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The Best Tips of The Year




Expert advice wrapped in a holiday package for you.


[dropcap cap=2010 WAS A YEAR OF TRANSITION.] Not only did it signal the start of a new decade, it saw the evolution of social media into an integral part of hundreds of millions of people’s daily lives … it frowned on a natural disaster of enormous proportions in the BP oil spill, changing the economic makeup of an entire region … and it rejoiced at the end of a recession (although many jewelers are still waiting to see the results in their own businesses). We live in an unsettled time, with so much still in flux: consumer attitudes, technologies and, as a result, appropriate retail strategies. [/dropcap]

It was one of the most important years ever for INSTORE to deliver the most practical advice of the day, from experts who understand what’s going on “out there” and in your store.

 In the following pages, we compiled and categorized the best tips from both INSTORE and INDESIGN in 2010.You don’t have to read them now — you’ve likely got too much to do to get through the holiday rush. Wait for the dust to settle, and rest assured that you’ll have here in your hands the tools you need to start 2011 on the right note.


[componentheading] STRATEGY[/componentheading]
ADVICE FOR NAVIGATING A BUSINESS through the troubled economic waters of 2010 revolved around specialization and improvement by increments — in order to make it through the tough times and emerge stronger than ever on the other side.

[li]Differentiate your store as a leader in one area (such as being the colored gemstone experts). It does not preclude you from selling other types of merchandise, but it does help you to stand out. The people who hear your refocused advertising are the people who didn’t pay attention before.  — Andy Malis, MGH [/li]
[li] To increase purchases from luxury customers, hone in on the $700 to $750 price point. Affluent shoppers spend freely in that range, and customers initially tempted by such a spontaneous purchase frequently return to spend thousands more. Barry Benowitz, Gail Fine Jewelers, Newport Beach, CA[/li]
[li] When it comes to charity, choose one or two charities and become very important to them, rather than donating $20 or $25 across the board. The way you become important to your community is to contribute to the success of the community.  — George Whalin, Retail Management Consultants [/li]

[componentheading] STORE ENVIRONMENT[/componentheading]
OUR EXPERTS SAID THAT IN 2010, consumers’ greatest desires were for time off from work. It only makes sense, therefore, that retailers do their best to turn shopping environments into a place where customers can escape into a world of comfort and luxury.

[li]Women feel most comfortable in an environment with curves and soft edges, spotlessly clean surroundings, attractive restrooms and large and conveniently located mirrors. — Paco Underhill, Author of “What Women Want”[/li]
[li]Create a custom scent for your store to increase customers’ lingering time as well as the perceived value of your merchandise. Incorporate printed scent into your mailings, which is released when someone slightly touches the paper. — Harald Vogt, The Scent Marketing Institute [/li]
[li]Include a digital jukebox in your store. Customers are unlikely to leave until their song plays — and when it does, it becomes their store. — Patrick Rodmell, Watt International [/li]
[li]Play music that will be familiar to a majority of your customers. In a study from the Long Island Conservatory, participants who listened to familiar music that they enjoyed had lower anxiety levels than those who listened to music they didn’t like. And relaxed customers are more likely to stay longer and spend. — George Stefano, Long Island Conservatory [/li]
[li]Got a custom shop you want to promote? Use images of your custom designs in digital portfolios on touch screens in your store, and in newspaper and magazine ads, too. Overhead LCD screens can show the designs on a constant loop. Then, sit down with a client in front of the monitor and creatively sell him. — Greg Stopka, Jewelsmiths, Pleasant Hill and San Ramon, CA [/li]

[li]Luggage, old books [5] and vintage furnishings can be used as props to trigger an emotional response of nostalgia. — Joanna Felder and Bess Anderson, Chute Gerdeman Retail [/li]

[li]Preview coming attractions to build customer interest in new collections or pieces. For example, create a display heralding your Antwerp diamond buying trip, or show a sample from a new line you have acquired that’s due to arrive soon. — Joanna Felder and Bess Anderson, Chute Gerdeman Retail [/li]


[li] After the Academy Awards, hit your favorite fashion websites to find out who wore what. (The “latest news” link in the News section of has an exhaustive list of red carpet sightings.) In your showcases, place a photo or two of your favorite stars wearing a piece from a designer you carry. Mention your discoveries in an e-mail bulletin. — INSTORE [/li]

