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Ask INSTORE: June 2009



Handling the frequently-late employee, can a vendor demand you stop carrying another vendors’ line?, and more.

[h3]Focus on behavior, not person, when confronting tardy employee[/h3]

[dropcap cap=Q.][h4][b]I’m not good at disciplining employees but I have one staff member who’s repeatedly coming late to work. What do I do?[/dropcap][/b][/h4]

[dropcap cap=A.]Few people enjoy confrontation but you’re not doing anyone a favor when you allow an employee to flout store rules. A constantly tardy employee hurts both customer service and staff morale. Make a time to talk to the person in private. Isolate the faulty behavior and explain the problems it’s causing. Remember: Criticize the behavior, not the person. Carol Schroeder, author of Specialty Shop Retailing, suggests using an “Agreement for Job Performance Improvement” form, on which you can write down the situation in advance of the conference. Allow the employee to suggest how she’ll remedy the problem and then set a time to meet again to assess progress. It’s a good idea for both you and the employee to sign the agreement at the end of the meeting so you’ll have a paper trail should the problem lead to dismissal.[/dropcap]

[componentheading]VENDOR RELATIONS[/componentheading]

[contentheading]Miffed and Cut Off Cold[/contentheading]


[h4][b]I carry two competing brands in a fairly narrow, small-dollar jewelry category. Now one of them is implying I should drop the other slightly less popular brand or it will cut off supply? Is this legal?[/b][/h4]

There are some instances when you could take such a case to court and expect to win — such as when an unreasonable restraint of trade or similar antitrust violation can be established, or when a store’s ability to conduct business is damaged, say, supply is cut off after you’ve invested heavily in the marketing and training, and the brand accounts for a big portion of sales. But for the most part, these are exceptions; the law allows a miffed vendor to cut you off cold. “In general, companies in the U.S. are free to decide when to do business and when to stop doing business with another company,” says attorney Barbara Mandell, a member of Dykema Gossett PLLC, which focuses on antitrust law.


[contentheading]Visual Oomph[/contentheading]

[h4][b]Any ideas on how to add some visual oomph to our diamond grade presentations?[/b][/h4]

Garry Holloway, inventor of the Ideal-Scope, loves the intricate math and percentages that go into producing a brilliant diamond. But he also understands how quickly such talk bores buyers. He suggests keeping a poorly cut and a well cut diamond in a display box (or if budget’s an issue, two cubic zirconia). In the presentation, Holloway uses two 1-carat stones; one is 6.25 mm and as dead as a dodo, the other is 6.5 mm and “sparkles like crazy,” he says. “Customers see for themselves how big a difference cut quality makes in a diamond’s appearance. Next my sales staff place the two CZs on a little portable light and show them to the customers with an Ideal-Scope. Customers easily learn from this demonstration how to select the best cuts of diamonds and so the scariest of the four Cs is totally demystified.”


[componentheading]PRESENTATIONS II[/componentheading]

[contentheading]Smooth Color[/contentheading]

[h4][b]We seem to be getting more people looking for something different, often meaning color. But my staff and I are finding it surprisingly difficult to deliver smooth presentations. What’s going on?[/b][/h4]

As you’ve discovered, colored stones are tough to get a handle on. The first problem is that there is no universal grading system. The second is most sales people’s lack of experience and training. But while you may be feeling out of your comfort zone, there’s nothing lacking in a colored stone’s story. In fact it’s often far more romantic than a diamond’s. The key is to adopt a conversational tone. Use grading terms like “intense” and “vivid” but intersperse them with descriptive phrases like “midnight blue” to convey a rich, dark, violetish-blue color, or “sky blue” to imply a lighter color. (Note that we’re pinching phrases here from the GIA Colored Stone Grading System — a very good source of “word pictures.”) Always stress the rarity of fine-quality colored stones. By adding anecdotes about the source, mining and market, and gemstone lore you will have an irresistible sales presentation. Remember too that your customer’s preferences are more important than trade preferences. “If your customer likes the color of a green-blue aquamarine over the trade-preferred color of a more pure blue, then that is the color you should promote,” says the GIA.


[contentheading]Divide and Conquer[/contentheading]


[h4][b]Things are turning over nicely at my store, and I’m thinking that with rents coming down it could be time to open a second location. What factors should I be considering?[/b][/h4]

There’s an adage in retail that if you’re going to open two stores you might as well open six, because the headaches are the same. To make more than one store work you need to be able to systemize the way you do business, duplicate your operational procedures and take yourself out of much of the sales equation. Also be aware that you are putting yourself back in start-up mode, both financially and in terms of effort. This is a new market you are trying to conquer. In most cases we’d suggest that unless you’re making fistfuls amounts of money per square foot you’re better off focusing your energy on improving your current location. That’s what a surprising number of our past America’s Coolest Store winners (Wesche Jewelers, Lee Read Jewelers, Christopher’s) did when confronted with similar choices — they opted to become destination stores rather than chains.

[span class=note]This story is from the June 2009 edition of INSTORE[/span]



Wilkerson Testimonials

Wilkerson Helped This Jeweler to Navigate His Retirement Sale Despite a Pandemic

Hosting a going-out-of-business sale when the coronavirus pandemic hit wasn’t a part of Bob Smith’s game plan for his retirement. Smith, the owner of E.M. Smith Jewelers in Chillicothe, Ohio, says the governor closed the state mid-way through. But Smith chose Wilkerson, and Wilkerson handled it like a champ, says Smith. And when it was time for the state to reopen, the sale continued like nothing had ever happened. “I’d recommend Wilkerson,” he says. “They do business the way we do business.”

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