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16 Ways to Win Your Employees' Love Without Losing Their Respect

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It’s funny how, when you ask people what makes a good boss, they’ll probably tell you about their worst one. It’s human nature to remember every insult and injury from the insufferable jerk who made going to work a miserable experience and forget the kind, mentoring soul who quietly boosted your confidence.

Another way to look at it (especially around Valentine’s Day): Enduring a horrible boss is the workplace equivalent of having to kiss a lot of frogs before finding your prince or princess. When we asked the INSTORE Brain Squad to tell us about your best bosses, many of you shared tales of your worst. One person wrote:

“The boss who taught me the most was the worst boss I ever had! Actually, two of them. The first taught me how not to treat people, customers and fellow employees. He was a real snake, gloated over cheating people. The second taught me how not to run a jewelry business. I learned by their mistakes and feel that I am more successful now having worked for them.”

It’s true that toxic bosses from the past can offer useful lessons to small-business owners. As Robert Sutton, author of Good Boss, Bad Boss says, “It is a lot easier to learn from that guy than to be that guy.” (He also quotes Eleanor Roosevelt, who said “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.”) But many ineffective bosses are good people who haven’t had positive examples of how to lead and manage people. This is especially true in small retail businesses, where the owner becomes a boss by default.

The first step to being a great boss is realizing there’s always room to improve.  One great way to do it? Learn from other retailers’ experiences—check out our accompanying profiles of some especially memorable bosses—and learn from writers and thinkers who’ve studied how smart bosses inspire their teams to produce great results. Here are some of their top tips.

1. Make Time for Every Employee

As the boss, you are kind of a big deal. “That’s why an employee who wants to talk about something that seems inconsequential may just want to spend a few moments with you,” says Jeff Haden, who writes about how great bosses got that way. “When that happens, you can blow the employee off, or you can take the chance to inspire, reassure and motivate.”

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2. Let people be themselves

Bosses often get their rudest awakening when they realize employees have their own ways of doing things, says Marcus Buckingham, author of First, Break All The Rules: What The World’s Greatest Managers To Differently. If you force people to follow your playbook, then two things happen: “They become resentful — they don’t want to do it. And they become dependent — they can’t do it. Neither of these is terribly productive.”

3. Rescue Mission

Your greatest success may come from mentoring your least promising employee, Haden adds. “Your remarkable employees don’t need a lot of your time; they’re remarkable because they already have these qualities,” he notes. “If you’re lucky, you can get a few percentage points of extra performance from them. But a struggling employee has tons of upside; rescue him and you make a tremendous difference.”

4. Steady On

A Google-commissioned study of more than 10,000 employee observations showed human interaction, not technical skills, was the best indicator of success for bosses. As Adam Bryant explained in his New York Times article, “Google’s Quest to Build a Better Boss,” the highest-rated managers “were even-keeled bosses who made time for one-on-one meetings, who helped people puzzle through problems by asking questions, and who took an interest in employees’ lives and careers.”

5. Build Trust

Counterintelligence expert Robin Dreeke has co-written a book called The Code Of Trust with five rules for leadership: suspend your ego, be nonjudgmental, honor reason, validate others and be generous. Dreeke adds that it’s important for bosses to identify goals and priorities, but then let go of them and work to understand what other people value, because doing so builds trust. As Dreeke says on a Knowledge@Wharton podcast, “This is my manual on how not to be the person I was born to be. This is my manual on how to overcome that Type-A hard charger that just barrels forward and ruins relationships because they think it’s all about them.”

6. Be Memorable

In her book Work Happy: What Great Bosses Know, Jill Geisler shares three things employees never forget: a boss who apologizes when he or she is wrong (preferably in public, if that’s where the earlier criticism took place); a boss who reacts to a worker’s boneheaded errors with wisdom, knowing just how long to let people stew over their own mistakes; and bosses who respond to personal achievements and losses (big and small) with encouragement or empathy. On the flip side, she lists three things employees never forgive: a lying boss, a boss who takes credit for the staff’s work or ideas, or a boss who behaves differently around superiors than around the troops.

7. See Yourself Through Their Eyes

Stanford University professor Robert Sutton has made a career writing about how to survive difficult people in the workplace and in life. After he published his book The No Asshole Rule: Building A Civilized Workplace And Surviving One That Isn’t, he received tons of stories about difficult bosses, enough to fill a sequel (which eventually came out last year in The Asshole Survival Guide: How To Deal With People Who Treat You Like Dirt). But he heard about effective bosses, too, people who took “diverse and intertwined steps to create effective and humane workplaces.” He suggests that the best bosses pay close attention to how their employees see and hear them, from facial expressions to tone of voice.

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8. Encourage Feedback

You need to know what your employees are thinking, but they may not be willing to tell you in their employee review or even in the more casual one-to-one meetings that you’re hopefully having with them at regular intervals. Whether it’s a suggestion box in the break room or a confidential survey or focus group facilitated by a third party, give your people opportunities to suggest ways you can improve as their boss. Then let down your defenses, and take their feedback seriously.

9. Chill Out

It’s true that passion can inspire performance, but if you’re always yelling at your employees, it’s worth asking whether your emotions are helping or hurting business. “Personally, I’m going to assume that successful screamers make it in spite of the screaming, not because of it,” writes Jay Goltz on The New York Times’ “You’re the Boss” blog.

10. Put People Before Goals  

It’s good to have sales targets, but that shouldn’t be your primary focus. Without great employees, no amount of focus on goals and targets will ever pay off, says Jeff Haden. “It’s your job to provide the training, mentoring and opportunities your employees need and deserve,” he adds. “When you do, you transform the relatively boring process of reviewing results and tracking performance into something a lot more meaningful for your employees: Progress, improvement and personal achievement.”

