[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?”]

The challenge is to recognize the ever-changing retail climate and adapt to the temperature de jour.

I have owned my fourth-generation family store for 21 years. I have spent a total of 51 years in and around jewelry. This used to be a more predictable job. Within a few percent, I could tell you what we would do in volume in the coming months. I could buy accordingly and navigate through the predictable seasons of retail jewelry. I would advertise in the local newspaper and buy a half-page advertisement in the yellow pages. There was a road map — follow the map and you would be OK.

Now? Running this business is equal parts thrill ride, horror story, romance and rodeo. What is this vernacular we now use? SEO, SEM, clicks, bricks, geolocation, metadata, blah, blah. The crystal ball has been replaced with a Google-driven equivalent of roulette. I’m not sure if February is going to do more volume than December. Christmas used to be everything! Today, preparing for the Christmas season is like crossing the Columbia River Bar in a row boat. It might work fine, but then again, you might be underprepared.

Saving ourselves from going extinct like the ill-fated flightless bird requires blending the time-tested cornerstones of our businesses with the tech-savvy world we now live in. I believe there will always be room for fine quality, honesty, education and community. The digital shopping cart world is creating a niche for us. We need to recognize this and live in that space. Celebrate with your customers the very different experience you can provide. This next batch of customers is wickedly smart and intensely focused on the "experience." Simple events are treated like the final episode of "The Bachelor."

I believe there will always be room for fine quality, honesty, education and community.

Opportunities to take an Instagram-worthy photo and upload it dominate the decision-making process.

Once this behavior is recognized, it can be utilized to our advantage. Give them a platform for celebration on your website. Should you be lucky enough to get such a customer through your door, offer a microbrew or kombucha. If you are able to quickly scan their Pinterest page and create solutions for finding the perfect ring, you have a chance!

The strongest competitive threat we face is ourselves. If we keep providing a 1980s mall-jewelry-store environment to today’s customers, our time is short. Our stores need to be retro chic, modern just below the surface and approachable above all. Our staff need to be educated, charming and willing to dedicate large amounts of time to customers. As a means of coping, I have taken to therapy.

While I am no doctor, I find that a glass of wine while preparing a few ingredients for dinner to be soothing. It is an opportunity to simplify and turn off the smartphone. Please recognize that this advice is free and worth every penny.


Erik Runyan is president of Erik Runyan Jewelers in Vancouver, WA.