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How Much You Should Charge for a Design Job, And More Reader Questions Answered

We also talk about considerations in setting up a coffee bar in your store.





I’m thinking about adding a refreshment bar to serve espresso, coffee and soft drinks to customers. What are some considerations before putting one in my shop?

Few things put people in the mood to slow down and linger like the aroma of coffee. Although, as of yet, there’s no such thing as instant coffee bar. Ruth Mellergaard of New York-based interior design firm GRID/3 says some of the things you need to think about are the space needed, installation of plumbing fixtures, location and lighting. If you’re thinking of something bigger than a tea cart with a thermos, you’ll likely have to consider retrofitting water pipes and drains for plumbing fixtures. The location of your refreshment bar is especially important, with most jewelers locating them near the diamond engagement and wedding jewelry area of the store. “This is a part of your store where customers can spend up to two hours or even more, so it’s good to offer them something,” Mellergaard says.

Another important point is lighting, which, according to Mellergaard, should always be “soft and understated to avoid drawing a lot of attention to the refreshment area.”

The last question you should ask yourself is: Should I serve customers or let them serve themselves? This depends on what you serve, but beware of the physical (and legal) dangers of self-serve. Says Mellergaard: “Especially if you want to offer espresso, your staff should serve customers. I know a storeowner who let a customer serve herself an espresso, and she burned her hand.” If there is any legal risk or the regulatory requirements are just too onerous in your area, you can always go with a Keurig.

How much do most jewelers charge as a design fee for a custom job?

We ran a quick poll of our Brain Squad, and the result was that a slight majority of jewelers do charge an upfront “design fee,” with the sums ranging from $100 to over $1,000. Christopher Sarich, the owner of Noah Gabriel & Co. Jewelers in Wexford, PA, says he has found $250 to be the “magic number” for his market. “We tested different prices. We wanted it to be high enough to scare off tire-kickers but low enough to encourage serious shoppers.” Talking flat rates, however, oversimplifies a sales area with a lot of nuances. As long as the design process remains at the “consultation” phase, many jewelers will discuss design for free but set a fee as soon as it moves to the CAD or modeling stage. “I will talk and dream with a client for free,” says Jo Goralski, of The Jewelry Mechanic in Oconomowoc, WI. “A design could take 20 minutes, or it could take five one-hour sessions, it is still free. To take it to the next level to actually create the model, we take a non-refundable deposit, starting at $350.”

Nearly all those that do not impose a fee build it into the final cost: Some prepare a line-by-line itemization of the process, others a full quote. Your goal, as with all parts of your business, is to get a high mark-up (3.0 or higher is optimal), a high closing rate, and in an efficient manner.

“I usually use instinct to determine if a client is serious,” says Casey Gallant of Stephen Gallant Jewelers in Orleans, MA. “If a client does not show they are serious (“I’m just curious how much it would cost” or “But like, what’s a ballpark?”), we charge a $250 fee that is applicable to the total cost of the job.

“I don’t think there’s an easy way or need to set a hard rule for it. Part of the designer/salesperson’s job is qualifying the customer. It’s not something that has a template, or step-by-step, one-size fits all. It’s about creating a relationship with your client. And that process is different every time.”

How light can you go on basic inventory while also maintaining a decent selection to fill your cases?

Jewelry stores’ capital-intensive inventories are one of the things that make them stand out in modern retail and is sometimes used as evidence of their inefficiency. But you have to be very careful about thinning out your selection too much, especially in the bread-and-butter categories.

“When it comes to basic inventory, it is vital to have multiple qualities and ranges of total carat weights,” says store consultant Megan Crabtree. By doing so, you’ll not only be able to show a range of goods, but you’ll also give yourself the chance to upsell clients. “Let’s say we’re speaking on diamond studs or channel-set bands. If you have multiple carat total weights, it gives you the option to upsell your client because if they see if it in the case, they will see the difference in size. At the end of the day, people have a budget, so making sure you have two to three quality ranges — like good, better, best — will allow you to accommodate all customers. Show them the quality difference and let them make the decision.” To get a little more out of your inventory, spread your best-sellers out, recommends John Nicolosi, a GIA Accredited Jewelry Professional. This will encourage browsing and possibly impulse buying. (It’s also a good security measure.)

How can I host a party in a 400-square-foot store when eight people fill the store, let alone lingering concerns about social distancing?

Take the party outside. Kate Peterson, president of coaching service Performance Concepts, suggests you partner with other local merchants to create a “block party.” “A restaurant, a flower shop, a coffee house, even a pet store … any business that is a part of your community and that shares your essential values for service and customer appreciation should be approached,” she says.

The type of event you stage will depend on the types of partners you can attract. Every merchant can contribute something — from the location to the food to the decor to the entertainment. Since you’ll be working away from your own store, you might have to be innovative when it comes to displaying your product, but that’s the easy part, says Peterson. “Make the objective to have some fun and to use a cooperative commitment to inject some spirit into the heart of your town.”

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