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When it comes to filling your showcases for the holidays, these styles are the favorites to tempt your trend-conscious clients.




When it comes to filling your showcases for the holidays, these styles are the favorites to tempt your trend-conscious clients.

Las Vegas Jewelry Week is right around the corner, and as always, INSTORE’s intrepid team of editors and contributors will faithfully trek out to the desert to bring you a look at the latest trends to be found. But why wait? We can give you a sneak peek right now of the sizzling styles that will make their way into wholesale showcases in Las Vegas. Here we place our bets on which hot sellers, emerging trends and expanding categories we believe you should consider before rolling the dice on new items to bring into your store. So have fun, gamble at the tables and go shopping on our predictions.



Talismanic Turquoise

Turquoise translates into seasonless jewelry. No longer is it the bright green/blue associated with the warm-weather months. Like white after Labor Day, it has become widely accepted as a year-round gemstone. We no longer speak in terms of “the return” of this versatile gem, which is most appealing in high-karat gold. It’s one that’s here to stay.


Larisa Laivins

Pavé diamond disc ring in 18K yellow gold inlaid with turquoise




Ruth Tomlinson

Turquoise studs with beaded edge set in 18K yellow gold


P+44 207 831 3033



Sylva & Cie

Pear-shaped turquoise drop earrings with 18K yellow gold and accent diamonds


P(213) 488-1444




Gothic style 14K rose gold ring inlaid with Sleeping Beauty turquoise and diamonds

Price on request

P(800) 521-5986




Turquoise drop earrings with blue diamonds and 18K yellow gold chain



Will you stock it for the holidays?

YES 46%
NO 54%

Mark Thomas Ruby
SunSpirit Designs, Loveland, CO

Turquoise is always big in this part of the country.

Tom Schowalter
Miner’s Den Jewelers, Royal Oak, MI

We have a very nice selection of turquoise jewelry, and yes, we will expand this area.

Steven Wardle
Forest Beach Design, Chatham, MA

Big and colorful for a reasonable price; how can you go wrong?

Jill Keith
Enchanted Jewelry, Danielson, CT

Absolutely. We’re supporting a ‘denim and diamonds’ Chamber of Commerce event this month and are sourcing authentic, handmade reservation pieces as I type. My family had Appaloosa horses before jewelry … we loved the days of this jewelry sold by vendors at national horse shows.

Valerie Naifeh
Naifeh Fine Jewelry, Oklahoma City, OK

I use turquoise a lot in my own line. I set it in 22K yellow gold. Whatever I make usually sells, especially in rings and earrings.



What goes around comes around, and that applies to hoop earrings in a big way for 2017. Along with diamond studs, hoops are a staple of a woman’s jewelry wardrobe. Celebrities love them, from actresses of the ‘60s to the stars of today’s music scene. Hoops have circled back around in twisted, hand-textured versions, sculptural silhouettes and with accents of different shapes and sizes of gemstones.


Just Jules

Bubble hoop earrings in 14K yellow gold with opal accents


P(480) 860-6211



Dinny Hall

Large Wave hoops in 22K yellow gold vermeil over silver


P+44 207 704 1543



Julie Lamb

18K yellow gold with diamonds (0.44 TCW)




Mattia Cielo

Rugianda hoop in 18K rose gold with white diamonds (2.14 TCW)


P(917) 553-5360



Eva Fehren

Zipper hoops in 18K rose gold with pale champagne diamonds


P(646) 861-3595


Will you stock it for the holidays?

YES 74%
NO 26%

Michael Baer
Green Bear Metal Works, Montrose, CO

Hoops will always be just the thing for a certain type of gal.

Tonia Ulsh
Mountz Jewelers, Camp Hill, PA

We saw this trend during the holiday season. We ordered more in for our stock at that time and will continue to replenish as the trend continues.

John Przeclawski
Jewelry Plus, Winter Park, FL

We’ve seen the trend, started stocking more already.

Theresa Namie
Stephen Vincent Design, Minneapolis, MN

Hoops are classic but we can also add design elements to make them even more fun! Easy sale.

James Gattas
James Gattas Jewelers, Memphis, TN

They are still basics but in an uptrend mode and deserve more attention with marketing and inventory.

Murphy McMahon
Murphy McMahon & Co., Kalispell, MT

I am noticing an uptick in hoop sales, both white gold and yellow gold. Before if someone was shopping for white metal, silver was the choice for much less money. Now white gold is asked for.



There is no doubt that Y-necklaces and lariats continue to trend in delicate and larger versions. The most on-trend of these styles are being designed with chunkier chain and larger medallions on the bottom for a look that can easily layer with other necklaces but can also stand alone. Bead and gemstone versions with accents of gold and diamonds or small pavé sapphires are also answering your customers’ desire for more color.

Amy Glaswand

Stella lariat in 18K yellow gold accented with diamonds


P(917) 754-0001

GFG Jewellery

Bar necklace in 18K gold set with pink and blue sapphires


Moritz Glik

Lariat necklace in 18K yellow gold and palladium gray gold with diamonds (4.37 TCW) enclosed in double white sapphires


P(212) 679-0948


With Every Breath floral pendant on clip necklace in 18K yellow gold and white gold with diamonds


P(917) 714-4642


Hand-woven necklace in 18K yellow gold with faceted pear-shaped citrines and diamonds


P(212) 439-9400


Will you stock it for the holidays?