11. Demythologize Crisis

We’re living at a time when “our institutions seem to be in serial meltdown,” says Elizabeth Samet, a professor of English at the United States Military Academy, in her introduction to Leadership: Essential Writings By Our Greatest Thinkers. “If we live in a world of crisis, we also live in a world that romanticizes crisis—that finds in it fodder for addiction to the 24-hour new cycle, multiple information streams and constant stimulation.” Sound familiar?

But humans cannot thrive in a state of constant turmoil, so do what you can to cultivate a low-drama life and workplace. Listen to music instead of the news or talk radio on your way to work. Eat well, get adequate sleep, exercise and take time to play—and help your employees do the same things. Researchers at the Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic found that a workplace-based stress management program boosted employee morale and vitality, with positive changes still evident a year later.

12. Unpack Your Power Trip 

In a conversation with psychologist Ron Friedman at the Peak Work Performance Summit, author Dan Pink cited research showing that when we feel powerful, we’re less likely to see other people’s perspectives. That’s why it’s helpful to “dial down your feelings of power just a little bit” to see the world how your employees do.

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13. Admit You Don’t Know It All

You had the vision and talent to launch your small business, but that doesn’t mean you naturally have the skills to be a great boss. It’s smart to look for mentors and seek opportunities for leadership growth. Writing on Bloomberg.com, Rebecca Greenfield profiles executive coach Ben Olds, who helps bosses learn to have difficult conversations, harness their emotions and just plain listen. Few people are beyond help. For Travis Kalanick, founder of Uber, “Olds would want to understand what provokes him. To find that out, he would talk through some regrettable incidents, in the hope of improving his emotional intelligence and avoiding bad behavior.”

14. Deal with the Small Stuff 

“Nothing kills team morale more quickly than problems that don’t get addressed,” says Haden. Even petty issues—squabbling employees, tardiness and negativity — are distractions that merit your action. “Small problems always fester and grow into bigger problems. Plus, when you ignore a problem, your employees immediately lose respect for you, and without respect, you can’t lead,” he says. “Never hope a problem will magically go away, or that someone else will deal with it. Deal with every issue head-on, no matter how small.”

15. No Harassment

The #MeToo movement of the past few months has made it clear there are no longer any gray areas when it comes to recognizing and dealing with workplace sexual harassment. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website has information on how to deal with this new reality. Go to eeoc.gov and look for “Promising Practices for Preventing Harassment.” Hire and promote all kinds of people who can give your company a wider lens on the world (and attract a broader range of customers, too).

16. Inspire Their Brilliance 

Buckingham suggests that managers identify and encourage their employees’ best traits and talents. In fact, he says that’s the one defining characteristic of the best managers. “Great managers know they don’t have 10 salespeople working for them,” he says. “They know they have 10 individuals working for them.” Rather than be obsessed with your employees’ weaknesses, encourage them to do things they love to do, whether that’s window displays, social media or greeting customers.

 

Few people are as influential in our lives as our bosses. We asked the INSTORE Brain Squad to tell us about their most memorable and effective mentors at work. Here are a few of your stories.

Cathy Calhoun and John Strasbaugh worked together for 15 years at his store, where she quickly had to learn the ropes after he’d had a heart attack on Thanksgiving Day. Calhoun eventually opened her own shop. He retired a year ago, and the two remain friends.

Cathy Calhoun

Calhoun Jewelers | Royersford, PA

Best boss: John Strasbaugh  
Lesson: Trust 

My answer would be my ex-boyfriend/boss. I was a banker dating a jeweler when he had a heart attack on Thanksgiving. In the emergency room, John said, “You’re going to have to go run my store.” At first, I thought, it can’t be that hard, but I had no clue.

I had a couple looking at engagement rings, and they asked why two rings of the same size were different prices. I said, “I don’t know, he must have it mismarked, so take whichever one you want for the cheaper price.” I thought since I’m a banker, I’ll go through and make them all the right prices—half carats the same price, three-quarter carats the same price, and so on.

I told John that night and of course he grabbed his chest and I’m thinking he’s going to have another heart attack. But even with that, I quickly got an education, and I was thrown in a good time at Christmas when everyone lines up to buy. So it gave me confidence, and then I became passionate about it — and through all of that, he trusted me completely.

Russell Criswell

Russell Criswell

Vulcan’s Forge | Kansas City, MO

Best boss: Bogey Nash  
Lesson: Everyone is a potential customer  

My very first boss was Bogey Nash, who owned an antique furniture refinishing store called Bogey’s Barn and Strip Joint. I started out working for him one summer for a dollar an hour when I was 13 years old. I was sanding away on some furniture, listening in on the conversation. I heard him say, “No, no, that’s not who you’re calling. Yes, this is Bogey’s Barn and Strip Joint. We do refinishing and in fact, I bet you have a piece of furniture that needs refinished.” I listened as he sold $3,000 of refinishing services to someone who dialed a wrong number!

So that was my big takeaway. I know that everybody has a piece of broken jewelry that they want fixed, and we just have to get to that. So when somebody says, “No, I don’t think I need anything today,” I say, “I’ll bet you have something sitting at home in the jewelry box that you’d love to be able to get out and wear—and we can make that happen.” When someone comes in to replace a watch battery, they’re kind of a captive audience. Not all our customers know everything we can do, so those are good conversation fillers.

Linda McEathron

Design House Jewelry | Waco, TX

Best boss: Billie Moses  
Lesson: Express appreciation  

My best-ever boss would definitely be Miss Billie Moses. I worked for her at Mastercraft Jewelry in Waco for 10 years. I started as a bench jeweler, and over time was given the freedom to learn purchasing, marketing, leadership, and last but not least, how to cook. I have recipe cards to this day that are handwritten by her.

