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How I Win Over Young People Who ‘Don’t Like Jewelry’

Sell jewelry as the powerful talisman it always has been.

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WHY DO WE, HUMANS, have such a thing as jewelry?

I don’t think it was intended to mark status originally, back when we were walking around naked and hunting bears and living in caves. I think, on the contrary, it was because of the unforgettable experience of suddenly coming face to face with something amazing, a small thing that shimmered, so unlike anything else in your life, so special, that from that moment on, you knew your life was changed forever.

You held onto that gem, or pearl, or gold crystal, and knew you had to hold onto it, no matter what. But how? You had no pockets, you wore leaves, or maybe nothing! So you had to figure out some way of drilling it, or wrapping it, and, inevitably, hung it about your neck. In every culture, the first jewelry is always a pendant, one thing protected. When you have something around your neck, you are going to fondle it, and soon you become very attached to it; maybe it will protect you and become your secret power. And that, which I call Transcendence, is why we have such a thing as jewelry!

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So when your customer moans, “My daughter does not even like jewelry!” smile and resolve to bring back the magic. In a corner of my gallery, there is a partially enclosed space called the Gem Room with drawers of tourmalines, amethysts and colored sapphires and such, and I enjoy inviting people in to discuss custom work.

But when I see a young adult coming in, quick, before they whip out their electronics, I challenge them: “You look like someone who would like raw gems! Let me show you something unusual!” and I whisk them away to the Gem Room (while the parent goes about their business). I place in their hand a large raw lapis, full of pyrite stars, a piece of opal rough with a shimmering stripe in one corner, or a huge slice of watermelon tourmaline. A transformation! They are now alive.

Then you say “Wouldn’t this be right for Game Of Thrones (or a warrior in Wakanda)?” Then tell them where it came from, how hard it is to find and ask them, yes, to imagine themselves as a prehistoric human walking out of a cave, suddenly finding something amazing like this: wouldn’t they want to somehow keep it? But they have no pockets, they’d have to find a way to drill it, wrap it, maybe, and that is how jewelry comes into being. Then you walk away and let them play for a while.

You know that now they get it.

Eve J. Alfille is the owner of Eve J. Alfille Gallery and Studio in Evanston, IL.

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Gene the Jeweler Explains How to Fire People

In this episode of Jimmy DeGroot’s "Gene the Jeweler", Gene talks about how to fire people when necessary. He admits that confrontation is not his strong suit. His suggestion: Maybe being passive-aggressive for years on end will work?

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Commentary: The Business

Here’s How One Retailer Makes the Most of the Vegas Shows

Step 1: Create a buying guide.

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I AM DUMBFOUNDED BY the sheer number of independent store owners who arrive at a jewelry show without a clue of what they need to purchase. Many come without a plan, a list of fast sellers, zero data for cost-pricing comparisons or any idea of their budget.

My success and the welfare of my employees depends on the fact that I never go to any show without doing my due diligence. Many contemporaries can relate to the research needed for trend forecasting, evaluating inventory turn and countless hours of chatting up my customers (noting major anniversaries, milestone events, collection additions, etc.) to create a buying guide to make a show worthwhile. My shows are monetized from start to finish with customer-requested wish-list items, stock reorders or new items that will fit nicely into our existing inventory.

It is impressive to observe the Gen X jewelers who are savvy about a different way of doing business. No longer content with buying by trial and error, they work from proven business metrics of historical sales, volume/cost statics and a buying plan to procure the stock needed to achieve financial goals. They seek innovative, transparent companies who are committed to providing profitable inventory turn, thus ensuring everyone’s continued success.

When I attend a show, the bonus is often the sunny locales, the outings, the keynote speakers and elective education. I search for new relationships that will bring more life to my cases and stretch my advertising dollar, as well as ideas that will improve my retail end game. There are so many veterans who understand our industry and are willing to share their success secrets, introduce you to a key supplier or help you flesh out a better business plan.

So, escape your four walls, go to the shows, and see the buffet of gems and aisles of suppliers these venues have to offer. Learn about a new line, meet the designer, then take those value-added stories back to your sales floor to energize your team, reinvigorate your merchandising and escalate more positive numbers into your revenue stream. Commit to making a buying plan, then go to the next show or empower someone else in your little universe who is worthy to seize the opportunity and grab that golden ring.

