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If you believe your chances of owning a million dollar store are one in a million, you may need an attitude adjustment.

Laurelle Giesbrecht’s French’s Jewellery is located in Wetaskiwin, a small prairie town of 14,000 people in Alberta, Canada, but she’s never viewed the store as a small-town establishment.

That kind of thinking would limit its potential.

“I look to what high-end luxury stores do in major cities, not what my closest competitor is doing,” she explains. “Kind of like an ‘aim for the moon, you might hit the stars’ type of philosophy.”

As a result, her annual revenues are on track to hit $2 million.


“People often walk into our store and say that it looks like a store that should be in New York,” she says. “That’s exactly what I want. To have a place where people see that luxury is deserved and affordable.”

Arbitrary or not, hitting seven figures is something many business owners aspire to. “It’s that elusive barrier,” says David Brown of the Edge Retail Academy, “like the four minute mile.”

Growth is not to be feared, says Brown. So if you want to own a million-dollar store, you have to begin to think and even act as if you are already there. 

Likewise, Giesbrecht says that if you present your location as the million-dollar gem that it is, then it will be so. “If you are trying to achieve that next level, look and act like you are already there. Staff, clients and your operation as a whole will eventually fall into line with your vision.” 

There is more than one route to $1 million. So ask yourself, “What does my journey to $1 million look like?” Will you reinvent your business model, increase your average retail value, or appeal to a different sector of the market to get there?

Tom Duma, owner of Thom Duma Fine Jewelers in Warren, OH, says to break the $1 million mark, he built a better team and strengthened systems and policies after joining a performance group in 2009. His team includes a controller, an assistant controller, an inventory manager and a sales manager. He’s implemented a turnover system, a training and recruiting plan, an aged-inventory system and a fast-seller reorder system. His leadership team built advertising, operating and purchase budgets. He also weighed vendor performance against the amount of real estate the products occupied in case.


These are issues everyone should be addressing because, frankly, Brown says, a business is either growing or dying.

Brown says you’ve got to make the investment in payroll before you see the return. Yes, that can be nerve-wracking, even counter-intuitive. Don’t think of it as boosting your payroll $50,000 a year; think of it in terms of how much revenue you need to generate by the week or the month to meet the larger payroll.

A growing business attracts enthusiastic applicants, too, as opposed to a stagnant business, where people go along for the ride.

One thing owners in a growth mode have in common is that they begin making decisions strategically rather than emotionally, particularly in hiring and buying. They develop more awareness and curiosity about what other people are doing, and rather than saying `I would never do that!’ they are open to new ideas, Brown says.

“Good growth is a natural evolution of a business,” Brown says. “Some businesses get stuck at a certain level, a certain mindset. But they need to have a mindset that growth is a good thing, not something to be feared. We live in very dynamic times and business owners have to think more dynamically.”

“Complacency is one of the most frightening states of mind you can find. It means people aren’t looking for ways to be better, and when you see that, you see that they often lose by default.”



What’s So Special About $1 Million?

hy aim for $1 million? In many ways, that goal is more psychological than practical.

A true financial milestone occurs at about $800,000, Brown says. Settle for less than $800,000 in revenue and you’re settling for a job with a salary. After that, the true benefits of being a business owner kick in.

You can monitor labor productivity more closely when you’re smaller, says Greg Crabtree, author of Simple Numbers, Straight Talk, Big Profits! When you’re growing, getting the required productivity for every dollar you spend on labor becomes your biggest challenge.

Vince Rath, owner of Optimum Retail Solutions, says that although there’s nothing wrong with being an owner-operator, it’s a trade-off. You can control your own hours, and working only with family can simplify some management issues. But there’s only so much money you can make when revenues hover around the $600,000 to $700,000 mark.

As your business grows, it is important to hire enough people to take responsibility for functional areas that you can no longer manage. A key talent is to know which tasks to reassign to new hires and which tasks to assign to current employees.

Structure is critical.

