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Best of The Best: From Struggling to Soaring

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Best of The Best: From Struggling to Soaring

BY FRAN ZARNITZKY | Published in the April 2013 issue

William Howard’s Jewelers, Sanford, FL

Twenty-eight years ago, Linda Fairfield didn’t know how to change a watch battery. Of course, her knowledge grew over the years but she wasn’t always attuned to changing business models and technological innovations. But in 2012, she turned her struggling business into an interactive jewelry experience. She says that success is a direct result of ideas she picked up at the Stuller Bridge Conference in April 2011 in Lafayette, LA “It was unbelievable what Bridge did for me, having been devastated by the economy of Central Florida. It feels great to be excited about my business for the first time in years,” Fairfield says.

THE IDEA

BRIDGE MIXES educational seminars and group dialogue on a range of topics including customer and peer-to-peer networking, technology and business strategies. The conference has helped jewelers identify problem areas within their stores and develop effective solutions. Three main themes: customization, in-store experience and retail challenges and opportunities are set to be the conversation drivers in 2013. “We address the industry from a holistic point-of-view covering topics like technology, tools and merchandising,” says Ken Dugas, executive director of interactive customer events. “Add low-risk, profitable results with some Southern hospitality and Cajun cuisine, and now you’ve got something powerful and fun.”

THE EXECUTION

FAIRFIELD home with a long list of ideas. She spent $7,000 on prototypes that she says have long since paid for themselves. “I had never considered jewelry prototypes. They were the single best concept I came away with from the Bridge conference,” says Fairfield. She went from having approximately 10 real gold wedding bands on display to more than 50 prototypes for customers to choose from.

“Now I can give my customers exactly what they want, rather than hoping they like what I already have in stock.”

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But more subtle ideas for change also caught her eye. “They convinced me to install a fountain and change the type of music I was playing. It sounds so elementary but it never occurred to me to change what my customers hear when they step into my store. People coming here for 20 years have noticed and say they love the new ambience.”

Fairfield also plans to invest in Stuller’s CounterSketch Studio, which will allow her to help clients design a computerized design of a ring, email that design to Stuller, and have the actual item in her hands seven days later. She’s put iPads on her counter and is using Stuller’s live diamond try-on app. “I think my customers really benefit from having that interactive experience,” she says.

THE RESULTS

SINCE FAIRFIELD swapped out most of her inventory for prototypes, sales have more than doubled — with direct sales from the prototypes making up 52 percent of the total sales. But she says the biggest boost from the conference was to her self-esteem. “Speaking to the other 60 or so jewelers at the conference who were struggling like I was made me realize I’m not alone. I was about to shut my doors before I went to the conference. I left feeling more confident about not just my business, but myself.”

DO IT YOURSELF

Execute new ideas in stages. “Don’t try all the ideas at once. There were so many great ideas that it would have been easy to get overwhelmed and lose focus. I implemented a few to start and now I’m ready for plan B,” says Fairfield.
Not all ideas cost big bucks. Fairfield said she spent $60 on a CD player for her music changes and someone donated the fountain, giving her low-cost ideas with big returns.
Schedule for 2013 Stuller Bridge Conferences: April 7-9, May 20-22, June 17-19, June 23-25, Aug. 4-6, Sept. 9-11 (Pawn Event), Sept. 22-24, Sept. 29-Oct. 1, Oct. 7-9. For more information on Bridge and to request an invitation, visit stuller. com/bridge. Register online or by calling (866) 751-5692.

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