YES 44%
NO 56%

Stacey S. Sachs
Solomon’s Fine Jewelry & Watch, Albertson, NY

Nice trend, they do come and go! We have them in stock, but we never go too crazy. Nice in the warmer months, long and short lariats.

Morgan Bartel
Susann’s Custom Jewelers, Corpus Christi, TX

Not sure yet, but the style is very ‘Texas,’ so I don’t see why we wouldn’t.

Andrea Riso
Talisman Collection, El Dorado Hills, CA

We’ve been selling these well for years. Lariats do well; Y-necklaces are a harder sell. We always have two-tone lariats.

Elysia Demers
Barnhardt Jewelers, Spencer, NC

We didn’t do the choker trend and glad we didn’t. But long, Y- and lariats have done well since the holidays, so we just ordered some new ones.

Ryan “Jr” Karp
Cornerstone Jewelry, Palos Park, IL

We are already seeing the growth in this trend and it’s an oncoming storm of potential.


No Longer A Pair

Move over rings: earrings have fast become the category of jewelry to stack. There are myriad styles from which to choose and the best part is that you can wear them mixed and mismatched. Find a stud, invest in a diamond cuff or gemstone jacket, let a nature-inspired motif climb up your ear, or simply try out as many posts as you can. Layering is the key to multiple sales.



Thistle ear cuffs in 18K yellow gold set with multicolored diamonds and pearls


P(323) 525-1738




Sterling silver post and ear jacket with bezel-set cubic zirconia




J Luu

Three row diamond helix ear cuff (0.20 TCW) in 14K yellow gold




Jade Trau

Vertical ear climber in 18K gold with round brilliant diamonds (0.60 TCW)


P(212) 719-3333



Anissa Kermiche

Jeune Fille En Fleur ear climber in 14K yellow gold and white quartz crystal


P+44 770 333 1385


Will you stock it for the holidays?

YES 39%
NO 61%

Jennifer Farnes
Revolution Jewelry Works, Colorado Springs, CO

We have a few new ear climbers we added and have expanded on our fine body jewelry options.

Annette Kinzie
Leonard Jewelry, Stillwater, OK

This is another trend that we have been suggesting and promoting for the past months and are seeing a good sell-through in front to back styles.

Christina Ohara
Blue Mountain Gems, Roanoke, VA

I’m designing a new line of mismatched earrings, because life is not perfect.

Elizabeth Breon
Coast Jewelers, Florence, OR

I have always carried these. Made dozens of custom ear cuffs. Very fun category, especially before it was a ‘trend’ and edgier customers were delighted to have something unique.

Janne Etz
Contemporary Concepts, Cocoa, FL

I’ve had ear cuffs and climbers for decades. Always sell well! Happy to have ‘the market’ marketing them for me!


Silver Linings

Not since the disco era has silver lamé in all its shining glory been as popular a fashion statement as it was on the fall/winter 2017/18 ready-to-wear runways. Jewelry follows suit. Crushed, satined, sandblasted, hammered and other hand-finished silver and white metals, sometimes accented by diamonds, offer a similar shimmer to the fabrics and remind us that solid gold is going head to head with textured silver this season.



Sterling Silver cuff bracelet





Conical studs in 18K white gold set with diamonds (3.99 TCW)





Spider cuff in white gold-plated brass


P+9613 476761



Wolf & Moon

Alcove hoops in hand-painted wood with sterling silver


P+44 20 3371-9324




Hammer-textured Cyclone earring in 950 palladium and prong set with diamonds


P(212) 420-9370


Will you stock it for the holidays?

YES 49%
NO 51%

Elizabeth Breon
Coast Jewelers, Florence, OR

I keep all kinds of textured pieces on display and offer to change the texture at my bench if the customer prefers. I have sold a lot of polished bands changed to matte this way.

Annette Evans
RD Allen Freeport Jewelers, Freeport, ME

Always feature this. It is a constant.

Pam Chehade
Pamela’s Fine Jewelry, Spring Green, WI

Always have lots of white metals in different textures.

Andrea Riso
Talisman Collection, El Dorado Hills, CA

We sell a ton of this and it keeps growing.

Michael Derby
D3 Diamonds and Fine Jewelry, Clemont, FL

The white category continues to be strong and continues to dominate sales in virtually every category.


All in The Wrist

Wide cuffs and hinged bangles continue to grow in popularity (as opposed to skinny stacks), impacting what your clients will want to wear. These pieces range from the new locket bracelets to distressed metals and chunky gemstone-set styles. For a statement look without the hefty price tag, why not try wide but sculptural styles that are open and airy, allowing for a big look without the heavy metal.


Zoe Chicco

Large curved crossover X cuff in 14K yellow gold with white pavé diamonds (0.51 TCW)


P(213) 489-1226



Ark fine jewelry

Gateway bracelet in 18K yellow gold with rose-cut Indian blue moonstone (37.04 TCW)





Modern mourning locket bracelet in 18K yellow gold with the words “forget-me-not” in enameled detail and a forget-me-not flower set with black diamonds




Dana Bronfman

Wide convex-shaped cuff with circular cutouts in black rhodium-plated sterling silver with matte finish


P(605) 269-1101



Sarah McGuire

Sculptural wide sterling silver cuff bracelet with a satin finish


P(773) 327-8870


Will you stock it for the holidays?