Define who is responsible for exactly what, Rath says. And create a consistent corporate culture. “Outline expectations and clearly define performance. Employees get confused when they are not able to interpret what expectations are.”

When you do reach $1 million, Rath says, guard against complacency, fatigue and adding too much expense or inventory too quickly.

Revolution Jewelry Works, which opened in 2014, will surpass $1 million in sales this year.


On the Way to $1 Million

ennifer Farnes of Revolution Jewelry Works in Colorado Springs, CO, expects to meet her goal of $1 million this year, far ahead of the schedule she initially set. She’s been on the fast track from the beginning. When she opened in 2014, she expected to do $200,000 in business, and instead hit $400,000.

Farnes, who has a background in the advertising business, attributes her success, at least in part, to allocating 18 percent of gross revenues to advertising. Of that budget, 95 percent is dedicated to traditional media including TV, radio, newspaper and movie theater, and only 5 percent to social media. “A lot of people would find that really intimidating, but if you’re not allocating money to advertising, the only way people will find you is word of mouth. I’ve found that’s not the most reliable way of staying in business.”

Farnes’ message is to “come in and get a feel for what handmade fine jewelry really is. A lot of people come in because they have heard our message enough that it piques their curiosity.”

Be consistent and think long-term, she suggests. Set an annual budget and begin advertising with a medium you know.

“We do some social media, but really social media should be there strictly to bolster a message you already have out there.”

Farnes has developed a niche in custom jewelry with a full-service shop. Still, she says, if she switched her business model tomorrow, she’d still thrive, through a combination of advertising and treating customers like gold.

“It doesn’t really matter what you’re selling, it’s how you’re selling it,” she says. “Business ethics go along with that. If a customer is just outside of warranty dates, do you flex the rules? Help them. Fix it. Don’t live by hard lines because there are a lot of gray areas in making people happy. Ask them, ‘How can I make this better for you?’”

Part of keeping people happy is keeping turn-around time on repairs at four days, a deadline she wants to maintain as she grows.

“We’re hitting the threshold of the work we can handle, and I still need to be at the bench,” she says.

Farnes is in the enviable position of going through growing pains now, just three years into her retail business. She thought she’d be in her current location for 10 or 15 years; instead, she has to decide whether she can make the space work for a couple more years or transition to a stand-alone store already.

“We’ve had to get creative with our workspace, our equipment and our people. We are going to have to take out a couple of walls here soon because it’s getting really tight.”

Hiring is also a challenge. Five people work for her now. Last spring she interviewed 25 people (one of whom showed up for the interview in swim trunks and a T-shirt) and bench-tested seven, with dismaying results. “It’s surprising how many people put down on paper that they have X numbers of years of experience who can’t do a simple sizing or a simple setting without breaking a stone or burning something,” she says.

Specific job descriptions, weekly training and monthly goal-checking have The Diamond Center headed toward $2 million.


Doing Even Better at What You Do Best

hen Ray Lantz joined his family’s business 10 years ago, staff turnover at The Diamond Center in Claremont, CA, was a significant problem.

To solve that, Lantz, who had taken over hiring and staff supervision duties from his parents, crafted job descriptions to ensure that 80 out of 100 people can succeed in any given job rather than the exceptional one in 100. Training is consistent now and Lantz meets with each staff member each week and just listens. Then once a month, he meets with each to say, “Here are the numbers and here are the expectations.”

To get to that point, Lantz and his parents had to get honest about what their strengths were.

For many years they’d been right around $1 million; now they’re at $1.5 million and Lantz has $2 million in his sights. Despite the growth, he’s maintained staff size to a tight group of four (outside of the family).

“The difference was choosing the right people and having those people stick around long enough to develop mastery and comfort and cultivate their own clients, and not just have performance that is so reliant on my sales or my mom’s sales.”

In the past year, they’ve also been reviewing how sales associates interact with customers, both when the sale is made and when it isn’t. “We ask, what did we do that could have gone smoother? Using case-by-case scenarios when it’s fresh, we are able to uncover something we could have improved on.”

