The Retail Risk — Doubling Down.

Carmen Sample
Jan 15, 2019 · 5 min read

Everyone says that “retail is dead”….. but is it really?

Our Longmont Location!

Well, I’ve been running several retail stores at Crystal Joys for over five years now… and I’ve been doing it on a very part-time basis while running the other companies…and if I’m being completely honest — our retail stores have had mixed results. We kill it in some stores and lose lots of dollar bills each month in other stores. We have strong months of online sales and then months of non-existent sales. It is one of the most difficult to understand industries I have encountered…. yet I still find it fascinating.

Retail has become harder each year...and more expensive to operate. Every minute there is a new integration, a new algorithm, a new platform, a new way to market to the masses.

Everyone (especially marketing companies) will give you their “expert advice” that is always contradictory (and self serving to their expertise, let’s be real) — which leaves the business owner and marketing team in an expansive black hole with very little direction:

  • To spend money on print or not?
  • To advertise in trade magazines or not?
  • To focus on google adwords or facebook or instagram?
  • To attempt to play the amazon sales game?
  • To focus on one platform or invest in 500 sales platforms to advertise on?

Where does an entrepreneur begin? With massive amounts of blogs and articles written on retail — it still feels like every business owner is just operating blindly and balancing a lot of product on a very thin margin…at some point it is a game and you are betting on winning.

With all the hardships, why do we still do it? For me, personally — I want to crack the code. I want to figure it out. I want to see the stores do well. I desperately want to be good at it. I want people to love the products as much as I do. I love the psychology of sales and I want to understand they “why” of someone’s purchases. When someone has the option to buy anything they want with one click of a button — why do they choose to walk into a store and purchase that one single stone or pair of earrings?

Why? Why? Why? Was it the picture on their facebook feed? Was it a friend’s recommendation? Was it an impulse purchase? If it was an impulse purchase than what about that item “wowed” them? I can spend hours looking at data and trying to understand the “why” behind it. I love to create the experiments to see which ad works, which discount works, and which promotion sells.

Crystal Joys is simply my passion project… It makes me happy to think about the stones and the jewelry. It reminds me of my mom and my childhood and I find a deep sense of peace just spending time with the product. When I’m overwhelmed with my other businesses I find myself drifting to Shopify and checking sales, managing inventory, looking at new product design ideas. I can get lost in the “Crystal Joys vortex” for hours and hours and hours and it helps me to re-energize.

When I first started Crystal Joys, I did it because I wanted to see my mother’s business become something that I always thought it could be. I also saw it as a wonderful way to employ people with developmental disabilities to make our product through Sample Supports. Done and Done.

5 years later I think I only still half “get” the retail world…. but I want to get it 100%. I want to keep selling rocks to the masses of people that want pretty, shiny things (I’m right there with you, sister).

I find deep satisfaction out of offering a product to the public that they feel they want or need. There is this odd sense of validation and a sense of belonging that you experience when someone else loves that chakra necklace just as much as you do.

Chakra Necklace at

What do you do if you are unsure of whether your idea is a good one or not? Sometimes you have to double down and try it full force… and that is just what we are going to do in 2019. We are going to invest in the right locations for our business. We are going to create new products and improve our quality. We are going to redesign our stores to fit our ideal branding. I’m going to double down on a few assumptions:

I’m going to double down on the idea that retail is still very much alive.

I’m going to double down on the thought that people enjoy “Boutique Experiential Shopping”.

I’m going to double down on the thought that people like to buy locally, handmade products.

I’m going to double down on the idea that retail brick and mortar sales are about location, location, location. No amount of marketing can save a bad location.

I’m going to double down on the hunch that maybe… just maybe… people still like to interact with each other and “see” their products. Face to Face.

I’m going to double down with my time and energy and put this business at the top of my priority list this year.

I’m going to double down on the idea that people want to buy some rocks.

I’m all in this year and I’m going to give this business more than a fraction of my attention for once. I may even give it my full attention on some days…. watch out world.

Yeah, it’s going to cost a pretty, shiny penny — but hey, I like pretty, shiny things.

Ultimately — one thing about business that is true: No pain, No gain.

I love a little risk….I love a little reward…I can’t wait to see what happens with my bet.

Stay tuned. :)

Carmen Sample

Written by

Entrepreneur with 19+ million in annual revenue from restaurant, retail stores, event center, and social service businesses. #boss

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