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Commentary: The Business

Here’s How To Get Millennials’ Attention

Tell them your story, says fast-growing retailer.

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MANY ARTICLES HITTING newsstands today are pushing blame on millennials for everything from the decline in sales of paper napkins, to poor numbers at movie theaters, to even the decrease in market share for Budweiser and Coors.

As jewelers, we are very familiar with the decline in jewelry sales — most notably diamonds. It seems that every month, there is a new report blaming millennials for the number of failing jewelry stores, the shrinkage of diamond districts, and even the shift in the trend away from “two months’ salary.”

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Follow market history trends and you will start to see a pattern. When a “generation” of people begin to reach their 30s, they go from being cautious savers to consumers and spenders. Baby boomers hit that apex in the 1980s, and the country was hog-wild with money. Generation X hit their apex in the early 2000s, and housing markets and retail sales were booming. Now we are approaching the apex for millennials (2020 is the tipping point) — and they are a bigger generation than baby boomers and gen-Xers combined. Are you on the precipice for success when they hit the age of consumerism?

Being on the threshold between gen-X and millennials, I can tell you how offended I feel when millennials say it is everyone else’s fault they cannot afford to buy a house because they are up to their eyeballs in student loan debt. I am also offended when everyone else says millennials are a bunch of entitled babies who can’t toe the line. Blaming millennials clearly hasn’t been the answer because stores continue to close, diamond vendors are dropping like flies, and the millennials still aren’t walking into the jewelry stores that remain … except that they are! Many businesses just see them as the enemy rather than the opportunity.

Want to know how to sell to millennials? Get online and tell them your story. Take photos of your store, your team, your jewelry, your customers. Make the posts informational, fun, educational, and truthful. Put a few dollars into boosting your posts on Facebook and Instagram to people 23-35. Show them what makes you unique and how your expertise is worth the extra spend on a purchase. Stick with it, and they will start to come through your doors.

When they do walk in, be open-minded, then ask for (and respect) their budget. They will research what you tell them and probably not commit on the first visit. If you have patience, you will discover they are vehemently loyal when they make the decision to trust you as long as you give them a reason to. Take care of one millennial, and their friends will know in a heartbeat because social media works. Soon you will have a steady flow of the next generation of consumers breathing life back into your business.

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Deb Schulman says once she and her husband, Ron, decided to retire, she could feel “the stress start to leave.” The owners of B. Alsohns Jewelers in Palm Desert, California, the Schulmans had heard about Wilkerson over the years and contacted them when the time was right. Wilkerson provided the personalized service, experience and manpower it took to organize their GOB sale. “We are so impressed with the way Wilkerson performed for us,” says Ron Schulman, “I’d send high accolades to anyone who was interested.”

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Commentary: The Business

The First America’s Coolest Stores Winner Reflects on What It Means

Cool stores encourage customers to hang out, says owner Brett Weiler.

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TWENTY YEARS AGO, as I was in the process of building out my second store, I remember my plumber saying: “I see what you are fixin’ to do here — you want people to relax, so’s you can get at their wallet.”

Well, kind of.

Thankfully, my introduction to the jewelry industry started at a small store during my college years in Gainesville, FL, called The Quarry. It was located in a charming old cottage. I would have to describe it as upscale-hippie with a low-key vibe, the kind of place where you just wanted to hang out, which the owners were kind enough to let me do. Interestingly, I was never monetarily compensated, nor did I ever set out to be a jeweler, but this little store evidently had a big impact on what I would do.

After that, however, every store that I was employed in felt stiff and uncomfortable. These were not environments I enjoyed, much less places I would want to spend most of my waking hours. I wanted a store that not only suited my sensibilities, but one that made all feel welcome. Somehow, I wanted my store to communicate my dedication when it comes to execution.  Let’s face it, in this industry, the devil is in the details.

I remember how excited I was when I won INSTORE’s first America’s Coolest Stores Award in 2002. But I also got to thinking, the magazine was pretty thin with hardly any advertising. I was kind of afraid that it would go the way of so many publications and leave me with a meaningless award. That was certainly not the case, as INSTORE became the powerhouse of the industry and the award quite highly regarded. I like to say that having a “Cool Store” is something you can never take away from me.

There are evidently many takes on what makes a “Cool Store” cool. Cool stores exude an ambience that makes it obvious that the customer’s experience is of key importance. The one thing they all seem to have in common is the ability to represent to the customer that this is not going to be just a typical retail transaction. A store does not have to be lavish; however, it should be able to demonstrate a commitment to your standards.

At the end of the day (pun intended), nobody spends more time in my store than I do, and I love it here. However, it is always very gratifying to me when someone comments on the vibe my store emanates. It is not lost on me how fortunate I am to be able to serve my time here. How lucky am I?  Imagine, having a job where you just want to go hang out.

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Commentary: The Business

Here’s How to Stay Customer-Focused During the Holiday Rush

No matter how many people on the sales floor, you must stick to the basics of customer service.

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LET’S TALK ABOUT the basics. Pure and simple, that means providing kind customer service while keeping your ego in check when it threatens to walk all over your common sense.

How do you react when a customer expects you to just drop everything to fix her costume pendant that she bought somewhere else when you have a store full of bonafide customers who want real jewelry? Every one of those customers will notice how you treat the simplest of us. You must learn that you are on a stage of sorts — so smile, be patient, be kind, be genuine and, if not, at least fake it ‘til you make it through the day.