To get to $1 million, they worked on having a stable, consistent and better-trained team, committed to education on a regular basis and practiced buying discipline when it came to understanding stock and replacing fast sellers, rather than falling in love with things that won’t move.

He’s gotten better at delegating, too.

A Valentine’s postcard from The Diamond Center features $125 necklaces and $1,150 designer stacking rings.

“What makes a lot of entrepreneurs good at what they do is the ability to adapt and put on whatever hat needs to be worn right now. But mixing in some discipline when it comes to training or buying or having procedures and protocols in place makes it easier to delegate.”

Lantz didn’t reinvent the business model to grow it. “The volume of repairs and percentage of diamond sales have stayed roughly the same. We’re trying to take the things we’ve done well through the years and better articulate what we can do to reach more people in our community.”

Lantz, at 38, has transitioned the business to a new, younger customer base he’s cultivated through community involvement. “You can’t overestimate the importance of looking people in the eye, of listening and connecting.”

On the journey to his $2 million goal, he’s been working harder on having great events and on networking. “I’m a golf nut and I was able to join a local golf club; over time, just by being myself and getting to know people, it’s turned into a place where I do a ton of business. There is almost never a day at the golf club when I’m not talking about an anniversary gift or a service on a Rolex.”

They make house calls, too, probably once every six weeks.

“We’re in a super-busy downtown. Parking is challenging for us because our customers will say they drove around for 30 minutes, couldn’t find a spot and so went home. So we routinely offer to deliver locally; also we will meet people at the crosswalk outside and deliver it to their car.

“Customers are impressed by our willingness to deliver a repair. It might be a $50 repair, but you never know when they will tell someone who needs a $10,000 ring how great we are.”

Another goal this year is to develop more discipline with buying and creating a better spread of price points. That includes cultivating relationships with vendors who can provide upscale merchandise. “That $50,000 sale can make a big difference,” Lantz says. “Of course, it’s equally important to be able to have something stylish and compelling for $150.” To that end, a Valentine’s Day postcard this year showed items for $125, along with $3,000 stacking bands and Hearts on Fire diamond studs, priced from $900 to $22,500 and beyond. “I like to highlight entry-level items and mix in the other stuff, too,” Lantz says.

Lantz has worked with Rath and embraces this piece of advice from his business mentor: “Success is good things repeated daily and failure is small mistakes repeated daily. Some of us are good at what we do because we can do a lot of different things. Identifying what only we can do and helping other people take other things on is a key for any business’s growth.”


Working Smarter

hahraz Kassam of Shamin Jewellers in Burnaby, British Columbia, CO, says his business is more profitable now, at $1 million in revenues, than it was when he was bringing in more than $2 million.

Initially, to grow from half a million to $1 million, he expanded the store from 1,500 to 2,200 square feet and fine-tuned the product selection. When he opened three additional stores, revenues hit $2.2 million, but expenses grew by almost 500 percent. With a 4,500 square foot mega-store in a major mall, rent soared from $25,000 to $60,000 per month.

Now, he’s backtracked, concentrating on what he does best: bridal diamonds in a 1,000-square-foot store. Last year, he bought a space that he’s renovating. “This ensures our rental cost will be controlled, and we are also investing in ourselves by paying ourselves rent.

“In the end, the biggest lesson we learned is that being a $1 million store or a $5 million store doesn’t matter; it’s the bottom line that matters. As a $1 million store now, I earn more than when I was a $2.1 million operation, and I work less, making a happier me!”


Growth Tips: Where to Begin?

Where to begin if you’re feeling stuck or just starting out? Vince Rath of Optimum Retail Solutions advises clients to consider location first. “All other things being equal, if I have a better location, I’m probably going to do more volume,” Rath says. When searching for a location, consider visibility, access and traffic, be it pedestrian or vehicular. Placement within a shopping center makes a big difference, as does signage. Says Rath: “If signage is mixed in with all the rest of the signs, it doesn’t provide the kind of visibility required. Ideally, people can see you, they have easy access and there’s enough traffic passing by.”

