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David Geller

On Running Your Shop: Pickup Tricks

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On Running Your Shop: Pickup Tricks

Know What you can and can’t do with abandoned repairs.

BY DAVID GELLER

Published in the January 2013 issue.

Every jeweler has repairs no one has bothered to collect. I’ve known jewelers who had them going back to the ’50s! But getting customers to pick up their repairs increases cash flow, and holding onto repairs can actually cost you money. So, let’s look at what to do with old repairs legally as well as from the standpoint of good customer relations.

CONTACT THE CUSTOMER

Your attorney may not even know what the law is in your state. Typically your state attorney general’s office or local sheriff’s office will know what you need to do.

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Requirements vary from state to state, and your city or county might have its own ordinances. For the sake of discussion, this is the law in Georgia as I investigated it:

You are required to hold a customer’s piece of jewelry for one year.
After a year you are allowed to sell the customer’s item to regain the repair charge, but before doing so, the customer must be notified.
You must give the customer 10 days notice to pick up the item.
My county said to give the customer notice, all you had to do was to post such notice on the sheriff’s bulletin board (really!). We decided to be nice, and we sent the customer a letter via certified mail with return receipt. If we got the return receipt back and they didn’t come in after 10 days we were legally OK to unload it.
If the customer still did not come in, we saved the job envelope and letter or return receipt forever. In the POS system, we put notes about what we did and where the letter/envelope was being stored and what we did with the jewelry. If we scrapped or sold it, details were added to their history in case the customer ever came back in.

THE GREAT FOREVER

Citing Georgia again, if we repaired a bracelet and we charged the client $50, then we could sell it for $50 even if it was worth $400 to recover our labor costs.

Conversely, if we scrapped it and got $400 for the scrap value, only the $50 we “earned,” was ours to keep. We could deposit the whole $400 but had to keep a record, and if the customer ever came back, we are required to give him back the $350 difference.
If this occurred, we put this information into the POS system in the customer’s history records.
One time a customer came back three years later and was very upset her jewelry was taken apart. But we had sent out “come get your jewelry postcards” every few months, made phone calls and sent the return receipt letter. It’s not like we didn’t try. We gave the customer the difference, as we were obligated to do.

AVOID LATE PICKUPS

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For items with little value, insist on prepayment for repair jobs.
We offered all customers a 5 percent discount to prepay.
When we took in a watch for a repair estimate, we usually requested a $20 deposit. We preferred cash because we paper clipped the 20-dollar bill inside the envelope. If he didn’t get the watch repaired, the customer would come back to get his 20 bucks!
Always get name/address/two phone numbers/email address. Don’t just write the customer’s name! You want complete contact info on all job envelopes.

Today with email and text messages, you should be able to keep up with your customers, but it’s still good to know the laws and have a policy for when this sort of thing happens.

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David Geller

Here’s How To Calculate How Much Your Salespeople Should Earn

But that also requires that you let them make sales.

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A JEWELER EMAILED ME this question: “I have always heard that a jewelry sales associate should sell 10 times what they make as a gross wage. Do you think it is still true today? What about associates with other responsibilities who aren’t always on the sales floor?”

Here’s your answer: 10 times sales as salary (or being paid 10 percent of what you sell) is “sort of correct.”

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The number is actually between 8 to 13 times their pay. If they sell 8 times (or cost you 8 percent of their sales), they are very efficient. If their cost is closer to 13 percent, they are inefficient.

So if a salesperson is paid $35,000 a year, they should sell between $270,000 to $437,000.

But here’s the question: How much do you personally sell out of total sales of the store? That includes product sales, appraisals, repair and custom.

If the store does $700,000 in sales and you only wait on diamond customers and your sales are $500,000, then that leaves a remaining $200,000 available for sales staff to sell. So the salesperson is physically unable to sell even the minimum of $270,000, much less the higher end.

Take your sales away from the total and see what’s left for staff to sell.

Don’t tell me what they could do to bring in more sales. That’s an excuse. Why? Because you have to be the sales trainer.

You’d have to train them to:

  • Increase their average dollar sale.
  • Try to add on to what is sold to each customer. Goal would be add on to 25 percent of their sales.
  • Keep a client book of some type, keeping track of birthdays and anniversaries and contacting customers to remind them to buy something for these events. This starts with sending thank-you cards after every single sale.

If you’re too busy to be a sales manager, then don’t complain that they don’t sell enough.

What about employees who have other duties? That makes it impossible to sell 10 times their pay if they are only on the floor 15 hours a week out of 40. They would be considered “fill in.” Just pay a salary or wage and be done with it.

But if you wanted to pay them some type of bonus or commission plan, you’d figure out what percent of the week they are on the floor. So in this example, if the employee is on the floor 15 hours out of 40, then 38 percent of his workweek is selling. If he makes $35,000 a year, 38 percent of it is equal to $13,000 of his pay to be on the floor selling. Divide $13,000 by 0.08 and 0.13, and his sales should be $100,000 to $162,000.

There are many ways to compensate for excellence in selling. When I was a store owner, I paid straight percent of sales. You can pay a percentage of the gross profit, which ensures that the more they discount, the lower the percent of profit you pay. There are spiffs: sell these things over here and I’ll give you a set amount of money. There is share: if we all reach a goal amount this month, I will give everyone an amount of money. Or you can give things: sell so much or a particular item, and I’ll give you tickets to a show/fancy dinner out/day off/spa day.