She wanted us to treat each and every customer like family. There were times when we’d have lunches and dinners right in the store, and if a customer came in at that time, they were welcome to sit and eat with us. It was mostly to make customers feel like they were part of the store and very much appreciated.

One of my most treasured gifts was a letter she wrote me for Christmas. As they were handing out Christmas bonuses, she took me aside and said, “I’ve always wanted to tell you these things but I thought it was time to write them down.” She said how proud she was to have me and how many hats I wore in the store. I have that letter still, and I am so grateful for her confidence and encouragement.

Tom Duma joined his father, Thom, in business partly because he wanted to spend more time with him. They wound up having decades together before Thom Duma died in 2016 at age 96.

Tom Duma

Thom Duma Fine Jewelers | Warren, OH

Best boss: Thom Duma
Lesson: Let people fail  

My dad went to watchmakers’ school on the GI Bill after World War II and later owned both a jewelry store and motorcycle dealership. (I was racing professionally at the time.) After my racing career finished, he asked me if I wanted to work in the motorcycle industry or come to work with him in the jewelry business. I chose the jewelry business and he taught me everything. Getting to work with my father was such a huge blessing in my life.

I guess the biggest thing he did was allow me to fail and still support me. Fail by buying the wrong inventory or too much inventory or run a sale that didn’t work, and that taught me how to be better. But when I failed, it wasn’t “I told you so.” It was more “Let’s not do that again. Let’s keep moving forward.” He would challenge me, but he would let me do it my way. I have an employee who now works with me and is slowly getting involved in every aspect of the business, so I’m doing that with her.

Patty Hansen started working in her mom’s store as a girl, and at 98, Dorothy still spends time every day in the store she founded. Here they are at a trade show together. Patty says her mom taught her not to sweat the small stuff and to always treat customers with grace and dignity.

Patty Gallun Hansen

Dorothy Gallun Fine Jewelry | Cedarburg, WI

Best boss: Dorothy Gallun 
Lesson: It pays to be kind  

The best boss I’ve ever had was my mom. She founded Dorothy Gallun Jewelry in the 1950s, when it was pretty gutsy for a woman to own her own business. She taught me that kindness does matter, and, “treat people the way you want to be treated.”

There have been times when customers have taken advantage of that, but Mom handled it with grace and dignity. People would come in years after they bought something and it’d look like it’d been run over by a truck. My mother would always accept it back with a smile and say something humorous so they’d know that she knew it wasn’t sitting in a box all those years.

We would ask her, “Why are you doing that? No one else would do that. They obviously damaged it.” But she said all that would do is make the customer very unhappy. You swallow it and you move on. If she couldn’t help a customer, she’d refer them to another jeweler. People would come back because of it. They’d say they knew they could trust her.

Jerry and Teddie Gause are partners in business and in life. Jerry bought the business from his dad, who founded Gause & Son Jewelers in 1950.

Teddie Gause 

Gause & Son Jewelers | Ocala, FL

Best boss: Jerry F. Gause  
Lesson: Treat vendors with respect  

Jerry Gause and I had been next-door neighbors and were in the same class in high school. When my husband passed away, he sent me a note expressing his condolences and said if I needed a job to come see him at his jewelry store. Having two teenage daughters to raise, I went in for an interview and he hired me. I am proud to say he is my boss, mentor, and best friend—and now I am married to that fine gentleman.

One thing he taught me years ago was to always treat our jewelry salesmen and vendors with respect. One day a young man walked into our store around 4 p.m., looking tired. He said he’d called on six stores that day and they’d treated him rudely. I invited him to sit down in our Diamond Room, gave him water and said I would look at his line and just might buy one thing from him. He opened his case and pulled out a two-and-a-half-carat engagement ring and said he’d sell me the ring for just enough to cover his travel expenses. That ring was a bargain, so being kind and courteous paid off.

Cliff Yankovich

Chimera Design | Lowell, MI

Cliff Yankovich

Best boss: Harold Hampton 
Lesson: Under-promise and over-deliver  

Harold Hampton went through employees like socks. After four years, I was the old-timer on his staff. I was able to work for him because I worked for my own father as a kid. My dad was a tough customer and expected you to work your butt off, just like Harold.

Jewelers often tell people what they want to hear, but Harold really drilled “under-promise and over-deliver” into our heads, and that’s the most valuable lesson I took away from him—other than the fact he paid for my GIA diamond graduate training. He was a hard taskmaster, but I never would have had the confidence and the knowledge to open our store if I hadn’t worked for him.

Julie Fanselow is a writer, editor, coach, and dot-connector. She was the founding editor of SmartWork Media's magazine for eyecare professionals, INVISION.

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The Big Survey 2019: Buying & Selling

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11. What are the three best performing brand-name jewelry lines that you carry?

COMMENT: Gabriel and Stuller made it a three-peat, claiming the top two spots in our rankings for the third year in a row.
2019 RANK / BRAND2018 RANKCHANGE IN RANK
1. Gabriel & Co. (64)1
2. Stuller (41)2
3. Allison-Kaufman (29)4up 1
4. Hearts On Fire (18)3down 1
5. Simon G. (15)20up 15
6 tie. Pandora (14)6
6 tie. Ostbye (14)10up 4
8 tie. John Hardy (13)9up 1
8 tie. Lashbrook (13)15up 7
10 tie. Benchmark (12)8down 2
10 tie. Frederic Duclos (12)11up 1
12 tie. Roberto Coin (11)23up 11
12 tie. Sylvie Collection (11)22up 10
12 tie. ASHI Diamonds (11)23up 11
15 tie. Berco (10)23up 8
15 tie. Tacori (10)outside top 25
17 tie. ArtCarved (9)7down 10
17 tie. Le Vian (9)outside top 25
17 tie. Officina Bernardi (9)outside top 25
17 tie. SDC Creations (9)15down 2
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12. What are the three best performing watch brands that you carry?