YES 53%
NO 47%

Donna Soodalter-Toman
DIVA, Newtonville, MA

Big cuff/bracelet-obsessed.

Cindy Fuller
Fuller Designs, Poplar Bluff, MO

Love cuffs in wide widths!

Brenda Newman
The Jewelry Source, El Segundo, CA

Big, wide and gold.

Jim Alati
Simmons Fine Jewelry, Meridian, ID

Very strong category.

Mark Kasuba
M. Edward Jewelers, Pittsfield, MA

These have been steady movers in 2016-2017.


In Full Bloom

Ready-to-wear and couture designers planted the first seed of this trend during the spring/summer 2017 runway shows and it continued right into fall/winter 2017/18. Florals are rejuvenated each season, but this year we will see an explosion of blooms in all types of botanicals, from freshly picked garden varieties to exotic wildflowers in a range of styles from feminine to cutting-edge.



One-of-a-kind diamond and ruby earrings

Price on request

P(800) 868-5532



Suzy Landa

Hoops in 18K yellow gold with petals of rubellite and diamonds


P(212) 874-2346




Flower bracelet in rose gold, diamonds and pink sapphires


P+39 0131 941719



Adel Chefridi

Rounded band in 18K yellow gold set with a floral motif of diamonds and pink sapphires


P(866) 428-8777



Mousson Atelier

18K yellow gold Lily Of The Valley brooch with enamel and diamonds, tsavorites and moonstones


P+7 495 663 37 07


Will you stock it for the holidays?

YES 41%
NO 59%

Kathy Buccieri
Buccieri’s Gems & Jewelry, Valley Road, NJ

We would definitely consider some jewelry with a floral element. Nature has always done well with our clients. This includes butterflies, dragonflies, etc.

Craig Husar
Lyle Husar Designs, Brookfield, WI

Parade Design features a collection of floral designs called Lyria that our customers love. Floral engagement rings seem to be trending in the Midwest.

Lisa McConnell
Lisa McConnell Design Studio, Fort Worth, TX

Good idea, I’m on it.

Marta Jones-Couch
Elements Ltd., Des Moines, IA

What’s not to love?

Marc Majors
Sam L. Majors, Midland, TX

Worth exploring. Vendorafa makes a floral ring with multi-color gemstones. I bet I could sell that pretty little bauble.


Out West

These designs offer a refreshing take on Native American jewelry, which features the neutrals of hot sands, the burnt-orange hues of sunset and the indigo evenings of desert skies (as well as turquoise, of course). The look takes the talismans of different tribes as well as the leather fringe and denim of the Wild West and translates them into a citified or bohemian street style.


Chasseur Fine Jewelry

Sunray pattern sterling silver extra large crescent pendant with beaded detail


P(781) 956-4390



Emily Keifer Jewels

Sterling silver lariat necklace with starburst set white star charm


P(856) 287-0076



Fern Freeman

Pavé diamond circle with suede fringe and 18K gold drops necklace


P(917) 217-1727



Karch x Wolfe

Turquoise with sterling silver and 18K yellow gold lariat necklace


P(212) 965-9699



Julez Bryant

Crescent moon earrings with diamond cut ball chain fringe in 18K rose gold and diamond accents


P(760) 931-1416


Will you stock it for the holidays?

YES 17%
NO 83%

Eileen Eichhorn
Eichhorn Jewelry, Decatur, IN

Popular in our area since 1970.

Stacey S. Sachs
Solomon’s Fine Jewelry & Watch, Albertson, NY

Not a big fan, but may try it because I do not buy for me, we buy for the consumer!

Morgan Bartel
Susann’s Custom Jewelers, Corpus Christi, TX

Could we be a real jewelry store in Texas if we didn’t feature this trend?

Tonia Ulsh
Mountz Jewelers, Camp Hill, PA

We added feather jewelry in silver and gold last year as well as some bolo type designs.

Karen Hollis
K. Hollis Jewelers, Batavia, IL

We are ‘From Fun to Fine.’ We have lots of styles in leather, fringe and bolo; some even have a diamond in them.


Cool Convertibles

Taking their cue from antique demi-suites, jewelry designers are creating styles that can be worn in multiple ways. There are day-to-night earrings, which make a statement when all components are connected but take on a more everyday feel when pendant or fringe bottoms are detached. There are also rings that can be worn as pendants, and necklaces to which charms and tassels can be added.


Eden Presley Fine Jewelry

Earring/pendant transformer with lapis center stones, rainbow moonstone, turquoise, opals and diamonds set in 14K yellow gold




Anne Sportun

A stack of 18K gold and ruby wrap bracelets that can be worn layered around the wrist, as a necklace or ankle bracelet


P(844) 363-4114



Alberian and Aulde

14K rose gold clasp locks onto three different stations to create different looks and lengths in this sterling silver and rose cut moonstone necklace


P(201) 864-2745



Variance Objects

Day-to-night earrings with tanzanite studs and tourmaline asymmetrical drops at the bottom in 14K and 18K yellow, white and rose gold

$387 (studs), $640 (drops)

P(831) 346-6758



Gigi Ferranti

Hexagon two-in-one earring with pavé diamond studs and faceted bead chain drops in 14K yellow gold; the chain drop is on a ring that is removable


P(718) 251-1614


Will you stock it for the holidays?

