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Jewelers Reveal 11 Biggest Gripes About the Industry

“Snootiness” and lack of diversity drew the strongest responses.

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IN OUR ANNUAL BIG Survey, we asked more than 800 jewelers what jewelry industry tradition needs to be retired. They did not hold back, particularly on the issues of “snootiness,” racial and gender discrimination, and giving away free services.

Here’s a sample of what they said on 11 topics.

1. Lack of gender and racial diversity:

  • “The ridiculously small number of people of color in the industry. I am disgusted by how white this industry is. And while we’re at it, we could make sure that women get equal pay.”
  • “The jewelry industry is still a very male dominated industry. As a female, I find I work better with female line reps.”
  • “Jewelry caters to women. Have more women in the business.”
  • “Forcing women to work counters, when they actually want to be gemologists or bench jewelers.”
  • “I really dislike it when salesmen come to the store and ask me if my dad is around. Stop making assumptions.”

Other, related comments: “Treating women as non-buyers” “labeling jewelry and watches as men’s and ladies,” presuming “that the guy needs to do the asking” and assuming that only men are suited to be bench jewelers. “

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2. Being snooty creates a major obstacle to developing relationships with clients, jewelers say. Specifically called out were men wearing suits and ties and women with “bouffant hair” and high heels.

  • “Full suits are off-putting to most customers and make them feel like they are being sold to. They can’t connect with the associate on a personal level.”
  • “Snooty salespeople. I get customers every day who are sick of being treated like dirt elsewhere.”
  • A formal dress code reflects, “The arrogant and snooty feeling that has been historically associated with a high-end jewelry store. Young people, especially young men, would rather use the Internet to buy a diamond than come in and have to deal with that.”

More responses: “Treating jewelry as being so precious that it frightens and intimidates consumers” and “Uptight, sterile, cookie-cutter, everyone wearing a matching suit fancy stores.”

3. Giving it away, specifically mentioned were free cleaning, free repairs, free sizing, free polishing, free rhodium plating, free opinions, free batteries, free watchband adjusting and free verbal appraisals, because “most jewelers do not put enough value on their time or expertise” and because, “So much out there is so poorly made, you need to be so careful before you clean it or stones just fall out.” Another comment: “Just because someone bought a ring from you 15 years ago doesn’t mean you need to fix it for free.” Related: “Services while you wait.” On the flip side of this, “Price gouging for run of the mill repairs.”

4. Dishonest pricing. Having triple key price tags and telling customers “for you it’s 50 percent off” advertisements with no prices; price available upon request is just the same as saying not for sale. No one is going to call up and ask for the price. Show the real price. Make it a price that you are happy with and is competitive. Transparency, consistency and honesty.

5. Being out of date. “I have traveled the United States and have visited over 100 different jewelry stores and so many just need to retire if the store has an “old” smell to it and the wallpaper is 40 years old,” said one respondent. “It’s OK to remodel your store or please just retire.”

Related issues: “Bad music in the store” and “Faxing. Who faxes anymore except for jewelers?”

6. Bashing the competition. “How about we work together and support each other? I was recently asked by a client what was stopping them from heading down to our local competitor. Instead of bashing them I just told her how we are proud of what we offer and will guarantee our work and was able to win the sale without them going to our competitor and without me speaking an ill word against them.

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7. Selling diamonds as an ‘investment’. “People don’t expect to need to re-sell an engagement ring, and probably know someone who has (and didn’t get anywhere near the stated value)” and “Even the hint that jewelry and/or diamonds represent some form of investment. Biggest lie in the industry.” Also, in the engagement ring realm, a respondent suggests jewelers stop using salary guidelines for ring purchases. Why limit what clients are willing to spend?

8. Selling both wholesale and retail. “Do one or the other, but don’t compete with your own customers.” Also, “manufacturers posting pricing to the public if they wholesale to shops and galleries.”

9. Lack of proper documentation in terms of clarity, color etc. for repair take in, and selling. “The industry continues to allow room for mistrust when things are not properly documented. It is the industry norm not to document at repair take in, and more often than not, an invoice comes without proper quality specifications.”

10. Too much old or undesirable inventory. Thinking that stock is the retirement fund. Get rid of stock that’s more than a year old, buy new fast sellers and put the extra money into a real retirement fund. What not to stock: Halo settings, watches, watch bands, charms, beads, hearts for Valentine’s gifts, mothers’ rings, birthstones (because too many don’t like what they are “supposed” to want). Also cited: the trade media’s annual insistence that men’s jewelry will be the next big trend. It will not!

11. Too many trade shows. There was no elaboration, just too many.

Over the years, INSTORE has won 80 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INSTORE's editors at [email protected].

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