[li]Your showcases should be versatile. You should be able to use them in one configuration today, and a modified layout later. — Patrick Lowe, Tecno Display [/li]

[li] Place your island showcase no less than eight feet from your store’s entrance. When people walk through a door, it takes them some time to slow down. If your cases are too close to the front, they will walk right by without seeing what is inside. — Ruth Mellergaard and Sarah Yates, Grid/3 International [/li]

[li] Pedestals on legs and sitting on wood cabinets are becoming more popular. They can be easily moved and used in many parts of the store. — Patrick Lowe, Sales Manager, Tecno Display[/li]

[componentheading] MARKETING[/componentheading]
AS CONSUMERS spend more and more time online, expert advice in marketing naturally turned to making the most of websites, social media and e-mail strategies. And the same-old, same-old doesn’t cut it anymore when it comes to events.

[li] Look for a Web designer who can create websites that: use cascading style sheets (CSS) so it’s easier to test variations of site elements; employ text-oriented navigation (instead of images or Flash) since it’s much easier to test and optimize; and have a fluid design where elements can be moved without interrupting the surrounding content. — Kim Ann King, Sitespect [/li]


[li] Change a design element on the front page monthly, whether it’s a special or the current birthstone or something else. — Harout Khadarian, logic mate [/li]

[li]Use video when it offers a better experience than text and images can. That could include video testimonials, a clip on the history of the family business, or perhaps an instructional guide on how to use your website’s “build-a-ring” feature. Should you need a video producer, start your search at, a network of thousands of pros who’ll bid for the job. — INSTORE [/li]
[li] Write a regular company blog [8] to create fresh and keyword-relevant content on your website. Once you’ve created this content, you can leverage the information across your social networks with direct links to your website. — Michael Schechter, Honora [/li]

[li] Always use positive language, even for the simplest statements. “Orders received by 2 p.m. will be shipped out today!” is much better than “Orders received after 2 p.m. will not be shipped until the next business day.” Use “Buy,” instead of “Submit” for orders. And use “Join Now” or “Sign Up,” again rather than “Submit,” to register for an e-mail bulletin. — [/li]

[li] Make guys shopping for jewelry feel a bit safer when browsing your website by installing a “panic button” [9] on every page. If the fiancée-to-be walks in at the wrong moment, the guy can click the panic button, and it takes him to a blank screen. When the coast is clear, he hits the same blue button again, which then takes him back to the ring he’s thinking about. — Vardy’s Jewelers, Cupertino, CA[/li]
[li] Through Google Analytics, Google offers a free piece of code that your Web designer can place on your site that gives you a wide range of information on how consumers are using your website as well as how they are finding out about you. They also provide you with Web-based software to consolidate this data. — Michael Schechter, Honora[/li]

[li] To keep the conversation going on Facebook, update your page two or three times a week . — INSTORE [/li]

[li] Build your personal brand identity through your personal Facebook Profile before you create a Business Fan Page. Brand yourself first and build a network of people that you have connected with through similar interests and hobbies. Then, take the next step and create a fan page for your business. — Daniel Gordon, Samuel Gordon Jewelers, Oklahoma City, OK [/li]

[li] The best uses for Twitter include making updates to short-term promotions, such as VIP-customer-appreciation sales, and keeping an ear out for what people might be saying about your store in the tweetosphere. — INSTORE[/li]

[li]The next time a customer pays you a compliment, pull out your digital camera and ask if they could repeat it so you can film it. Upload it to YouTube, and the places you can use it are endless — from your website to an in-store video display.  — Rick Segel, Retail Consultant and Speaker [/li]

[li]Create a contest video promotion for YouTube, encouraging customers to make a video promoting your business for a prize. The only requirement is that it’s clean and relates in some positive way to your business.— Rick Segel, Retail Consultant and Speaker [/li]


[li]For nice sandwich boards, check out and Be sure they’re water resistant, which requires a lip at the top of the board to deflect rain. — Michael Hamilton, Hamilton Hill, Raleigh, NC [/li]

[li]Offer a 10-percent discount to any bridal customers who gather three business cards from rivals and comes back to make their purchase with you. — INSTORE

 [li]Got people in your market who won’t drive across town to your store? Take your store to them instead! Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen have driven their ice-cream-truck-turned-boutique to high-traffic locations in New York City with spectacular success. — INSTORE[/li]

