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Sally Furrer: New demographics will challenge us to become jewelers of the future

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2011 was an interesting year for the jewelry industry. Thankfully most jewelers saw an increase in sales over the prior year, with even some progress in margin. A few even regained their sales volumes from pre-recession. Of special interest to me is that we saw the weakening of two powerful trends — the bead business and gold buying. These two business segments have kept many retailers “in the game” so to speak.

Looking to the future, we have to ask ourselves, how will we replace these two business segments? I feel strongly that we need to get back to our core business of selling fine jewelry. I am not suggesting that we go back to what we have done in the past. I believe that we need to ask ourselves, what will it take to become the jeweler of the future?

Here are a few merchandising strategies for 2012 that will help you grow your business:

  • Build your bridal business. Do you have strong bridal assortments? Consider a bridal store in store. It is a business that requires inventory and showcase commitment.
  • Create a custom business. The Millennials love to individualize or custom design their jewelry. Consider a store in store incorporating all the latest technology.
  • Lure the female self-purchaser. Are you merchandised appropriately for the female self purchaser — collections based on loosely coordinated designs, affordable price points, bold yet casual styling?
    I feel strongly that we need to get back to our core business of selling fine jewelry.
  • Stymie your competition with unique product. Do you carry proprietary product or exclusive brands? Have you created private-label collections that have a look and feel for a specific targeted demographic?
  • Differentiate yourself visually. Do your showcases tell a story of emotion and design? Emotion can be love, romance or accomplishment. Design can be a designer bio, manufacturing technique, or country of origin. Signage, images and displays will tell these stories.
  • Bring in fresh, new product every month. Are you managing your inventory (especially your aged stock) so that you have sufficient open-to-buy to buy throughout the year?
  • Identify your fast sellers and stock them. Are you replenishing your fast sellers weekly — the product your clients are telling you they want? This should comprise a minimum of 25 percent of your inventory and may be as high as 50 percent.

I hope that there is no question in our minds that our consumer has changed, so we need to change too. Millennial clients are totally different from the Baby Boomers (many of whom own jewelry stores and who constitute a large percentage of their current client base). They have different expectations, desires and wants. How we serve this new demographic will determine if we are relevant enough to earn their business.

Between the waning of bead sales and gold buying, the strengthening of Internet jewelry sites and the complexity of catering to a new client base, retail jewelry in 2012 will be very challenging for some retailers.

We should question all of the ingredients that make up our stores — store design, store experience, marketing and advertising, display and presentation, and especially, our merchandise. As retail becomes harder, our only choice is to become better at what we do!

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Sally Live!

Meet Sally at The SMART Jewelry Show, at Chicago’s Navy Pier from April 21-23, 2012. To register, go to smartjewelryshow.com/register

This story originally appeared in the January 2012 edition of INSTORE

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