2019 RANK / WATCH BRAND2018 RANKCHANGE IN RANK
1. Citizen1
2. Seiko2
3. Rolex4up 1
4. Bulova3down 1
5. Belair5
6. Beringoutside top 25
7.Tag Heuer8up 1
8. Shinola 17up 9
9. Tissot7down 2
10. Breitling12up 2
11. Obaku 9down 2
12. Reactor 12
13. Omega 12down 1
14. Movado 10down 4
15 tie. Fossil17up 2
15 tie. Michele12down 3
15 tie. Oris15
15 tie. Victorinox Swiss Army10down 5
15 tie. Tudor 15
20 tie. Caravelle20
20 tie. G-Shock20
20 tie. Nomos 20
20 tie. Pulsar 6down 14

13. Excluding sapphires, what is your best­selling colored gemstone in terms of total sales value?

2019 RANK / WATCH BRAND2018 RANKCHANGE IN RANK
1. Ruby1
2. Emerald4up 2
3. Topaz3
4. Opal5up 1
5. Amethyst2down 3
6. Tanzanite7up 1
7.Tourmaline 6down 1
8. Aquamarine 8
9. Garnetoutside top 25outside top 25
10. Morganite9down 1
COMMENT: Just out of the top 10 in descending order were peridot, blue zircon, and pearls, all at just under 1%; “Others” accounted for about 3%
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14. As a store owner, what did you earn (salary + share of profit) last year?

COMMENT: Jewelers in the Southwest reported the highest income levels with 35% making $150,000 or more a year. Those in the Mid-Atlantic reported the lowest incomes with 37% making less than $40,000.

15. What were your total sales last year?

Less than $100,000
5%
$100,000-$249,999
9%
$250,000 to $499,999
20%
$500,000 to $999,999
26%
$1 million to $1,499,999
15%
$1.5 million to $2,999,999
13%
$3 million to $5 million
6%
More than $5 million
5%

16. What jewelry or watch brand would you most like to add to your cases?

The king lives: Rolex was the runaway choice for the most wished-for brand. Overall, watch brands were more desired by retailers, likely because those brands are more recognized by consumers due to massive marketing budgets. The most wanted jewelry brands were Gabriel & Co., David Yurman and Cartier, in that order, followed closely by designer Alex Sepkus.

  1. Rolex
  2. Tag Heuer
  3. Omega
  4. Patek Philippe
  5. Gabriel & Co.
  6. David Yurman
  7. Cartier, Citizen, Fossil, Tudor
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17. What do you think will be the next breakout category in jewelry?

Top 10 responses:

  1. Lab-created diamonds and finished jewelry. (“I think we are already seeing it and it is anything with laboratory-created diamonds.”)
  2. Yellow gold (“Yellow gold has been hot, but with the current prices I am not sure.”)
  3. Color (Also described as rare, exotic and bold. Spinel was mentioned more than once.)
  4. Silver (including silver fashion with lab-grown diamonds)
  5. Custom and custom bridal
  6. Stackable rings and bracelets
  7. Men’s jewelry (Fashion, engagement rings and precious metal wedding bands were mentioned.)
  8. Pearls
  9. Avant-garde or alternative bridal, including anything asymmetrical
  10. Pre-owned jewelry, including vintage jewelry, updated estate jewelry, repurposing old jewelry and restoration of a customer’s jewelry

Other ideas mentioned by more than one respondent:

  • Ania Haie jewelry
  • Basics (including solitaire studs, line bracelets and diamond hoops)
  • Tiara bands
  • Sturdier designs, such as heavy, weighted rings
  • Minimalist jewelry, especially earrings
  • Smart jewelry
  • Hand-made, artistically designed jewelry

General responses:

  • “Hell, I don’t know but I always sell a crap load of diamond studs and diamond wedding bands every Christmas, year after year.”
  • “Who cares? We are in the Midwest where trends come in slow. But everyone needs repairs and loves custom.”
  • “Please God, anything but another bracelet line. LOL.”

18. Jewelers remember sales for a wide variety of reasons. Sure, sometimes it’s a big sale, but more often, it’s the occasion or the circumstances of the purchase or the inspiration behind a custom piece that ensures the sale will always have a place in your memory.

special delivery. A black opal of exceptional quality showed up in my mail with the note to make a “large custom ring” in 18K gold. A regular customer just sent it and said, “Make me something beautiful.”

a meaningful gift. A farm couple celebrating their 50th anniversary bought a $150 10K gold and sapphire ring. The emotion of the couple was more rewarding than anything else. It was not much, but it was what they could afford. It was what it meant to them that was so special.

a son closes the sale. A 1-carat diamond for a 50th-wedding anniversary. The husband did not want to spend that much, and the son told him his mother was worth more per year than the cost of the ring. He paid cash on the spot.

a last wish. A first-time customer came into our store and told us that a friend had recommended us. She asked if we made jewelry on the premises and we told her that we did. She then showed us several pieces of gents’ jewelry that she had brought with her and asked if we could use both the stones and the gold to make new pieces. She needed several ladies and several gents’ pieces. If memory serves me correctly, 13 in total. We came up with the designs and she gave us the OK to proceed, provided we could finish all items in five days. She explained that she had just come from the hospital where she had been visiting her dying father and that he had given her the task of taking his jewelry and converting it into multiple pieces so that he could give each of his loved ones a piece to remember him by. Needless to say, this project took center stage and was completed on time. He died three days after he got to give his gifts. She has become not only a fantastic customer, but also a friend.

it’s personal. Both of my daughters’ engagement rings.

a sentimental favorite. The ones I sold to my wife before we started dating.

a wild request. A custom pendant to hold an elephant eyelash.

a bonus. A 5-carat diamond sold to a client to put into his ring. I took what I made from the sale and bought my dream car, a 1966 GTO trig power convertible.

a turning point. For three years running, a middle-aged couple, not married, came in during a local festival. They looked at stones and talked about a custom “not-wedding, not-engagement ring”. By the third year it had become a joke because they thought it was as unlikely that they would buy a ring as it was that they would get married. I got them very excited about a trilliant purple sapphire and made a custom ring. After they came to pick it up, he proposed on the steps outside the store. This is the only experience I have had where the process of shopping for jewelry was the turning point toward actual marriage.