[li] Integrate wish lists into your system. However you collect the information, it should end up in the customer’s data file. This will ensure easy retrieval to generate more sales and to make those wishes come true. — Nancy Schuring, Devon Fine Jewelry, Wyckoff, NJ [/li]

[li]Have each salesperson hand out two business cards every day outside the store. The grocery store, dry cleaner, beauty parlor — anywhere. You’re their customer, so it’s only logical they become your customer. — Dave Richardson, Sales Trainer [/li]

[li]Capture friends of friends. Encourage the people who are already on your list to pass your e-mails along to their friends. Offer an incentive if the friend signs up and mentions them. — Wendy Lowe, Campaigner[/li]


[li] To reach inactive customers in your database, contact them with a special offer. No response after two or three  attempts? Consider those addresses inactive and either remove them from your list or move them to a list you contact only once or twice a year. — Steve Robinson, Constant Contact [/li]

[li]As a way to encourage customers to sign up their friends for your newsletter, try a new twist: “You and every one of your friends who signs up will get a 15 percent discount.” Now your customer has special access to a discount that she can pass along to friends. — INSTORE [/li]

[li]When producing a store catalog, use photos of your family members modeling their favorite jewelry from the store. It’s like a personal photo book and each year the people in it are one year older. — Adam Comfort, Comfort & Son Jewelers, Vestal, NY[/li]

[li]“Pay” your customers for providing you with information. Let them know that by giving you personal data, they’ll gain access to special sales, programs, invitations and other benefits. Then keep your promise and provide them with the reward. — Nancy Schuring, Devon Fine Jewelry, Wyckoff, NJ[/li]


[li]Create an event around gathering testimonials. Promote it as a chance to network, swap stories and star in the creation of new marketing materials for your store. Hire a videographer and photographer and let your customers cycle through the video seat to tell their stories of success at your store. Keep it light and fun (wine helps). Once you capture the video, audio and still photos from the event, you’ve got a testimonial and success story library that could infuse your marketing materials, broadcast and print ads for years. — John Jantsch, Duct Tape Marketing [/li]

[li]At your next store event, set some pieces aside for a silent auction, but also put a “buy it now” price on it, a la eBay. — INSTORE [/li]

[li]Want to draw a younger crowd to your next event? Set up a photo studio where a professional will photograph your customers trying jewelry on with their friends, and then post the pictures to their Facebook pages. — INSTORE[/li]

[li]If you need to hold an inventory reduction sale, plan it as an event with wine, music and carefully selected customers. Cover up the sale merchandise to create a sense of mystery, and unveil it at a predetermined time. — Curtis Bennett, O.C. Tanner, Salt Lake City, UT[/li]

[li]Shoot photos and videos of all events. Photos can be sent to regional publications (or trade pubs like INSTORE), while videos can go on your website and social networking sites [20]. — INSTORE [/li]

[li] Invest in a digital SLR (single lens reflex) camera to bring your photos to a new level. Combine it with a 60 mm to 100 mm macro lens to take close-ups of gems and jewelry [21]. — Robert Weldon, GIA [/li]

[li] A light box works well to photograph jewelry you take in for repair, but to shoot jewelry you intend to sell, use a light tent, which will offer much more flexibility in terms of angles to shoot from. Get one with coated fabric for UV protection, which won’t discolor over time. A good light tent will also feature a paper background, which won’t fold or crease. — Stephen Dougherty, Table Top Studio[/li]

[componentheading] SALES[/componentheading]
JUST AS TODAY’S consumers prefer a more personal setting when shopping for more personal jewelry, they also prefer — surprise, surprise — a more personal sales approach. Our experts offered strategies for connecting with clients, finding out more about them and their needs, and delivering in spectacular fashion. 
[li]To calculate closing ratios, install a counter in your door hooked up to your computer. Then count the sales slips for each day. Divide the number of people who came into your store by the number of sales. — Shane Decker, Ex-Sell-Ence, INC. [/li]

[li]After each customer, have the salesperson fill out a form. Find out whether they closed the sale, if they attempted an add-on, if they presented a “wow” item, if they used team selling or if they “walked” them. Use this information to identify areas in which to help your staff members improve. — Shane Decker, Ex-Sell-Ence, INC. [/li]

