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Eileen McClelland

9 Things I Learned While Traveling in Jewelry Industry Circles in 2018

Millennial opportunity, protecting your work, and more…



ONE OF THE MOST interesting parts of my job is the opportunity to travel to jewelry industry seminars, events and conferences. Here are just a few things I heard that made an impression on me in 2018:

FOSTER GENDER EQUALITY. It’s vital that business owners educate themselves about sexual harassment and other forms of gender discrimination – because it is illegal, and because employers are often on the losing end of these disputes.

Most often litigated are cases of discrimination, access, pay and promotion disparity, and claims based on sexual harassment and hostile-workplace issues.

Sara Yood, senior counsel at the Jewelers Vigilance Committee, says small family-owned companies in the jewelry industry are particularly vulnerable because often they don’t have HR representatives, or even formal employee handbooks stating their policies.

The average award is in the $150,000 range. These lawsuits are expensive to process and litigate and create negative morale for other employees, as well, Yood says.

Yood discussed discrimination and sexual harassment liability during a presentation organized by the Women’s Jewelry Association, the first in a series of presentations linked to WJA’s new Gender Equality Project.


What can employers do to stay on the right side of the law? Create a culture of compliance and value diversity. Make sure the staff is educated and up to date on legal issues. “Fostering gender equality, diversity and open communication is good for business,” Yood says. “Employees will want to stay.” – from the American Gem Trade Association GemFair in Tucson in February.

MILLENNIALS MEAN OPPORTUNITY. Retailers convinced that millennials don’t buy diamonds may not have all the information. In fact, millennials, who are now 24 to 38 years old, are much more likely to buy diamonds than any older generation, according to research from the Diamond Producers Association. Millennials spent $16 billion on diamonds last year, of which 50 percent was wedding and engagement jewelry. There are big numbers there, and big opportunity. By 2020, the generation’s disposable income will exceed $1.4 trillion. DPA focus groups reveal that millennials especially find value in the authenticity and rarity and individuality of diamonds. — From “Focus Group Confidential: Surprising Things We Learned From Millennials,” presented by Sarah Gorvitz, strategic communications and insights lead for the Diamond Producers Association, during the American Gem Society Conclave in April.

CUSTOMIZE YOUR OFFERINGS. Jewelry sales are growing ($91 billion in 2017) but jewelry sold by “other sellers” is rising much more rapidly than independent jewelry store sales. There are 91,000 places to buy jewelry but just over 23,000 jewelry stores. Today, 15 percent of engagement ring sales are custom; a decade ago, it was just 5 percent. So the ability to customize your offerings is key to increasing your sales. – From “State of the Jewelry Industry: Facts, Figures and the Future,” by Harold Dupuy, VP of Strategic Analytics at Stuller,” during the American Gem Society Conclave in April.

PROTECT YOUR WORK. Any original work of artistic expression qualifies for copyright protection. If a jewelry designer creates earrings in the shape of a bumblebee, for example, the designer can’t stop someone else from creating their own interpretation of bumblebee earrings. But a copyright can protect the specific design. The copyright is automatically secured when the work is created and fixed in a tangible medium. Notice of copyright is not required in the U.S., but filing for registration with the copyright office will help you prove you had the design at a certain date. To apply electronically, registration costs $35. JVC has published a guide titled “I Have An Idea! JVC’s Guide to Intellectual Property Law.” – From “Intellectual Property Laws for Jewelers,” by Sarah Yood, senior counsel for the Jewelers Vigilance Committee, at the American Gem Society Conclave in April.

CURATE YOUR SHOWCASES. Eric Zuckerman of Pac Team America, talked about how to curate showcases to create an elegant, less overwhelming shopping experience. “Ten years ago,” he says. “It was very much about how much product you can stuff in a case. Today, it’s more that the customer is looking for an experience, not looking just to see product. In the case, show less but make sure what you’re showing is what you want to be seen. Luxury boutiques aren’t showing you everything. Tailor down what you have in case for a clean, comprehensive display. (from “How a Store Renovation Improves the Customer Experience,” at the American Gem Society Conclave in Nashville in April.)