YES 46%
NO 54%

Susan Eisen
Susan Eisen Fine Jewelry & Watches, El Paso, TX

Love to show off how they can be worn in different ways. Customers love the versatility of this jewelry.

Michael Baer
Green Bear Metal Works, Montrose, CO

Dual performances and peek-a-boos are a specialty here.

Mary Jo Chanski
Hannoush Jewelers, Rutland, VT

We have a few collections that allow bracelets to be hooked onto necklaces as an extension … or a bracelet that can be converted to an anklet.

Stew Brandt
H. Brandt Jewelers, Natick, MA

Loved these pieces the last time they were popular. Will probably bring some on.

Jennifer Farnes
Revolution Jewelry Works, Colorado Springs, CO

Flexible options make justifying the purchase easier for our clients. Knowing something can take on a different look/use is truly like getting a two-fer.


Book ’em, danno

Books that cover renowned houses, enduring and meaningful motifs or modern designers will inspire clients to dream and to purchase. Why let your neighborhood book store make the sale when your customers can walk out with an extra luxury — or you could even give one free to your best clients as a holiday thank-you!


Taffin: The Jewels Of James De Givenchy

Written by James Taffin de Givenchy, nephew of fashion design icon Hubert Givenchy, this book explores the author’s inspirations and masterful jewelry creations in photos by his brother Philippe. It offers both a sophisticated and lighthearted glimpse into his life and work with vivid homage to his experiences, references and his exuberant, colorful and sculptural creations.




Jeweler: Masters, Mavericks, and Visionaries of Modern Design

Written by editor-in-chief of Town & Country Stellene Volandes, an expert on contemporary jewelry, this book is a curated exhibit of 17 of the most influential international jewelers of our time. Volandes’ eye for uncovering modern talent and her narrative writing style along with the stunning images offer readers a peek into the world of these visionaries.




Fine Jewelry Couture: Contemporary Heirlooms

For this book, author Olivier Dupon has chosen a group of 30-plus jewelry designers who push the boundaries of their imagination and experiment with a variety of materials, yet always with attention to unparalleled craftsmanship.




Flora: The Art Of Jewelry

Patrick Mauriès and Evelyne Posseme bring us into the magical and exotic gardens of jewelers from the 1700s through the present. Beautifully photographed by Jean-Marie del Moral, Flora focuses on the pieces that are in the permanent collection of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.




The Pearl Necklace

Revered jewelry author Vivienne Becker explores the pearl and its legacy and legends through the back stories, portraits and still-lifes of renowned women who draped themselves in them. Queen Elizabeth, Marie-Antoinette, Empress Eugene, Princess Alexandra, Princess Diana, The Duchess of Windsor, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, Babe Paley and Helena Rubenstein are all included in this book.



Will you stock it for the holidays?

YES 12%
NO 88%

Chris Wattsson
Wattsson & Wattsson Jewelers, Marquette, MI

We do feature other styles of books to suit our customers, such as agate and area mining history literature.

Craig Husar
Lyle Husar Designs, Brookfield, WI

Great suggestion. Where do I buy these books at wholesale?

Marc Solomon
Solomon’s Fine Jewelry, Plainview, NY

They are currently displayed near the product cases.

Jill Keith
Enchanted Jewelry, Danielson, CT

This is a fantastic idea! I hadn’t thought of it, but I will definitely expand jewelry education materials.

Cathy Calhoun
Calhoun Jewelers, Royersford, PA

Good idea as a gift to VIP customers.



We asked our Brain Squad: What do you think will be the breakout category this holiday season?



“Stackable rings were a great trend this season! We sold several diamond and gemstone versions and even custom designed several options. They are also a big hit during bridal season. Every bride wants to put their unique twist on their engagement ring.”—Erica Lorenz, Michael & Sons, Reno, NV





“Organic art deco. We have been receiving more requests for structural art deco with vines and leaves incorporated. I think it’s going to be a breakthrough, even in architecture.” —Jennifer Farnes, Revolution Jewelry Works, Colorado Springs, CO





“I’m asked for men’s jewelry constantly. Something classy, functional, shows a taste for luxury but isn’t gaudy … we’re working on successfully filling that void.” — Jill Keith, Enchanted Jewelry, Danielson, CT





“We’ve seen a big demand for big signet rings, domed rings and large statement rings.”—Elysia Demers, Barnhardt Jewelers, Spencer, NC



1. Pamela Froman Crushed Melange stack with four 18K white, pink, and yellow “crushed” gold rings set with diamonds; the solitaire ring features a 1.23-carat silver Montana sapphire cut by John Dyer. $2,090-9,680, (323) 954-7436 | | 2. Alison Nagasue Spiral wrap ring in 18K green gold with diamonds (0.22 TCW). $4,800, (201) 926-0039 | | 3. David Heston Sterling silver bracelet with black diamonds. $3,500, (415) 499-7635 | | 4. Anabel Higgins Scout signet ring in 18K yellow gold with diamonds (0.61 TCW). $7,800, (626) 799-3109 |



Beth Bernstein is a published author of three books and jewelry and fashion expert with 18+ years experience. A broad knowledge of the history of jewelry and fashion coupled with a background in "the story", writing, trends, design concepts has earned Beth a proven track record.



