War Comes to the Jeweler

The following editorial is excerpted from JCK, January 1942. Fred V. Cole was the editor-in-chief at the time, and while his comments obviously reflect the circumstances of World War II, the points he makes are no less valid today.

Our country is at war. …But let it also be remembered that one of the important factors that contribute to the winning of ultimate victory is morale. The fact is well recognized by the armed services themselves in their activities to build and sustain the spirit of the men in uniform. Nor does it stop there. Every head of every warring nation has repeatedly and publicly proclaimed that wars today are won not only by the men carrying guns, flying planes, and maneuvering ships, but also by the civilian population behind the battle lines who make the guns and planes and ships and pay the bills. Civilian morale, no less than morale in the Army and Navy must be maintained. Whatever contributes to that civilian morale without interfering with the war effort has a proper place in the scheme of things even in time of war. Jewelry is one of these things. The girl in coveralls inspecting fuses in a munitions plant is a happier girl, and therefore a better, more efficient worker, if the coat hanging in her locker has a brave new lapel ornament. The young man who has been able to buy that much desired bracelet for the girl of his dreams is spurred on to new and greater accomplishment in his job. The wife whose long hours of patient unremitting effort are rewarded with a glittering bit of jewelry on her birthday or anniversary is encouraged to carry on and keep her man cheered up when the going is tough. And certainly no one can argue that watches and clocks and silverware are non-essentials. Yes, the jewelry store does perform a useful service even in times of war. Let’s carry on—not in a shame-faced apologetic spirit, but proud that we are jewelers—conscious that the jeweler is a useful citizen who in his own special way is contributing to the building and maintenance of the civilian morale which is so essential an element of present day total war. The best service that every American … can render to his country today is to keep right on at the job he knows best, doing it the best he knows how. Let’s be good citizens by being good jewelers.—Fred V. Cole, Editor

As I write, the United States is nine days into its war with Iraq. Although the war is progressing “on schedule” according to the President, the initial euphoria of seeming invincibility has been muted as coalition troops meet unexpected resistance from Iraqi guerrillas. On the home front, the stock market is acting predictably: initially up as the uncertainty of whether we would go to war ended, then down as the sobering realities of what war means began to hit home.

The news, too, is often contradictory: A poll by the NPD Group says consumers are going to scale back on shopping, but the National Retail Federation’s poll says that’s wrong—people are shopping, despite the war. The Wall Street Journal concurs, and many major retailers reported their same-store comps for this week were right on track with what they’d expected without a war. Retail is still tenuous in general, but that’s because there’s a lack of newness or excitement in many stores, not because of the war.

Only one thing is certain at this point, and that is that nothing is certain. We can’t control the outcome of the war (and I fervently pray it’s long over by the time you are reading this!), but we can control our own reactions to it. Fred Cole said it as well as I ever could—people need a reason to stay optimistic, and what better way than with a lasting gift of jewelry that tells present and future generations that love will always be better than war?

hschupak@reedbusiness.com