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Commentary: The Business

Put Yourself First and Cultivate Your Own Brand

Concentrate on custom and healthy vendor relationships to succeed in today’s jewelry retail environment.

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It’s time for independent jewelers to create their own brand identity by partnering with brands that respect and honor their relationships, and by doing whatever they can to build loyalty with custom design, whether or not they have in-house shops.

Larger stores possess the volume needed to buy branded products and the showcase space necessary to display them. Granted, branded products and their retailers have a rarefied environment, with packaging, advertising and a built-in national customer affiliation.

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But Pandora truly changed the dynamic of the vendor/retailer relationship in the last decade by building their brand off the independent’s efforts. They demanded higher sales volume and reorder numbers, then removed underachievers from the supply chain. Many independents lost the branded customer base they had acquired.

Worse, once Pandora identified the larger established consumer markets, in a checkmate move, they established their own stores, thus selling directly to the consumer. Many retailers suffered serious financial losses with non-returnable inventory and had their reputations damaged with unfulfilled customer service requests.

Following in hot pursuit, several popular companies decided they could dictate to their retailers how much they had to spend and restock in order to keep their brands. But in the end, many of these demanding brands will diminish because trends and styles change!

The goal of a supplier-retailer relationship is to be both transparent and mutually beneficial. There are many companies that go the extra mile for their retailers. Find those, buy from them and remain profitable.

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It’s also time for the independent jeweler to do everything possible to create their own following in the custom-jewelry wars. The popularity of custom has created a multitude of manufacturing jewelry stores showcasing their own products and increasing their own brand diversity.
Great local and online presence, along with professional training and an engaging and well-informed sales staff, allows your store brand to flourish. Self-branding, shameless advertising and polished elevator speeches help us gain and maintain our status in the community as the go-to jeweler.

 

Denise Oros owns Linnea Jewelers in La Grange, IL.

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Jimmy DeGroot

Be Ready for ‘What Do You Have for $100?’ and Other Holiday Questions

As Christmas approaches, the queries you’ll hear from customers are actually pretty predictable, says jewelry store training expert Jimmy DeGroot. Here's how to make sure your team is prepared for the more common ones.

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Commentary: The Business

Hear Those Jingle Bells? They’re Also Wedding Bells

Hiding among the holiday crowds is a key customer who doesn’t want to be rushed.

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This story was originally published in the December 2011 edition of INSTORE.

THAT RINGING in your ears is jingle bells! Jewelers around the country are in the midst of the most important selling season of the year. According to J. Walter Thompson, the holiday selling season accounts for nearly 22 percent of annual diamond sales in the United States, meaning it’s still crucial to a successful year for retail jewelers.

Retailers invest months preparing for the season, not to mention dollars! Marketing, merchandising, packaging, special events, and sales training must all be in place.

The other ringing you hear is wedding bells! There is a vital statistic lurking inside that 22 percent number of which you should be aware: various studies show that about 25 percent of engagements occur during the fourth quarter in the U.S., making your diamond bridal business a key part of holiday sales.

Here’s the critical point: amid all the busy-ness of the season, don’t overlook this essential category. Make a list and check it twice. Focus on two important areas: Diamond inventory and the particular temperament of the engagement-ring shopper.

From an inventory/merchandise perspective, jewelers should be over-prepared and ready to present a wealth of options and styles to the engagementring customer. The adage that one can’t sell from an empty wagon applies! Savvy consumers will have scoured the Internet and other retail stores and seen hundreds of ring styles. Their jeweler of choice will have to provide options!

Engagement-ring customers are not the typical Christmas shopper. They are often walking into your store for the first time after, on average, three months of shopping (according to The Knot 2011 Engagement and Jewelry Study). This consumer is not preoccupied with getting a package under the tree, but rather with making one of the most important purchases of their lifetime. They require your full attention and will not respond well to being rushed just because it’s Christmas and you’re busy. Sales associates must be prepared to give the engagement-ring shopper the time and attention they require.

When making your “list,” be sure to include a training session or two to ready your sales staff to effectively engage the wedding-ring customer during the holiday season. Train them to change gears for this consumer so they don’t feel rushed or under-served. Use all the resources at your disposal to ensure an impressive engagement-ring inventory that will excite your customer. Make sure your collection of loose diamonds includes a good number of 1-carat diamonds, and if possible, have a 2 to 3 carat on hand. Overnight and “in time” inventory is great, but sometimes you can’t make the sale if you don’t have the goods!

That ringing in your ears is jingle bells and wedding bells playing two distinctly different but profitable tunes during this Christmas selling season!

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Commentary: The Business

When You Run Ads And Nobody Comes

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Often it’s the message and not the medium that is the problem.

You run an ad on the radio and nobody shows up. You say, “Radio advertising doesn’t work.”

You send out 5,000 direct mail pieces, and the results are dismal. You say, “Direct mail doesn’t work.”