Wilkerson Testimonials

Texas Jeweler Knew He'd Get Only One Shot at a GOB Sale, So He Wanted to Make It Count

Most retailers only have one GOB sale in their lifetimes. This was the case for Gary Zoet, owner of Shannon Fine Jewelry in Houston, Texas. “Wilkerson has done thousands of these sales,” says Zoet. “I’ve never done one, so it’s logical to have somebody with experience do it.” The result exceeded Zoet’s expectations. Wilkerson took care of everything from marketing to paperwork. When it’s time for you to consider the same, shouldn’t you trust the experts in liquidation?

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Cover Stories

How to Know When It’s Time to Go



Author Seth Godin says strategic quitting is the secret of successful organizations, while reactive quitting is the bane of those who strive and fail to get what they want. “And most people do just that, they quit when it’s painful and stick when they can’t be bothered to quit,” he writes in his book, The Dip.

In the case of retail jewelers, consultants say, some simply don’t have enough time to collect their thoughts, let alone devise a plan. Others may fear change.

If you’ve had enough, it may be time to call it quits and do something else. “Quitting is better than coping because quitting frees you up to excel at something else. All coping does is waste your time and misdirect your energy,” Godin writes.

Whether that something else turns out to be beach-combing in retirement, pursuing a hobby or reimagining a new way to do business, having a plan is a prerequisite to success. Jewelry store owners who do plan for the next phase of their lives express a strong sense of freedom, both before and after they activate that plan.

Consultant Bill Boyajian of Bill Boyajian & Associates has not run into any long-term jewelers who, deep down, don’t love what they do.

“That’s part of the problem,” he says. “They can’t envision what they will do if they leave their business. They haven’t had any free time to develop any hobbies. I encourage them to think about becoming a private jeweler, but being involved to a lesser extent.”

Josh Hayes, business analyst for Wilkerson, says retailers he’s worked with on retirement sales do want to stay involved with the industry. Many set up offices with a few display cases of sample lines and work by appointment. “It works out perfectly because you still have your customer lists from your store, so after your closing event, you can transition your old customers to your new endeavor. Then you have the flexibility to work as much as you choose.”

But even semi-retirement requires planning. According to David Brown of the Edge Retail Academy, 37 percent of jewelry store owners have no retirement plan at all; many just hope their exit works itself out. The key is to be in a position to retire — financially, physically, and mentally.

“Knowing that you can gives you answers,” Brown says. “Knowing that you can’t gives you stress.”
“Ask yourself, what options do I have: I can sell the business, close the business down, or I can groom the business so it runs without me, become an absentee owner and get a good income out of it,” Brown says.

On occasion, the millennial successor wants to speed up their parents’ exit, or in other ways would be an unpleasant or unsuitable business partner during a lengthy transition. In these cases, Boyajian advises the parents to liquidate most of their inventory in a sale to ensure they have money for retirement, and then simply let their kids take over the lease and the business and build up the inventory again.

Closing and retirement sales are regulated by law, and they can only be done once. Most of the store owners’ retirement income rests on the return from the sale event, so it’s incredibly important that the event is conducted properly. While Wilkerson can put together a closing event in about three weeks in an emergency situation, a year of planning will improve results, perhaps dramatically.

“Once the sale is complete, the new owner has lower inventory, minimal debt and can usually get some consignment inventory from vendors they know, and build up the store in the direction they intend to take it,” Hayes says.

Here are some examples of transition tales that show every indication they’ll be success stories.

Continue Reading

Cover Stories

The 19 Contrarian Rules of Business

Don’t promise excellent service? Run annoying ads? Business leaders insist these counterintuitive principles work.




TO MAKE A POINT about how our brains operate, the American neuroscientist Gregory Berns likes to encourage people to close their eyes and imagine the sun setting on a beach. If you just tried it, odds are the image that arose was the clichéd one — a warm tropical island scene, most likely framed by the frond of a coconut tree, awash in orange, as opposed to, say, a dark, wind-whipped pebble beach off the coast of northern Scotland.

The brain “is fundamentally a lazy piece of meat,” Berns writes in his book Iconoclast. It needs energy to operate and has evolved to use it as efficiently as possible. As a result, it defaults to shortcuts as it can — past experience, other people’s opinions, common practice — to avoid the taxing effort of perceiving or imagining afresh.

There are, of course, people who make it a habit to buck convention, who have a knack of seeing something no one else does. Berns refers to these disruptive original thinkers as “iconoclasts.” Generally, they are probably better known as contrarians. These are the brave and often odd souls whose questioning of the conventions of society or their professional field have repeatedly caused history to change course or leap forward.

In business, entrepreneurs are often contrarian by definition — they see value and opportunity where others do not. The contrarian investor Bill Gurley notes that “you can only make money by being right about something that most people think is wrong.”

The idea of being an independent spirit appeals to many. In a recent Brain Squad survey, 58 percent of our readers identified themselves as contrarians compared to 30 percent who said they were conformists and 12 percent who said they were neither. Of course, by definition, it’s not possible for the majority to be contrarian, even more so in a tradition-bound industry like jewelry. We suspect the result reflects most jewelers’ thoughts of themselves as independent operators charting their own destinies in a world where most of their fellow citizens opt for the security of more regular employment.

It is not easy being a true contrarian. There is the risk of ridicule, having to live with constant uncertainty. Being contrarian for the sake of contrarianism is pointless.

