From informative to shocking, this survey had it all.

There's a lot to be learned from INSTORE's 2016 Big Survey — but that's no surprise.

With about 700 responses from store owners and managers, it was the biggest such exercise undertaken in the industry this year.

We brought you the results — based on our readers’ generous contributions of their time, data and thoughts — in our print edition and in a series of blog posts. Though some of the 75 questions were simple multiple-choice queries, others were more open-ended and revealed everything from hilarious tales of what jewelers caught employees doing in the back room to touching stories about the sacrifices people made to succeed in business.

Here are 10 of the most interesting findings:

  • Your best-performing jewelry brand. Knocking Pandora from the No. 1 slot it had held since 2009, INSTORE readers crowned Gabriel & Co. the best-performing brand-name jewelry line in 2016. Pandora came in second and Stuller third.
  • Your thoughts on lab-grown diamonds. The question was “Would you consider stocking lab-grown diamonds?” and 36 percent of respondents chose the middle ground: "Maybe." Fully a third said they would not consider carrying lab-grown diamonds. Meanwhile, 21 percent said they would, and 10 percent said they already do.
  • Your "best new supplier." More INSTORE readers chose Stuller than any other company as their best new supplier in 2016. Tied in second place were Gabriel & Co., Lafonn and Midas Chain, followed by Simply Diamonds, alone in third place.
  • The biggest distraction for employees. Non-work-related use of social media was the clear winner as the biggest thief of staff time.
  • The biggest sacrifice you've made as a jeweler. The most popular answer: time missed with family and friends.
  • Your big tendency. If there's one trait that jewelry store employees have, it’s loyalty. In Big Survey 2016, 75 percent of stores reported that their staff had on average been with them five years or more.
  • Weird things you've caught employees doing. Some of the stories you told weren't just strange, but downright shocking. But the most common form of aberrant behavior cited by our readers was fairly tame: sleeping. Employees were caught catching a few Zs at the jewelry bench, on sales cases, in the bathroom, at their desk, under their desks and while watching a sales video.  
  • Your political preferences. Before the election, no one candidate was a majority favorite among jewelers. But Republican nominee Donald Trump held a strong plurality at 48 percent. Meanwhile, 25 percent of respondents said they would vote for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
  • Embarrassing stories. We asked you to tell stories that you’ll laugh about one day — even if you’re not laughing yet. Here's an example: "A client who 'drank her lunch' threw up on my sales case on top of a velvet tray of $1 million dollars retail in diamond engagement rings." Yikes.
  • The real reasons jewelers quit their jobs. Among jewelers who'd lost employees in the past 12 months, we asked the reasons for the turnover. The top answer was "to take another non-jewelry job," followed by "moving out of the area."

This article is an online extra for INSTORE Online.

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