The West Side traffic brought the limo to a standstill, leaving me, Ignacio, my partner and co-founder of Reliqueree, and Sheridan, the firm’s PR head, stranded in a long line of idling cars. After a couple of minutes, I decided to put the wasted time to good use. I pulled out my iPhone and checked our social media dashboard. “uLivv,” “TransLivvient” and “Reliqueree” were all trending on Twitter. The media coverage of the grand opening of our first store had generated almost a million more likes on our Facebook page. The CEO of HP had asked to connect with me on LinkedIn yesterday. Traffic on our Pinterest site was going to explode once video and pictures of the gala event hit the Cloud and the blogs.
Next I accessed our accounting system and compared December’s sales against November. I smiled as the numbers displayed onscreen. We’d killed it. And even though the holidays were over, January sales were projected to exceed December’s by 200 percent. Hmm. We’d calculated we had enough stock in reserve for years, but even I hadn’t forecast this level of demand.
“Call Michael,” I instructed the phone. Michael was my fiancé’s brother and also responsible for our important processing operations. He’d left early for the store with Angie to enjoy a private tour of the store. He answered.
“Hi,” he said. “Where are you?”
“Stuck in traffic just a few blocks away.” I knocked on the Plexiglas window behind the driver. It rolled down.
“Yes, Mr. Pennington?” he said.
“How long before we clear this? Should we just get out and walk? I’m from New York. I know where I am.”
“GPS says we should work through this in about 20 minutes. That enough time?" the driver said.
“Yes.” I’d given us an hour to reach the store and was ready to stop the limo and lead everyone on foot to 14th Street if need be. As I’d told the driver, I was native stock, nobility so far as the rest of the region was concerned. New Yorkers were arguing Thomas Paine when the hillbillies from New Jersey and Connecticut were still making their mark.
I resumed my conversation with Michael. “Have you seen the sales figures?” I said.
“I did. I had my doubts about this whole thing earlier, but it’s amazing how it’s taking off and...”
I interrupted him. “I’m worried about inventory. Are you sure we’ll be able to meet demand?”
“Relax. We have enough material to stretch from the Earth to the Sun two times and back. And that’s factoring in the estimated wastage. Years of sales.”
“Yes, but 25 percent is ‘dark matter.’”
“Still more than enough. And aren’t you planning a ‘Plus’ Edition?”
“Yes. It should be a killer if it’s positioned and marketed properly.”
“Angie says ‘Into the Blue’ orders are flooding in,” Michael said. “The platform is growing. I know I’m not a marketer, but I’ve learned a few things watching you in action. People are buying into the company’s vision. I’m not sure you’ll need the rest of the inventory.”
He was right, but I worry a lot. It’s because I care. Steve Jobs cared.
If you’re an entrepreneur, your middle name is “Worry.”
“What’s the turnout like?”
“The place is packed,” he said. “Every press invite was picked up half an hour ago. Pogue, Mossberg and Alison are here.”
“Terrific. How about Boris? Has anyone heard more about May?”
“Angie spoke to Illarion. He says it appears ICE screwed up. O’Connell is working on it. Should only be a couple more days. She spoke to Boris and he said he’d be there on time. She said he sounded fine.”
“Excellent.” With May gone, Boris’ stress levels had gone stratospheric, but with everyone’s help, he seemed to be coping. Once she was back, I was sure he’d calm down. “We should be there soon. Talk more then.”
“Wait, Angie wants to speak to you. She wants to know...”
Another call came in. I looked at the number. Todd Birnbaum. Amazon’s top biz dev guy. I hadn’t thought this day could become any better, but apparently I was wrong.
“Tell her I’ll see her in a few minutes. Amazon just called. I’ll fill her in when I get there.”
“OK,” he said. I disconnected and took the call.
“Nate Pennington. How’s it going, Todd.”
“Hi, Nate. Look, Jeff wants to discuss purchasing. And I want to clear up any misunderstanding from DEMO.”
The last DEMO had been held in September in Phoenix. Both Bezos and Birnbaum walked out on our presentation a couple of minutes after it began.
“Tell him not to worry about it. I’m sorry we didn’t communicate our vision to you more effectively. By the way, Forbes just moved Reliqueree into the number 15 spot in their top international brands list. I’ll bet we crack the top 10 within six months.”
“What’s wholesale going to look like?” Todd said.
I’d been looking forward to this moment for months. “I’m sorry, Todd. We’re not doing straight wholesale. We’re going wholesale plus MAP. We’ll be reasonable on the discounts. No problem with the non-disclosure agreement. But we control our pricing and brand equity.”
In the MAP model, the manufacturer controls and set their pricing. In straight wholesale, the retailer. Amazon enjoys controlling pricing models and regards MAP as a Tool of Satan. Only companies with strong brands and sky-high demand can insist on MAP.
“Amazon doesn’t buy under MAP. You know that, Nate. We buy straight wholesale.”
All Apple products are sold to Amazon under strict MAP agreements. The reason is if you can’t buy an iPhone from Amazon, the customer will go somewhere else. And then keep returning to that somewhere else to buy other stuff.
“Yes, Todd. You know, there’s an industry rumor going around that your boss and Tim Cook crossed paths at a TED talk in Vancouver and Jeff muttered the words ‘straight wholesale’ where Tim could hear it. The next day, Jeff gets a phone call and after it’s over, leaps on a plane to Cupertino, takes a taxi to One Infinite Loop, changes into a wetsuit, and is escorted up to Tim’s office where he sits in a chair and balances a colored rubber ball on his nose while clapping his hands together going ‘arf,’ ‘arf,’ ‘arf.’ But I’m sure it’s just idle buzz.”
There was a long pause on the line, then Birnbaum said, “Uh, yes. Let’s connect tomorrow and resume our talk. We’re going to be looking for 40 points. Good luck with the store opening.”
“Thanks, Todd. Talk to you.”