There is, unromantically, much to be said for doing things the timeworn “best practice” way. We thus begin our exploration of contrarianism with a caveat — doing something differently is exciting, possibly liberating, often far more lucrative than the conventional way … and often dangerous. Go charging away from the herd with care. Ultimately, you want to choose the ideas — new or old, intuitive or rational, bizarre or conventional — that serve you best.

The customer is not always right

1It’s actually irrelevant if a customer is right or wrong. This is, after all, a commercial transaction, not a debate. Just because a customer wants, needs, or expects something does not mean that delivering it is the best thing for your business. Indeed, “keeping certain customers happy can be a horribly inefficient and downright distracting way to run a business,” note Brent Adamson, Matthew Dixon, and Nicholas Toman in an article in the Harvard Business Review. It’s also not much fun.

As a business owner, you need to make decisions that best apply your company’s capital, intellectual energy, and product capabilities. Rather than customer satisfaction, the ultimate goal should be running a sustainable business. Have a written, legally defensible terms of service statement, warranties, guarantees, and a simple process to determine which clients or customers deliver the strongest ROI and which are actually costing you money. In some cases, it’s better for long-term growth (not to mention store morale) to jettison a high-maintenance client and focus on improving the quality of your customer base.

Ignore terrific opportunities

2One of the dangers of business success is that it leads to more opportunities. Pursue them at your peril. In business, there is always a trade-off. Doing one thing well invariably means you can’t do another at a high level as you spread yourself too thin. The result is a damaging mediocrity.

In his book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit Of Less, Greg McKeown cites studies that show the loss of focus is a key reason companies fail. The antidote? Spurning good opportunities. “Not just haphazardly saying no, but purposefully, deliberately, and strategically eliminating the nonessentials. Not just getting rid of the obvious time wasters, but being willing to cut out really terrific opportunities as well,” he says. “Few appear to have the courage to live this principle, which may be why it differentiates successful people and organizations from the very successful ones.”

Don’t give your staff the resources they need to fix a problem

3Constraints breed resourcefulness. This is an idea that has been gaining influence in business circles for the last few years. “Is there something in the nature of constraints that brings out the best creativity?” writes Scott Berkun, the author of Mindfire: Big Ideas For Curious Minds. Consider a good haiku or sonnet, and the answer is obviously yes: it’s precisely the limits of the form that inspire new ways of working inside them. In the workplace, that means no more “blue sky” brainstorming: if you want the best answers to a question, focus it narrowly; consider a time limit, too. Google sometimes puts fewer engineers on a problem than it needs; it inspires ingenuity. Behind all this is the counterintuitive insight that discipline and structure are often the path to freedom, not its enemy. See constraints as a game. Not only are games about fun, but they are distinguished by the rules that govern them.

Forget trying to fix your weaknesses

4In a series of bestselling books, the Gallup consultant Marcus Buckingham has made a persuasive case for a strengths-based approach to life and business: it’s both more effective and more enjoyable, he argues, than struggling to fix your weak spots. According to Buckingham, most people try to “plug” their weaknesses, while the really successful focus on exploiting strengths. You’ll rarely improve a weakness beyond mediocrity, argues Buckingham, not least because it’s hard to invest sustained energy in something you don’t enjoy. If you truly know what you’re bad at, you’re already ahead of the pack. Don’t throw that away by wasting your time getting slightly less bad.

Don’t believe in long work

5Few things are as American as the belief in the merit of hard work. The problem is too many small business people confuse work and progress. A day when lots of things get done, when you arrive home exhausted after holding six meetings with staff and vendors, clearing 300 emails from your inbox, and finally straightening those old files in the backroom, sort of feels like a productive day, but it’s unlikely to have helped your business take the next step forward. Marketer Seth Godin calls this bias for efficiency over effectiveness “the trap of long work.”
“Long work is what the lawyer who bills 14 hours a day filling in forms does.
Hard work is what the insightful litigator does when she synthesizes four disparate ideas and comes up with an argument that wins the case—in less than five minutes.

“Hard work is frightening because you might fail. You can’t fail at long work, you merely show up.”

The management guru Peter Drucker suggested the best way to address this issue was by constantly asking yourself the question, “What’s the most important thing for me to be doing right now?”

Think small

6In his 1994 book Built To Last, Jim Collins introduced the world to Big Hairy Audacious Goals, or BHAGs, his term for the ambitious long-term goals that he argued galvanized successful companies. And it seems the term is rolled out in every discussion of good business practice. But the problem is that the excitement, energy, and envelope-pushing boldness stirred up by such endeavors often dissipates quickly in the face of the day-to-day running of business. Worse, such big-picture thinking, telling yourself something is epic and of crucial importance, often leads to fear, resistance and ultimately inertia and disappointment. As the psychologist John Eliot writes in his book Overachievement, “Nothing discourages the concentration necessary to perform well … more than worrying about the outcome.” The marathon runner who’s reached a state of “flow” isn’t visualizing the finish line, but looking through a narrower lens, focusing on one stride, then another, then another. Like the formula for contentment (happiness = reality – expectations), it’s often better to forget the end goal, aim low and just focus on the process if you really want to get things done. This can apply to everything from setting low targets for salespeople (spurred on by achieving the goal, they will often break through and hit a higher number) to big projects. The young Jerry Seinfeld’s scriptwriting technique involved marking an X on a calendar for every day he sat and typed. His goal was an unbroken chain of Xs. If he’d aimed instead to write masterful jokes, he’d have been distracted and intimidated.

