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Commentary: The Business

Jeff Unger: Remember When

A quarter century in the jewelry industry makes for a load of memories.

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A QUARTER CENTURY in the jewelry industry makes for a load of memories.

In August, I started my 26th year in the jewelry business. Time has flown by and I’ve enjoyed my time manufacturing, creating designs, making customers happy and meeting great people along the way. To say things have changed over the years is an understatement.

Last spring I was invited to give a lecture in Las Vegas on the changes I’ve seen in the industry, so I turned to where I often find my best inspiration: the golf course.

I found my presentation on the tee box of the third hole at my course two weeks before the gathering. I was playing with my golf mentor for a late afternoon round. We were talking about the changes in equipment and how much farther the ball travels off the club face today.

He then used three words we all have heard since we can remember. The same ones our parents used when talking about changes in technology, how the world has gotten smaller and there were only three stations on the TV. Those three words that make us feel we’re doing things wrong and how it was better back then: “I remember when.”

Even though I don’t consider myself a veteran in the industry, I guess I’m becoming one. So I compiled a list of thing I’ve seen over these years in our industry, and I’m trying to figure out if we’re better off today. Here is my list of “I remember whens.”

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  • I remember when the only national jewelry show was in two New York hotels. Today, that show is in what I call a hanger, the Javits Center, and the biggest show is in Las Vegas.
  • I remember when there were only 1,200 vendors at those New York hotels. At this past Las Vegas show there were approximately 2,600.
  • I remember when when only Rolex, Mikimoto and Tiffany where considered brands. Today, almost every company considers itself a branded line.
  • I remember when the salesmen traveled the country, making cold calls and were accepted and felt like a member of the family. Today, it’s dangerous, it costs too much, and stores don’t open their doors to cold calls.
  • I remember when you called a store, the owner was the one to answer and would talk with you. Today, you get an answering system, blocked by caller ID or e-mail.
  • I remember when the retailer was the expert. Today, the Internet has made every consumer the expert.
  • I remember when my first price list was based at $300 gold. Today, it’s priced at $1,600 and that may be too low.
  • And finally, I remember when at the age of 24 I was the young guy on the road. Today, I’m still considered the young guy on the road.

Jeff Unger was the president and co-owner of B & N Jewelry (d.b.a. Alisa Unger Designs) and a long-time INSTORE contributor. He passed away in February 2019 after a valiant 10-year battle with cancer.

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