I’m checking out a bridal brand. Is it worth the commitment and risk?
To be sure, brands are sexy and they will drive the top 30 percent of engagement-ring couples into your store. They also add a cachet and legitimacy that will attract other loose-diamond buyers, while their higher tickets make your lower-priced diamond goods look like better value. “Brands like Hearts On Fire and Tacori completely exploded the price ceiling,” says Bruce Freshley of Freshley Media, adding they will also give your staff exposure to top-notch training. And yes, they also require a serious investment. Freshley, who works with some of the biggest independent jewelers in the country, says that unless a line can generate $100,000 in your store, “you have to really ask why would you put it in? If the buy-in is $25,000 and you do $50,000, that’s a winner, but if the buy-in is $40-$50K, you’ve got to do serious numbers, right?” Freshley advises a mix of designer brands, reliable mid-range engagement rings and high volume price point lines. “With the low margin in diamonds, you must consistently average better than 2.5 times markup on bridal or you can’t make money. Only entry-level and private-label lines can do that for you. The key price range is $1,200-$1,750 for a semi-mount. If you don’t have those goods, you are walking too many customers.” Most consumers don’t know many wedding jewelry designers by name and finding the right gemstone remains key. “Selection is way more important than any one line,” says Freshley. “If you don’t have what they are looking for, they are going to go someplace else.”
I see lots of these concept-type stores with their prototypes. But does a fine jewelry store really want CZ samples in its cases?
The prototype model has two forces working in its favor: Shrinking margins on the typical wedding jewelry inventory held by jewelers, and shoppers’ desire to see a greater variety of goods. In the not-too-distant future, it will become unfeasible for a jeweler to keep in stock the range that an engagement customer wants to see. These are no longer the brass-and-glass sample lines your father may have looked down on. They look terrific and allow customers to play with the goods without the close attention of an associate — another growing retail trend. There are also security benefits and other costs tied to keeping an expensive inventory on-site. To be sure, there’s no equivalent to the excitement of handling a valuable diamond. And some customers will always want the real thing today. But we’re betting some form of the prototype system is here to stay as part of your mix.
Is it true you need to dress conservatively to sell bridal, especially big-ticket diamonds?
Yes, Italian chandeliers, a baby grand piano and a staff dressed to the nines can add to the special air that supports a $100,000 ring sale. And maybe they will just scare away a nervous young man with $2,000 in his pocket. So, first thing, figure out who you are selling to. The average 28-year-old engagement shopper may gravitate toward the father figure in a suit and tie or he may be more comfortable chatting with a younger guy who dresses like he does. “This clientele is really expecting to be given information by people they trust,” says stylist Michael O’Connor. “And they don’t necessarily relate to that older-style, conservative dress. They want to trust someone who is their peer.” That could mean Hawaiian shirts, cowboy boots, black T-shirts and tattoos ... you name a dress style and we can name a jeweler who has succeeded with that approach. Still, if you’re unsure, sales trainer Shane Decker believes it’s better to err on the side of too formal: “Young bridal shoppers still expect you to look good.”
Should I use co-op advertising to support engagement sales?
It’s a question we receive often, especially with regard to wedding lines. And our answer remains unchanged: Everyone’s situation is different — Do your customers often ask for a particular brand? Will the message enhance your market position as the place to go for wedding rings? Bottom line, this is not free money. If you’re paying for half of the advertising cost, at least be sure half the message is about you.