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Goodbye, Cindy

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Cindy Edelstein and Trace Shelton

Cindy Edelstein spread good feelings wherever she went. Here, she shares a hug with INDESIGN’s editor-in-chief Trace Shelton and television style pundit Michael O’Connor.

Remembering a dear friend, tireless jewelry advocate
and all-around industry dynamo, Cindy Edelstein


The jewelry designer’s fiercest advocate and one of my best friends in the jewelry industry, Cindy Edelstein, passed away yesterday. In truth, Cindy was a best friend to many, many people, and her passing leaves an enormous hole not only in our industry, but in our hearts. As stunned and devastated as I am today, there was no way I could write about any other topic — I had to tell all of you just what an incredible person we have lost, as many of you reading this already know.

The jewelry industry is a tightly knit community, especially in the designer world where the name on the door is also the person inside the booth at the trade shows. For someone like myself who’s not a jewelry designer or retailer, this community can be difficult to enter into. Cindy was one of those rare people who knew everyone in the room and yet still had a space at the table for you. No matter how busy she was during a trade show – and she was pretty much always swamped, since she worked on behalf of Couture, JA New York, the AGTA Show, and globalDESIGN – she always took the time to pause, even if only for a moment, to give a hug and ask about your life. Not your business — your life. As much as I understand that most interactions at trade shows are necessarily transactional – what can you do for me, what can I do for you – I appreciated Cindy’s genuine interest in my personal life because there was nothing in it for her; she was just being a friend. It was always a short but much-appreciated moment of warmth amidst the hustle and bustle of the trade show.

That genuine, personal quality is not the only thing I will miss with Cindy’s passing, but it is the thing I’ll miss the most. Last year, at the JA NY Winter Show, I was fortunate enough to meet Cindy’s husband, Frank. Cindy made a point of introducing us, and the three of us sat and talked about our daughters, who were just a year apart – mine was in her second semester of college at the time, and Cindy and Frank’s daughter, Remy, was finishing up her senior year of high school. We must have talked for an hour about parenting and smart daughters and how hard it is to send them off and, really, how hard it is to live without them. As we always did, we talked about Malik, our son that my wife and I adopted nearly five years ago out of the foster care system; as always, Cindy encouraged me to keep fighting the good fight on his behalf. Did we talk about her regular contribution to INDESIGN Magazine (the “Customer Types” section, which won gold in last year’s Tabbie Awards)? I’m sure we did, but what meant the most to me, and, I think, to Cindy, was our personal conversation about things that mattered outside of work.


RELATED STORY: CINDY EDELSTEIN PASSES AWAY AT AGE 51

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As much as Cindy was a good friend, she was also an unflaggingly positive proponent of designer jewelry. Her business, the Jeweler’s Resource Bureau, celebrated its 25th anniversary this year, and Cindy remained at the forefront of business methodology and always exhibited a remarkable sense of professional curiosity, regularly sharing articles about innovative practices through social media and her newsletter, the Cindy Edelstein Daily. She promoted the category of designer jewelry relentlessly in her many and regular Facebook, Twitter and Instagram posts, and she constantly encouraged designers to improve their businesses in a myriad of ways – the bottom line being that she wanted to teach designers to be not just incredible artists, but incredible businesspeople as well.


“Cindy was especially an advocate for fledgling designers. In fact, ‘advocate’ is too weak a word — she was more like a mama tiger fighting for her cubs.


She was especially an advocate for fledgling designers. In fact, “advocate” is too weak a word – Cindy was more like a mama tiger fighting for her cubs. A friendly conversation could turn tense in a moment if Cindy thought there was a chance that you might treat small designers unfairly. She did not limit her support to her clientele; Cindy fought for every designer and promoted their virtues to retailers and press alike. She was convinced – and I believe she was correct – that emerging designers were the lifeblood of the industry because they fed it unbridled creativity. She believed they were the pioneers of jewelry, pushing the industry forward creatively even as they struggled to survive from a business standpoint. She was an advocate for “the poor” in our industry, if you will, and she often worked for free, speaking at events and writing for publications solely to advance the designer’s cause.

