With THEIR pharmacy degreeS, 20-odd years of experience managing small-town drug stores, and not much more than a hobbyist’s interest in gems and metalwork, Jamie Peghiny and his wife, Sandi Hammond, didn’t seem to be bringing a lot to the table when they decided to try their hands at jewelry retailing.
Yet the people skills needed to run a successful pharmacy proved to be an almost perfect fit for dealing with customers looking to buy precious baubles.
This year, their store, Southborough Jewelers in Southborough, MA, is on track to post $1.2 million in sales, up 37 percent on last year and a far cry from the $189,000 it generated in its first year, 2001.
“Pharmacy is a very trust-driven profession, just like jewelry. Basically it’s about taking care of people, trying to give them the best advice possible about something which is very personal,” Peghiny says.
It also helped that the couple’s pharmacy work taught them to watch inventory like a hawk (expiration dates on drugs are often critical), and get to know many people in the affluent town of fewer than 10,000, which is about 30 miles west of Boston. “It gave us a built-in clientele,” says Peghiny.
The other big factor in the store’s success has been the owners’ willingness to learn; a good thing given how little they knew when they started.
Their first store was a humble affair — an 1,800 sq-ft strip mall space, which they filled with second-hand show-cases and a giftware section.
The pair joined the Polygon network and closely followed the discussions on the forum’s business channel. They also sought out help from Abe Sherman’s BIG buying group. Sherman advised Peghiny and Hammond to drop the giftware, bring in more jewelry and get in touch with Business Resource Services in Seattle, WA, and join one of its performance groups.
“That was one of the best things we ever did,”?Peghiny says. “There were 10 people in our performance group. It was like having 10 mentors. When-ever we needed advice on anything, we could get it.”
Armed with the new know-ledge, sales at Southborough’s grew steadily, rising 20 percent a year as the store accumulated a host of well-performing brands including Andrea Candela, Betsy Frost Designs, Trollbeads, Ed Levin, Pandora, Cape Cod Jewelry, and most recently, Hearts on Fire.
The Southborough growth story hadn’t run its course yet though. An inspired decision to actively buy gold about three years ago, along with the success of HOF and an ad campaign to attract people from outside of town who didn’t want to fight the crowds at the area’s biggest mall sent sales into overdrive. Growth has hovered near 40 percent since.
Peghiny says the key to their success has been managing inventory by price point and staying focused on bestsellers.
“I can’t believe it myself sometimes. But I?think we can keep growing, scale it upwards and continue to attract new customers.”