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How Independent Jewelers Can Build a Strong Brand in a High-Tech World

Here are five ways to build a powerful brand while utilizing the latest tech in visual merchandising.

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RESPONDING TO THE pressures and opportunities of technology is a challenge for any jewelry retailer. Here are insights for using brand and visual merchandising to get the high tech and traditional balance right.

The James Allen retail store knocks down threshold barriers and invites exploration. PHOTO PROVIDED BY JAMES ALLEN.

1. Start with the brand experience. How we shop and communicate is changing, but human nature remains the same. Traditional branding and visual merchandising still work in jewelry retailing. The latest tech trend can be just a distraction if you haven’t got the basics right.

2. Understand your story and your shopper’s journey before thinking about technology. Appeal to the senses, delighting shoppers through texture, color, lighting, sound, even scent. Focus on creating a mood and setting a scene to make an emotional connection with impact, with or without technology.

3. Use new props and displays to freshen up your shopping experience. Innovation is at work in areas like signage, props, forms, and fixtures. Here are a few low tech ideas with modern appeal:

  • Sparkling 3-foot-wide lips bring fashion, fun and smiles to a store.
  • Floating stone shapes hanging like clouds juxtapose lightness with weight to showcase jewelry with drama.
  • Multi-handed sprays of arms present bracelets, watches and rings in a way that is far beyond the staid vitrine.

Photos provided by windowfrance.com

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Photos provided by windowfrance.com

Photos provided by windowfrance.com

Photos provided by windowfrance.com

4. Remember that physical retail will never go away. Online retailers are turning to physical stores because online-only is relationship- and experience-limiting. Retailers from Amazon to James Allen are opening actual retail doors.

JamesAllen.com, an online diamond retailer, recently opened a store in Washington, DC. It is a physical manifestation of the online brand. Intimidating aspects of the traditional jewelry store are gone. Here is a welcoming, comfortable environment that invites exploration. Video images of jewelry greet shoppers as they engage with 3-D CAM/CAD design, virtual inventory and visualization tools. They can touch, feel and try on cubic zirconia ring models free of locked cases. The store is a test bed for virtual reality, consumer co-creation, shopping gamification, and product customization.

View from back to front of store-communal cases. PHOTO PROVIDED BY JAMES ALLEN

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In-store technology goes beyond experience. By capturing shopper behavioral data, we can understand how customers interact and adjust stores accordingly.

Photo provided by James Allen.

5. Make sure your store stands out in a blurred, borderless retail landscape. The customer experience isn’t confined to a specific channel. A clear brand delivered with continuity across the physical, online, mobile and virtual is what wins. Don’t ask “what technology?” Begin with the brand, the customer journey and the experience. Regardless of technology, jewelry retailers that deliver continuity, clarity and relevance across channels will have an indelible and profitable impact.

Pam Levine, president of Levine Luxury Branding, is an expert at harnessing the senses and the emotionally complex — often silent — drivers of purchase decisions in stores and online. Contact her at Pam@levineluxurybranding.com

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When It’s Time for Something New, Call Wilkerson

Fifty-four years is a long time to stay in one place. So, when Cindy Skatell-Dacus, owner of Skatell’s Custom Jewelers in Greenville, SC decided to move on to life’s next adventure, she called Wilkerson. “I’d seen their ads in the trade magazines for years,’ she says, before hiring them to run her store’s GOB sale. It was such a great experience, Skatell-Dacus says it didn’t even seem like a sale was taking place. Does she have some advice for others thinking of a liquidation or GOB sale? Three words, she says: “Wilkerson. Wilkerson. Wilkerson.”

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Where Did All My Profits Go??

Understanding cash flow vs. profit can affect how you manage your business.

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A COMMON COMPLAINT FROM retailers after the CPA has completed the end of year financials is, “Where is the money?” Often, they have reported a healthy profit (which also leads to a bigger tax liability to the IRS), yet their bank account never seems to reflect the profit the business makes.

It’s a common issue. Most store owners expect their profit to show up in the bank account — and that’s perfectly understandable. After all, profit is meant to be what you have left after paying your operating costs and vendors. Yet, rarely does it align.

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The reality is that cash flow and profits are two different things. Cash flow reflects the ins and outs of your bank account over a period of time. Profit is about your income and the expenses that relate to that income. That means the expenses don’t necessarily line up with when you paid them.

One of the best examples of this is the inventory you buy. For instance, let’s say Bob’s business does $1 million in sales for the year. With a keystone markup, Bob makes a gross profit of $500,000 from his business. After expenses of $400,000, his net profit is $100,000.

The bank account tells a very different story. Although the cost of goods sold is $500,000, Bob didn’t necessarily spend that much on inventory for the year. If he spent $600,000 on inventory purchases, he would have increased his inventory holding by $100,000. However, he didn’t sell the extra inventory, and therefore, it doesn’t pay for itself, but it will still come out of his bank account!

Timing is another important factor in paying vendors, too. Whether you pay your vendors immediately or pay the amount six months later, this will affect your bank balance, but it won’t affect your profit — the item is an expense when you sell it, not when you pay your vendor.