Eileen McClelland is the Managing Editor of INSTORE. She believes that every jewelry store has the power of cool within them.



Gene the Jeweler

Gene the Jeweler Gets Kicked Out of the Studio

In the latest episode (#42) of Gene the Jeweler, Gene is going about his business, recording a new episode. But that doesn’t last long. Four-time NFL Pro Bowl leading rusher Ahman Green walks in, and Gene finds that his time in the studio is over — whether he likes it or not. (See more Gene the Jeweler episodes at

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THE INSTORE DESIGN AWARDS 2019 – Winners Announced!



Jewelry design is the lifeblood of our industry, and those on its forefront are constantly challenging the status quo, pushing boundaries in creativity and wowing jewelry lovers with their skill and passion. These are the creators we seek to honor with the INSTORE Design Awards.

For 2019, we expanded our categories from eight to 25, allowing designers more freedom to enter the best category for each piece. And we received more than 171 entries as a result. In order to determine the best of the best, we recruited a judges panel composed of nine retailers, all of whose businesses carry multiple designer lines, to vote on their favorite jewelry in a “blind voting” process. We also opened voting to all North American jewelry retailers online at, where more than 9,300 votes were cast to decide the “Retailer’s Choice” winner in each category.

And finally, as we have since our competition began, we recognize one up-and-coming designer who embodies the inventive spirit so long encouraged by our former colleague Cindy Edelstein, who passed away in 2016.

Now, turn the page and see the very best that our industry has to offer. Who knows, maybe you’ll find your next hot-selling line right here in this story!

Best Men’s Jewelry

Best Statement Piece


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3 Simple Ways a “Good-Better-Best” Display Can Make You More Money

The success of these pricing strategies has been proven beyond dispute.




The success of thoughtfully implemented “Good-Better-Best” (G-B-B) pricing strategies has been proven beyond dispute. Look around. Airlines offer coach class seats with variable options. Allstate offers auto batteries with warranties ranging from 12-48 months at prices that vary disproportionately. Heating oil suppliers sell plans based on a monthly fluctuating rate as well as a “premium” package in which the rate is fixed for the season.

I read a recent article in the Harvard Business Review (“The Good-Better-Best Approach to Pricing,” by Rafi Mohammed) that made me wonder why retail jewelers were not taking full advantage of this strategy in their stores.

Twenty years ago, Allstate conducted research to determine just how much price really mattered to their insurance customers. They learned that drivers are very concerned that if they are involved in an auto accident, their rates will go up. They introduced three new policy levels to add to their “Standard” level policy. They have a “Basic” policy at 5 percent below “Standard,” a “Gold” policy (6 percent higher price), and a “Platinum” level policy (15 percent higher price). Last year, only 10 percent of their customers downgraded to “Basic,” while a whopping 23 percent upgraded from “Standard” to “Gold” or “Platinum.”

So what can we do in a retail jewelry store to take advantage of this tendency of consumers to move up in price when given attractive options?

Implementing a “Good-Better-Best” plan in your store has three benefits. One, it can entice new and existing customers to spend more. Two, it allows you to compete directly with lower-priced competitors, including Internet shops. And three, a G-B-B strategy will change your customers’ actions through consumer psychology.

Successfully offering a G-B-B option depends on the following considerations:

  1. The price level of the “Good” option should be no more than 25 percent below the price of the “Better” option. The “Best” option should be no more than 50 percent higher than the “Better” option. For example, if we have a $1,000 “Better” item, the “Good” option should be about $800, and the “Best” option about $1,400.
  2. There should be a perceived important difference between the “Good” and “Better” options that motivate the customer to opt up for the “Better” selection. Limit the number of features in your “Good” option to improve the perceived value of the “Better” option.
  3. Each option should be explained in four attributes that differentiate it from the lower-priced option.
  4. Signage should clearly explain the differences and costs of each option. Name each option intelligently. Don’t use descriptions that confuse the merchandise. There is nothing wrong with simply using “Good, Better, Best.”