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is this a practical joke? A dealer who bought six pieces I thought would be buried with me and who paid full price.

the best revenge. My best customer walks in and requests the most expensive item available to walk out with. When asked for what occasion she was buying this item, she says, “To teach my husband a lesson; he bought us a new tractor as our anniversary gift. Then he told me I wasn’t allowed to drive the new tractor. So, he will learn not to get me a gift I can’t use.”

a lasting lesson. I had just started in the business and an older gentleman walked in the store, not well dressed and not particularly well groomed, and wanted to look at something for his 25th anniversary. He was carrying a cigar box under his arm. Not being well trained but remembering the 25th was silver, I showed him several sterling pieces. I could tell we weren’t connecting, and he finally indicated he wanted something nicer. He picked out a beautiful white gold and diamond pendant worth 10 times what I was initially showing him. As he came to the counter to pay, he opened his cigar box. It was full of cash, from $1 bills to $100 bills. He had been saving money for years to pay for this piece. It is still one of the best sales lessons I’ve ever had!

a layaway legend. A gentleman put two rings on layaway ($79 and $89) for his wife and daughter for Christmas gifts. He paid $4 every week. They came in on the 26th to have them sized. They were so thrilled, you would have thought he had spent thousands.

the last gift. I recently had the opportunity to sell a custom designed ring to a gentleman who was about to celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary. His wife had been battling cancer off and on for the last five years. She wasn’t doing too well. His 50th wedding anniversary was on the 29th of August. It was supposed to be done on the 22nd, so no concerns. I received a text asking me if we could bump up the due date to the 17th because his wife had taken a turn for the worse. I said we would have the ring ready. It wasn’t easy, and required some sacrifice from our team, but we made it happen. I delivered it to him on the 17th of August. He was happy to be able to give it to her at the big celebration that evening with family and friends. I just got word this morning (August 24th) that his dear wife passed away in her sleep last night. I am happy he got to give her this last gift with so much meaning and that we were able to be a part of it.

a beautiful gesture. A bracelet given to the widow of a suicide victim, engraved inside with the names of 20 friends and the phrase “may you always be surrounded by a circle of friends.”

a dream piece. A necklace I saw in a dream. I woke up, drew it, created the piece, called a customer in another state and told him his wife had to have it. He bought it and she loved it.

more for her money. A little girl about 5 years old with her piggy bank in hand, wanting to get her mom a diamond heart for Mother’s Day. She had just under $10 in coins. The project was completed just in time for Mother’s Day. Best sale ever!

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Big Survey

The Big Survey 2019: Big Data

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THE BIG SURVEY 2019

Big Data

Gabriel & Co. is king. Earnings for many jewelers have flat-lined. And customers — and almost as often staff — are still confounding. Those are some of the broad takeaways of the 2019 Big Survey. Dig in and enjoy our analysis of data provided by 802 North American jewelers.

Utah’s jewelers were most concerned about the impact of social media on their personal lives: 75% said it had been negative. In a possible related finding, Utah’s jewelers also checked review sites most regularly, doing it daily or every few days. Jewelers in Maine were the least likely to check what people were saying about them online.
California had the highest number of multiple-store owners: 23% had two stores and 3% had three or more.
Arizona led the way in e-ccommerce with 71% saying it contributed a moderate or substantial portion of their sales (meaning more than 10%).
Texas contributed the highest portion of big city stores to our survey (23%) among U.S. stores. (Canada actually had the most in North America at 29%.)
Wisconsin could possibly change its moniker to the Surprise State: Only 15% of its jewelers said their performance this year was in line with expectations. The rest were either doing better or worse than expected.
Jewelers in Iowa were most excited about lab-grown diamonds (63%), while jewelers in New York were most alarmed by their emergence (48%).
Canadian jewelers are most likely to be asked about a diamond’s origins (83% say it happens regularly) while in the U.S. it was California that holds that distinction (70%).
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1. How well is your business performing in 2019 compared to your expectations going into the year?

Far below expectations
2%
Below expectations
23%
In line with expectations
46%
Above expectations
24%
Way above expectations
5%

2. How many stores do you operate?

3. Where is your store located by region?

Northeast
17%
Mid Atlantic

 

5%
Midwest
31%
Southeast
21%
Southwest
9%
Mountain (Rocky Mountains)
4%
Northwest
(including Alaska)
3%
West (including Hawaii)
5%
Canada
5%
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4. Is your (main) store located:

On a downtown street
33%
In its own free-standing building

 

27%
In a strip mall
24%
In a lifestyle center
5%
Office building/Business park
5%
In a mall
3%
Home studio
2%
On the Internet
1%
Other
1%
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Cover Stories

12 Imaginative Ways to Reach Today’s Fickle Holiday Customer

Ideas to make sure stressed out shoppers find your store … and what they’re looking for.

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Consider the holiday shopper: stressed, confused, possibly hungry and above all, in search of a friendly face.

What will that harried consumer find in your store? Solutions or more stress?

Make sure your store is a relaxed environment where shoppers know they can unwind, take their time, enjoy a snack and a drink, and find a cheerful someone to greet them immediately and help them ASAP.

