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It’s Time to Change the Way You Think About Color Gemstones

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AGTA’s chief exec talks about merchandising and selling color.

TUCSON — Tucson is in the jewelry industry spotlight and on many jewelers’ itineraries this time of year, which means colored gemstones are top of mind, too.

So I spoke with Doug Hucker, CEO of the American Gem Trade Association, Saturday during the AGTA GemFair Tucson about merchandising and selling color.

Hucker reported a 20 percent increase in show traffic this year and a planned expansion next year, when designers will move up to the ballroom to accommodate more gemstone dealers on the waiting list.

He also told me why he believes retailers who aren’t already selling a variety of colored gemstone jewelry are missing the boat.

What should retailers knew about selling colored gemstones?

The thing I hear most often from retailers is that “My customers don’t buy color.” And I think that can be an indication of a number of things. But if you don’t have any color in your store, it’s no wonder your customers don’t buy color. Most recent research shows that women would like to see fewer men in the store; they’d like to see more women (sales staff) and more color. Women know that color is attractive, fashionable, hot. If they can see more of that regularly at department stores, jewelers are going to have a hard time catching up. It’s time for jewelers to start saying, “My customers may not have bought color in the past, but they will in the future.” You can start cautiously — there is an educational component to it and we have online education. But you have to take that first step. Then as you become more sophisticated you need to integrate color into your outreach. There’s not a product that lends itself better to social media than color.

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How can selling color help retail jewelers?

One thing that jewelers want right now is more customers. You have to differentiate yourself. You can either search for the unique little designer line that’s going to take off for you, or you can add color with a huge range of price points. There aren’t a lot of other options.

What would you do to start phasing in color?

I’d buy a broad range of color and put it in your front cases. It’s not rocket science.  And it doesn’t have to take away from your bridal. If color is an impulse purchase, get it up front where people can see it. Take what color you have, add a little bit to it, bring it to the front of your store and you’re going to increase your sales. That’s just merchandising 101.

How do color and custom design work together?

Loose gemstones are a way for a jeweler to make better margins and with any category product, whether diamond or color, if a jeweler can manufacture on their own they can see some savings. The introduction of CAD has changed things considerably. It used to be a more time consuming process.

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What would you say to retailers who say they can’t compete with online sales?

Get on the internet yourself, and especially social media. Either you understand social media or you hire someone who does. It’s like, if I moved to Quebec and I am going to have to learn French or I am going to hire French speakers. If you don’t know social media, I recommend that you hire for it. It’s so visual, immediate and impactful. And a lot of young people today don’t even look at websites.

Were there any surprises in last year’s AGTA Spectrum Award entries?

I can’t say there were any dynamic trends. There were a lot of oranges and blue is always the favorite color. Over the years, the use of crystal and rough materials have come to the fore; there might be one polished face on a rough crystal. There are rugged and chipped materials and big slices of gems.

How influential are fashion trends and Pantone color of the year announcements on gemstone jewelry?

Fashion is directing the way we go. The color palette that comes out is influencing all of the accessories. In the past 10 years I’ve seen the jewelry industry and jewelry designers catching up to the announcement of the colors of the year. There’s less of a delay. Now that you have instantaneous information that is changing things considerably.

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What color trends are you seeing?

Blue is always the most popular gem color ever single year. The morganite craze is still there, but not as heavy as it was. Everyone wants to talk about spinel in its range of colors. Unfortunately padparadscha is the hot stone but there’s not much padparadscha around. If you have it, fantastic, but if you don’t have it it’s a problem. Ultraviolet is the color of the year for Pantone, which offers lots of price points and possibilities, and yellows and greens are complementary colors.

Why should retailers put the AGTA GemFair on their annual itinerary?

The product is here, the people are here, the training is here, the technology is here. Everything you need to improve your business is here. You can see a bench demonstration, learn about setting techniques, take a class about marketing. There’s more color inventory here than you’ll ever see anywhere else. The trick is you have to be ready to make purchases here, because next week it’s going to be gone.

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2019 Big Survey: 10 Times When Jewelry Store Employees Left the Job in Dramatic Fashion

Results of the 2019 Big Survey have been rolling in. Here’s a sample.

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WE ASKED SURVEY respondents to share the most epic ways they’d seen someone quit or be fired. Dealing with employees on their way out can be touchy. Sometimes these unfortunate encounters even culminate in award-winning dramatic performances. Read on for the most memorable ways employees have parted ways with jewelry stores:

Top 10 Countdown

The award for best dramatic performance goes to the employees who:

10. Screamed at the top of their lungs, “I QUIT”

9. Showed up in pajamas, had a breakdown, then quit and walked out.

8. Threw rings at the boss while asking for a raise, then quit.

7. Threw a crystal piece through a showcase shelf.

6. Hit the jeweler in the head with a bag of bananas.

5. Threw his key at me.

4. Came in wielding a pipe wrench screaming that we were liars.

3. Ran out of the shop, arms raised in the air, saying “he’s trying to kill me.”

2. Got drunk at a charity event we were sponsoring, hit on one of the ladies and pulled her skirt up. Police were called.