Over the past few weeks, Cindy had been consulting with our team about our inaugural INDESIGN Awards, which will recognize excellence in jewelry design. She emailed me early this month to say she had heard about the awards and simply wanted to offer whatever help or advice she could. She spoke to us about everything from contest categories to marketing to judging criteria, and she offered us invaluable advice from her many experiences as both an administrator and judge in various design competitions. Cindy was wonderfully frank and never hesitated to share her unvarnished opinion. Our contest will be the better for it. She never asked for anything in return; she just wanted us to be successful, and she loved when designers were recognized for their creations.

That was Cindy in a nutshell: She was a helper and a hero. She held her friends almost as closely as she did her family. She did what she thought was right and let the cards fall as they may. Her passion, energy, brilliance and experience will be sorely missed in our industry. But way more than that, we will simply miss Cindy, the person. Goodbye, Cindy – you were one of a kind. I do not expect we shall see your equal.


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OVER THE COUNTER: EPISODE 4

Jewelry Store Owner Rewards Her Staff With the Ultimate Adventure

The owner of a new Colorado jewelry store gave her sales team a steep challenge. In this one-minute excerpt of the latest "Over the Counter", hear how the goal was set ... and learn what she did when they reached their goal. Catch the full podcast here.

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Editor's Note

Our Big Survey Seeks To Answer Why Some Jewelers Thrive While Others Die

Why are some jewelers thriving while others are going out of business? In this issue, we seek answers.

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“What’s the secret? Why are some jewelers thriving while others are going out of business?”

We receive letters with some variation of this question at INSTORE every month. In this issue, we seek answers through our 12th annual Big Survey. This time, we sort more than 700 responses from jewelry store owners around the country into three categories: average stores, struggling stores, and thriving stores (without naming names, of course). Then we seek the common thread tying each given cohort together.
Spoiler alert: the most successful stores are the ones that have embraced the millennial client. That means a concerted focus on digital marketing including social media and SEO. It also means more opportunities for customization and an emphasis on unique jewelry with meaning. Some stores have been willing to change with the times for a new clientele; others haven’t.

We also saw that thriving stores spent more of their own time on business strategy and marketing and less on bench work and sales than their struggling peers. So many owners get caught up in the day-to-day that they don’t take the time to make a plan for growth (and advertise to get there).

At the end of the day, the “secret” isn’t really much of a secret at all: those who seek to be the best merchants they can be — willing to sell whatever the client may want to whomever the client may be — are the ones who prosper. But there are many ways to get you there, and you’ll find quite a few in the pages of our Big Survey.

Trace Shelton

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

Five Smart Tips You’ll Find in This Issue

  • Print business-sized cards to throw into the customer’s bag saying to like your store on Facebook and give a review. (The Big Story, p. 63)
  • Text your clients every six months with the message, “Reminder! It’s time to get your jewelry checked and cleaned.” (The Big Story, p. 63)
  • Send each client their birthstone on their birthday along with a gift card toward custom design or mounting. (The Big Story, p. 63)
  • Bag each purchase into a custom canvas-printed bag that your clients can reuse. (The Big Story, p. 63)
  • Put morning duties on flash cards and have staff pick which card they want as they arrive (last person has to take two). (The Big Story, p. 63)
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David Brown

Why Warren Buffett Places So Much Trust in Emotional Currency — And How Your Store Can Get It

It’s time to create a “moat” around your prices.

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He’s long been considered America’s foremost investment guru, and given the returns achieved by his company, Berkshire Hathaway, it’s easy to see why. Understanding what Buffett considers to be a good business can shed light on how to improve your own business strength — to put, as he calls it, “a moat” around it to ward competition away.