When you are determining the price points for your G-B-B offerings, consult your “inventory performance by category” report in your inventory management software. This will tell you the average selling price of your current sales for each different category and style of merchandise. Your goal is obviously to sell more at higher prices, so consider a price about 10 percent higher than your current average sale as your “Better” option. For example, if your average diamond stud earring sale is $1,000 now, make your price points $899, $1,099 and $1,399.

Retail jewelers should benefit from the thoughtful implementation of the G-B-B principles. Here are some display suggestions for your store.

Diamond stud earrings and anniversary bands

Offer three grades of earrings in the most popular styles. The differences in stud earring prices are obviously predicated by diamond size and quality as well as mounting material.
Start with 14K white gold mountings with round diamonds in sizes ranging from one-eighth, one-quarter, one-third, one-half, three-quarters and one-carat sizes. Develop a source (internally or externally) that can provide three different qualities in all six sizes. Obtain a display arrangement that allows the three qualities and sizes to be shown with descriptions, as well as prices and monthly payment options. Add signage that explains each of the four differentiating points between the qualities offered. Put in place a reorder procedure that quickly refills the empty space when sales occur.


Make your most popular styles of engagement rings (halos, solitaires, sets, three-stone, etc.) and create a display with a G-B-B variation of each in a single tray. If you can, include several of these in each showcase. If you can direct your customer to those trays, you stand a better chance of easily up-selling the customer to a bigger size. Feature payment amounts to make it easier for your staff to sell up.

I am a big believer in organizing your bridal showcase by style, not by vendor brand (unless it is a very recognizable national brand) or diamond size. That is how your customer shops. With all your halo choices collected together in a single part of the showcase, you’ll find it much easier to move up in price and keep your customer from having to visit several showcases in order to see your selection.

Other merchandise

Follow this same strategy. Choose your most popular designs and identify what you can do to that item to be able to sell it at 25 percent less. Maybe it is a smaller stone or a metal change to silver. Make that new item your “Good” selection. Now revisit the original piece and ask what you can add to the design to make it worth 25 percent more. Make that your “Best” choice, and display them all together with prices and payments.

If you are successful with such a strategy, it could make both your customer and you very happy. Your store would be easier for your customer to shop, and your inventory could shrink to fewer pieces offered since your sales are more concentrated in your G-B-B offerings.

Give it a try and see what happens to your average sale. If it works, expand it. If it doesn’t, try something else. Be sure you track the results of your efforts to know what has worked and what has not.

Retail jewelry is hard enough without leaving money on the table when the customer is already in your store and poised to buy. Implementing this strategy might just move your results from “Good” to “Better” to “Best.”

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E-Commerce for Everyone: Let Your Customers Buy Something Where & When They Want To



E-commerce has been vilified by many independent retail jewelers as an under-cutting, price-conscious evil entity intent on stealing hard-earned business from brick-and-mortar stores while ripping their profit margins to shreds.

At this point, though, it’s more or less a matter of if you can’t beat them the way you’ve been operating, you’d better consider joining them.

It’s time to rethink e-commerce as a viable option for you, the independent brick-and-mortar-based jeweler, but also to understand what it takes in dollars and time to drive traffic to a website, says Ben Smithee, digital-marketing expert and CEO of The Smithee Group. The big online players didn’t get where they are without investing considerable time and money into marketing, social media and search-engine optimization.

In other words, simply enabling e-commerce is not like flipping a switch and watching the money pour in. Instead, imagine you’re opening a second store. How much planning and preparation would you put into that? You’d work with a store designer. You’d hire more staff. You’d invest in advertising.

“Most people grossly underestimate what it takes for advertising to send people to the site,” Smithee says. “A lot of them expect to have overnight sales. Start with realistic expectations — they should be thinking about selling one, two, three things a week or a month to start and ramping up from there. Without realistic expectations, they will decide it doesn’t work and will quit,” Smithee says.

