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How To React When Another Jeweler’s Employees Visit Your Store, Plus More of Your Questions Answered

And the answer to who should pay shipping for memo goods.

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Recently, I’ve had a steady stream of employees from other jewelers coming to visit my store. I don’t know whether to be flattered, annoyed or worried. What’s the best way to react?

The level of professional courtesy and openness you can expect from fellow jewelers is nearly always linked to proximity — meet someone from another part of the country, such as when you’re at a trade show, and you’re likely to act like long lost cousins, sharing tales of the common battles and challenges you face. As for the guy from around the corner, you’re instinctively likely to greet him much more warily. Our advice is to be professional but set limits. Gathering market intelligence is a part of good business — every business owner should be doing it. Still, there are lines to be drawn. Competitors who take copious notes and photos or interrogate staff, even if in a friendly way, are crossing a line, and you’re well within your rights to demand they stop. At the same time, be dispassionate. As in politics, there’s plenty of room for “frenemies” in business. Maybe this person could be a future employee. Maybe your strength is repairs, theirs is custom — perhaps the competition can be benign or complementary. Aside from referrals, there may be opportunities to partner up or help each other out if you run out of stock. Keep in mind too that there are limits to how much time you should spend worrying about competitors. Ultimately, your success will be determined by your business plan, how you implement it and market your goods, regardless of what the competition does. It comes down to you more than them.

Given how retail culture is changing, in part due to COVID, what should we be looking to do when a staff member leaves, in this case a salesperson?

Circumstances are certainly a bit more extreme these days, says business consultant Kate Peterson of Performance Concepts, but the same general rule applies when it comes to hiring new staff — look at it as an opportunity to “reset”.
“With few exceptions, hiring to replace the skill set of the person who left fails to take into account any evolution in your business or any growth within your existing team,” she says. Peterson recommends you do an “asset inventory” with your team before searching for a new hire. Talk to people. Find out what they’ve learned and how they see themselves contributing to the team and take an objective look at the real needs of your business. “These days for example, losing an experienced salesperson might present the opportunity to hire someone with more advanced  digital skills or a dynamic ‘on-screen’ presence ­— or to find out that you already have a hidden video star in your midst,” Peterson says.

When it comes to memo merchandise, which party should insure it and pay postage — the sender or the receiver?

As a very general rule, the sender provides shipping insurance and postage on the outgoing package. Then the receiver provides shipping insurance and postage if he or she returns the goods to the sender. However, many retailers and dealers expect different terms based on who initiated the deal. For example, if Jeweler A requests an item on memo, it may be appropriate for Jeweler A to pay the shipping coverage and postage both ways. If Designer A has a new piece that she would like Jeweler A to consider buying, then it may be Designer A’s responsibility to pay for insurance and postage both ways. “The first rule is to make each party’s responsibility absolutely clear before the goods are sent. A short fax or email should suffice,” says jewelry insurance veteran Sue Fritz.

What do I do if somebody has a medical emergency in my store?

Simple: You call 911. Immediately. However, Rick Segel, author of The Retail Business Kit For Dummies, warns that you shouldn’t get so caught up in the emergency that you forget the fact that you are running a store filled with very valuable merchandise. Says Segel: “Be aware, as cruel as it may sound, that the incident may be a scam. In my store once, a person faked a heart attack to distract employees, enabling an accomplice to steal unnoticed.” So, while you should be responsive and compassionate in any emergency, be sure to have procedures in place. Be sure also that you have taken the time to train your employees in these procedures. That way, if an emergency does occur, your staff is more alert, rather than less alert, for the possibility of shoplifting or snatch-and-run.

When doing a repair, is it better to give a specific date you will finish or a general time range?

Be specific, says Dan Gendron, author of It’s Time To Make Money, a manual on performing watch repairs more profitably. Gendron says that it isn’t all that important when you promise the repair will be finished — one day, one week, or even one month — so long as the date is clearly defined.

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When There’s No Succession Plan, Call Wilkerson

Bob Wesley, owner of Robert C. Wesley Jewelers in Scottsdale, Ariz., was a third-generation jeweler. When it was time to enjoy life on the other side of the counter, he weighed his options. His lease was nearing renewal time and with no succession plan, he decided it was time to call Wilkerson. There was plenty of inventory to sell and at first, says Wesley, he thought he might try to manage a sale himself. But he’s glad he didn’t. “There’s no way I could have done this as well as Wilkerson,” he says. Wilkerson took responsibility for the entire event, with every detail — from advertising to accounting — done, dusted and managed by the Wilkerson team. “It’s the complete package,” he says of the Wilkerson method of helping jewelers to easily go on to the next phase of their lives. “There’s no way any retailer can duplicate what they’ve done.”

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