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Ask INSTORE: May 2008

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Getting gold refined, alternatives to cutting your prices, and jewelry inventory software for Macs.

[h3]Check spam laws before sending e-mail promotions[/h3]

[dropcap cap=Q.][h4][b]What’s the deal with spamming laws? I’m not breaking the law if I send an unsolicited e-mail to advertise an exciting upcoming event in my store, am I?[/b][/h4][/dropcap]

[dropcap cap=A.]Exciting or not, as long as you comply with the provisions of the CAN-SPAM Act, which includes obligations to identify yourself, offer an opt-out link and to be honest in your offers, then yes, there’s nothing illegal about spamming prospective customers to tell them about your event. (You can find the provisions at ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/buspubs/canspam.pdf) Be careful though and don’t overdo it. You’ll annoy the heck out of the recipients, damage your store’s name if the message is perceived as spam, and possibly hurt your ability to deliver e-mail bulletins in the future. (If you go on the spam blacklist because of a complaint, it can be difficult to find companies to deliver your e-mail.) The best way to approach e-mail marketing is to aggressively collect names and build up a database of people who want to receive your message at intervals they specify.[/dropcap]

[componentheading]OLD GOLD[/componentheading]

[contentheading]Refined Search[/contentheading]

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[h4][b]With gold at more than $1,000 an ounce, we’re thinking of liquidating some of the “old gold” in our store. I understand the refining process, but don’t know where to send our gold to get the best dollars. Any suggestions?[/b][/h4]

If you have large amounts, try Kenmore, NY-based JHCB (jackhunt.com), suggests industry consultant David Geller of JewelerProfit. The JHCB website includes a scrap calculator as well. For smaller amounts, try a smelter the members of Polygon recommend, North American Metals (northamericanmetals.com), in Van Nuys, CA. Two companies that will take your gold, silver as well as the accompanying diamonds or colored stones, are Roseco (roseco.com) and Hoover & Strong (hooverandstrong.com). They will buy, give you credit or return the gems depending on what you specify. Two others to investigate are Worldwide Diamond Co. (wwdiamond.com) in Los Angeles, CA, and Tulsa Gold & Gems (wearegoldbuyers.com) in Tulsa, OK.

[componentheading]SOFTWARE[/componentheading]

[contentheading]Mac Solutions[/contentheading]

[h4][b]I have an iMac OS X computer and need to update inventory control and to be able to print tags. But every piece of jewelry-industry-specific software I see seems to be designed only for Windows users. Where I can go to find Mac-based programs?[/b][/h4]

Houston Neal, from tech consultants Software Advice, says you basically have three choices: software that runs natively on a Mac, a Web-based system, or using a virtual machine. Apple makes the initial research easy with its list of Mac-based retail management solutions (apple.com/business/solutions/retail.html). These include point-of-sale, inventory control and CRM modules. One program designed specifically for jewelers is BusinessMind by DCIT Corp.

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If, however, you are more familiar with a Windows-based system, then you may want to consider “software as a service” (SaaS), Neal says. SaaS, or Web-based software, is hosted at a data center by the software vendor. The retailer accesses the system using a Web browser such as Safari or Firefox. This model is becoming popular in retail environments and removes the burden of server maintenance and data backup.

Three vendors that offer Web-based systems for jewelers include Everest Software, MoreSolutions and Tylernet (an ASP-hosted option). If you prefer to keep your server in your store, then a final option is to run Windows inside of Mac OS X. The latest release of Mac OS X features the Boot Camp program which allows you to run either Windows or OS X on your machine. Two third-party systems are Parallels Desktop, which lets you run both operating systems on an Intel-based Mac, and Virtual PC by Microsoft, for PowerPC-based systems.

[componentheading]SLOW ECONOMY[/componentheading]

[contentheading]Goods Moving[/contentheading]

[h4][b]The economy is slowing and I’m feeling pressure to cut my prices to move goods. Are there any alternatives?[/b][/h4]

It’s tough, but make a real effort to stop thinking about price. Commit yourself to competing on service, quality or something else. Work with your suppliers. They are likely hurting too and may be willing to go the extra yard to help you in your market. Same goes for the rent you’re paying. See if you can renegotiate your lease to ease the financial pressure. And while it feels counterintuitive, boost your advertising, only seek out more cost-effective ways to get your message out instead. Try more point-of-view advertising (the bathroom walls at the local bridal shop), switch your newsletters to e-mail, print up your own postcards (see printingforless.com).

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If you have some discretionary marketing cash, think about a new store sign. “It can be your most powerful advertising statement. If your sign is seen by passing cars, it’s worth thousands in advertising,” says David Geller. Remember that even in a recession people want to treat themselves, just in smaller doses. Stay with your best sellers although try ratcheting down your price points, not your prices.

[span class=note]This story is from the May 2008 edition of INSTORE[/span]

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