Independent jewelers like Tim Wright of Simply Unique Jewelry Designs in Yorktown, VA, have been reluctant converts in recent years. Wright says he realized in the past year that his company has to be searchable and sell its wares online. If not, he says, “We will go away like other independents in our area.”

It took time for Wright to wrap his head around the idea. “I cannot imagine people ordering jewelry, especially our one-of-a-kind pieces, off the Internet, but we are working on a new website to be more searchable and to be able to sell off of it. The basics we all have survived on over the years are not selling in the store anymore because of the Internet.”

Shane O’Neill, vice-president of Fruchtman Marketing, advises independent jewelers to temper their expectations when they turn to e-commerce.

Most jewelers are not going to see significant amounts of e-commerce, he says, because the marketing perspective is much different between traditional stores and online stores. “If they are marketing around a 20-mile radius, we still know that people want to touch and feel the jewelry,” says O’Neill. Plus the data that millennials don’t shop in stores isn’t necessarily true. They shop in bigger numbers than Gen X or baby boomers do. But they shop online with the idea of browsing and checking out pricing, and so they expect a shopping experience with all of the details revealed, O’Neill says.


The preparation it takes to be ready for e-commerce almost certainly will result in increased sales in the store.

“They probably have checked all the boxes in terms of a good user experience, descriptions, photos, categories of metal type and have galleries of multiple products,” O’Neill says. “When someone comes to the website and they have the ability to have a great browsing experience, they make purchasing decisions based on that. When they stop in the store, you should have a higher closing rate. To me, that’s an e-commerce transaction, too.”

The website should be like your second store, O’Neill says, in terms of how you relate to the customer online: “How you flow people through your site is like what a sales associate does in the store.”

For Janne Etz of Contemporary Concepts in Cocoa, FL, e-commerce has grown steadily over the past two years from 35 percent of her business to a solid 50 percent. “You have to pay serious attention to it,” she says. “It is not a set-it-and-forget-it operation. What works with e-commerce this month will evolve into something else next month. It’s a constant learning process. I continue to study and learn and implement the newest techniques, so I can continue to grow!”

Stephenie Bjorkman of Sami Fine Jewelry in Fountain Hills, AZ, says an e-commerce-enabled website seems like a huge project, and it can be. But start somewhere, she says. “Just do it, or just do something,” she says. “Get ready to flip that switch. Take on little bits and pieces at a time and set goals. I am so far from anywhere near where I want to be, but my marketing department and I sat down and made a monthly calendar so that we could plan all of our marketing, social media, blogs etc.” Bjorkman’s team also worked on posting pieces for sale in groups of 24 at a time.

If even this seems like too much, start with making time for your own social media. Friend your top 100 clients and start from there.

“I think you need to make a plan, then work your plan,” Bjorkman says. “You can begin by doing this in the evening when you get home. Or have one of your employees spend an hour a day on it. The first step is that every day you should be posting on social media. Post real pictures and start creating your online image. Connect your posts to your website and tell them how to buy.”


E-Commerce Continues to Evolve in an Omni-Channel World

Borsheims of Omaha, NE, has been selling online since 1998 and today has seven associates dedicated to e-commerce.

“We’ve seen tremendous growth in the channel,” says Adrienne Fay, director of marketing and business sales — a 40 percent increase year over year in online sales for the past two years. This year that trend continued with a huge lift in January and February. The e-commerce staff is involved in navigation, digital photography, answering questions and virtually holding hands as needed. They also fulfill the orders — 99.9 percent of the inventory is in the store already.