PREPARE YOUR STORE LIKE YOU’RE THROWING A PARTY. Elle Hill has ideas for creating a sensory experience in your retail jewelry store. She suggests assessing your store in the same way you would evaluate the readiness of your home for a party. “If you were having a cocktail party what would you do to your house? You’d definitely clean your house differently than if it were just an average Saturday. Are you playing music that’s going to make sense to your guests? Is the music of a volume that is perfect for conversation? Do you have comfortable chairs for your guests? Would you offer your guests a glass of Champagne? Brownies on a silver tray? Wine and cheese? Is the scent of your store inviting (cinnamon, cookies)? Or is overpowering? “I think lilies are far too much for a store.” — From the JA New York summer show in July. Elle Hill is CEO of Hill & Co., fine jewelry launch and growth experts.

MAKE DISPLAYS PULL THEIR WEIGHT. Larry Johnson says too often display plans are an afterthought. “We go to all the work of developing the merchandise, and then just place the goods in the showcase and assume our customer will choose what they want without further guidance.” It’s important to look like the level of jewelry store you want to have. If you have a $1 million store, learn how to use your displays to make it look like a $2 million store, and according to Johnson, you’ll be headed in the right direction. When formulating your display plan, “you want to be a restaurant, not a cafeteria. If everything looks alike, cafeteria style, you surrender to the customer rather than emphasizing which piece you want to sell.” Other tips: Use commercial-grade, LED lights, be aware of your sales and profit goals by case, refresh your bridal displays and dump your dogs. If you’ve had merchandise for 12 months and it hasn’t sold, it has a 90 percent chance of not selling in five years. – From the Atlanta Jewelry Show in August.


FIND THE KEYS TO THE REPAIR BUSINESS.David Geller says 90 percent of repair customers will say “go ahead and fix it,” no matter what price you say that it is. “Repairs are not price sensitive,” he says. “they are trust sensitive. Repairs have a three to four times greater closing ratio than product, and you never get people who say “I’ll be back.” The secret to continued success? Do quality work, deliver as promised, guarantee your work, and pay people well and fairly. Explain how the work is done. Never say, well, that’s our price, lady. Show them the repairs that are needed with either a loupe or better yet, on a monitor. If you offer express service, charge 50 percent more. “If you charge right, repairs are a gold mine.” – From the Jewelers of Louisiana convention in New Orleans in August.

DISCOVER TIME MANAGEMENT TECHNIQUES. Myra Corrello, PhD, business growth adviser, mentor and interim director of outreach and alumni engagement for Goldman Sachs, suggests drawing a time matrix to figure out how you can actually find time to achieve your goals.

Do you wonder how you got through another day feeling like you got nothing done? Drawing a time matrix on a sheet of paper by dividing a square into four quadrants may help you determine how you are using your time and how you could be using it better. What’s really important? “Focus on what you really want and don’t fall victim to being busy,” Corrello says.

These are the four quadrants of the time matrix:

Q1: Not important, not urgent (escape activities, time wasters.) Ask yourself, where do I waste my time and what is it costing me? Why do I do it? What could I do as an alternative. Create a downtime list of alternative activities that wouldn’t waste your time.

Q2: Urgent, but not important. (emails, interrupters, “got a minute?, phone notifications) These activities pose as important, but can be managed by learning to say no and delegating.

Q3: Urgent and important. (deadlines, firefighting, do it now.) To minimize what falls into this stressful category, be more proactive and less reactive. Anticipate needs and preplan. Do it early.

Q4: Not urgent, but important. Make a list of three to five things you know you should be doing for your business. Find more of this kind of time and use it to build relationships, work on your business, pursue your true goals and dreams. – From the Jewelers of Louisiana convention in New Orleans in August.



This Third-Generation Jeweler Was Ready for Retirement. He Called Wilkerson

Retirement is never easy, especially when it means the end to a business that was founded in 1884. But for Laura and Sam Sipe, it was time to put their own needs first. They decided to close J.C. Sipe Jewelers, one of Indianapolis’ most trusted names in fine jewelry, and call Wilkerson. “Laura and I decided the conditions were right,” says Sam. Wilkerson handled every detail in their going-out-of-business sale, from marketing to manning the sales floor. “The main goal was to sell our existing inventory that’s all paid for and turn that into cash for our retirement,” says Sam. “It’s been very, very productive.” Would they recommend Wilkerson to other jewelers who want to enjoy their golden years? Absolutely! “Call Wilkerson,” says Laura. “They can help you achieve your goals so you’ll be able to move into retirement comfortably.”

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