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Commentary: The Business

Don’t Let Software Completely Run Your Jewelry Store

Jeff Unger’s got a question for you — who runs your store? You or your software?

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HOW MANY OF US have walked into a car dealership with a packet of information downloaded from the Internet, thinking we’ve got all the information we need to outsmart the car salesperson? Show of hands? I’m pretty sure we all have. Yes, just because we’ve spent a few minutes doing online research, we think we know more than the dealer.

Sound familiar? How many customers have walked into your store after reading up on how to purchase a diamond? They think they know everything about diamonds and the computer told him how much it should cost. The implication — Hey, computers don’t lie! But you, I’m not so sure.

In my business, I’m starting to experience a similar situation with my customers — in other words, you. Or at least some of you, anyway.

In recent years, more and more retail jewelers have been signing up for the new computer-management programs you see at all the trade shows. They glance over the materials for their new programs while eating one of those disgusting trade-show sandwiches— only rarely getting a formal education in the power of these new tools. Then, armed with incomplete information, they hit the show floor — believing they’re swinging an awesome, fear-inspiring new sword.

But it’s really a butter knife. And all they’re managing to do is irritate a lot of vendors.

At recent trade shows, I’ve been seeing it more and more. Jewelers simply walking up to vendors they have just met with one question: “I joined Acme Management Group … what’s your exchange policy?”

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Uhh … doesn’t anybody say “Hello!” anymore?

Jeffrey Gitomer, author of The Little Red Book of Selling is the first to tell us that people don’t buy because of exchange policies. They buy salesperson first, product second and policies third. Then why are increasing numbers of jewelers bypassing the first two? I’ll tell you ? it’s because, just like in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, their computers told them to do it.  

>And there’s another reason that these programs are starting to irritate vendors — lying. Nope, nobody ever tells vendors “I’ll be back” anymore. Instead, the retailer excuse of choice these days is “My computer program told me I couldn’t buy”. 

Yeah, blame your computer. Who’s running your store — the Terminator?

Look, we all need some sort of business help. And we, as vendors, don’t really have a problem with these types of programs. The truth is that, used correctly, management programs can be good for all of us. They help you manage stock better, they help you identify fast sellers, they’re better at helping you populate your cases with items that sell. Those are all good things for you … and us.

But, note that I included the words ?used correctly?. Problems occur — are occurring — when such programs are used with incomplete knowledge and/or a lack of creativity. Computers see the world only in black and white. But humans see many shades of gray. Shouldn’t your business see the world the same way you do? If your computer won’t let you take a chance on a new product you like, or dip your toes into a new category you’re interested in, then stop listening to your computer.

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Otherwise, the next thing we’ll see is a drone walking around the show for you making inventory decisions while you lounge around the pool at the Venetian.

Sound like a great idea? Not to me. Most of all, I’d hate to lose the human relationships that make business fun. So, in the future, can we just get back to good, old-fashioned lying?

Jeff Unger was the president and co-owner of B & N Jewelry (d.b.a. Alisa Unger Designs) and a long-time INSTORE contributor. He passed away in February 2019 after a valiant 10-year battle with cancer.

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