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Zen Jeweler: Pro Leagues

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Whether it involves 300-pound linemen or fine jewelry, it’s the same retailing game, says Jeff McCandless.THIS IS NOT a pep-talk. Don’t get out your pom-poms, and wave your arms around talking about ?Giving 110 percent!? and ?One game at a time!? 
 
This is, instead, about a concept. The Super Bowl, of course, is a game of football, played at the end of every season. But it’s also more than that. It’s a symbol of what smart retailers should start thinking about as a strategy for the coming years. 
 
There are lots of football games. There are kids playing every week, from age 5 to age 22, and if you want to see football live, you can pay $5 to see the local high school or college team. Naturally, if you want to see Penn State play Alabama, you pay $40, and that’s even if Alabama wins by 35 points. It becomes obvious pretty quickly that the $40 is no guarantee that the game will be good, and in fact, often it’s not. The same is true of a pro game. You pay $100 for good seats (which are not as good as your couch at home) and $8 for a hot dog and soda. Hmm … but it’s still better to go to the game! 
 
The Super Bowl, on the other hand, makes you pay $1,000 and up for a ticket, and that’s if you can get one. The NFL could probably sell half a million tickets. You might even end up paying to see it on a big screen-TV in your local bar.  
 
Here’s the thing. When you’ve been to the Super Bowl, seen it live in the stadium, my guess is that most of the enjoyment comes after the game, when, for five years, you get to tell your friends that you were at the Super Bowl. The game itself isn’t the important thing, really. You probably couldn’t see that well, and it was unlikely that it was even a close game.  
 
But, if someone offers you tickets again, you’d go in a minute. Because of the prestige, because of the exclusivity.  
 
Isn’t that the same as jewelry? You can get it cheap on the Internet, and you can get it cheap at the mall. If you think they want to pay the same at your store as they did on the Internet, you’re wrong. They will pay more, as long as there is exclusivity involved. Give them that, give them an experience, something they can talk about to their friends. Set yourself apart in every way, so that they cannot get the same experience anywhere else.  
 
When you shop, what is it that makes you pay more? When you eat at a fine restaurant, what makes it fine? Often, it’s the atmosphere, and the little extras. Years ago, a friend bought a new, high-end German car. He told me how people constantly mentioned that the bolts holding in his license plate matched the color of the plates. He was surprised how people would point it out to others. He spent $50,000 for the car, and the fact the bolts had to match the plates became the talking point.  
 
To me, that means your wrapping paper had better be top-notch, and you should be sending flowers to your good clients. Maybe have a small box of Godiva chocolates ready for Valentine’s Day shoppers. The little extras don’t cost that much, and they reap big rewards. 
 
Don’t spend a ton of money on a new vendor, buy billboard space to advertise the fact, train your staff to sell the new jewelry, and then say ?But good wrapping paper is so expensive!? Because, believe me, that compromise on wrapping paper will end up being the one thing that keeps your customers from having the experience they want. 
They want to talk about you. They want you to be an experience they enjoy repeating. For many men and women, you are the Super Bowl.  
 
Okay, now you can get out the pom-poms.

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