“That in itself can make all the difference,” says Tammy Benda of Bottom Line Marketing, who reminds her retail-jewelry clients that the holiday hustle can be as overwhelming for shoppers as it is for retailers. Impersonal Internet shopping, although a convenience, is missing that human touch that only you, their personal shopper, can provide. “That’s very important during the holidays because you’re not just competing with other jewelry stores, but with purses, clothes, electronics, home improvement,” she says.

Here are some ideas to make sure those stressed out shoppers find your store and find what they’re looking for when they get there.

1Make it fun to visit. Have an ugly sweater contest among your staff and ask your customers to vote on a winner. Ask customers to submit their own ugly sweater photos on social media, Benda suggests.

2Feed them. Jennifer Farnes of Revolution Jewelry Works in Colorado Springs, CO, is planning a food-truck event. “Most highly rated food trucks have a big and loyal following on social media,” she says. “It’s a great way to promote local restaurateurs while exposing their regulars to our business. Also we are trying to put together a live music event featuring local individual musicians all day long, with hors d’oeuvres and drinks.”

3Spend money on social media to target not only your customers and their friends, but lookalike audiences as well. “A lot of businesses say ‘I have 10,000 followers on my Facebook page.’ But Facebook is not going to deliver your ads for free,” Benda says. “There is far less organic reach during the holidays than at any time of year because there is so much competition.

“Make sure everyone who goes to your site is retargeted. When they get to your website, follow them around and virtually say ‘I know you are looking for an engagement ring, this is why you should buy an engagement ring from us,’ and then list all of the reasons why buying that ring from you is the best choice.”

4Be human in your marketing. In other words, be the human being that that customer wants to come in and talk to. Have your staff appear in videos showing their favorite gifts under $500. Put a personality on your social media, a smile, a welcoming voice.

5Experiment. If you’ve always done things one way with middling results, consider trying it a different way. Tom Schowalter of Miners Den Jewelers in Royal Oak, MI, plans a big sales event each November to kickstart the holiday season. “In the past, we mailed over 20,000 direct mail cards; last year we did everything via email, text and Facebook and we got a bigger response.”

Lacey Madsen of Lacey’s Custom Jewelry in Bismarck, ND, has hosted ladies nights and men’s nights, as well as remounting, vintage and loose-gemstone events. This year, she experimented in September with a preview event, inviting customers in to help her select new holiday inventory.

Chris Wattsson of Wattsson & Wattsson Jeweler in Marquette, MI, is updating his holiday events, including the traditional ladies night. He’s found that wish-list conversions have been steadily declining, so this year’s event will target self-purchasing women and include a gift with purchase or a dollar amount off for a dollar amount spent. Soon after Christmas, he’s also planning a new event targeted at people who received jewelry online for Christmas and are looking for sizings and appraisals.

6Start early. Ellen Hertz, owner of Max’s Jewelry in St. Louis Park, MN, is scheduling all of her holiday trunk shows in November this year to capture holiday shopping dollars earlier. “One of the things I’ve heard a few too many times is somebody coming in for an event toward the end of the year, and saying, ‘Oh, I wish I had known, I already got a present for my wife or girlfriend or daughter.’ I don’t want to hear that anymore. So I’m going to jump start the holiday season. I’m not going to be obnoxious and horrible by putting out the glass ornaments and cards that we sell before Halloween, but Nov. 1 is turning into holidays in the store.”

7Save some energy for the homestretch. Try as you might to encourage early shoppers, it’s hard to change habits, Benda says. “Those last three days — Dec. 22, 23 and 24 — are going to be the craziest days no matter what you do.”

In addition to those seven tips, here are 12 more inspirational marketing ideas.


Say It With Dinner

Croghan’s Jewel Box

Family-owned Croghan’s Jewel Box in Charleston, SC, believes in the power of appreciation. Each year, Rhett Ramsay Outten and her team print a list of their top 100 customers in terms of dollars and frequency of purchase. “We choose something to send each of them with a handwritten note saying thank you for your business this year,” she says. “One year we partnered with an exciting new hotel in town and gave them a night and dinner on us. Some years we send a $100 gift certificate with a pretty ornament. It is a nice touchstone and people seem to appreciate being appreciated! It definitely brings them back in the store!”

Instant “Catalog” On Instagram

Max’s Jewelry

At Max’s Jewelry in St. Louis Park, MN, owner Ellen Hertz had been phasing out her printed holiday catalog in favor of a digital version; last year, she dropped the print version altogether. But this year, she’s going to deconstruct it into multiple Instagram stories. Hertz believes the new format will be more far-reaching. “The catalog in the past has brought us for the most part the same customers,” she says. “We had people come in who saw things in the catalog they liked, but by and large, those were our customers who were inclined to shop with us regardless of whether or not we had a catalog. I don’t know how many new eyeballs it reached. But Instagram is a good venue for us.” It’s possible they will also bundle the posts together at some point and make it a catalog. But if they do, that catalog will be digital. “Basically, it’s digital, digital, digital,” Hertz says. A year ago Max’s also launched an intense national digital branding and retargeting campaign. “My goal is to link people through those ads to those catalog stories,” Hertz says.

Customers Rock the Catalog

MJ MILLER & CO.

Every once in a while, a good idea stands the test of time.

Mike Miller of MJ Miller & Co. in Barrington, IL, has produced a holiday catalog for three decades that continues to be the best sales tool in his holiday marketing repertoire. The key to the project’s enduring success, he says, is the personalization that comes from enlisting customers as models; the models and their friends and families become instant brand ambassadors.

The 2019 catalog showcased 64 pages of jewelry worn by 24 of their customers. Each model is selected specifically to wear a featured piece of jewelry. “We look at the piece of jewelry and we think we know what will look best on a certain customer,” says Lynnette Solomon, special events coordinator. “We can envision a customer wearing it.”

