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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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Commentary: The Business

Raw Gems Hold the Key To Unlocking the Imagination

Learn to sell jewelry as the powerful talisman it always has been.

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WHY DO WE, HUMANS, have such a thing as jewelry?

I don’t think it was intended to mark status originally, back when we were walking around naked and hunting bears and living in caves. I think, on the contrary, it was because of the unforgettable experience of suddenly coming face to face with something amazing, a small thing that shimmered, so unlike anything else in your life, so special, that from that moment on, you knew your life was changed forever.

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You held onto that gem, or pearl, or gold crystal, and knew you had to hold onto it, no matter what. But how? You had no pockets, you wore leaves, or maybe nothing! So you had to figure out some way of drilling it, or wrapping it, and, inevitably, hung it about your neck. In every culture, the first jewelry is always a pendant, one thing protected. When you have something around your neck, you are going to fondle it, and soon you become very attached to it; maybe it will protect you and become your secret power. And that, which I call Transcendence, is why we have such a thing as jewelry!

So when your customer moans, “My daughter does not even like jewelry!” smile and resolve to bring back the magic. In a corner of my gallery, there is a partially enclosed space called the Gem Room with drawers of tourmalines, amethysts and colored sapphires and such, and I enjoy inviting people in to discuss custom work.

But when I see a young adult coming in, quick, before they whip out their electronics, I challenge them: “You look like someone who would like raw gems! Let me show you something unusual!” and I whisk them away to the Gem Room (while the parent goes about their business). I place in their hand a large raw lapis, full of pyrite stars, a piece of opal rough with a shimmering stripe in one corner, or a huge slice of watermelon tourmaline. A transformation! They are now alive.

Then you say “Wouldn’t this be right for Game Of Thrones (or a warrior in Wakanda)?” Then tell them where it came from, how hard it is to find and ask them, yes, to imagine themselves as a prehistoric human walking out of a cave, suddenly finding something amazing like this: wouldn’t they want to somehow keep it? But they have no pockets, they’d have to find a way to drill it, wrap it, maybe, and that is how jewelry comes into being. Then you walk away and let them play for a while.

You know that now they get it.

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Commentary: The Business

Want to Survive? Go Custom

Tapping into jewelry customers’ desire for individuality is the key to retail success.

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YOU OFTEN HEAR THE words “it’s custom made” when referring to jewelry, but is it really? We all know there is a difference between “off-the-rack” and “custom-made” when it comes to clothing — jewelry isn’t any different.

The magic starts when the customer meets the maker. Each custom piece of art (which is what jewelry really is) should start with a conversation. Then the information provided — including style ideas, desired gemstones, personality traits and tastes, hobbies, work and social environments, favorite colors, you name it — should be incorporated into hand-drawn or 3D CAD rendered images for the client to choose from. Once a favorite design has been chosen, the creation and fabrication processes can begin.

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This specific value-add and brand differentiation is where clients realize the importance of knowing your jeweler. You have to trust the individual making the piece for you — that is paramount.

People are tired of sameness. From rampant copying to boring, uninspired designs, jewelry clients are becoming wise to seeing the same thing over and over again. The jewelry they are seeing does not speak to their individuality because these products are made for the masses on a gigantic scale. The anonymity behind fast fashion and easily consumed products that break or lose stones in a short amount of time after purchase don’t help the cause. Customer service only goes so far; the product has to have its own legs to stand on.

If you are creating one-of-a-kind pieces, you do not have the carrying costs associated with pre-fabricated designs and styles. You do not have to have liquidation sales of old, tired merchandise. You are creating exactly what the client is looking for. Being a specialty shop does not limit you to only creating custom pieces. It empowers you to design out-of-the-box and far-out jewelry that pushes the boundaries of style and uniqueness.

Seth Godin said that “survival is not the goal, transformative success is.” It is not always the strongest that survive, but those most responsive to change. Change is an opportunity that many see as a threat. It all boils down to our individual creativity. There is no competition when you create.

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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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