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How to Gauge the Competitiveness of a Market, and More Reader Questions Answered

Including three reasons why you should tell your staff early if you’re planning to sell.

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I’m looking at opening a second store. Is there a way to gauge just how competitive this marketplace we’re looking at might be?

Online reviews can help, not just in giving you an anecdotal sense of a how well the incumbents are satisfying the local population’s demand for jewelry services but also with a data-based insight into the competitive environment. Here’s how: Compile the total number of Google reviews for jewelers in the trade area. Now, rank the existing jewelers based on their percentage of all those reviews. “If the leader owns 20-or-more percent of all reviews, look to see if the second, third, and fourth-place finishers are close behind. If they are, this is going to be a tougher-than-average marketplace in which to compete,” says marketer Roy Williams, author of the best-selling Wizard of Ads books. “If you see a leader that owns 30+ percent of all the Google reviews, these people are a force with which to be reckoned.” However, if the current leader has only 6 to 10 percent of the reviews, the outlook for your second store is promising. This trade area “is begging for a leader to step in and bloody everyone’s nose,” says Williams. Note that this approach will work with most markets. The exception is if you’re in a small town without a full complement of competitors.

What is something we can implement to get more efficient at handling wedding band sales?

Megan Crabtree, whose company Crabtree Consulting provides advisory services to independent jewelers, says one of the biggest mistakes her team notices is sales associates not being properly prepared for appointments, especially during bridal events and promotions. “Wedding band transactions average maybe $600-$1,000, which isn’t going to get you to your daily goals if you work with five of them in one day and each appointment takes an hour,” she says. Sales associates need to do their homework, she says, to ensure they have the matching band in stock — and if they don’t, to call the vendor in advance and either memo it in or get pricing, pictures, and style numbers ahead of time. “This takes all the grunt work out of the sale and you should be done in half the time,” she says.

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Should I tell my staff early that I’m planning to sell?

Yes, yes, and yes. Here’s why: You want to be able to reassure your workers that you have their interests at heart as you consider a sale; and a late panicked exodus of staff will not help you close the deal.

A prospective buyer will be eager to find out how indispensable you are to the business, so well-prepared transition plan that phases you out of the day-to-day running of the store may well boost the value of your store.

And possibly the most important, insider sales, where the store is sold to staff, are among the most successful. And even if your staff aren’t interested in taking over the store, the more people they tell, the better.

I don’t feel comfortable using some of the hand gestures — steeple, pistols, open palms — typically prescribed for sales pros. Is there a more minimalist approach that looks professional and is also effective?

If there’s a rule, it’s that you should do what comes naturally. There’s a plethora of studies showing a tight connection between hands and mind and that the way we use our hands can actually influence the way we express ourselves. To be able to think, we need to be able move in a way that comes most instinctively. In sales situations, you want to feel in control, in the flow, and, most importantly, to look sincere, and an overly choreographed approach will undermine that. Ronald Reagan, one of the great public speakers of the 20th century, famously rarely used any gestures at all. Indeed, he often kept one hand in his pocket. Having said all that, it is very easy to send the wrong signals with your body language. You don’t want to appear too tightly bound or lacking in confidence. Role play with some colleagues and a video camera. Study the tape and make the necessary adjustments.

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Should I take any special security precautions for a trunk show?

It’s definitely a smart move, especially if the show involves a well-known brand or designer, says insurer Jewelers Unblocked. The unfortunate flipside of the advertising you need to do for a successful event is that you alert criminals that a concentration of valuables will be accessible at a specific location and time. Make sure designers and brands are responsible for shipping merchandise to and from the store, and that they do not hand-carry the line in and out of the store. If it’s a particularly well-known brand, hire extra security and make sure to review safety precautions with staff before the trunk show occurs. Your goal should be to keep the team alert and focused, but most of all, safe.

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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Celebrate Your Retirement with Wilkerson

For nearly three decades, Suzanne and Tom Arnold ran a successful business at Facets Fine Jewelry in Arlington, Va. But the time came when the Arnolds wanted to do some of the things you put off while you’ve got a business to run. “We decided it was time to retire,” says Suzanne, who claims the couple knew how to open a store, how to run a store but “didn’t know how to close a store.” So, they hired Wilkerson to do it for them. When she called, Suzanne says Wilkerson offered every option for the sale she could have hoped for. Better still, “the sale exceeded our financial goals like crazy,” she says. And customers came, not only to take advantage of the going-out-of-business buys and mark-downs, but to wish a bon voyage to the beloved proprietors of a neighborhood institution. “People were celebrating our retirement, and that was so special,” says says.

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