[li]Before the holidays, call your best customers , but don’t deliver a generic message. Instead, say something aggressive and specific like: “Good morning, Mrs. Gotrocks. I have a special piece that just came in and it has your name all over it. It would look just perfect on you. May I bring it to your home? Or would you rather come down to our store?” — Ken Gassman, Jewelry Industry Research Institute [/li]

 [li]Your body language can speak volumes. Uncross your arms and legs to tell people, “I’m unarmed.” Tilt your head to say, “I’m interested.” Open both palms to say, “I’m being straight with you.” — Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval, Authors of “The Power of Nice”” [/li]

[li]Never wait for customers to ask to see products. Instead, follow their eyes as they look. If you see them focusing on something, pull the product out and say, “Can I see it on you?” rather than asking if they would like to try it on. — T. Lee, T. Lee Fine Designer Jewelry, Minneapolis, MN [/li]

[li] Encourage men to buy a gemstone, rather than finished jewelry that the woman may not like. Then, package it beautifully, along with a couple of designer sketches of what a ring or pendant might look like. You can also suggest he add a gift certificate toward designing the actual piece. — Eve Alfillé, Eve J. Alfillé Gallery and Studio, Evanston, IL [/li]

[li] After closing the sale, send the customer off with a an assertive farewell: “Now before you go, let me show you your next purchase.” You’ve planted a seed for satisfaction and return sales. — Bob Phibbs [/li]

[componentheading]CUSTOMER SERVICE [/componentheading]
CUSTOMERS EXPECT MORE service than ever. So much so that what “wowed” customers in the past may be seen as average today.

[li]Send out a holiday e-newsletter letting your customers know that while they’re waiting for their gifts to be wrapped, they can relax and enjoy refreshments. Offer to take photos of the newest things they might like and e-mail them. Offer to gift-wrap and mail purchases so they can avoid the post office. — Marcy Feldman, Heartwear Designs, Birmingham, MI[/li]

[li]Do house calls. Office calls, too. Advertise the service. As soon as you set foot in the door, a big sale is almost guaranteed. — James Porte, Porte Marketing Group [/li]

[li]Single out sales associates to become brand specialists. It builds confidence and empowerment in employees and creates a valuable resource for other staff members and customers. — Mike Wilson, Wilson & Sons Jewelers, Scarsdale, NY[/li]

[li]On those rare occasions that a customer is less than 100 percent happy, treat them to dinner at a fine restaurant. So even if there is a slight glitch, the customer ends up raving about your store. — Steve Quick Jeweler, Chicago, IL[/li]

 [componentheading]THE BEST OF… [/componentheading]
OUR THREE MONTHLY COLUMNISTS — David Brown, Shane Decker and David Geller — covered topics this year that included strategies for inventory, management, compensation plans, sales, hiring, repair pricing, custom design promotion, and more. Here are a few of their best tips in condensed form. To read their full columns from 2010, visit

[li] Determining your savings and lifestyle needs, and working backwards to determine the levels of profit needed to meet those needs, is the most effective way to set your budgets. Some jewelry-specific systems will provide you with a further budgeting breakdown by department so you know what sales and mark-ups you will require across each category. Break down these budgets into monthly and daily targets, so you can soon see when you are heading off course and take action to get back on track. [/li]

[li] Make it a habit to read your daily sales report. It should provide you a list of what sold any given day, who sold it, how much profit was made on the item, whether it is still in stock or needs to be reordered. It also provides you with totals for the day of sales, discount given, average retail value and mark-ups achieved. Consider this report to be like a letter from your customers telling you what they like … and what they don’t. [/li]

[li]Check vendor reports on a monthly and yearly basis. Which vendors contribute the most to your sales and gross profit? What percentage of sales comes from your top vendors? Whose product gives you the best average retail value and the best margin? Whose products have you too much/too little stock of? [/li]

[li]When asked by a customer for a discount, offer an alternative. This could be vouchers (which will cost you less and bring them back into the store) or a discount on an alternative item with more margin, or one that you really want to get rid of. [/li]

[li]When approached for a repair, open Geller’s Blue Book, point to the price and say “and that’s all it’ll be.” If asked about the price, explain without apology how the work is performed.