Forget audacious. Just go do it.

Get rid of the rules

7Too often, managers assume the key to improvement must be clearer procedures, more exactingly enforced. But the result is organizational structures that permit zero autonomy — and extremely annoying customer service (“Sorry, sir, our policy doesn’t allow you to …”). Perhaps even worse is that such management fails to capitalize on the talents of those lower down the hierarchy. Zappos’ contrarian founder Tony Hsieh made headlines a few years back when he said he was rolling out “Management by Holacracy,” which eliminates the traditional oversight role of the manager and instead relies on the employees themselves to decide how to get their day-to-day responsibilities completed on the basis that they probably know best. That may be too much for most business owners, but according to Harvard Business School research, “loose monitoring” of employees makes for higher profits as well as happier workplaces. Striking the right balance between autonomy and control is very likely the essence of being a good manager.

Give away your time

8Overwhelmed by work? Feel you are in a constant race against the clock to get things done? Try making some time for others. “While it might seem counterintuitive to sacrifice some of the very thing you think you don’t have enough of, our research shows that giving a bit of time away may, in fact, make people feel less pressed for time,” Cassie Mogilner Holmes, an associate professor at UCLA and Michael Norton, a professor at Harvard told the Wall Street Journal. Another hack to deal with time scarcity — erase a day from your schedule. Busy? Don’t schedule anything for Fridays. The work you didn’t get done will flow over, and you’ll finally knock off those to-do list items.

Hire more introverts

9On the surface, introverts don’t seem to have the makings of great salespeople or even managers. Social interaction tires them, they have trouble with insincere flattery, they don’t like to push people, and they don’t tend to contribute vocally to meetings or brainstorming sessions. But there are positive flipsides to all this: introverts tend to demonstrate a higher degree of sensitivity in emotional interactions, they are more likely to be experts in their field, they are less likely to be yes-men or women, and as for managing people, they do better than extroverts when the staff itself is full of self-directed go-getters. “Although extroverted leadership enhances group performance when employees are passive, this effect reverses when employees are proactive, because extroverted leaders are less receptive to proactivity,” says Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking.

Be last to market

10Among business gurus, few things are as unquestioned as the notion that innovation is the path to success. “Innovate or die!” goes one mantra. Yet if innovation were a surefire way for companies to achieve dominance, the world might look very different. White Castle, RC Cola, and Diners Club were all innovators, but think of fast-food, soft drinks and credit cards, and those are unlikely to be the first names that come to mind. The upsides of unoriginality are clear: imitators let others make the costly mistakes, and then incorporate the lessons learned into a far better product. (Exhibit A: the iPhone.) In his book Copycats, the management theorist Oded Shenkar argues we need “to change the mindset that imitation is an embarrassing nuisance.” Rather, it’s a “rare and complex” capability, one we could all do with cultivating, he says. In his book Zero To One, Peter Thiel argues that “it’s much better to make the last great development in a specific market and enjoy years or even decades of monopoly profits.”

Run annoying ads … often

11There’s a reason that grating TV ads work: the more they grate, the more you’ll notice them, and noticing — thanks to what psychologists call the “mere exposure effect” — leads to liking.

Depressingly, whatever we’re repeatedly exposed to, and regardless of any other reason to like or dislike it, we’ll end up growing fond of. According to Roy H. Williams, author of The Wizard Of Ads, there’s actually no way for successful advertising to avoid being irritating to some degree. “Ads that twist our attention away from what we’d been doing are always a bit annoying,” he says. But if you fail to get your audience’s attention, your ad has failed at the first hurdle. “Consequently, most ads aren’t written to persuade; they’re written not to offend. But the kinds of ads that produce results make us answer yes to these three questions: Did it get my attention? Was it relevant? Did I believe it?” Williams claims 98.9 percent of all the customers who hate your ads will still come to your store and buy from you when they need what you sell. “These customers don’t cost you money; they just complain to the cashier as they’re handing over their cash.”

Stop holding meetings

12Jim Buckmaster, chief executive of Craigslist, has a simple policy: “No meetings, ever.” There are several reasons why meetings don’t work. They move, in the words of the career coach Dale Dauten, “at the pace of the slowest mind in the room,” so that “all but one participant will be bored, all but one mind underused.” A key purpose of meetings is information transfer, but they’re based on the assumption that people absorb information best by hearing it, when only a minority of us are “auditory learners.” The key question for distinguishing a worthwhile meeting from a worthless one is this: is it a “status-report” meeting, designed for employees to tell each other things? If so, it’s probably better handled on email or paper. That leaves a minority of “good” meetings, whose value lies in the meeting of minds itself — for example, a well-run brainstorming session.

Drop some F-bombs

13The jewelry world is one of refinement, education and professionalism, not the place for profanity. Yet swearing, when done judiciously, according to various psychologists, boosts endorphins, promotes social bonding and makes people more persuasive. Periodically, let your staff and customers know you’re human.

Stop asking, “Where do you want to be in 5 years?”

14Hiring employees who will challenge management is another staple of business advice, but everyone has probably worked with “yes, but” employees who basically oppose every new idea and approach. To find true contrarians, Thiel in his book Zero To One recommends asking the following question when interviewing employees: “Tell me something that’s true that nobody believes in.” (God, global warming and aliens don’t cut it.)

