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1 in 3 Jewelers Says Their Shops Are Running at “Extreme” Levels of Output

Surge in demands, few workers is driving the situation, according to findings in the 2023 Big Survey.

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1 in 3 Jewelers Says Their Shops Are Running at “Extreme” Levels of Output

UNLIKE THE WIDER economy, which has seen a historic drop in productivity in recent years, independent jewelers report output is increasing in their stores. According to the 2023 INSTORE Big Survey, 22% of jewelers said their stores had become “Dramatically more productive” in recent years, while a further 45% reported they had become “modestly more productive”. Only 9% said they were “getting less done with the same or increased inputs.”

The reasons are partly due to increased efficiency and use of new technology but also to the fact that fewer hands are doing the work, especially in the shop.
Thirty-four percent of the jewelers said their bench operation had become “extremely productive” in the last few years, compared to only 21% who rated their overall store so highly.

The outperformance of the shop was being driven by a perfect storm of rising demand and a falling capacity to do the work. Jewelers that can do repairs and custom jobs are closing around the country, while finding experienced bench jewelers only gets harder every year for those who remain in the market. The result? Having to do more with less.

Question: If you answered “Less” in the previous question, what’s been the main reason for this decrease in productivity?

Lingering disruption caused by the pandemic
17%
Not having enough staff
31%
Having to constantly hire and train new people
7%
Employees’ changing attitudes to work or working hard
17%
Outside issues impacting operations (supply chain
disruption, volatile metal prices, etc.)
7%
Technology (interruption caused by phones, social media, etc.)
3%
Other
17%

“In 1996 when we opened, there were 14 jewelers in a 30-mile stretch east to west. There are now four of us,” one jeweler told the survey, adding that online sales of jewelry, often poorly made or incorrectly sized, were fueling a flood of work for his shop. “We will have work until we die!”

Another related: ‘We are down 50 percent in staffing. We are doing all the work but doing it better than the people we hire to do it, so we are more productive. We are just working our asses off doing it right the first time … It’s a sh*!storm trying to hire competent employees these days.”

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With many jewelers and store owners in their 60s or 70s, the surge in work was leaving them exhausted.

“There is too much to do with not enough staff and everyone (including me) is just overwhelmed,” said one.

Question: On a scale of 1-5, rate the productivity of the following areas of your store over the last few years.

1 in 3 Jewelers Says Their Shops Are Running at “Extreme” Levels of OutputFor others, the lost opportunities across the store were simply frustrating: “Post-pandemic sales have been beating pre-COVID figures. Average unit sale is up nicely but we do not have the right workers. Which is unfortunate because we do have an increase in clientele and our marketplace is growing,” said another jeweler.

In contrast to the strong performances in-store, jewelers said their e-commerce efforts in many cases had failed to generate decent returns on their efforts. Websites require constant investments of time and money to keep updated, while customers still want to come in in person to see the jewelry they are interested in buying.

“For years, everyone insisted we have a website. Look, it engages your audience like curb appeal on a house, but few people use the website for buying … That may change with the next generation but then again so will my store ownership,” noted one jeweler. As a result, several of the respondents said they had transitioned their websites to serve an “informational role” instead of supporting online shopping.

Productivity was one of the key areas we looked at in the 2023 INSTORE Big Survey, which attracted more than 750 responses from American jewelry-store owners and managers. The full results will be published in the November edition of INSTORE.

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