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David Geller

David Geller: Five Custom Design Myths

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These commonly held beliefs are costing jewelers money.


This article originally appeared in the March 2015 edition of INSTORE.

I have visited hundreds of jewelry stores across the country and talked to thousands of owners during my career. Here are the five most common misconceptions I hear about the difficulty of providing custom services.

1. You can’t sell a custom ring similar to a ring in the case for a higher price.

Jewelers across the country prove this to be incorrect every day. Customers will pay to “have it their way.” Car dealers advertise the car at a low price but consumers add bells and whistles to get it their way. The key is to explain how much she will love it: “It’ll be just the way you wanted it. While rings in the case are manufactured by the dozens, your ring will be made just for you. In six months, you’ll forget the price and just remember every day how special this ring is.”

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Sales staff perpetuate this myth, not customers.

2. Our staff can’t sell such technical items.

Put a 14-year-old behind the wheel of a car and it’s an accident waiting to happen. But with training and practice you became an excellent driver.

The first thing you’re selling is a dream, a desire. You can use trade and fashion magazines like Vogue, Glamour and InStyle to get ideas and to show what celebrities are wearing. In store meetings, go over selling, drawing and pricing custom pieces, one topic per meeting.

3. My jewelers can only do repairs, they could never do a wax carving or CAD.

If your jeweler can’t carve wax or operate a CAD/CAM program, outsource it. In the back of jewelry trade magazines you’ll find plenty of places to help with this. In many cases, you just send in a sketch and they will email back great pictures of what the finished product will look like, to show the customer.

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4. It takes away from my staff selling from the case.

If you’ve opened a jewelry store to make money, custom is actually better than selling from the case. Case sales average $400 to $850 with a margin around 43 percent and you have to keep hundreds of thousands of dollars in inventory to make a sale. Plus, your product is found in other stores and on the Internet.

In contrast, the average custom sale is $1,200 to $3,500 and requires virtually no on-hand inventory. Your unique designs can’t be shopped and margins are 50-65 percent. Most jewelers find custom enhances showcase sales, especially bridal. Additionally, probably only one in four of the jewelers in your town is doing custom. There’s less competition.

5. It’ll only sell every now and then.

Advertise it, put it on your website, post it on Facebook and tweet that you do custom, and this side of the business will grow. Want to supercharge sales? Take photos of the process and email progress reports to the client. The customer will send them to her friends and it’ll be the best advertising you ever get.


David Geller is a consultant to jewelers on store management. Email him at dgellerbellsouth.net.

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