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If I Owned A Jewelry Store: Wayne Burkan



If I Owned A Jewelry Store: Wayne Burkan


Wayne Burkan Change agent and author of Wide Angle Vision describes how “edge” customers could catapult your business to new heights.


Published in the March/Aprill 2012 issue

If I owned a jewelry store, I’d avoid emulating the most successful stores. After all, they have far more experience in the traditional jewelry model than I ever will, and far deeper pockets.

Their greatest strength, however, is also their greatest weakness. All that experience creates the same blindness that struck Hewlett-Packard, Kodak, Marshall Field’s and hundreds of others.


Those companies’ expertise both defined and limited their approach to their customers, and they became incapable of shaping a new direction. The jewelry store model is an old and reputable model, but to win, I would need to find a new approach.

MARVIN TRAUB, who transformed Bloomingdale’s, defines retail success as being able to “add value to the shopping experience.” The way most fine jewelry stores add value is by incrementally improving on the way it was done before. But there’s a limit to how many more mirrors and how much more lighting you can add.

I’d also recognize that my “good” customers will only be able to tell me what they expect, and would give suggestions that build on those expectations. I’d realize that growth won’t likely come from those who already frequent my store.

I would recognize that differentiation comes from those who can afford my product but don’t buy from me — these are my edge customers. I’d send an invitation to my edge customers to participate in a different kind of focus group. Getting these edge customers to participate would be a problem, since the success of my store would not be their priority. I’d have the event catered, for example, and offer each participant a small piece of jewelry to come and tell me what they like (and don’t like) in a jewelry store. Maybe I’d offer a “lowest price” on designer jewelry — anything to get them to participate. I’d make sure they understood I want to hear their criticisms, not compliments.

Next, I’d look for other options to differentiate my store by redefining my competitors.

QVC, HSN and Shop NBC, for example, are increasingly successful at stealing those who appreciate fine jewelry. Now you might be thinking, “I don’t compete with HSN!” but ask yourself, do they compete with you? I know my wife and many of her friends spend far more of their fine jewelry dollars online and on TV than in stores. So before I’d dismiss those shopping network competitors, I’d ask “What can I learn from them?” Here are a couple of examples:


DESIGNERS AS PERSONALITIES:  How many of my potential customers tune in to listen to Judith Ripka or Stephen Dweck describe the concept, design and wearing options of their pieces in high definition? My store could offer a better option than high definition: the wearing experience. So I’d join with select other stores and arrange for designers to take advantage of high speed Internet and offer limited showings, interacting with invited customers for video conferencing.

ONE TIME ONLY PRICING: The opportunity to get the lowest price for designer jewelry is a powerful draw. Combine this with the instore designer preview and the chance to examine and wear the pieces in-person, and I’d have a great offer.

If I owned a jewelry store, I’d add value to the shopping experience by utilizing my edge customers and edge competitors to both differentiate and give me a sustainable competitive advantage.

WAYNE BURKAN is president of Alternative Visions Inc., a company dedicated to change, innovation and the future, and author of Wide Angle Vision: Beat Your Competition by Focusing on Fringe Competitors, Lost Customers and Rogue Employees. Burkan has presented on four continents to more than 1,000 organizations. His clients include Motorola, Ford, 3M, Tropicana, the FBI and IBM.

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