Life in the Fast Lane … that’s something we all often feel we’re living. When you hear the words “Throwback Thursdays” though, it somehow has a retro feel, nostalgic in a way. Well I got that nostalgic feeling as I was looking for something in BIG’s archives and stumbled across the original BIG Times Newsletters.
Those of you that have been around for more than a decade remember the days of hearing the ring of your fax machine and out would come the insights of Abe written in his 1 page newsletters!
Many of Abe’s Newsletters were inspired by his observations and insights on ordinary things in life and relating them to life as a retail jeweler. He could be sitting in Starbucks watching cars, driving down the freeway in LA or just walking through a mall, and Abe’s brain was always processing information to find solutions for the jewelry industry.
In honor of the anniversary of one of my favorite BIG Time Newsletters, I’m pleased to present to you the original, unedited Life in the Fast Lane written 13 years ago this week. I was riding shot gun with Abe that day merging onto the freeway as he began relating the cars passing by to inventory in a jewelry store. Take a trip down memory lane and enjoy!
Life in the Fast Lane by Abe Sherman
Imagine your store as a three lane highway. Each lane is representative of how fast inventory moves through your store. Merchandise enters onto the roadway from the far right-hand lane, and, due to slow traffic there, immediately tries to move one lane to the left.
This would be merchandise that you just got in. These are the new 2004 models. If they are exciting, they will turn some, if not a lot of heads. You start to promote them. In fact, billboards and TV ads appear and you start to see more of them on your highway.
Sales take off.
As sales take off, you feel more comfortable with your new wheels and step on the accelerator a bit, moving over into the left lane… the Fast Lane. What’s nice about being in the fast lane is that all traffic from this lane exits to the LEFT side of your highway, the side where the customers shop, so merchandise moves in the same direction… in on the right, out on the left.
There is nothing to slow down the fast moving items.
The challenge of course is getting your goods from the entry lane on the right over to the fast lane. If you’ve ever entered a Los Angeles freeway at rush hour (which seemingly is from 6:00am to 11:00pm, just about every day), it isn’t that easy to move from lane to lane. That’s because there are other cars in the way… or for our purposes, inventory.
Slow moving inventory.
Cars take up space. Inventory takes up dollars. A well oiled merchandise highway allows plenty of space (dollars) for new product to enter from the right, and move from lane to lane without obstruction. As these products accelerate, other merchandise gets out of the way to allow their passage. They beep and wave as they go by, and exit off to the left at often blazing speeds. If they are replaced immediately the speed they travel actually creates a draft for others to follow, further accelerating the action in the fast lane.
As new merchandise blends into the scene, those former best-sellers start to become overtaken by the newer, faster models. These old stars decelerate a bit, and being the cooperative players they are, move to the center lane to let the newer models pass. While they can still tool along at a pretty good clip, they are simply not the current technology.
They’re no longer considered hot! This is not to say that all older models move over. No Sir! We would just as likely see a 20 year old version along side a sleek new Italian number, but the older, classic model can still move like nobody’s business.
It’s what winds up in that far right hand lane where the trouble can be found. Imagine the right hand lane in our three lane merchandise highway bumper to bumper. Add to that these are the worst drivers anyone can imagine, they won’t let anyone new in! They have taken up all the space, (or in our case, cash) and the whole system starts to break down.
Yeah, they may eventually work their way over to the left lane to exit our highway, but they’re really slowing down. They start to wear out and become very expensive to maintain.
It costs money to keep these beasts on our highway and those costs continue to escalate as our inventory ages.
The good news is that there is a market for everything (at a price). And just as the used car market has customers for each and every vehicle, there is a market for all of the merchandise on our highway. Sometimes, a reduction in price will move these beasts off the roadway. Sometimes the manufacturer will send a tow truck in the form of a stock balance.
And other times, the scrap yard is the only answer.
But imagine our roadway clear of such debris, where merchandise enters freely, moves over to the middle and then fast lanes while other product moves from the fast to the middle to the slow and exits under its own steam, before the wrecker has to be called.
Imagine the Autobahn.
Abe Sherman ©2003 B.I.G.