It’s time to stop blaming, writes Rachael Kennedy.

[Editor's note: This is one of four honorable mention winners in INSTORE’s essay contest. Nearly two dozen jewelry professionals submitted essays in response to the prompt, “What do you see as the strongest competitive threat to your business in 2018, and what specific actions are you taking to address it?”]

Retail jeweler, we have a problem. We are the problem. Admitting we are the biggest challenge to the jewelry industry in 2018 can be a sobering realization.

Rachael Kennedy has worked in the jewelry industry at Shelia Bayes Fine Jewelers in Lexington, KY, for over 12 years.

“The internet stole my clients!” This outrage is as outdated as the 1988 cry, “Dingo ate my baby!” Get over it. We cannot blame the internet for our loss in revenue. We can only blame ourselves. People will use the internet, learn from it and shop from it. Embrace the first step: Accept. Accept the fact that consumers are buying and educating themselves online. This is not merely a trend. Accept the reality that people will continue to buy online.

Adapt. This is our second step. Update websites, stores, packaging and your retail image. Our world is tech-savvy. We shop, learn and live online. News flash: The generation that bought jewelry in a traditional manner is fading faster than our profits. Change your image. Sell online. Create a Facebook or Instagram account; enlist a marketing intern to manage it for school credit. Rebrand, redecorate, re-paint. If our websites are old and musty, our stores will most likely strike clients the same way. Have a grand reopening party, drink champagne, rethink merchandise. Don't slip into extinction.

This brings us to step three, “retail” like a consumer. We must “retail” as we would want to be “retailed.” People are shopping on the internet – so what? How many times do we purchase meals to go? Does this mean we will never eat in a restaurant again? No. We ordered the meal to go because it was convenient. People shop online because it's convenient, and they are afraid to pay too much. Hard truth: Shopping in our stores isn't convenient and generally IS more expensive than buying online (for a variety of reasons). Are the masses so different from us? How many times have we shopped Amazon at the holidays from our workplace for convenience as well as price?

We must retrain ourselves and our salespeople. Learn to properly build value into presentations so products have worth. Give clients an amazing experience every time they walk through the door.

Make retail so much fun that it's worth the trip. Empower staff to have fun. Our salespeople are the key to creating an inspirational, beyond-excellent shopping environment. Charm, feed, counsel and compliment. Show clients what they miss by purchasing online. If we do our job, clients will return.

Give them an amazing gift: the unbelievably intimate retail experience we ourselves would want.

Quit blaming. The lack of business is our fault. Generation X, millennials and their online habits aren't the biggest threat to the retail jeweler – we are. Oddly Darwinian, isn't it? Break free of stodgy habits and survive. Adapt to the current buying culture. Embrace the notion that to thrive jewelers must “retail” like a consumer. Become an industry that delights in an experience, celebrates our heritage and embraces the future the online world offers our brick-and-mortar locations.


Rachael Kennedy has worked in the jewelry industry at Shelia Bayes Fine Jewelers in Lexington, KY, for over 12 years. Her favorite parts of the job are her amazing/snarky co-workers, fabulous clients and rummaging through trunks of new jewels. Sales and relationships are her passion and she also directs all of the social marketing for the store. Rachael has three children (two 9-year-old boys and an 8-year-old daughter), as well as a “gorgeous" husband and a “respectable" dog named Miles who howls in ecstasy every time her car pulls into the driveway. For fun she paints, plays with her kids and goes the the gym. You can find her on Instagram @the.vue.