My traffic is down, what can I do?
One of the lasting effects of the Great Recession is that consumers aren’t shopping as often as they used to, apparently thinking that if they can’t be tempted they won’t spend. That is doubly troubling for jewelers because few other industries are so dependent on getting the merchandise into the hands of customers. The jewelry buyer needs to see and feel the merchandise, and to be romanced. Price promotions are the most obvious way to get people in the door but a slippery slope when it comes to your profitability. An alternative is private sales for your best customers, or if you’re feeling creative, a special event, which not only builds buzz and excitement — but gives customers the opportunity to try things on. Whatever path you choose, it’s crucial you maintain those personal contacts with your best customers. They are resisting the siren call of general advertising. They’ll still answer the call of their friend the jeweler if you show you’ve got their interests top of mind (such as exclusive discounts).
A business friend recommended I insist on drug testing for all staff. I’m not sure it’s a good idea. What do you think?
The case against drug testing is that it’s intrusive and can corrode workplace morale. But if you’ve got items vanishing, too many accidents occurring in the shop, weird behavior on the salesfloor, you’re within your rights to ask employees (even potential employees) to submit to a drug test. But first, Suzanne DeVries, president of Diamond Staffing Solutions, recommends you have the appropriate documentation in place. “On your employee application, have them sign a release, or have a separate release giving you permission to conduct drug testing.” DeVries advocates testing hair rather than urine, as hair will go back six months. Check out drugfreeworkplace.org for the details at your state level.
I caught an error in the bonuses we paid out to sales staff for the holidays. It comes to over $1,000. Should I ask for it back?
Asking for the money back now is a lost cause — even if you could collect, the impact on morale and productivity would be a killer. Instead, you could explain what happened and that you plan to treat the payments as interest-free advances against next year’s bonuses. That way, you should recover most of the overpayments without demanding staff find money that’s probably already spent. But, hey, it’s $1,000, and it’s your mistake. If you need $1,000 that badly, you have bigger worries.
Where can I find a good watchmaker for my store?
A good place to start your search is at the Careers section of the American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute’s website (awci.com), says Terry Parresol, owner of Parresol Jewelers in Lakeland, FL. For a $35 fee, the institute will put you in touch with a watchmaker who matches your needs.
An employer has asked me to comment on a former staff member’s performance. He wasn’t great. Should I be honest?
Sadly, this is an area where it’s often best to keep your mouth shut. Unless he signed a release protecting you from legal action, a simple “It’s our policy not to comment” may save you from a lawsuit.