and driven out more than half of the sales staff at their flagship store in Beverly Hills.  You have resigned yourself to simply nodding and smiling.  But Junior wants to flex his muscles and decides to get pissy with you anyway.  He demands to know why Retail Partner A still is carrying your brand.  You explain that they (Retail Partner Z) will have the exclusive rights the day that they open - which is still 45 days out.

2:00 PM - Junior says - "Hey, I'm hungry.  Buy me lunch and we can talk about our order".  So off you go to lunch #2.  Junior, although he drove to work, decides that a few bourbons would be a good idea on a hot Los Angeles afternoon.  You pay the check (a little over $200 with tip), and Junior says that next time you need to go somewhere nicer - "You guys need to stop being so cheap!".

You walk Junior back to his car, send your best regards to his dad, and hope like hell he does not get stopped by the cops.  3:00 PM is a bit early in the day, but he insisted.

You walk back through the mall to pick up the book your daughter asked you to order on Amazon, and as you're walking to the garage, you hear someone calling to you.  You turn to see your fried Julia, who is the district manager for Unobtainium, one of the hottest watch brands that is finally going into independent retail.  She has just finished meeting with Retail Partner A, and is happy with the outcome.  She thanks you for the referral, and comments on how much people must love them as flowers and two gourmet baskets arrived along with 2 bottles of champagne during her pitch.  You make plans to see each other at the Las Vegas shows in June, and hop in your car.  You make a mental note that you will not be able to submit the gift baskets and flowers on your expense account as they are not part of your approved expenses.

3:45 - The alarm on your iPhone goes off, just as you are rounding the corner to pick up your daughter.  Yes, you are early, but you savor the moment, listen to the last 10 minutes of your podcast, and think about the weekend.

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