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Commentary: The Business

Andy Malis: A Challenge for 2011: Stand for Something

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It’s time to put a stake in the ground: Differentiate or die.

[dropcap cap=I]f you’re reading this, you have my congratulations. In the most challenging economic environment for luxury retail in 50 years, you survived. Maybe thrived. You probably watched with glee as some of your competitors went belly-up. You’re still in business — feeling pretty good about yourself.[/dropcap]

But will you be in business five years from now? Don’t be too sure.

There are tens of thousands of retail jewelers in the United States. And it’s nearly impossible to tell them apart. In my almost 30 years of marketing, I have never seen a more “me-too” industry than retail jewelers.

Does this sound familiar?

“We’re A.B. Cee Jewelers. Family owned and operated for five generations. Founded by our great grandfather 80 years ago. We carry the finest selection and provide the best customer service at the area’s most competitive prices.”

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Really? Do today’s consumers care how old you are? Maybe your loyal customers do, but they’re dying off. (Sorry to be so blunt, but it’s true.)

Here’s my challenge for 2011. Be the customer and define yourself from their point of view. Put a stake in the ground. Differentiate or die. Stand for something. Anything. As long as it’s not what every other jeweler stands for. Find out why your “never customers” have never shopped you, and why your loyal customers are so loyal. Find that intersection and exploit it. Adjust your operation and your marketing accordingly.

While you’re at it, ignore your competition. Completely. Most of your competitors don’t know what they’re doing. Copying them is business suicide. There’s only one group you should be learning from: the customer.

Also, don’t go overboard with co-op. While it’s important to showcase the great brands you carry, there’s nothing differentiating about co-op advertising. The vendor pays you 50 percent but keeps 90 percent of the ad space. And how many of the people who are swayed by that beautiful product shot wind up at your rivals’ stores? The main job of your marketing must be to create preference and brand your store.

Here’s a surprise — people who are interested in a particular product go to the Internet, read about it, and find the closest dealer. Can consumers find you and the products you carry easily on the Internet?

So now that the holiday rush is over and you’re back from vacation, it’s time to get to work. Take a good hard look at your business. How are you perceived? What do you stand for? Now’s the time to differentiate and leap ahead of all your competitors.

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[smalltext]Andy Malis is president of MGH Inc., an integrated marketing communications firm. He works with many of the country’s leading independent jewelers, helping them define their positioning. E-mail him at [email protected] [/smalltext]

[span class=note]This story is from the January 2011 edition of INSTORE[/span]

 

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