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Independent – Schmindependent!

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The billing on my blog and website talk about how I’m writing about “best practices for the independent jewellers.” So what? What’s the big whoop about independent jewellers??? I woke up this morning pondering this question.

Well, let me tell you a story. When I worked for Mappins in Vancouver (before they were owned by Zales) they had a pre-Christmas “scratch-and-save” event. We gave store visitors a game-card so that they could scratch and receive a discount of 10 to 50% off at the cash register. Of course in the large stack of 500 cards there were maybe one 50% off card, ten 35% off cards, twenty-five 25% off cards and the rest were 10%. When they arrived, our manager grabbed a few, handed me a small stack, and handed others on shift a small stack so that we could immediately start handing them out. Well, the good folks at the head-office sent out cards that were not shuffled. The cards in my sport-coat were all 35% and 25% off cards. I caught on before long.

Did I care that my clients were getting a bigger discount? Not really. Was Mr. Mappin standing over my shoulder to see what went on? Nope. In fact when we got stuck with a chatty mall-walker who was wasting our time, someone would come out of the back and say, “Todd, Mr. Mappin is on the phone for you…” This was quite the joke, because I don’t think anyone knew anything about the fellow whose name was on the front of our store.

The really skilled salespeople at chain stores were not only good closers, they were good at “working the system.” Special orders were frowned upon, but the crafty ones could find a way to bring-in items from suppliers through closely guarded back channels. One promotional item might feature a “one-carat diamond ” but some were I2, some were I1 and they could be anywhere from 1.00ct to 1.08ct and J to L color. The best chain-store staff knew how to trade their 1.01ct I2/L with another store for a 1.05ct I1/J. And at the corporate Christmas party, you drank as much as you could possibly stand because it was a great opportunity to stick it to the faceless owners of the company.

Working for an independent store, you have the privilege of working alongside the person who signs your pay cheque. It is they whose entire financial future is completely dependent upon your performance and your participation in much needed teamwork. They’ve hand-selected the designs you carry and they have a close and direct relationship with the suppliers, so that special orders and custom orders are simple matters. If you grant a generous discount, that comes off the bottom-line of the store you work in, not some monolithic corporation’s. When you do good, it is the owner who says “well-done,” not some flunky.

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That’s why I serve independents, write to (and about) independents, and why I enjoy working for a small company with a great leader.


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