Your bank account can also be affected by assets that you buy. A new vehicle that is deemed a business asset may leave a hole in your bank account now if you pay cash, but as a business asset, its cost will be spread over several years to reflect when it is used. Your profit will look healthier than your bank account in this situation.

Of course, another factor to consider is personal spending. Withdrawing a good deal of money from your business account to support your lifestyle isn’t a business expense and won’t decrease your profit. It will, however, certainly lower the balance of your bank account.

It’s important to understand this difference between cash flow and profit so you don’t get caught spending money you don’t have.

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How to Create a Feeding Frenzy In Your Store

Limited-quantity special offers can do more than build short-term traffic.

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IMAGINE A VIRTUAL feeding frenzy of customers coming into your store to buy, right now.

Nice idea, right? But that’s not the sort of thing you can simply turn on or off like a faucet … or is it?

Actually you can, and it’s the perfect thing to create using email marketing and social media. The secret is to offer extremely attractive offers on extremely limited merchandise, and do it on a regular basis.

For example, maybe you offer an 18-inch strand of freshwater pearls with a regular price of $89 for just $27. Who wouldn’t want to buy that? Of course, many, many people would and will. But to get the feeding frenzy, you need one more element … urgency!

In this case, the urgency is manifested in the form of an extremely limited supply. “But I only have 17 of them, and when they’re gone, they’re gone!”

But why would you want to do this? I mean, let’s say you bought those pearls for $12 a strand. Well, selling 17 strands at a profit of just $15 a strand makes you a whopping $255. Hardly worth the trouble, right?

Well, consider this: When you do this regularly — at least once a month, and once a week is better — you can predictably expect the following:

  • You will virtually eliminate opt-outs from your email list. People will stay with you forever, not because they want or need any one thing or things, but they’ll be afraid of missing the one screamin’ deal they do. Research proves this to be true.
  • You’ll very likely see an increase in email opens.
  • You’re likely to see an increase in your social media engagements in the form of page likes, comments, etc.
  • You’ll finally be able to track social media responses directly to specific posts; no longer will you have to guess if your social media is working. You’ll know … and how well.
  • You’ll have customers walking in to buy. And that makes upselling and add-on selling much, much easier. If your sales team is well-trained, that li’l $27 sale turns into your average ticket or higher.
  • Perhaps most important, you’ll be training your customers on how to be your customers. You’ll be delivering the message that, in this relationship, they’re expected to buy from you.

Obviously, to make “feeding frenzy” marketing work, you need to buy right. Make it part of your trade show routine to visit the closeout booths to find such deals. Buy unusual numbers of the items you want to make your feeding frenzy offers (17 of these, 22 of those, 8 of another thing, 31 of something else).

It’s also important to keep the price points low. You can have something with a $200 value or more, but you’ll want to keep the “deal” price under $100, and under $50 is best. This has to remain an “impulse” buy that virtually any and every customer can appreciate.

And once you’ve mastered the art of the feeding frenzy offer, start making more compelling offers to your customers for those bigger items for bigger occasions. You’ll see your traffic, sales and profits skyrocket.

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David Geller

What You Can Learn About Turn from Clothing and Furniture Stores

Hint: Turn more, earn more.

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THERE ARE REALLY only three important numbers in a retail store: gross profit dollars, inventory on hand, and inventory turn. So who’s better at managing money among these three retailers?

Store                         Gross Profit %
Jewelry                      42.6%
Furniture                  45.0%
Clothing                    46.5%

Darn close, aren’t they? The grass isn’t so green on the other side after all. Or is it?

Let’s look at inventory turn, which means how many times a year an item sells. (These numbers are from stores doing “pretty well.”)

Store                            Turn            Days in the Store
Jewelry                   1.4                       260
Furniture               3.5                       104
Clothing                 4.3                       84

A clothing store won’t keep a shirt/suit/jacket/blouse in the store more than three to four months. They will heavily discount it at that point to get it out the door; they don’t just “squash” merchandise closer together to show more like jewelers do.

Furniture stores work the same way. They have a natural problem: available floor space. The biggest reason for high turn in a furniture store was told to me by a furniture store owner: “Where am I going to store an extra 100 mattresses?”

Clothing stores get rid of their merchandise every quarter. Furniture stores get rid of their inventory every four months, and a good jeweler turns their merchandise a little over once a year. But most jewelers I meet have had their total merchandise for two-and-a-half to four years! This causes terrible cash flow and piles of debt.

If you buy jewelry in January, it should sell at least once by Christmas; that would be a turn of 1.0. If it stays until after Christmas, discount it or give a spiff to the sales staff to unload it, or even return it to your vendor and exchange it.

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If it is still there in 18 months, scrap it. That’s what clothing and furniture stores do.

Let me show you the money-making power of turn. All three stores are going to buy an item for $200. For a jeweler, this might be earrings; for a clothing store, a nice jacket; and for a furniture store, it might be a chair. In the table below you can see the cost, profit margin in dollars, and what that brings in for total product dollars in a year.

Keeping an item long-term is a detriment. Even if someone buys it three years from now, you should have had that $207 in profit for each of the three years, totaling $621 brought into the store (not the measly $163.35 you would make by holding it three years).

When it’s over a year old, most things need to be disposed of and replaced. Maybe your customers just aren’t buying what you have in stock. Change that!

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