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Seth Godin on How He’d Run His Very Own Jewelry Store

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Somewhere along the way, local jewelers got the memo: the plan is to be just like Tiffany’s, but a little cheaper, a lot more local. A jewelry store is supposed to be like a museum, with guards and glass cases and hushed tones and a curator. The customer is supposed to be ignorant and the clerk is supposed to be in charge.

That was a great plan when people couldn’t get to Tiffany’s. That was a great plan when I didn’t know how cheap I could actually get a diamond that size in that setting. That was a great plan until jewelry ended up being a very expensive, particularly useless commodi- ty. That was a great plan, in fact, until my wife decided that the only jewelry that was actually worth wearing came in a light blue box and everything else was sort of a short cut.

So, what do you do now? Give up? Realize that blue- nile.com and others have made it impossible to be the

cheapest? Accept that Harry Winston and a few others have made it impossible to be the most expensive? What’s left?

I’ve got three suggestions here (and I’ve written down a few hundred others in my books and on my blog, so feel free to steal ‘em). You can’t do all three at once. In fact, the key to my advice is that you can’t do anything useful at the same time as you’re doing what you’re doing now. Dunkin Donuts couldn’t change the coffee and become Starbucks. Take a look at every sin- gle retail success story of the last decade and you’ll see that every single one has nothing to do with the stores that they left in the dust. It’s an overhaul, not a tweak. 

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1. Cater to jewelry maniacs. These are the women who like buying jewelry more than they like wearing it. These women buy $3,000 a year in shoes, so why not jew- elry? In order to do this, you’ll need to figure out who they are and start stocking, displaying and talking about jewelry in terms of trends and seasons and looks. You’ll need to switch from being in the badge business to being in the fashion busi- ness.

2. Cater to husbands. Build a whole new store, one that’s all about getting lucky. The same way some lingerie stores are clearly for husbands, so will this jewelry store. Here, it’s about price and packaging. It’s about selling unique items that can’t be sourced online, that aren’t commodities, that let me buy something and score points without dropping thousands. And the packaging isn’t hidden behind the count- er. It’s the whole deal. It’s what you advertise. It should cost 30 times what your current package costs. The point of pack- aging for men is simple: does it make your beloved feel like you’ve done something completely and totally over the top? If it doesn’t, what’s the point?

3. Make it fun. Wow! Fun. Hard to imagine. Hard to imagine that a jewelry store might be fun. True story: I bought a really expensive watch. Brought it to the local jeweler in Tarrytown, NY to be engraved. First mistake: they took the watch, but grudgingly. Huh? Here’s a guy with a thousand dol- lar watch and you’re being mean to him? Doesn’t it make sense to build relationships every chance you can? Then, when I went to pick up the watch, instead of saying “Time Flies,” it said, “Times Flies”. Despite the fact that I had written down the inscription. The jeweler turned to my friend (the watch wasn’t for her) and said, and I’m not making this up, “Hey, can’t you just live with it?” And he wasn’t kidding. Neither am I—we’re not going back.

Jewelry is the one and only item that we definitely don’t need. Not one bit. But plenty of people want it. They really want it. They want it to be exciting and fun, from the moment they imagine the store to the way they are treated to the time they open the box to what their friends say when they see it. You don’t sell rocks. You sell fun.

SETH GODIN is the author of ten bestsellers and the most popular marketing blog in the world. Learn more by typing “seth” into Google. 


This article originally appeared in the January 2008 edition of INDESIGN.

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