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David Brown

Are You Neglecting Colored Stones? That Could Be a Big Mistake

How do you compare to similar-sized stores?

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March results across our same-store data showed a slight decrease on rolling 12-month sales achieved since February.

Same-store data showed a drop in year-to-date sales to $1,612,542 from $1,616,481, a decline of 0.24 percent for the month. Twelve-month unit sales declined from 4,147 to 4,116, a decrease of 0.74 percent, with a slight increase in average sale achieved from $390 to $392 helping to offset the drop.

Month-to-date comparison data for sales show March sales results are below the equivalent period in 2016 after increasing during the 2017 year. Total monthly sales came in at $103,571, down from last year’s $107,510 and the March 2016 result of $104,960. Sales units continued their decline to 247 items, a drop of 11 percent from 2017 and 21 percent from 2016.

The average sale of $356 was ahead of last year’s equivalent amount of $352 and the 2016 average sale achieved of $307. Margin held at 45 percent with the result that gross profit was down 2.4 percent on 2017 and 2 percent on 2016 respectively.

This month we focus on colored stones, an area often not given much priority by jewelers compared to other departments. Nevertheless, for most stores it can contribute up to 10 percent of sales and is an area that shouldn’t be neglected.

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With the recent split of our data gathering into stores under $1 million sales, stores over $1 million sales, and stores over $3 million sales, we are better able to compare the impact that colored ring sales are having in each respective area.

Understandably, larger stores doing $3 million per year are able to achieve more sales and a greater volume of unit sales across these areas. Where they also gain, however, is in average sale achieved in colored stones. The difference between the average sale for a store doing less than $1 million and those doing $3 million is $460 ($1,061 – $601). That represents an average sale that is 76 percent higher, a significant difference. The largest stores are achieving 4.8 times as many sales as their smallest counterparts but, due to a lower markup (99 percent versus 117 percent), this converts into a gross profit that is only 4.4 times higher ($155,358 versus $34,973). They are doing these sales on only 4.3 times as much inventory, meaning their stock turn comes in better at 0.45 turns per year compared to 0.38.

Not surprisingly, medium-sized stores doing between $1 million and $3 million are sitting in the middle with unit sales 66 percent higher than the smallest stores, and average sale coming in 38 percent higher. Markup sits comfortably in the middle at 106 percent, but their stock turn more closely resembles the smaller stores at 0.39 times per year.

The law of diminishing return would tend to suggest that the more items a store holds, the lower its stock turn is likely to be, as eventually there will be far more selection than buyers. Clearly the $3 million plus stores haven’t reached this point and smaller stores should be asking the question as to how they are able to achieve this.

Based on the relatively low stock turn, small to medium stores are not understocked relative to sales, but a clue may sit in the price point that the largest stores are achieving. Are the smaller stores carrying items in the right price range relative to what the market wants?

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This is a question to ask your own business. With diamond average sales sitting in the range of $1,500 to $2,500 for most stores, should colored stones be averaging a unit price as low as this? When compared to their diamond average, each store size looks like this:

There is a clear pattern of diamond averages being more than twice as high as colored stone averages, and that’s understandable given the more significant role that diamond plays in high-end bridal. The difference is slightly lower for stores doing more than $3 million, but still noticeable.

So what role do colored stones play in your store? Are you achieving an average sale in line with similar stores? Is the difference between your diamond and colored stone average sale similar? A comparison with your peers may just show an area of potential growth that you could be improving on.

David Brown is president of the Edge Retail Academy, a force in jewelry industry business consulting, sell-through data and vendor solutions. David and his team are dedicated to providing business owners with information and strategies to improve sales and profits. Reach him at david@edgeretailacademy.com

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David Brown

How Eating Right Is Like Managing Your Inventory

The right items and advance planning can make your business fit.

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KEEPING YOUR INVENTORY in order is a little like painting the Eiffel Tower … you no sooner get to one end than you feel you have to repeat the process all over again!

Inventory is a dynamic part of your business. It is constantly in flux, and as such, difficult to manage. However, having a good system will go a long way toward helping you keep your inventory under control.

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There are two aspects to your inventory: what you buy and what you keep. It’s the buying part that contributes most to what is left after the customers don’t want it, so let’s start with that first.

Food dieting consists of what you eat and how much of it you consume. Buying inventory is the same. There is what you buy, and then there is how much you are spending. If your diet consists of eating healthy greens, vegetables and fresh fruits, then part of your food diet will take care of itself. The same is true of ordering fast sellers — make these the mainstay of your inventory diet, and you will take care of a good 70-80 percent of the inventory you will need to consume. That leaves the remainder — the combination of poor choices and overconsumption that can cause the most problems (I’m still talking inventory here!).

