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Why It’s Bad Business to Be a Holiday Grinch … and More Jeweler Questions Answered

Be wary of stripping out all the fun from your jewelry store.

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HOLIDAYS

I don’t agree with holiday decorating and these are my reasons: 1) There should be a consistent theme of cleanliness and organization every visit. 2) We should be respectful of everyone who walks in the door, not catering to one religious group or another. 3) It cheapens the look of the cases. 4) It draws attention from the jewelry. And 5) it steals attention from our promotional literature. What’s your view?

We agree: Props should never draw attention from your jewelry because they’re scruffy, inappropriate or overdone. But we think there is also a lesson to be learned from the Ron Johnson debacle at JC Penney: Be wary of stripping out all the fun.

“Choosing to never decorate a store at all for the holiday season, Mother’s Day or even just to highlight a sale perpetuates a sense of sameness in the store,” says Larry Johnson of Pacific Northern and the author of The Complete Guide to Effective Jewelry Display. “It misses a chance to create excitement in the shopping experience. The jewelry purchase has always been about emotion and that feeling is inhibited in a world of day-to-day sameness.”

As for customers who are going to get offended by Christmas, Happy Holidays or Mother’s Day signs, try to minimize potential offense but accept some individuals will be intent on finding fault somewhere.

Having said that, we understand where your views come from. Far too many retailers give too little thought to their displays. One good rule of thumb is props should always be of a quality equal to or better than your customer would have in their own home. Good decorations help underscore the “reason” the purchaser is in the store. Johnson (Larry not Ron), urges store owners to experiment with different approaches to their displays and decorations. “Then do more of what increases sales and change what does not.”

MOTIVATION

I was thinking of rewarding my staff with shares in the store as a way to motivate them. What things should I look out for?

First thing to look out for is that you’re not literally giving away the store. There is a tendency for both owners and employees to undervalue shares in a business. “Resist the urge to give your stock to anyone unless it is for estate-planning purposes,” says Greg Crabtree, a CPA and author of Simple Numbers, Straight Talk, Big Profits. “My experience is that stock starts to have real value only when money changes hands.” So if your employees wouldn’t pay cash for the shares or you can’t justify the value of the stake as part of their market-based wage, you are just being charitable, Crabtree says.

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LEGAL

Can I hire a bench jeweler as a subcontractor?

If your goal is to save a few dollars by avoiding withholding and payroll taxes, you want to be very careful: The IRS sets the bar high when it comes to proving a worker is a subcontractor (meaning your man should have a work contract, a high hourly rate, other clients, and a 1099 tax form supplied by you at year’s end). If you fail to meet the IRS’s tests, the penalties are severe (starting at 100 percent with interest on top). If a subcontractor does a lot of work for you, encourage them to have an LLC with a federal EIN (not their social security number). The latter meets a favorite IRS hurdle: Is the subcontractor a real business?

HIRING

What’s Craigslist like for finding staff?

Craigslist is a great way to get your ad in front of a lot of local people, but if you’re not careful you’ll inundate your inbox with unqualified applicants and spam. To avoid this, you need to do quite a bit of upfront work, starting with a detailed job description that includes instructions at the bottom on how you want people to respond. Some employers, for example, will state they want the applicant to use a certain subject line such as “I want to be a jewelry salesperson” in their applications or to use a certain font color. The reason is threefold: To allow people to know exactly what kind of person and personality you want, reach applicants who have enough interest to read to the bottom of the page (and can follow basic instructions) and to deter bots and scam emailers. Before you try Craigslist you may want to post on some industry jobs boards like JA’s (jobs.jewelers.org) or INSTORE’s classifieds section.

What’s the Brain Squad?

If you’re the owner or top manager of a U.S. jewelry store, you’re invited to join the INSTORE Brain Squad. By taking one five-minute quiz a month, you can get a free t-shirt, be featured prominently in this magazine, and make your voice heard on key issues affecting the jewelry industry. Good deal, right? Sign up here.

Over the years, INSTORE has won 80 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INSTORE's editors at [email protected].

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