Don’t ask for the sale

15The traditional approach to selling says tout the benefits, close throughout, close with an assumption and then push for the add-on followed by another. You’re just efficiently taking the customer in a direction she wanted to go anyway. In contrast, the “slow sales” movement, which has been gaining ground for a few years, argues that there are intelligent, deliberate customers who prefer an almost “do-it-your self” zero-pressure environment. Granted, getting them to the cash register may take longer. But according to INC magazine, this technique alleviates the extra costs of post-purchase dissonance from returns, customer service time, negative feedback, and customer churn.

Look for mentors and staff who do it the “wrong way”

16Tim Ferriss has an interesting approach to considering contrarians: Be on the lookout for the anomalies, like the wispy girl who can deadlift 405 pounds. They’re performing with techniques rather than genes. “These iconoclasts show the differences in techniques and attributes,” he says. “If someone has become really good at doing something in a very nonstandard way, you can infer that the standard path isn’t necessarily the best methodology for learning a skill.”

Don’t promise excellent customer service

17Ask independent jewelers what is their point of competitive advantage and they’ll overwhelmingly say excellent customer service. But, something big corporations know (but never publicly say) is that delivering excellent customer service ultimately results in unhappy customers. Thus the field of “expectations management.” “If you want satisfied customers, it’s certainly wise to act in ways that will satisfy them. But it’s also wise to pay attention to (and, if possible, influence) their criteria for feeling satisfied,” writes Oliver Burkeman in The Guardian. Training customers, employees, and partners not to expect a “yes” in response to every single request might be crucial for preserving sanity. Far better to have a reputation as a jeweler who, for example, turns around a repair within three days than one who does it overnight — because in the latter case, as soon as you fail to deliver on that tight deadline, you’ll be seen as underperforming.

Ask customers for favors

18The “Ben Franklin effect” states that if you want to get someone to like you, you should ask him or her to do you a favor. The strategy, named for the founding father’s habit of borrowing books from opposing politicians to win them over, works because humans hate cognitive dissonance: we can’t stand a mismatch between our actions and thoughts. So if we find ourselves helping someone out, we’ll unconsciously adjust our feelings for them. The implications are striking. Don’t suck up to your customers — ask for favors or even just their opinions (“Where do you think the economy is headed?”).

Don’t be so professional

19We live in an era with more opportunity than ever to burnish the image we’re projecting, and more pressure than ever to do so. But in her new book, Cringeworthy: A Theory Of Awkwardness, Melissa Dahl makes a persuasive case for celebrating those times when “someone’s presentation of themselves … is shown to be incompatible with reality in a way that can’t be smoothed over.” Awkwardness pierces that facade, exposing the imperfect life behind it. Quoting the words of the philosopher Adam Kotsko, she says it creates “a weird kind of social bond” — a solidarity arising from seeing that behind the fakery, we’re all just trying our best to seem competent. The awkward you, then, is the real you, the one without the defensive performance. And people will like you for it.

Click here for 8 more Contrarian Rules, as well as the exclusive online article, “12 Contrarian Rules of Jewelry Retail.”

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Cover Stories

Next Generation Owners See Opportunity in Bozeman



When Jennifer Hornik Johnson was working in advertising in Atlanta, she might have had a hard time envisioning how she’d end up owning a jewelry store in Bozeman, MT. Born into a South Florida jewelry store family, Hornik decided to return there to work with her family, who sent her to the GIA to pursue a GG degree. While at the GIA, she met Cec Johnson, a former math teacher, who had also decided to work in his family business, Miller’s Jewelry of Bozeman, MT.

“It ended up being a marriage and a merger,” Jennifer says. For a while they commuted betweenSouth Florida and Montana, assuming a snowbird kind of schedule and working in both stores. But when their first baby came along, they realized they needed more stability and chose to settle down in Bozeman. Now they have two young children.

When Cec’s parents, Mark and Kay, turned 65 last year, it seemed like a natural time for them to transition into retirement. So on Jan. 1, Cec and Jennifer became the proud new owners of Miller’s Jewelry.

Miller’s Jewelry has been in the Johnson family for three decades, but it was established in 1882 — a year before Bozeman was incorporated — and had been owned by several local families before the Johnsons. The business has occupied one of the oldest buildings on Main Street for more than 70 years and is outfitted with wall cases built in the 1880s and safes from the turn of the 20th century. It’s a piece of history and a stop on city tours.

Cec and Jennifer Johnson are the new owners of his family’s store in Montana.

Cec and Jennifer see a lot of room for growth in Bozeman, which is both college town and tourist destination.

“We’re really excited about this chapter,” Jennifer says. “We knew what we were getting into. I do all the accounting and marketing; he does the inventory and he will have to take over more of the lab, which was his father’s domain. His mom was head of the sales floor, so we’re going to be doing more of that. We both did buying and inventory and merchandising and HR; we wear all the hats. It’s just going to be even more.”
Cec has two sisters who are not in the industry, so buying the business worked out best for their situation. “We did a big retirement sale and that was a way to touch more people and convey the message of the passing of the baton. And also sell a lot of inventory to lower our buy price and clean up older inventory.”

The new owners plan to ease out of the giftware business entirely to concentrate on fine jewelry. 

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