You constantly send out emails to all your best customers, but the open rates are abysmal and response rates are worse. You say, “Email doesn’t work.”

But have you considered that it might be your fault?

Truth is, bad marketing results typically come from three sources:

  • Targeting (or lack thereof )
  • Ineffective headlines
  • Weak offers

Targeting has to do with choosing media that your prospects engage with, digital or traditional, and making sure you actually target the right kind of people. You’ll do better if you develop a profile of your best customers. Identify their geographic, demographic, and psychographic similarities and look for a media channel that is attracting that kind of person.

Once you identify the right target, you’ve got to hook them with a powerful headline that 1) captures their attention and 2) converts their attention into interest. Do you realize that in head-to-head tests, one headline may outpull another by hundreds, even thousands of percent? You could double, triple or even quadruple the open rate of your next email, for example, if you test one subject line against another, instead of just picking one and throwing it against the wall to see if it sticks.

If you want people to pay attention to your advertising, write at least a dozen headlines for warmup. Then pick the one you like best and tweak it another half-dozen ways to improve it. Finally, test the headlines against one another.

And then there are offers! At the end of the day, this may be the biggest challenge for jewelers: How to make a compelling offer that won’t kill your margins.

For instance, that “10% OFF!” discount offer of yours. They don’t work, and you know it. You don’t respond to them when they come from other stores. Why on earth would you think your customers would respond to them?

Instead, test value-added offers.

Look, if you’re willing to give people, say, a 20 percent discount, invest that money in an added value instead. If you’re willing to take $20 off of a $100 item, keep the price at $100 and add a gift with purchase (or a second item free or at a deep discount) that costs you the same $20 out of pocket. Because you’re spending your $20 at wholesale and the customer is valuing it at retail, you can show the client a $140 value for their $100 investment. Isn’t that more compelling than a $100 value for their $80 investment?

At the heart of all three of these marketing blunders is the failure to think like a customer. If you wouldn’t pay attention to it because it doesn’t interest you or respond to it because it isn’t a good enough deal, it’s a safe bet your customer won’t either.


Jim Ackerman is a leading marketing consultant and coach to the jewelry industry. For more information on his latest training program, go to ultimatejewelrysalesbootcamp.com or call Jim at (800) 584-7585.

This article originally appeared in the July 2016 edition of INSTORE.

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Commentary: The Business

Shane O’Neill: The E-commerce Tsunami is Almost Here

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Massive disruption is on the way, and you can’t say you didn’t hear it coming.

It always seems there is a calm before the storm — a sense of easiness before a sudden, usually violent event. These events disrupt the world around them and cause chaos, mostly for those who are ill-prepared.

Technology is such a disrupter, as we have seen over the past several years. The iPhone, for example, only came out in 2007. Think about that.

Think about what has happened with how you market your business in that short timeframe. Technology has become the gateway to endless possibilities and has fundamentally changed how businesses market themselves. We’ve seen it with digital marketing and we’re going to see it with e-commerce. It’s not if, it’s when. And, just like a tsunami, there is a calm. The sea recedes as if sending a warning to prepare. Some notice, some don’t, but, in the end, there is no stopping what’s to come. It’s happening with e-commerce now, some are noticing … most are not.

A little perspective on what’s happening in the technology ocean:

Technology’s exponential growth may be best described by “Moore’s Law,” which basically says that data density doubles every 18 months. Digital and social marketing has become the single biggest disruptor in marketing and advertising in half a century and it’s only in first grade. Its natural offspring is e-commerce, and it’s growing by as much 10 percent a year, by some estimates. As we are seeing now in the jewelry industry, retailers are increasingly entering the space as they understand the need to evolve. I believe it’s when these small- to medium-sized businesses start saturating the market that the e-commerce tsunami will make landfall, and those in the wrong space will be swept away. Here are a few things to consider on your e-commerce journey:

Part of a great website experience is having products and pricing online. Yes, they will price shop you, so don’t bother trying to fool these e-commerce consumers; they are probably the savviest of consumers.

Another key factor is to make sure you manage your products. Weekly audits of inventory or streaming directly from your POS system, such as The Edge, will make sure products are available if someone wants to purchase.

Set your expectations low and build from there. Successful online selling will, most likely, require a change in how and where your marketing dollars are spent. It’s easier to sell sub-$500 items than it is engagement rings, but those engagement-ring shoppers still want to see and touch that ring first. That can be an advantage to an independent jeweler. In the end, it’s about being an early adopter to a space that’s only going to grow. Put yourself in a position to evolve, not jump in at the last minute. Always look ahead. Always prepare. The tsunami hasn’t hit yet, but the water is starting to recede.


Shane O’Neill is vice-president of Fruchtman Marketing and can be reached at shane@fruchtman.com.

This article originally appeared in the July 2016 edition of INSTORE.

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