They partner with a salon for hair and makeup, and the photo shoot is done at the store throughout June. Models, along with their friends and family, are invited to a champagne-fueled “Catalog Reveal Party” in September to view the finished product first.  “We are the talk of the town,” Solomon says. “Everybody wants to see who is in it and what they are wearing.”

MJ Miller enlists customers to model for a holiday catalog that’s mailed all over the world and celebrated with an invitation-only, catalog-reveal party.

If that hot commodity of a catalog is not in customers’ hands by mid-October, the phone will ring. “If it’s a day late, people want to know, `Where’s my catalog?’” Miller says.  And while the catalog has been online for years now, customers still prefer to hold this marketing marvel in their hands. So Miller keeps thousands on site and orders more from the printer as needed to meet requests that exceed the initial mailing of 150,000 copies. Most are mailed in the Chicago area, but the customer base encompasses all 50 states and 13 foreign countries, so this locally produced catalog has global reach.

“If they have an interest in it, we can overnight it to them,” Miller says.

“I make damn sure we never run out. We don’t have time for that!”

Unscripted Commercial Saves The Day

Barry’s Estate Jewelry

Barry Fixler of Barry’s Estate Jewelry in Bardonia, NY, would not call himself social-media savvy. His forte is TV commercials, in which he has invested significantly for years. So, when he decided to give away a $5,000 diamond engagement ring, he enlisted the help of a social-media guru. The first 150 couples to respond to the promotion by email would be entered in a chance to win the ring, but would be required to show up at the store for the drawing. By the day of the drawing, Fixler had set up a tent to accommodate 300 people with food, entertainment, heat, and a photo booth. Then he discovered that his guru had failed to follow up and invite the contestants to the event. “I expected 300 people and only 20 people showed up,” Fixler says.

Barry Fixler’s diamond-ring giveaway resulted in a spontaneous reaction that he was able to turn into a TV commercial with wide appeal.

But, turning to his tried-and-true marketing medium, he notified both his TV production company, (theTerry Snyder Co.) and a local TV station in an effort to salvage his marketing investment. That part turned out better than he could have anticipated. When a young couple won the ring, the groom-to-be knelt and proposed on the spot, and his bride-to-be said, “yes,” through her tears, all while the cameras rolled. Fixler was also able to use the unscripted, heartfelt moment in a memorable commercial. “That was a home run,” Fixler says. “It was a super, super hit. It brought more customers here. What I thought was a major bomb turned out to be a huge success.” 

Make Over My (Ugly) Ring!

Revolution Jewelry Works

Before and after photos of a ring that was redesigned for the Revolution Jewelry Works’ “Make Over My Ring” 2018 contest.

A few Novembers ago, Revolution Jewelry Works in Colorado Springs, CO, first partnered with a local TV station for a promotion called “Make Over My Ring.” Owner Jennifer Farnes had a good working relationship with the TV station, so much of the publicity was good will. “If you’re nice to salespeople, when opportunities come up, you can cross-promote,” she says. Contestants submitted photos of dubiously designed jewelry that they wanted to transform. TV viewers voted on the ugliest. The owner of the ring deemed the absolute ugliest would win a $1,500 makeover at Revolution Jewelry Works that included CAD design, casting and setting. That first year, voters chose a wedding ring with a missing center stone that was also afflicted with “monstrous channels” and an early ‘80s design. The winner used everything left in the ring to create a new cluster ring with a compressed halo. Social media followers as well as the TV audience loved it, and so the contest was repeated in 2017 and 2018, drawing steady attention to Revolution’s custom and makeover talents.

Geo-Fencing The Consumer

Seita Jewelers

Nicole Moret of Seita Jewelers of Tarentum, PA, has worked with Gemfind for the past year on digital marketing, and this will be the first holiday season they’ve used geo-fencing as a marketing tool.

Geo-fencing draws a virtual line around a perimeter and targets mobile-device users. “If a customer has walked into a location and their IP address is grabbed, then your ad is going to be served on any of 10,000 apps,” says Alex Fetanat, founder and CEO of GemFind. “The beauty of this is it’s a targeted marketing effort. You can geo-fence the location around a big box competitor or anywhere you think your potential customers will walk into. As they walk in and when they go home, your ads will appear on their apps for about 30 days. You can grow your brand awareness and it’s trackable.” 

Geo-fencing just makes sense, Moret says. “As a consumer, I’ve been geo-fenced myself. It gets the consumer what they’re looking for in a quicker and easier way. We target local businesses within 20 miles, some of the major areas, malls, country clubs, grocery stores and other jewelry stores to raise awareness that we’re here. We’ve had proven walk-ins from them and phone calls. Our general traffic from the website and online inquiries has increased.” The geo-fencing ads include a call to action — click to call, to get directions or to make an appointment. “We talk about selection. We do have a very large selection and we offer custom design. Engagement and wedding rings are always a top priority.”

Holiday Bling Box Has It All

Borsheims

Borsheims’ Holiday Bling Box 2019 is built around a coveted pair of diamond huggie earrings.

Since 2017, Borsheims in Omaha, NE, has offered variations on a theme of a gift collection that debuts in the holiday preview catalog. The 2019 Holiday Bling Box has a “chic-glam” theme and includes a Citizen rose-tone and white-ceramic Chandler watch, 14K gold huggie hoop earrings with a full carat of diamonds, a 14K white gold diamond line necklace and an Orrefors small Carat vase, all for $1,685. All items come packaged in a single box and wrapped in Borsheims signature silver with a burgundy bow.