All salespeople come to work with their car radio set to WIIFM: “What’s In It For Me.”

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David Geller

Why David Geller Says You Should Sell Lab-Grown Diamonds

You’re a merchant, so sell the customer what they want.

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ONE OF THE JEWELER pages on Facebook has been discussing whether a store should stock and sell lab-grown diamonds. The dad says no, while the millennial son says, “I think we should try it.” The reader vote is split about 50/50.

Can we talk about making a living here for a moment? And selling consumers what they want?

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Customers want to know their options and make their own decisions. Be their personal shopper.

I started in 1974 as a trade shop. I used to do work for a store at our mall, Wellington Jewels. I sized the gold rings they sold and set stones.

What stones? Strontium titanate. It’s a diamond simulant that has colors like an opal. Hardness on Mohs’ scale? About 5.5! But sparkle, oooh weeee!

The store was mostly black walls and showcases, with bright lights to make the stones pop. They made great money, and these are diamond look-alikes with the hardness of an opal. The mountings were 14K gold with real melee diamonds. They didn’t sell much fashion, which I told them was crazy, because a woman can only buy so many engagement rings.

I became friendly with the store manager and she agreed. So I ordered a dozen at a time in fashion mountings from a catalog, furnished the mountings and diamond melee, and she gave me center stones, which I set. They’d sell most of each dozen I gave them within five weeks.

So let’s talk profits on this product. All merchandise was quadruple markup.

They gave a lifetime warranty on these stones. If the stone scratched or chipped or fell out, they’d replace them for 50 percent of the price (so they still made keystone).

This was junk compared to lab-created diamonds. Remember: a lab-created diamond will last as long as the human does.

What about resale value? Well, they can’t get their money out of what they spent on your natural diamond, so try lab-created, make a better margin and keep that young person from buying it someplace else.

When you quote a price to a customer for anything, you may be thinking, “They aren’t talking. Maybe I should come down on the price. OMG I need to make payroll this Friday.”

They may be thinking: “Darn, my student loan note is due at the end of the month. Maybe I should opt for a lab-created diamond. I can’t tell the difference and we need to save for a house.”

Be their personal shopper, make a customer happy and make some money!

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David Geller

How Geller’s Blue Book Came Out of Abject Failure

David Geller’s failure in business led to success as a retailer and later as a consultant.

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WHEN I STARTED MY shop in 1974, there was no “Geller Book” for pricing repairs and custom. You relied upon your best guess, copying other people’s price lists or calling around to find an average amount to charge.

Although I didn’t know how much to charge, I quickly learned how much I would have to pay for salaries, rent, findings, advertising, etc.

By 1978 or so, my accountant just reconciled the books. He couldn’t help at all with my problem of making money. I had difficulty paying bills on time and paying myself a good wage.

By 1986, we had a thriving business doing repairs and custom. We had 16 employees, but still we were always behind the 8-ball. We did $830,000 in business, 75 percent from the shop, but we owed $250,000 in accounts payable, $65,000 to the IRS for payroll taxes and another $25,000 to the state for the same thing.

On Christmas Eve, I fired half of the employees, and during the following week after paying whomever I could, we still had the same amount of debt.

Don’t tell me about your bad day.

January 2nd, we opened up with half the number of employees and $125 in the checking account.

Don’t tell me how you had a bad month.

Summer of 1987, the IRS put a lien on both my home and the store and twice wiped out the balance of our business checking account to try to pay our payroll taxes. So, to ward off the inevitable, I paid an attorney $5,000 to help me declare bankruptcy.

Don’t tell me you had a bad year.

The next month, a diamond setter friend sent me his accountant. This guy had been an accountant, gave it up, became a watchmaker for 7 years, then went back to doing accounting.

This was the first accountant I had hired who knew how to make money with his hands.

First thing he did was work out a payment plan with the IRS and the state. So I didn’t have to follow through with the bankruptcy, but the attorney who had done nothing kept his $5,000 deposit.

Next thing the accountant did was teach me how to price labor. Pricing a lobster claw is easy. Labor is tricky, so he had me do something many of you would never do: I stopped paying the jewelers a guaranteed salary. I paid them 100 percent commission based on retail labor. That fixed my cost, and now I knew my labor cost to the penny and I could mark that up.

If the commission on any job was too low for the jewelers, then we raised the retail price so they would be paid correctly. This philosophy led me to write our first 250-page price book for our store in 1989.

By 1991, I put the sales staff on 100 percent commission as well. Both the jewelers and salespeople’s earnings increased, as did productivity and profits. We finally paid everyone off and became cash flow positive and profitable.

Years later, our top salesperson asked to buy the store, and meanwhile I was being prompted by the Scull consulting group to help other jewelers. So, I created Geller’s Blue Book to Jewelry Repair and Design and went to work helping my fellow jewelers be profitable in the shop. The store succeeds and thrives today.

Tough spot? You betcha. All of what transpired was scary and a huge change in business practice. But, the next step was liquidation by the IRS of my home and business, so what did I have to lose?

What would it take to get you to change your ways?

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