Hearing his theory on business value is well worth doing, whether it’s his annual Berkshire Hathaway meeting or other snippets of advice the media shy guru may drop. It’s his take on business value from a commission investigating the financial crisis back in 2009 that recently caught my attention.

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When asked about his investment in the ratings agency Moody’s, Buffett had the following to say:
“If you’ve got the power to raise prices without losing business to a competitor, you’ve got a very good business. And if you have to have a prayer session before raising the price by a tenth of a cent, then you’ve got a terrible business. I’ve been in both, and I know the difference.”

Buffett went on to discuss his belief that good management can’t save a bad business, but a good business can continue no matter what management does.

Moody’s represented a case in point. Because of their duopoly with Standard and Poor’s as the benchmark of rating agencies, they effectively had a business with a moat around it. Even if a competitor came in offering ratings at half the price, both Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s had created a business that would not suffer. Price increases or decreases would make no difference.

In a jewelry industry where pricing competition often seems to be the only thing that customers are concerned about, it raises the question, “Can a jeweler successfully build a pricing moat around what they offer?” Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s perform a task that others can do but no one else can do it with the prestige of having their name attached — and that makes all the difference.

On the face of it, it may seem difficult to achieve this level of power when selling a commodity that can be purchased elsewhere — yet jewelry is an emotional buy. By definition, you should also be able to achieve an emotional moat around the association of your name to the process. Tiffany has achieved this — however, is what they are offering any different to what you or other jewelers able to provide? Does the customer gain any form of tangible benefit, or is it a feeling based on emotion?

Just because it’s intangible doesn’t mean it’s not real. The ability to increase prices and have your customers accept it because you are the only feasible option is priceless — the number one thing Buffett considers when investing.

If it’s worthwhile for Mr. Buffett to consider it for his major investments, it’s worth you considering for yours.

 

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David Geller

If Your Sales Are Acceptable But You Have No Cash, Look At Your Inventory

It’s an extremely simple formula.

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“IF I MADE that much money, where the heck is it?”

After getting one’s tax return back from the CPA, this is the usual question. Jewelers often tell me they aren’t making any money when, in fact, most I help do make a profit in the store.

But making a profit and having money are two completely different things.

Let’s just talk jewelry sales. If you sell $500,000 and earn keystone, your gross profit is $250,000.

If expenses are $200,000, then your net profit is $50,000, which is 10 percent of sales. Awesome!

“But I have no money!”

Easy. Look at how much inventory you have. At keystone, the amount of inventory you should stock is about equal to your gross profit from selling jewelry. So, if your gross profit was $250,000, then $250,000 should be about inventory level. If inventory is $400,000, the extra $150,000 (which you’ve been overbuying for a few years) hits you in the behind.

Take that $150,000 “too much inventory” and divide by half to three-quarters (leaving either $75,000 or $110,000). Then go look at your QuickBooks or accounting program and add up your accounts payable, credit card debt, bank loans, and loans from owner.

And you’ll see excess inventory is equal to debt, give or take.

In the jewelry industry, a good inventory turn is 1.0 (one time per 12 months). For every month after 12 that stale item sits in the case, the selling price (at keystone) must be increased monthly by 4 percent to make the same amount of profit after a year. If an item cost $100 and sells for $200 and is a year old, then each month starting with month 13, you must add $8 to make up for the second year’s missing profit month-by-month. By month 18, you’d need to raise the price by $48. In two years, it would need to make you $200 instead of just $100. And just think: you could have invested that money into new inventory!

Note: If you have this kind of old inventory and have less debt, I’m betting you do a large amount of shop sales (which requires virtually no inventory) or buy/sell a lot of scrap. These are “free money” departments, requiring little inventory while throwing off good profits. But why work your tush off in one place to help pay for a debt-ridden department someplace else in the store?

Most jewelers think jewelry (including diamonds) doesn’t go out of style. Wrong. Jewelry goes out of money.

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