Adrienne Fay, Borsheims vice president overseeing the customer-purchase journey, says the Bling Boxes were created as a response to research about what customers want. “Beyond saving customers time, they’re fun to give, fun to receive, and are a gift that will really be treasured,” Fay says. After experimenting with a variety of price points and options, they determined that focusing on only one option in the $1,000 to $1,600 range worked best. They choose one strong seller — such as the diamond hoops this year — and then add pieces to complement it. The other pieces represent the breadth of merchandise categories available in the store, such as giftware and watches. “People say they really like this one item, and all of these other gifts are a bonus,” says Fay. Sometimes the boxes are disassembled and given as gifts to more than one recipient.

Two Holidays At Once

Mucklow’s Fine Jewelry

At Mucklow’s Fine Jewelry in Peachtree City, GA, “Cover Two Holidays At Once” is designed to provide value for customer loyalty. The goal of the promotion is to extend the December holiday season into the Valentine’s Day season. During December, clients receive 10 percent of their purchase back in the form of a gift certificate that can be used from Jan. 9 to Feb. 28. During that period in 2019, the store had a 19 percent increase in the number of units sold, a 40 percent increase in average ticket price, and 56 percent increase in merchandise profit vs. the previous year.

“This promotion added significant value to the Mucklow’s shopping experience, strengthened our community relationships and increased bottom line sales in a traditionally slow quarter,” manager Rod Worley says.

Sleep In, Then Shop

Midwest JewelerS & Estate Buyers

At Midwest Jewelers & Estate Buyers in Zionsville, IN, no one’s in a rush on Black Friday. Doors open at noon sharp for the Sleep-In Sale. “Unless you have a $1 TV for sale, who wants to show up at midnight?” says Allyson Gutwein, store manager. To make it even more relaxed, employees wear pajamas to work and serve hot chocolate and biscotti to customers, who are invited to show up similarly attired. Customers who do wear pajamas are entered in a drawing to win discounts, the best of which is 50 percent off anything in the store. The staff got together and found zip-up onesies to wear in solidarity. “Last year I sold a very high-end ring while in pigtails and a reindeer onesie,” Gutwein says. “If you can sell a high-end ring wearing that, you can do it any other day.” Luckily, customers’ choice of pajamas have all been quite modest, and generally climate-appropriate flannel. “You do wonder if you try something out-of-the-box that someone’s going to take it too far, but there’s been nothing salacious,” Gutwein says.

Staffers wear pajamas to work for the Sleep-In Sale at Midwest Jewelers & Estate Buyers. From left, Allyson Gutwein, Emilie Ritchie and Alley Pontius.

Most important, Midwest Jewelers & Estate Buyers has a reputation for having fun.

Owner Brian McCall jokes that he hasn’t been invited to the event, possibly because no one wants to see him in pajamas, but Gutwein disputes that claim. “Everyone is invited,” she says.

Keep ‘Em Guessing

Toner Jewelers

Toner Jewelers promoted its “Guess the Weight of the Gemstones” contest on the front cover of a holiday catalog.

Last year, Alisha Moore and the Toner Jewelers team in Overland Park, KS, filled a wine glass full of random gemstones and displayed it in one of their cases. Then they mailed out thousands of catalogs. The front cover of the catalog promoted the “Guess the Weight of the Gemstones” contest. Customers could enter the contest once a day while in the store, but they were required to share their contact information. First prize was a $5,000 store gift card. “There was excitement about it when regulars would come in,” Moore says. “You couldn’t touch it or handle it, but people would stand there and do calculations. Other people in the store were asking what they were doing and would join them. The first place winner was a good client of ours, and yes, she made guesses every day. It was a good, no-pressure way for us to capture information.”

Big-Ticket Items – No Waiting!

Bernie Robbins Jewelers

If you don’t have it, they can’t buy it. A Bernie Robbins Jewelers customer recently spotted a 7-carat diamond ring in a case, loved it and bought it on the spot, which made owner Harvey Rovinsky ponder the vast potential of focusing on his luxury clientele. “We’ve identified a significant number of clients who have the ability to spend six-figures-plus, and we wanted to reach out to them,” says Rovinsky, who owns five stores in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Bernie Robbins’ luxe catalog introduces a high-end diamond collection pre-holiday
in an effort to romance luxury shoppers.

So the team at Bernie Robbins is launching a Luxury Diamonds line this holiday season, which Rovinsky believes to be the largest collection of 3-plus carat diamonds in their market. They’re also building areas in their stores to house fancy, GIA-certified diamonds in green, pink, blue and orange. Some will be ready to go: “We thought if we mount them and talk about them, we are selling rings and other jewelry, which is way different than selling a diamond in a paper,” Rovinsky says. They’re also producing a high-end catalog to accompany the Luxury Diamond collection. Each book costs $25 to produce. “Everything is funneling toward the holiday,” Rovinsky says, “but we expect this initiative to be a year-round thing.”

When Life Gives You Orange Barrels

Harris Jewelers

A promotion involving the color orange saved Harris Jewelers from an anticipated road-construction slowdown for the 2018 holiday season and beyond.

When a major construction project claimed the street in front of Harris Jewelers in Rio Rancho, NM, in fall 2018, Karen Fitzpatrick expected a 40 percent drop in holiday business. But instead, due to a fun promotion combined with an aggressive radio and Facebook ad campaign, she’s met her goal every month since then, even as the construction project dragged on for a year. 

Here’s the promotion she credits with her success: For every $10 spent in the store, including on watch batteries, guests receive an orange ticket (a shout-out to the orange construction barrels). Every Monday, Fitzpatrick and team draw 10 tickets, which are then posted on a wall in the store. So shoppers must return to the store by Saturday to see if they won. She clears out old inventory with the promotion, too, since winners choose from a showcase of wrapped jewelry gifts from the half-off case. “We have customers addicted to this,” Fitzpatrick says. Winners’ pictures are posted on social media. “I cannot tell you what a success this has been,” she says. “We even have an orange barrel, named George, with a tumbleweed head in our vestibule that we decorate for the holidays.”

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