Wednesday afternoon we wandered into the downtown boutique that carried Amethyst’s jewelry on consignment, thinking that it being the last business day before Black Friday we should check inventory and restock as necessary. Inventory? What inventory? Where’s our inventory? It was missing from its former premier location and nowhere to be seen. What I quietly took notice of during my search was a big new display of truck stop/tourist trap jewelry bearing the shop’s brand, all under a banner announcing that it is offered at 30% off. Hmm. We’d been assured and reassured that our space was secure through Xmas so we weren’t in any hurry to secure another downtown retail space for it, and the boutique shop owner had very plainly and very egregiously violated the covenant of good faith. It was still just a mite early to call it clearly convincing evidence of anti-competitive action, though, so we took no action to retake the cooperative’s property.
The back half of the retail space is occupied by a business run by two sisters unrelated to the boutique except that they’re roomies in the retail space, which is a pretty common arrangement in dinky towns. Lately the boutique shop owner has been mostly absent and leaving it to the sisters to mind her store for her, which I take as a strong indication that the boutique is not profitable. One of the sisters was there minding the store and found our merchandise heaped in a haphazard pile on the boutique shopkeeper’s desk. She explained that she has no way of knowing what’s going on, though of course we already know and understand that… I remarked, having tentatively reached my own conclusion, that I knew precisely what was going on and was deeply disgusted by it.
We went back in yesterday, on Black Friday, hoping to see Amethyst’s jewelry on display as proof that my tentative judgment of the woman was wrong. No such luck. The product was still on the desk, captive. So much for our agreement, so much for the assurance that our space was secure, so much for the reputation of the boutique shop owner when we don’t volunteer to conceal the truth when asked “what happened that you’re not at the boutique any more?”.
Having clearly convincing evidence that the covenant of good faith had been violated, we convinced the roomie shopkeeper to witness our removal of our cooperative’s property. I thought it important to make the truth known so trusted that the roomie shopkeeper would indulge me a bit of a rant even if she thought it somewhat irrational, which appears to be precisely how she perceived it. The sister minding the store yesterday moved out of Dinkytown before I ever moved into it, so she doesn’t know us — I wouldn’t have faulted her for thinking we were just random hippies who blow into town to trade trinkets and complain about the unfair treatment received from uptight locals and I wanted to make damn sure she didn’t get to keep any such illusion. Whether my little dramatic non-rant did the trick or not, we ended up talking about our cooperative and our consignment agreement with the boutique. When she heard of our remarkable discount rate (consignment commission) she said something about keeping our expectations in line with the unprofitable terms we’d imposed. Bingo! Amethyst corrected her misunderstanding by explaining that those were the shopkeeper’s terms and we asked for no modification before accepting them as proposed. The lady’s eyes got wide at that bit of news.
We then talked about our wholesale rates and consignment ranges, and she took our phone number to give to a consignment merchant with whom she has some kind of business relationship in her home town, one on our list of product placement targets already. She said that it’s all but certain that the merchant will want to carry Amethyst’s jewelry, but of course not until January. No problem! If we can get into that town with an introduction from a local businessperson, and of course under reasonable terms, we’ll be very happy to do so. Retail space is far more important to us in those places where we don’t get the opportunity for direct sales.
With our business at the boutique thus happily enough for the circumstances of it concluded, we popped into another establishment to deliver a just-made piece that had been on backorder, and then went on about our usual meanderings for personal purposes. No sooner than we had got through the front doors of the supermarket, we heard a voice call out from behind the deli counter, “Hey, Amethyst! Got anything new today?”. I went off to gather our few purchases, and when I reached the deli counter afterward it was to find that Amethyst had in one quick sale equaled the combined sales of five months at the boutique, and all from among the very pieces we’d just rescued from captivity. And, of course, the truth of what had just happened at the boutique was delivered when the question was asked, too.
In the coming week, Amethyst has a tentative sales call with six more more women who all wish to buy from her, and then a local business expo downtown, just a common wall away from the boutique. At some point in the immediate future she’ll be selling a number of one design to a local startup business run by the young woman who was my youngest daughter’s arch rival until my kid got a bug up her ass and demanded to go live with her mother. That left the girl who stuck around to be the homecoming queen and all of that happy stuff, and the trendsetter for the twenty-somethings around Dinkytown. It might be helpful to us to have her wearing our stuff and giving it as gifts.
So, all in all, ain’t nuthin’ to be done about the anti-competitive underhandedness of the boutique shop, but ain’t no reason to worry too much about it, either. Success is the best revenge.