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Essay Contest Winner: I’ve Seen the Enemy, and He is Me

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“What do you see as the strongest competitive threat to your business in 2018, and what specific actions are you taking to address it?”

As I read this question in an email on my iPhone shortly after ordering my wife’s birthday gift on Amazon, I believe “I” am the biggest threat to my business in 2018. 

By “I,” of course I mean the 30- and 40-somethings who have discovered that gift shopping and getting up off the couch are no longer synonymous. For most jewelry stores, competing with the web is like running the Chicago Marathon in flip-flops. Sure, it can be accomplished, but isn’t it just easier to pretend it doesn’t exist (or at least wear shoes)? 

While this relatively new market may take some time to foster interest, being able to offer a comparable diamond at a competitive price is worth the future marketing dollars.”

The “I’s” of this generation especially love to research and buy loose diamonds online. Competitors like Blue Nile and James Allen have been around since I was in high school, yet here we are almost 20 years later still wondering how to contend. Now I get it, because competing on diamond web pricing is like drinking warm beer: it gets the job done, but it sure tastes terrible going down. Still, brainstorming ways to make sales against online competitors is now a daily ritual. 

But unlike many in our industry who argue, like a baseball manager kicking dirt on an umpire after a bad strike-three call, that “there is nothing we can do,” in 2018 our store is competing head-on by offering “recycled” diamonds. 

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New companies like Diadem are making it possible to sell GIA-certified diamonds at a competitive markup. By purchasing diamonds from local customers, sending them to GIA to be graded, and then using special packaging to secure the newly graded recycled diamonds, our store has the ability to compete with virtual stores.

While this relatively new market may take some time to foster interest, being able to offer a comparable diamond at a competitive price is worth the future marketing dollars.

In addition, not only will our brick store work on margins much closer to our virtual opponents, our customers will help the environment, too. Recycled diamonds are a way to the get the “I’s” of this world to shop local, save money, and feel amazing that “I” did not only buy a diamond, “I” saved the world. 

And as Marvel reminds us at the box office, it is a lot of fun to defend the world. With this new recycled diamond program, the “I’s” don’t even have to dress up in fancy armor to save my planet! Although, let’s face it, if I did dress that way, I would have a whole new market to sell jewelry to in the future.

We face new challenges every day, but new opportunities, like recycled diamonds, make me believe our business can succeed in 2018.


This article originally appeared in the January 2018 edition of INSTORE.

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VIDEO HIGHLIGHT

Wilkerson Testimonials

New York Jeweler Picks Wilkerson for Their GOB Sale

Jan Rose of Rose Jewelers, located in Long Island's famous Hamptons beach district, explains how she chose Wilkerson for her closing sale. Jan's suggestions: reach out to jewelers who have been in similar situations to find out what worked for them, and look for a company with experience in going-out-of-business sales. Once you've done that, the final step is to move ahead and trust the process.

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Dave Richardson

Why Flip Charts Are Superior to Whiteboards

This could be extremely important to your sales performance.

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WHY IT IS TRUE: Many powerful ideas are shared in brief meetings with your sales staff prior to opening the store. Traditionally, these ideas are recorded on an erasable whiteboard in the training room or office. Once erased, the ideas may be lost forever.

PLAN OF ACTION: Invest in a flipchart and marking pens, and use them generously to record sales training conversations, discussions and commitments during your staff meetings. At the conclusion of the meeting, post the valuable information recorded on the chart to prominent locations in your office or training room. Refer to these in future daily meetings, focusing upon ongoing value to your store and your customers.

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Editor's Note

We’re All Quitters Someday

A successful ending to your retail career requires planning.

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ALL GOOD THINGS must end. Yet every ending is a new beginning. I could keep going with the clichés, but you get the point: everyone eventually has to move on from jewelry retail. When the time comes, you want to go out on your own terms.

Podcast: Holiday Sales These Jewelers Will Never Forget
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Podcast: Holiday Sales These Jewelers Will Never Forget

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Podcast: Get Your Employees to Act Like They Own the Damn Place

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Podcast: A Classic Holiday Poem is Reimagined in a Jewelry Store

With that in mind, our lead story takes you inside the transitions of six different jewelry retailers and explains why business expert Seth Godin says that one of the secrets of successful organizations is “strategic quitting.” Everyone reading this issue will leave the industry one day; now is the time to begin planning for it.

That said, many of you aren’t ready to retire, you’ve just lost your inspiration. You’re down and out, dejected, or maybe just bored. We’ve got just the thing for you to help you get your mojo back: our second lead story, “Mojo to Go.” It includes 12 different action items guaranteed to bring the excitement back to your business life.

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If that weren’t enough, we’ve also got what group managing editor Chris Burslem calls “lots of fun and interesting side bits” throughout, including why you shouldn’t discount shop labor, how to sell more safely, what your inventory management strategy can learn from dieting, and of course much, much more.

So remember, it’s not the quitting that matters — it’s how you plan to quit!

Trace Shelton

Editor-in-Chief, INSTORE
trace@smartworkmedia.com

Five Smart Tips You’ll Find in This Issue

  • Have your kids or your employees’ kids make Valentine’s Day cards and use them as props in your displays. (Manager’s To-Do, page 26)
  • Hold office hours for an hour or two a week for staff to talk to you. (Mojo To Go, page 44)
  • When role-playing sales with your staff, always take the role of salesperson first. (Ask INSTORE, page 58)
  • Renegotiate everything from your lease to Internet, cable, phone and even garbage pickup to save money. (Evan Deutsch, page 52)
  • Use an open-to-buy calculation to balance what you’re buying with what you’re selling. (David Brown, page 53)
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Commentary: The Business

Want to Survive? Go Custom

Tapping into jewelry customers’ desire for individuality is the key to retail success.

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YOU OFTEN HEAR THE words “it’s custom made” when referring to jewelry, but is it really? We all know there is a difference between “off-the-rack” and “custom-made” when it comes to clothing — jewelry isn’t any different.

The magic starts when the customer meets the maker. Each custom piece of art (which is what jewelry really is) should start with a conversation. Then the information provided — including style ideas, desired gemstones, personality traits and tastes, hobbies, work and social environments, favorite colors, you name it — should be incorporated into hand-drawn or 3D CAD rendered images for the client to choose from. Once a favorite design has been chosen, the creation and fabrication processes can begin.

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This specific value-add and brand differentiation is where clients realize the importance of knowing your jeweler. You have to trust the individual making the piece for you — that is paramount.

People are tired of sameness. From rampant copying to boring, uninspired designs, jewelry clients are becoming wise to seeing the same thing over and over again. The jewelry they are seeing does not speak to their individuality because these products are made for the masses on a gigantic scale. The anonymity behind fast fashion and easily consumed products that break or lose stones in a short amount of time after purchase don’t help the cause. Customer service only goes so far; the product has to have its own legs to stand on.

If you are creating one-of-a-kind pieces, you do not have the carrying costs associated with pre-fabricated designs and styles. You do not have to have liquidation sales of old, tired merchandise. You are creating exactly what the client is looking for. Being a specialty shop does not limit you to only creating custom pieces. It empowers you to design out-of-the-box and far-out jewelry that pushes the boundaries of style and uniqueness.

Seth Godin said that “survival is not the goal, transformative success is.” It is not always the strongest that survive, but those most responsive to change. Change is an opportunity that many see as a threat. It all boils down to our individual creativity. There is no competition when you create.

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