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Almost Half of Retail Jewelers Surveyed Say They’ve Had Issues Finding Merchandise

They reveal what they need from suppliers right now.

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INVISION covid survey chart

IN A SURVEY launched last week of INSTORE’s Brain Squad, nearly half of the 179 respondents said they have encountered some difficulty obtaining merchandise from suppliers since COVID-19 began affecting the jewelry supply chain in March.

“Our major supplier has been shut for quite some time,” says Nicole Shannon of Keir fine Jewelry in Whistler, British Columbia. “Others are only shipping once a week because their staff has been greatly reduced.”

Steve Wardle of Forest Beach Design in Chatham, MA, expressed his frustration. “There is no such thing as timely delivery anymore,” he says.

And even though Marc Majors of Sam L. Majors in Midland, TX, was never forced to close down his store, many of his vendors are in New York and California, so it was tricky getting items sent in if he needed to show them to a customer.

Eileen Eichhorn of Eichhorn Jewelry in Decatur, IN, had no choice but to shop around. “Since some suppliers were closed or lagging in opening, we found new suppliers,” she says.

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Retailers also outlined what kind of support they are looking for from suppliers right now. Many cited communication, flexibility and honesty as the most important factors for a successful relationship going forward.

“When one of your golden rules is; “Never promise what you can’t deliver-personally.” You learn to work around limitations,” says Jon Walp of Long Jewelers in Virgina Beach, VA. “If vendor “A” is closed, vendor “B” may be able to accommodate. The real key is upfront honesty. Our suppliers have been awesome and are to be commended for their ability to get things done despite the virus. Our vendors follow the same golden rule with honesty being the cornerstone.”

Others said getting the supply chain moving again would simply take time.

“I really don’t expect anything from our vendors as I am sure they are in the same boat we are in,” noted Joseph Villarreal of Villarreal Fine Jewelers in Austin, TX.

“They need our support,” offered Debbie Fox of Fox Fine Jewelry in Ventura, CA. “Suppliers, with their thin margins, are dependent upon retailers. Most retailers turned off the faucet and sold from existing stock.

Rick Sanders of Sanders Jewelers in Gainesville, FL, agrees times have been tough on everyone. “Suppliers have been great,” he says. “I feel bad that we are not purchasing right now.”

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Michael Kanoff of Michael’s Jewelers in Yardley, PA, also offered praise for his suppliers.

“You definitely learn who your friends are during a crisis,” he says. “We have amazing vendors who we will not forget.”

What Retail Jewelers Need From Suppliers Right Now

  • The supply chain is severely damaged. While vendors are trying hard, the staff can’t be back at 100 percent due to laws, fear, restrictions, shipping issues; everything just takes longer, and overseas products and shipping/customs are also in flux. What we need are honest timeframes, suggestions for in stock availability replacements, transition to more compact immediate availability options. — Heather Wahl, RC Wahl Jewelers, Des Plaines, IL.
  • Suppliers need to work with the retailer, not just sell to the retailer. Use the retailer as their marketing/advertising, use the retailer’s shelf space as their own. Suppliers should be offering memo to good-paying, good-credit retailers left and right. There is so much inventory sitting in safes, it needs to get to the stores and the public. It’s not fair to expect the retailer to buy inventory, pay for retail space, employees, insurance, advertising, customer service, etc. Suppliers could help by giving high resolution images of products so stores can print or put on their website and social media pages. Suppliers should provide flyers the retailer can send to clients letting them know a new collection has arrived, a new brand, etc. — Jeremy Auslander, Roxbury Jewelry, Los Angeles
  • We need marketing help. With no trade shows, they need to show us merchandise in new ways. I know vendors are laying off traveling salespeople, but they may need to get more of them into our stores. — Tim Bodis, Diamond Designs by Bodis, Rice Lake, WI
  • Getting diamonds for custom jobs was borderline impossible in March, April, and May. The diamond districts we typically get loose stone from were shut down. We ended up pulling stones from old stock to keep from losing the customers. We need availability, easy access to a person to talk with and quick turn-around. — Wadeana Beveridge, Community Jewelry, Brandon, FL
  • We are looking for suppliers that offer more. More service, better lines, better website integration and better understanding of best-selling items. — John Przeclawski, Monarch Jewelry, Winter Park, FL
  • We are debt free, so our suppliers are more than willing to send us anything we request and extend terms freely. But I need their stock photos of our purchased inventory. It’s all been expertly rendered, so make it easy to share for use on the retailer’s website! — Denise Oros, Linnea Jewelers, La Grange, IL
  • Stock balance. Returning older goods. Quicker on fast sellers. — Alan Perry, Perry’s Emporium, Wilmington, NC
  • Just for someone to answer calls or emails. — Kriss Roethlisberger, Ace of Diamonds, Mount Pleasant, MI
  • We need online ordering, quality finished items, one-time delivery to match customers’ needs, no corner cutting and no hidden or extra fees. — Elliott Herzlich, Elliott’s Jewelers, Clarksville, TN
  • Pick up the F#@$% phone! Nothing dumber than not have your office number, which is ringing to an empty room apparently, get forwarded to someone who can actually speak to you. — Jonathan McCoy, McCoy Jewelers, Dubuque, IA
  • I am cutting every supplier that changes our agreement of business. Some vendors have asked for prepayment with no discount or to sign a personal guarantee. I will take my business elsewhere to a partner that understands the value of me as a customer. Especially with a JBT rating in the highest esteem. — Christopher Sarich, Noah Gabriel & Co. Jewelers, Wexford, PA
  • Right at the start of the shutdown, one supplier agreed to take back an order we had just placed. We appreciated that very much and have now gone ahead with that order as we see that customers are coming back. We know suppliers have their bills to pay also. A few have offered longer terms, without being asked, and we appreciate that as well. — Nancy and Pierre Plante, Plante Jewelers Inc, Swansea, MA
  • At this time, it is more important than ever to be good partners and support each other. Being able to access inventory I don’t have is important to me and paying our bills on time is how I reciprocate. Communication is key. — Tonia Ulsh, Mountz Jewelers, Camp Hill, PA
  • With no trade shows it would be nice to see a sales rep or get a pick box to choose what we would like to purchase. — Sue Parker, Nyman Jewelers, Excanaba, MI
  • We need memo items for a lot longer. It’s hard to coordinate with clients. Most people are still pretty scrambled up from our new way of living without as much structure. — Betsy Barron, Love & Luxe, San Francisco
  • We need understanding that this is going to be a longer road back. So many people were furloughed, laid off or do not have a job to go back to. Jewelry is not a staple that people will be able to run out and buy right away. They have to catch up on their house bills first. It will take time for all to recover and everyone has to be patient for the long haul. — Scott Kelly, Jems Jewels & Gold, North Wales, PA

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