And the No. 1 best dramatic performance goes to:

1. The employee who hired a marching band to quit.

The 2019 Big Survey was conducted in September and October and attracted responses from more than 800 North American jewelers. Look out for all the results in the November issue of INSTORE.

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Wow Your Customers with This Video Messaging App

Jewelers can make online experiences feel a lot more like in-person experiences.

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DO YOU REMEMBER the last time a business did something unexpected for you? Something you truly appreciated? Of course, you do. Those are the moments that imprint themselves on our memories. For me, it was with a video messaging app called Bonjoro.

My Wow Moment

When I signed up for their free trial, I expected to get a video message from them. That’s what they do. And they told me I would. What I didn’t expect was to get a video answer about a tech issue I was having minutes after I emailed them about it. That blew me away.

In the jewelry industry, we pride ourselves on our in-store service and fret about our online marketing. Gone are the glory days with greater foot traffic. Now everyone wants to kick the tires online before they commit to coming in. But what if you could bring your amazing customer service to customers before they ever stepped foot in the store?

Bonjoro to the Rescue

That’s exactly what Bonjoro allows you to do. Bonjoro is an easy to use video to email messaging app for businesses. They make recording and emailing a personalized video to customers almost effortless. And you can even send these videos when they’ll have the biggest impact, like right after they fill out a contact form on your site.

Imagine a prospective customer visits your site. They fill out a contact form with some details about the type of engagement ring they’re looking for. After they press submit, someone on your sales team gets a notification. Once they have a free minute, they pull out their phone and record and send a video in less time than it would take them to respond to the email.

“Hi, Jim! I know exactly the style that you’re looking for, and we have some great options for you. You can see a few of them in the case behind me, but I have a few more that I’d like to pull out and show you. You mentioned that you have a lunch break at noon. Why don’t you stop by tomorrow, and I’ll have them all ready for you? In the meantime, there’s a link to our website’s engagement ring gallery in this window. If you see anything else you like, you can write me a quick message, and I’ll be sure to add it. See you soon!”

An Experience Like No Other

This is an experience most jewelers aren’t going to offer. The enthusiasm and confidence communicated in a video are hard to match in an email response. And the customer has likely never received a response like this from a jewelry store. Just the thought that someone took the time to personally address them with a video will make them more likely to stop in. Plus, they already feel like they know you.

Almost Face-to-Face

Bonjoro is a way to send quick, personalized videos to customers. They’re meant to be mixed into the daily routine and workflow of your sales team. This isn’t the time for high-quality video production or perfect angles. This is much more personal and organic than that.

People online aren’t used to being addressed personally by video. It gives them a personal touch that usually only happens in the store. When you use Bonjoro, the most important thing is to press the record button and talk to the customer like they’re right there in front of you. What a wonderful way to wow your customers!

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Commentary: The Business

Customer Fired for Cause

Her phone manners left something to be desired.

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Laurelle Giesbrecht of French’s Jewellery says her daughter Heidi, now 15, is not afraid to answer the phone despite what happened and calls it “a learning experience.”

WHILE VISITING A great friend and store owner, Laurelle Giesbrecht of French’s Jewellery in Alberta, Canada, we were commiserating over coffee. I have always loved hearing her stories about community involvement or win/win sales interactions. This time, she had a real doozy.

A customer had recently purchased a $300 ring for her daughter and had sent her back to the store for a free sizing. The young girl had decided it was not going to be on her third finger but the much larger first. That meant the ring needed to be sized from 5 to 10. For this, there would be a charge. The girl left the ring.

Laurelle’s daughter, Heidi, was answering phones as her mom finished closing the store. It was the last call before locking up. Heidi asked how she could re-direct the caller and then, holding the phone to her chest, asked her mom if she wanted to take the call. Mom assured her she was doing fine. It brought a smile to her face when she heard her daughter tell the caller that she would pass the message along to their HR manager.

But later at home, the true story emerged. The call had been from the original purchaser of the size 5 ring, and using a long string of vulgarities, she had demanded a full refund. The next day, typically affable Laurelle left a message requesting a return call. When the return call came, Laurelle informed the customer that the swearing she had done over the phone had been directed at her 13-year-old daughter. She added that she would not allow that treatment of any of her staff. After informing the customer that she would process a full refund, she asked for her mailing address so she could mail it. Laurelle calmly informed the customer that she was not to come back to her store.

But the story was not over. The customer ignored the request to not return to the store and instead brought a beautiful bouquet of flowers with a neatly written card. She wanted to personally deliver them to the 13-year-old child who had listened so intently to her vulgar language. This customer knew that the depth of her apology could only be appreciated by a face-to-face meeting between an embarrassed adult and precocious child!

If there are lessons here, they are written between the lines.

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