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Commentary: The Business

This Jeweler Says Brands Are Competing With Brick and Mortar

Retailer says he’s heard this story before.

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IN THE MID-90’S to early 2000’s, I had a few brands that I felt were strong change how they did business. Even though they were built by the efforts of independent retailers, they decided they wanted a bigger share of the market and opened their own boutiques and brand stores. The rhetoric back then was how they would benefit my store by generating more brand awareness.

These brands further “helped me out” by making special styles or special gift-with-purchases available only in the company brand stores. To compete, I had to offer a level of service or prices that was not sustainable. My store became a showroom for people to look and then buy from the company boutique. The final nail in the coffin? These brands told me that due to a decrease in the volume I was selling, I was no longer able to order all of the items the brand offered.

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Fast forward 15 to 20 years, and brands are doing the same thing by moving direct to e-commerce. This year, two companies told me not to worry because there will be differences that make it more desirable to come to my store. I have heard this story before.

There are two truths I feel these brands display. One, they want a larger piece of the market. Two, they want to turn brick-and-mortar stores into showrooms for their virtual product. It happens all the time: a young guy comes into the store alone or with his fiancée and wants to see some rings. They take their time, ask us for our expertise and suggestions. We show them product, and then they end the visit with accolades of how helpful we are and friendly to deal with, and, “Can you size my finger?” and “I want to look around at some styles online.”

Speak to almost any supplier, manufacturer, brand, etc. in our business and ask them how the recent trade shows have been for them. I hear over and over how tough it is and how they are considering moving away from the trade show concept. Ask retailers about their buying habits, and there has been a shift to purchase less. Why? Because so many brands have carved up the pie to take a piece for themselves while still two-facedly saying they support the retailer.

Then to condescendingly tell me your stats and opinions on how these new “initiatives” will move the industry forward and increase my sales makes me just a tiny bit pissy.

To quote the English poet John Donne, “Never send to know for whom the bell tolls — it tolls for thee.”

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Commentary: The Business

Here’s How To Get Millennials’ Attention

Tell them your story, says fast-growing retailer.

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MANY ARTICLES HITTING newsstands today are pushing blame on millennials for everything from the decline in sales of paper napkins, to poor numbers at movie theaters, to even the decrease in market share for Budweiser and Coors.

As jewelers, we are very familiar with the decline in jewelry sales — most notably diamonds. It seems that every month, there is a new report blaming millennials for the number of failing jewelry stores, the shrinkage of diamond districts, and even the shift in the trend away from “two months’ salary.”

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Follow market history trends and you will start to see a pattern. When a “generation” of people begin to reach their 30s, they go from being cautious savers to consumers and spenders. Baby boomers hit that apex in the 1980s, and the country was hog-wild with money. Generation X hit their apex in the early 2000s, and housing markets and retail sales were booming. Now we are approaching the apex for millennials (2020 is the tipping point) — and they are a bigger generation than baby boomers and gen-Xers combined. Are you on the precipice for success when they hit the age of consumerism?

Being on the threshold between gen-X and millennials, I can tell you how offended I feel when millennials say it is everyone else’s fault they cannot afford to buy a house because they are up to their eyeballs in student loan debt. I am also offended when everyone else says millennials are a bunch of entitled babies who can’t toe the line. Blaming millennials clearly hasn’t been the answer because stores continue to close, diamond vendors are dropping like flies, and the millennials still aren’t walking into the jewelry stores that remain … except that they are! Many businesses just see them as the enemy rather than the opportunity.

Want to know how to sell to millennials? Get online and tell them your story. Take photos of your store, your team, your jewelry, your customers. Make the posts informational, fun, educational, and truthful. Put a few dollars into boosting your posts on Facebook and Instagram to people 23-35. Show them what makes you unique and how your expertise is worth the extra spend on a purchase. Stick with it, and they will start to come through your doors.

When they do walk in, be open-minded, then ask for (and respect) their budget. They will research what you tell them and probably not commit on the first visit. If you have patience, you will discover they are vehemently loyal when they make the decision to trust you as long as you give them a reason to. Take care of one millennial, and their friends will know in a heartbeat because social media works. Soon you will have a steady flow of the next generation of consumers breathing life back into your business.

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