In the same way that meal planning can reduce overeating or making poor food choices, planning your purchasing will work the same way. We recommend an open-to-buy budget as the most effective way to do this. An open-to-buy will balance what you are selling with what you are buying. Think of it like a calorie checker that enables you to eat once you have burned enough fat. The open-to-buy will track the money released from outgoing inventory that is then freed up to spend on new product and let you know how much this is so you don’t over-buy. This will help you to keep your inventory situation from becoming any more bloated.

So what about the surplus inventory that is aged and isn’t going anywhere now? This is the same as the few extra pounds that might be sitting around your hips — it’s one thing to stop the increase, but it’s another thing entirely to get rid of that unwanted fat.

Much like systemizing your buying with an open-to-buy program, you can systemize the aged inventory with a series of means to move it on. This can consist of a variety of options that work well for you on a regular basis to keep that aged inventory from clogging up your store arteries. I’ll talk more about these options in the next article.

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David Brown

6 Solutions to Short-Term Cash Flow Problems

Problems can arise if you aren’t vigilant about how your receipts and payments are tracking.

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MANAGING CASH FLOW can be an urgent issue for any business. Problems can arise if you aren’t vigilant to how your receipts and payments are tracking. Sometimes, you need a solution that can give you quick and easy cash to keep you going. Here are some of the best options you should consider.

1. Get short-term financing. If you feel the situation can’t be resolved without external help, then short-term financing, such as a line of credit, can see you through. It has the added advantage of being able to be repaid when the funds are no longer needed, keeping costs to a minimum.

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2. Long-term financing. This can be a longer process and will generally involve putting up assets as security for a more permanent arrangement. Although this may result in a larger sum of funding, be careful: your assets and debt should match in terms of time frame. Using long-term debt for short-term cash flow needs can be a recipe for disaster (as can short-term debt for long-term asset purchasing). Long-term debt should be used primarily to purchase assets that provide long-term returns to the business, not as a means of “tiding you over” until things get better. You need cash flow every day, but you only have so many assets you can draw against.

3. Speed up recovery of receivables. Although retail is normally a cash business, there may be some areas in which you run an account (e.g., insurance companies) or other parties with whom you have a good relationship. In these circumstances, it’s important to manage the repayment process. A discount can be an effective incentive for this.

4. Get a larger deposit. Your customers are often your best means of short-term funding. Increasing your deposit on custom jobs from 20 percent to 50 percent can add several thousand dollars permanently to your bank float.

5. Manage your repairs. Follow up consistently with repairs that aren’t collected. This is dead money sitting that is easily forgotten about because the items don’t belong to the store. You have an investment in those items you need to recoup.

6. Sell surplus assets. Inventory is often the first choice for doing this, but is there other equipment or assets you no longer need? If you’ve ever run a garage sale, you’ll know how much cash you can round up from extra stuff you have — the same may be true of business assets such as old desks, tools and display cabinets you no longer use. Don’t assume they are worthless just because you will recoup much less than what you paid for them.

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David Brown

4 Ideas to Liquidate Your Extra Post-Holiday Inventory

Extra inventory left over from December could hurt your 2019 sales.

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THE BUSY DECEMBER SEASON is now behind you — it’s time to relax a little and recover from the most hectic time of the year … or is it?
The start of a new financial year can still carry something of a hangover from the December festivities you’ve just enjoyed, and foremost in this is the issue of your surplus inventory.

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Unfortunately, this product can be a blockage to your ability to refresh with new purchases as it ties up cash flow that can be reinvested. Here are a few steps to follow in order to keep these items moving:

1. Determine how much of it there is. You can do this in two ways. First, print a stock list of items that you have more than one of. Second, print a stock list of all items over 6-9 months old. These two reports will show you the total dollar value of what is blocking your reorders.

2. Complete a physical stock take. Are these reports correct? Chances are that during the busy December period, there have been some errors in inputting, so you need to reconcile the value of the report with what you have on hand. In particular, check spare drawers for double-ups of your fast sellers.

3. Determine how you will liquidate this product. Is it time for a storewide sale? Can you offer a selection of these items in a “specials” showcase? What about your mailing list — could you make an offer to your best customers of an exclusive January deal on some of these items? Could you incentivize staff to move it on? There are a myriad of ways to promote shifting these items to your customers.

4. Don’t forget vendors and other store owners. Check with vendors in case they may want to replenish their own inventory. Often, they may be closed for manufacturing or receiving their overseas shipments during the early January window and may be happy to take back some items to fulfill other orders. Also, many of your fellow group members may be looking to re-stock some of these items, especially if they were part of a group promotion. Why not be their vendor for your own surplus product?

Fortunately, jewelry isn’t perishable, and you still have many opportunities to sell these items, but don’t allow them to sit around unattended. It can take a conscious effort to move these slower items on, so the sooner you start, the sooner you can get this money back into the bank.

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