In March 2018, the company introduced a new website that made online purchases easier on all devices, while updating their ring-builder tool to make it both more user-friendly and more luxurious-looking, says Andrew Brabec, director of e-commerce. “A lot of our customers will utilize their mobile device first and then make a purchase on their desktop. They prefer the process on the mobile device; it’s easier, faster.” Chat is used more than ever by customers looking for a promo code or to ask a quick question, but few purchases take much hand-holding.
One reason for that is that the new website is designed to anticipate questions that shoppers might have. Photographing jewelry items next to coins, for example, allows customers to gauge the size of the piece quickly and easily. “The main questions we get are: What size is this? And how does it look on someone?” Brabec says. One goal is to provide more views of each product.

“We try to replicate our customer service online,” says Fay. “It’s a strategic investment. We look at shoppers in an omni-channel fashion. Not as an e-commerce customer, not as a store customer. Simply a customer. We want to be able to knock their socks off in all channels.”

Shoppers who convert to online sales represent a wide demographic — established customers, gift shoppers, fine jewelry shoppers. Average order fluctuates, but recently it was $263. “We definitely have sold items that retail in the tens of thousands. Not every day, but it’s not unusual,” Fay says. Customers log in from all over the U.S. and the world; international checkout is available with exact pricing.

What’s next? Borsheims is testing out products to provide shoppers with 360-degree views of products, a technology that is increasingly common in other industries. Another huge goal is to get 97 percent of their products visible online; currently that number is about 74 percent. “We want to see more items in the cart, too, so we’re working on ways to up-sell in the cart by showing related products,” Brabec says. “In addition, we are going to evaluate pages to make them faster and more effective.”

The year 2020 represents Borsheims 150th anniversary. “And you don’t survive that long if you don’t evolve and grow and roll with the punches,” Fay says. “We used to say we at Borsheims are going to tell you as customers what you need to buy. Now we respond to what they are looking for with content and expertise and education.”



Growing Fast on Etsy

Bailey Lehrer founded Ringcrush, a start-up online jewelry store, selling $30 to $60 jewelry items on Etsy. She started the business with $700 and turned a profit immediately.
“We were able to grow in two years really quickly,” Lehrer says. “I did a little under $1 million on Etsy and another $300,000 on Amazon. It made sense for me to start up online. Etsy is really friendly to people who want to experiment.”

Lehrer says that while high-end diamond solitaires aren’t the norm on Etsy, moissanite rings are moving fast, as are other non-traditional types of diamond engagement rings, usually with an artisan design or a unique setting. “Etsy is primarily for 25- to 35-year-old women,” she says. “A lot of them still want that look and they can swap out the stone later. One of the most popular rings looks like a hand-carved band with a diamond solitaire in the center.”

Bailey Lehrer, founder of Ringcrush

The process of opening a shop on Etsy is easy, Lehrer says, because they hold your hand through the whole process. Still, there’s more to it than just opening. “You have to understand your competition and price point. It can be cutthroat with common items, and there are people from other countries selling items with razor-thin margins. You need something unique. That way you can raise your price.”

Her point of differentiation is pieces of raw gemstones. “So I still focus on precious stones like emerald and sapphire, but I’m able to sell them at $60 because I get them uncut. They’re still blue if it’s a sapphire; still green if it’s emerald. It’s kind of a unique aesthetic, so it’s easy to stand out.”

Another thing to keep in mind, Lehrer says, is that there is clear evidence shoppers will convert to making a purchase if the product is photographed on a white background. “Know how to take great pictures,” she says.


Mullen Bros.

They Want to Be Your Local Jeweler, No Matter Where You Are

Bob Mullen is owner and founder of Digital Jewelers Academy, as well as an owner of the family business, Mullen Bros. Jewelers in Swansea, MA.

For several years, Mullen and his family pondered the “what ifs” and the concerns they imagined would come with e-commerce while they experimented with product catalogs on their website. “What about stock? What about if we sell things that are sold out? What about fraud? But it’s like having children: If you wait till you’re ready, you’re never going to do it.” In 2014, they began selling online through Shopify and realized $100,000 in revenue the first year.

