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The Best Defense Against “I’m Just Looking” (is a Good Offense) … and More Jeweler Questions Answered

“Retail sales success is dependent on the opening question,” says Harry Friedman.

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SALES

What’s the best way to reply to “I’m just looking”?

The standard comeback is, “So, what kind of piece are you looking for?”, which tells the customer that you know she is looking to buy (otherwise why would she be in your store?), and that you are inviting her to discuss her preferences. But usually it provokes only more defensive behavior. A better approach, advises sales trainer Harry Friedman, is to prevent the “just looking/just browsing” bomb from being dropped in the first place, via a bit of smart schmoozing. Friedman suggests you prepare some opening lines such as this one for a couple: “So, who dragged who out to shop today?” Says Friedman: “Retail sales success is dependent on the opening question. A closed question such as ‘Can I help?’ invites a yes/no/just looking answer, which is difficult to move on from. Open questions, however, invite conversation. The theory is if you can get the shopper to talk about something other than business for even a brief period, she will not be intimidated that you are a salesperson.” Schmoozing can’t go on forever, of course, and eventually you need to cut to business. To do that, Friedman advocates a friendly inquiry such as: “So, what brings you in today?”

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CONTESTS

I want to know if you can put “no cash value” next to items given as prizes, and if this escapes having to do a 1099?

No and no, our legal sources tell us. Section 74 of the tax code specifically includes prizes and awards as “gross income.” There are only two exceptions: 1) when the prize or award is made in recognition of “religious, charitable, scientific, educational, artistic, literary or civic achievement” and the recipient did not take any action to obtain it (such as entering a contest); or 2) when the award is given to a staff member, provided the cost does not exceed the allowable deduction — meaning $400. Note that as the store owner you are allowed to deduct the cost of the jewelry prize as an advertising expense, but not the fair market value.

SHOWCASES

I have a good price from a regular cabinetmaker for new showcases. Any reason this is a bad idea?

Actually, it’s one of those times when the cheap option is nearly always a bad idea. Jewelry cases aren’t just another bit of cabinetry. “Showcase firms are up to date on the lighting, hardware and security issues,” says Larry Johnson, senior VP of Pacific Northern and author of The Complete Guide to Effective Jewelry Display. The hoped-for savings rarely materialize in the long run, he says.

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FINANCES

I fell behind on a personal loan and the bank sold it to a finance company that I understand paid 50 cents on the dollar for it. I can now offer immediate repayment — but I want a 25 percent discount. How should I proceed?

Your offer sounds reasonable but be careful about disclosing how much cash you have, because the finance company still has a right to collect the full amount of the loan. And they are experts at squeezing every cent out of a settlement, so don’t expect a friendly “let’s split the difference” discussion.

GOLD BUYING

With prices so high and volatile, is it too late to get into the gold-buying game?

If you have customers asking, then you should consider it, advises store consultant Kate Peterson. “Customers are still looking for a level of trust that comes from knowing the business. If you have the resources available (equipment, experience and cash), making gold buying an available service for your customers is still a sensible — and profitable — option. David Geller adds that if you allow yourself decent margins, the cushion should safeguard you against price volatility. “If gold goes down 15 percent, it doesn’t matter as the jeweler pays about 40 percent of true cost,” he says, adding that there’s also lots of money to be made in moving old jewelry and diamonds.

Over the years, INSTORE has won 80 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INSTORE's editors at [email protected].

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