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Jewelry Road Rep Navigates a Post-Lockdown World

As the US slowly reopens, industry relationships are more important than ever.

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AS THE COUNTRY opens up, the U.S. brick-and-mortar jewelry trade rises up and shakes itself off like a bruised yet fearless fighter who will not admit defeat.

The suppliers who support retail jewelers stand in the store owners’ corners in partnerships that supersede many friendships. Recent looting of numerous stores in our vulnerable industry, and losses due to COVID-19 closures, have softened hearts of many of the suppliers and  manufacturers. Sympathy and compassion color many of the conversations between salesmen and retailers. The provision of disinfectant wipes and thermometers now joins the supply and sale of carefully vetted jewelry designs. Catalogs and photos, adaptive to social media, are accompanied by masks to defend against an enemy far worse than online commerce.

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Before the pandemic, before the burning city embers and ravaged stores, I was a fiercely driven road warrior who arrived promptly at a sales meeting, wrote orders and, when tired, booked a clean, safe and well-priced hotel room. There was a great sense of freedom in my ability to do exploratory business anywhere.

One cannot live in a vacuum, even in a luxury industry. Cognizance of current events now guides itineraries, especially to densely populated cities. I search for decontaminated hotels and open apps that measure the daily number of coronavirus cases in each city in which I wish to cultivate clients. There are concerns about viral spread from contact on metal. Disinfectant wipes and a UV wand will accompany the JBT Red Book in the car. Antiviral peace of mind will be both costly and time-consuming!

While shut down, many wholesalers and retailers texted photos, conducted Zoom sales appointments and sponsored Facebook Live trunk shows. These actions enabled sales and continued brand relevance. Most stores that had recently reopened and were looted bravely decided to continue. This ability to adapt and recover has remained a strength that has resonated in our trade.

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We’ll share a tough year ahead, as an industry and as a nation. Now more than ever, the relationships with my clients/friends are most important. As a wholesaler and designer, I must be a committed partner and strengthen clients’ sales of my line through readily available communication, good photos and thorough product knowledge.

As suppliers and stores assist each other to survive, many acts of decency have come to the fore. Most store owners have agreed to proceed with orders made before they were shut down for two months. Heroically, they continue to pay their bills. Wholesalers and manufacturers have generally extended more flexible and generous terms. Crises bring out the best and worst in people. Perhaps this will be the time for us all to slow down and reevaluate what qualities, in addition to great style, we represent. Kindness and benevolence can only enhance a brand.

Good luck to us all!

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Alex and Gladys Rysman are the third generation to run Romm Jewelers in Brockton, Mass. And after many decades of service to the industry and their community, it was time to close the store and take advantage of some downtime. With three grown children who each had their own careers outside of the industry, they decided to call Wilkerson. Then, the Rysmans did what every jeweler should do: They called other retailers and asked about their own Wilkerson experience. “They all told us what a great experience it was and that’s what made us go with Wilkerson.” says Gladys Rysman. The results? Alex Rysman says he was impressed. “We exceeded whatever I expected to do by a large margin.”

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