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David Brown

David Brown: There’s Gold in Them Intangibles



Boost goodwill now, and profit when it’s time to sell.

This article originally appeared in the November 2014 edition of INSTORE.

business advice for jewelers from David Brown

I recently came across a chairman’s report written by Warren Buffett to his Berkshire Hathaway shareholders some years ago.

In it, he spoke about his eventual realization that a business was not all about the tangible assets but about the intangible ability to regenerate profits without having to constantly reinvest in replacing depreciating product. Once he grasped this concept, it changed the way he viewed investments and set Berkshire Hathaway on its path to becoming one of America’s most admired companies.

It got me thinking about how it relates to opportunity within the jewelry industry (and Warren hasn’t been slow to spot this either). A jeweler has the good fortune to not have to replace large expensive machinery nor, if he has a forgiving landlord and a timeless décor, to invest significant sums in fixtures and fittings. This frees up the majority of capital to be invested in inventory, which can be turned over relatively quickly and offer a good return on ROI.


Given that many jewelry retailers are able to source some of their product from willing vendors on a memo basis, even this investment doesn’t have to be too onerous. Add in the positive cash flow nature of retail (get paid as you sell, pay for the goods much later), and there are many advantages to this type of business model.

This means that intangible factors can have a much bigger bearing on the value of a jewelry store. After all, if the business is profitable and it doesn’t require a major investment to meet capital commitments, then goodwill becomes a larger part of the asking price. In fact, I’ve seen jewelry stores sold where goodwill has been the major part of the asking price. The advantage with intangible value is that you can create much of it yourself for very little cost.

So what factors make a difference? If someone is looking to buy your business, he is looking for a model that works for minimal effort. Just as a renovated home commands a premium, so does a business that has as much as possible already in place.

1. Good systems. A well-documented system for every task creates added value in your business, especially if the new owner has no previous experience of the industry or of running a business. Often, you have systems in place but they are verbal rather than written down. Putting the system in a manual to be followed creates a paper trail that can be shown to the new owner as their business blueprint.

2. A current database. The first question for any new owner is “where will my sales come from?” Showing them a current list of customers that can be contacted is a recipe for future sales and adds significant value to a business.

3. Contracts. Written arrangements provide certainty for the business buyer. What are the lease terms? What exclusive deals are in place with vendors? How strong are the employment agreements? Vendor deals in particular can be sealed with a handshake but this doesn’t provide buyer certainty. Getting these arrangements in writing will add value to your business when it comes time to sell.


If you have plans to sell at any time in the next few years, you should consider working on these three areas now. The payback will be worth it when your business goes up for sale.

David Brown is president of the Edge Retail Academy. To learn how to complete a break-even analysis, contact [email protected] or (877) 569-8657.


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Wilkerson Testimonials

A Liquidation Sale during a Pandemic? Wilkerson Showed Them the Way

For 25 years, Stafford Jewelers of Cincinnati, Ohio, was THE place to go for special gifts, engagement diamonds, high-end Swiss watch brands — in other words, the crème de la crème of fine jewelry. But this summer, the Stafford family was ready to retire. So, they chose Wilkerson to help them close up shop. “One of the biggest concerns was having the sale in the middle of COVID,” says Director of Stores Michelle Randle. Wilkerson gave the Stafford team plenty of ideas as well as safety guidelines, which they closely followed. “All of the employees felt safe, the customers coming in the door felt safe and we did a lot of business,” says Randle. How much business? “The inventory flew,” she says. Translation: They sold millions and millions of dollars-worth of merchandise. Randle calls it, “an incredible experience.” Would she recommend Wilkerson to other retailers who are thinking of thinning their inventories or retiring? “Everyone got more than what they expected out of the sale. You have to hire Wilkerson. They’re amazing.”

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