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David Geller

What Jewelers Can Learn from Massage Therapists

A jeweler’s time is worth more than you may think.

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BECAUSE OF MY back, I get regular massages. It’s also one of the few times during a day I don’t need to talk to anyone at length. Today I asked my massage therapist how long you have to go to school to become a therapist and she said “about seven months.” I Googled that and saw “about a year.”

My regular place to get a massage was in a health club, but with COVID-19 I had to change. This massage therapist is great and works from a one-person office; I’ll continue with her even after the pandemic is over.

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When I first met her, she told me her hourly charge was $85 and then added, “I will give you a $5 discount if you pay in cash rather than a credit card or check.”

I know why she says this, but I scolded her: “No! Do not discount to get the cash. Charge more to use a credit card! Tell them $85 for cash and if you use a check or credit card it’s $90.”

(P.S. It’s legal now to charge your customer a fee for credit cards, limited to 5 percent.)

She took my advice and said all of her customers said “OK.” Her income has gone up.

I give her a $15 tip, so with me she takes in $100 for an hour’s work, which got me thinking about how much my bench jeweler friends charge per hour.

I started bench training at age 10, worked for two other jewelers, and had my own place for 25 years doing 75 percent of our $1.8 million from the shop. My price book was developed halfway into my store’s history. Since 2000 I have been selling my book and talking to jewelers in person, on the phone (a lot) and, prior to COVID-19, at store visits. I have spoked at most of the country’s 45 jeweler state associations, as well as at AGTA, RJO, IJO, Vegas Show, INSTORE’s SMART Jewelry Show in Chicago, the Atlanta Jewelry Show and a few others.

I think I have an incredibly good feel for the bench jeweler mentality. Don’t you agree?

My book is based upon a store charging/receiving $100 to $150 per hour for a jeweler’s workmanship. But many jewelers don’t think about what they need to charge but rather “what the customer will pay,” which is crazy. You know my mantra: Repairs are not price sensitive but trust sensitive!

Being on three to six Facebook groups for jewelers, I often get to see and participate in pricing discussions. People often talk about how much they charge to do one procedure, such as sizing or tipping.

Sometimes the discussion is on how much to charge per hour. Some of these jewelers are doing trade work, so you’d expect the amounts to be lower.

You won’t believe the range. Many quote anywhere from $25 to $36 to $75 per hour retail for their labor.

Jewel-Craft in Kentucky is the country’s largest trade shop, with more than 200 jewelers at the bench doing work for small independents as well as big jewelry chains. They told me two to three years ago their pricing is based on charging wholesale $85 an hour. Many jewelers are charging less than that retail!

(David’s math: If Jewel-Craft does a repair or custom job for you for $85, keystone you’d charge $170 for their hour’s work, or at triple key you’d charge $255. Why should you be getting less than this for your own work?)

So, back to comparing my massage therapist to bench jewelers, and let’s think about those bench jewelers charging $85 per hour or less, including jewelers not using my book or those who discount my book.

My wife and I have been to three independent massage therapists, and all three have small, lower rent offices. Let’s compare bench jeweler expenses to those of the therapist. I randomly Googled Atlanta area for the following chart.

Both Charge $85 an Hour

David’s best guess on overhead

Bench Jeweler

Massage Therapist

Support Staff

1-3 sales staff, office person

Typically just themselves

Rent

In Atlanta strip centers, $25 to $40 a foot and up

In Atlanta, about $14 a foot

Insurance

Guessing about $5000 a year UP. Insuring customer’s goods, your inventory, burglary, robbery (I had a bigger store and I paid $11,000 a year.)

(If a bench jeweler has a burglary he/she could customers’ goods — what a nightmare.)

Guessing less than $1000 a year, like apartment rental. No customer goods, no inventory.

(If a massage therapist gets burglarized, it may amount to few thousand in computers and one bottle of massage oil.)

Security

$6,000+ safe, $2,500 camera system, $150 month alarm fee

$300 camera system, which is a one- time buy

Advertising and Marketing

5% of sales. $350,000 a year = $17,000 a year

Mostly word of mouth

Computers/Point-of-Sale

$5,000 to $15,000

Web-based or nothing at all, maybe $500 a year

Tools & Vital Equipment

Complete bench tools/polish machine/casting machine/plating/rhodium solution. Easily $50,000 accumulated over time

Massage bed, less than $99 on eBay

Massage oil, $50 a week

Background music, free

School

New Approach School, three-month program, $13,000 plus living expenses

Massage school in Atlanta, seven months, $12,250

Time to Learn the Craft

Three to seven years

About a year

Wage

All over the board, $14 an hour to $30+ an hour.

Average of $18.75 an hour, according to Massage magazine

All of this effort and cost just to average $85 an hour income.

If this article has intrigued you, the massage therapy industry has its own trade magazine called Massage. It has an article titled “This is What the Highest Earning Massage Therapists Have in Common.” Amazingly, massage therapists have the same fears and conclusions that bench jewelers do. It’s eerie.

Here are a few takeaways:

  • Don’t be the cheapest in town.
  • High wages means moving beyond passion.
  • Stop taking tips. (Fifteen percent of low-income people gave them tips. High wage people gave virtually none. This author raised her charge and eliminated tips. Everyone was happy, and her income increased.)
  • Be the specialist in your field.
  • Take off your “Poor But Pure” badge.
  • You must work for success.
  • Attract the clients you deserve.
  • Put yourself out there.

Additionally, you must conquer the fears of:

  • Rejection.
  • Disapproval.
  • Failure.
  • Being viewed as aggressive.
  • Being self-serving.

2021 involves a lot of starting over, and many jewelers have closed. It’s time to get this right.

David Geller is a 14th-generation bench jeweler who produces The Geller Blue Book To Jewelry Repair Pricing. David is the “go-to guy” for setting up QuickBooks for a jewelry store. Reach him at [email protected].

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