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If I Owned

If I Owned: Michael J. Critelli




AS A RECENTLY RETIRED CHAIRMAN and CEO of a public company, my usual role in regards to jewelry stores has generally been to accompany my wife or daughter to supply an opinion or a credit card.

As a jewelry store owner, I would draw on lessons from my career in a business-to-business marketing environment. Lesson No. 1: It’s about the customers, not the jewelry. The secret to success is whether what the store offers excites the customer, and finding pieces about which your customers can become passionate. Customers becoming your advocates is the key to your success.

What sets a world-class retailer like Jack Mitchell (owner of Richards of Greenwich, CT, the best clothing and jewelry store I have visited) apart is the attention Jack and his team pay to building relationships with customers through conversations enriched by the information they have collected, and the continuous outreach that makes us realize they care about us. They focus on what they believe in, and know how to sell upscale clothing, but what they try to sell to us matches our preferences.


[blockquote class=orange]Besides understanding what people want, a jeweler must understand WHEN they are most ready to buy. – Michael J. Critelli[/blockquote]

A marketer could see me as a hopeless prospect because I have only bought one luxury watch. However, my purchasing decision signaled something that should tell a jeweler what else it could sell me. The Cartier Panther watch was an understated gold and stainless steel watch, which signaled that I wanted a classy item, but did not want the watch to draw unusual attention, the way a more expensive gold watch would be noticed. What jewelry store salespeople should ask is: What can I sell to him today that is consistent with his values?

Jewelry stores should hire people skilled at building deeper relationships that yield insights to match products with customers’ passions. Some insight comes from learning what customers have bought before, but more is obtainable from interactions in the store, online, or by phone. Capturing that data is easy to do, but few retailers try. Today, we can learn and utilize more of what we know about customers by embracing technology.

Besides understanding what people want, a jeweler must understand WHEN they are most ready to buy. My wife and I bought her a 4-carat diamond ring when we celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary, which coincided with me receiving a promotion at work, although a money-back guarantee certainly made us more comfortable with the purchase. People buy jewelry on celebratory occasions, like engagements,  anniversaries, or graduations, but also on occasions uniquely special to them. The jeweler can learn about these occasions well before they happen, and can begin a dialogue that leads to a sale.

If I owned a jewelry store, I would try to build relationships with customers while they are young. If they move away, I would build a relationship that would survive through online portals, social networking sites, and e-mail and phone calls. With young people, I might hold classes or even get them interested in jewelry through low-cost jewelry gifts or sales. My goal would be to build a lifetime customer.

In short, if I owned a jewelry store, I would create and celebrate life’s happiest occasions with a large and growing group of customers, who would treat me like a family member, since jewelry is associated with the happiest parts of people’s lives.


Ultimately, there are three key success factors for a jewelry store: a customer focus that supplements excellent products and merchandising; a relationship-based focus, instead of a transactional one; and a use of multiple interactive communications channels, instead of a reliance on the in-store experience.

[smalltext]MICHAEL J. CRITELLI, former CEO of Pitney Bowes, is a sought-after public speaker and blogger. He serves on the board for the Partnership for Prevention and the RAND Health Board of Advisors, the Institute of Medicine’s Roundtable for Evidence-Based Medicine, the Dean’s Advisory Board for the Boston University Medical School, and the Boston University Alzheimer’s Disease Center’s Advisory Board. Contact him through[/smalltext]




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Wilkerson Helped This Jeweler to Navigate His Retirement Sale Despite a Pandemic

Hosting a going-out-of-business sale when the coronavirus pandemic hit wasn’t a part of Bob Smith’s game plan for his retirement. Smith, the owner of E.M. Smith Jewelers in Chillicothe, Ohio, says the governor closed the state mid-way through. But Smith chose Wilkerson, and Wilkerson handled it like a champ, says Smith. And when it was time for the state to reopen, the sale continued like nothing had ever happened. “I’d recommend Wilkerson,” he says. “They do business the way we do business.”

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