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People come to us with misinformation, stupid requests, etc., but they come to us, the professionals of the industry. Each of you holds a place of power. I often preach that we have to be sensitive to what it is like to approach us. How do you feel when you aren’t waited on promptly and recognized, but rather talked over or ignored? Or worse, pounced on the moment you enter the door? Now imagine a recent widow, divorcee or survivor coming into your store and not being waited on promptly or even recognized, but instead ignored. It’s intimidating.

Translate that thought into your greeting protocol. Your customers should be greeted inside the door within 15 seconds of arrival. Have your staff close their eyes and count 1 one thousand, 2 one thousand, until 15 one thousand. It’s a long time, isn’t it? Are you greeting them promptly and in an engaging manner? If not, why not? Are you practicing active listening and asking open-ended questions?

People stop buying when you stop selling! Are you doing add-on sales? Are you requesting return visits for jewelry check-ups, positive reviews or recommendations to friends?

Of course my favorite topic for ABC sales is The Yes Train. You wanted white gold, yes. You wanted a halo with vintage accents, yes. You wanted a size 6 with euro shank, yes. You were looking for larger diamonds in the shoulders and some sparkles in the gallery, big smile, yes. This will make a sensational ring all of your friends will envy, yes. Let’s get your deposit taken care of so I can get started on this beauty right away! That active listening “yes” train is headed straight to the bank.

You must build confidence, inspire cooperation and invite rapport with each customer, every time. Check your ego at the door, Fancy Jewelry Store Owner. How you treat customers, how you respond to challenges, how you handle a serious crisis is reflected in how you treat your employees and how they will treat your customers.

What will you change tomorrow and the next day? Because it is a process to become an owner (meaning manager, goldsmith, appraiser, bookkeeper, psychiatrist, repairman, event manager, cupid and of course, housekeeper).

Fundamentals can never be underrated, especially headed into the holiday season. Now go dazzle them!

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Commentary: The Business

Million-Dollar Seller Achieves Jewelry Dreams

Aly Martinez builds on success.

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IT STARTED WITH beads and a spool of fishing line. I had always been creative and loved anything artistic, but nothing grabbed my attention quite like jewelry.

Beading in my bedroom on the weekends quickly led to jewelry-fabrication classes in high school, and by the time I graduated a hobby had turned into a passion and a dream of a life-long career.

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In college, I majored in retail merchandising, but knew I wanted to keep my focus on jewelry. I became connected with my local Art Guild, and when I wasn’t in class I was in the studio taking every jewelry fabrication class I could get my hands on. In 2007, I began working at Kevin Kelly Jewelers, a local family-operated jewelry store. There they taught me the basics of repair work, custom work and selling. I was a sponge and wanted to learn everything they were willing to teach me.

Upon graduating college in 2009, I knew I wanted to keep going and to learn more, and found myself asking “What next?”

I quickly discovered GIA and started on my Graduate Gemology degree. By the beginning of 2010 I started working at Jones Bros. Jewelers part-time changing watch batteries and cleaning jewelry. Again, I said yes to anything they were willing to teach me. Now, fast forward nine years later, and I’m a full-time sales associate with a million dollars sold in 2018.

So what exactly happened throughout those nine years? A lot.

Selling full-time was not necessarily something I thought I’d ever do, but I quickly fell in love with the personal connections I was able to make with clients. Once I started, selling a million dollars in a year became a professional and personal goal. A goal that I added to my other goals that I never forgot about and slowly kept working toward.

With the help of GIA’s Distance Education Program, I was able to continue taking classes while working, and travel to Wisconsin for lab courses. And I’ll admit I put it on the back burner for a while, but creating my own jewelry line was something I’d dreamt about for years, and so I made sure to never lose sight of the initial driving force for my passion for this industry.

Year after year I came close, but never quite hit that million dollar mark. By 2018 I wasn’t ready to give up, but knew it was time to broaden my focus.

I dove headfirst into the rest of my Graduate Gemology training, became a brand ambassador for Tacori, and finally created Emerald May, my own jewelry line. I traveled more than ever before – Wisconsin for labs, Vegas for trade shows, and California for Tacori and had my hands in more and more projects.

Ironically, with my focus on other things I had wanted for so long, my sales continued to grow, and by the end of 2018 I was one class away from becoming a Graduate Gemologist, my own line was officially started with several pieces sold, and I had reached my goal of selling a million dollars in a year.

It’s a surreal feeling to look back on everything that’s happened over the years to get to where I am now. Something that started as a hobby has turned into a career, a career that drives me to do better every day. The million dollars became so much more than a sales goal. It was something to strive for, something to push me, and once achieved served as a symbol that with enough determination and pursuit anything is possible. It’s given me the courage to keep pursuing other goals and dreams I’ve set for myself.

Looking back on all of the hard work, education, and incredible amount of support I know that dreams don’t always have to stay dreams, they truly can become your reality.

So if you’ve taken the time to read this, I hope above anything else you feel inspired. It doesn’t matter if your dreams or aspirations are the same. It’s about finding that thing that drives you day after day that leaves you wanting more. It’s about pushing yourself to go after the things you’ve always dreamed of. It’s about starting somewhere, anywhere, and never giving up or losing sight of what you want and what you’ve worked so hard for. Start at the bottom if you must, just start.

Be open to every opportunity thrown your way, because you never know where that may lead you. I could have said no to selling because it wasn’t something I thought I’d want to do, but years later it’s become one of my absolute favorite things to do. You never know where something may lead, so take it all in, learn as much as you can, and never lose sight of your dreams – they could be your reality someday.

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