“In terms of problems, the same things that I thought in my mind would be problems DID happen, but it was not that big of a deal to overcome them. In terms of inventory, it was about keeping things on the site that would be accessible and in stock, unless it’s something like bridal. We only work with designers who have products available that we can get quickly.
“Like anything else, there is no one thing that made it happen. It’s like Jim Collins wrote in the book Good To Great. You build momentum, and it gets easier and easier. It’s the trial and error of learning our audience, learning what they respond to, and looking at Google Analytics.”

Now Mullen, a marketing major in college, is working with other retailers on e-commerce goals. Digital Jewelers Academy, in partnership with Gemsone, administers a private Facebook group with instructional videos and an online posting service. “It’s about e-commerce, creating engaging content, Facebook ads, email strategy, website conversion.”

How much time does e-commerce take? “If you’re budgeting 10 to 15 hours a week of someone’s time, you can make a lot of progress if you know what you’re doing. You can be much more efficient in three hours knowing what you’re doing than 10 hours wandering around.”

Bob Mullen, owner and founder of Digital Jewelers Academy

“The No. 1 question I’m asked is regarding differences in inventory and pricing between the website and physical store. A lot of jewelers feel like they should treat the website like a separate store with lower prices to attract business. But unless you’re trying to build a nine-figure company, you should target a customer most like your own.

Mullen’s average ticket online is around $600, which is higher than in his store. “Our biggest sale was $17,000 and it goes down to $99 here and there. The sweet spot, like anything in jewelry sales, is $200 or $300. But the idea that people are just going online and plunking down 10 grand is a myth.”

The key to success is to provide the same level of service you do in your store. “In my opinion, I can service people a lot better than whoever is manning the call center at Blue Nile,” says Mullen. “You can sell an engagement ring in 10 minutes or have multiple visits over four hours in the store; online, it might take three to six emails. It’s about being proactive and being prompt about responding when people email.”

Local limits mean little when it comes to e-commerce, Mullen contends. “People respond nationally to the same things people respond to locally. Our industry loses 1,000 stores a year. When their jeweler closes, people have to go online or find another local store. More and more people are going online as a result, and are happy to work with a local jeweler, wherever you are. Meet them where they are.”



“We Are Definitely on Our Way to Our Goal”

Last year, Stephenie Bjorkman of Sami’s Fine Jewelry decided that her website and online sales needed to be a priority. But she also knew it was tough, if not impossible, to find time to own the store, work with vendors, manage employees, pay bills, oversee marketing and launch e-commerce.
So she hired one person and then a second person to make it happen.

Stephenie Bjorkman of Sami’s Fine Jewelry

“The only way I could do this was to have a dedicated person to take pics, write descriptions, update events, blogs, social media and more. What is really scary is that I see such an importance in this job, I have already hired her an assistant.”

It hasn’t necessarily “worked” just yet, says Bjorkman. But it is working. “Since I hired devoted staff members, I have seen a 30 percent increase in online sales, along with tons of daily mentions in the store. All of this proves that in the end, having a marketing person is well worth it.”

Online, Bjorkman sells branded items, including her own Animal Rockz line, a custom sterling-silver line of jewelry available in 38 different pet breed varieties. “My store is full of animal lovers, so this is easy for us to be passionate about. We seem to sell at least one of these a day. Prices range from $35-$60 plus shipping. The magic numbers seem to be in the $250-$500 average range. But, with that said, I sold a $30,000 diamond off my website and a $25,000 estate diamond from my e-blast.”

Sales are considered and tracked as “online sales” if everything is done online.

“If you do sell it 100 percent online, you need to handle them like any other client. Answer quickly, make them feel special. We do chat by phone, by social media messengers, text them, and even send them videos. It is a lot of work, but the good news is that it works.

“Our e-commerce actual sales do not currently represent a large amount of my overall business. A two-year goal for me is to sell as much as having a second store. E-commerce also represents the best type of marketing you can do for your business. Long before you advertise in a newspaper, magazine, etc., you should take time to do your online marketing, social media, e-blasts and blogs.”

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