In order to explain your repair pricing, ask your jeweler or yourself these questions so you can answer them easily, quickly and without hesitation:
[li] How long have you been doing jewelry work?[/li]
[li]How long have you worked for this company?[/li]
[li]What’s the most expensive thing you’ve ever worked on in your career?[/li]

Then use the answers in your explanation.

[li]To help a customer with a size 6 knuckle and a size 5 or even a 4-1/2 finger, use top-heavy and hollow ring sizers that make it clear to the customer that she just might have to live with a twisting ring because of her knuckle size. There is a technical solution to twisting rings, but it comes at a price: expandable shanks made by companies such as FingerMate and SuperFit. The key to selling them is to remind the customer of the comfort, hour after hour, day after day, year after year. [/li]

[li] When a ring has five stones or more, charge an additional $25 in addition to the sizing for checking, tightening and guaranteeing against stone loss for a year. You should charge extra even if you didn’t have to tighten the stones because you’re responsible for stone loss. Over time, this will pay for the cost of lost stones, the labor to install them and profits on your jobs. For the customers who say “No thank you,” simply write “no guarantee on stone loss” on the job envelope. [/li]

[li]The interruption technique: Right before the client is ready to leave after a purchase, have another sales associate pull a loose diamond that’s more than a carat in size. Your associate should put it into a four-prong, 2-inch, spring-loaded diamond holder. She then wraps the holder and the diamond in fresh, brand new diamond paper. Your teammate walks over to you with the diamond and paper in her hand, and, speaking directly to you, somewhat quietly but loud enough for the client to hear it: “I know he would love to see what’s in this paper.” The client was getting ready to leave, but now he’s decided, “I’m not going anywhere.” [/li]

[li]Give your clients a loupe to show them you have confidence in the quality of your diamond. Show each client how to use it and tell them that when they go to a store down the street and the diamond doesn’t come with a lab report, you want them to know what the diamond should look like. [/li]

[li] An old wives’ tale says “He who speaks first loses.” Not true. Sometimes, it’s best to give your client a second to think about it. On the other hand, if you’ve said something that’s made the customer be silent for three to five seconds, you will need to speak and give him reassurance. [/li]

[li]The client asks, “Is this your cash price?” He’s saying he wants to buy it, but he wants to see if you think it’s worth the cost. So, re-romance the value (for example, use a rarity statement like this: “You know, it takes a million diamonds mined to obtain a single carat-sized diamond”). Hold your price. [/li]

[li]A couple looks at each other, then the item, and there’s no conversation. He’s looking intently at her and reading everything she says with her eyes. Look at her and ask her three or four questions. “Do you love it?” “Yes.” “Is this the one you want to wear every day of your life?” “Yes.” “Is this the one you want to wear leaving here today?” “Yes.” Now you don’t have to say a word; he heard three yeses. [/li]

[li] Ask another sales associate to get a refreshment for both you and your client (drink the same beverage as your client, unless he chooses wine or another alcoholic beverage). When the refreshments are brought, get on the same side of the case. Now you’re discussing the jewelry in his hand and eating or drinking something together, which relaxes the client. That’s powerful when you’re selling $10,000 items.[/li]

If you don’t receive INDESIGN, you missed some interesting takes on our industry from experts who can deliver an outsider’s view of it. This section, which calls for experts and celebrities to imagine how their own jewelry store would look and operate, will be found in INSTORE in 2011. Meanwhile, enjoy these nuggets of advice from 2010.

[li]My store would appeal to me and the women I identify with. We all appreciate the vintage styles that are so popular these days but don’t want to wear our grandmother’s jewelry. We want our heirlooms more vibrant, fresher, but with the quality and appeal of the most sought-after jewels in the world. From the art-deco style, to the variety of showcases, mirrored walls, comfortable sitting areas and a vanity desk for trying on jewelry as if at home, everything in our store says “stay, have fun.” — Ivanka Trump, Founder and Principal of Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry

[li] My sales associates are stylish and sophisticated — the women embrace a fun, flirty and feminine look, wearing designer dresses. A fashion stylist is also on hand at all times to discuss different looks. Stylish women want to visualize how to accessorize with jewels, and the stylist illustrates which pieces of jewelry work best with various outfits. We illustrate these designs to our clients via computer-generated images, in real time. — Wendy Furrer, Former on-air reporter for CNBC’s “High Net Worth”

[li] I would try to build relationships with customers while they are young. I would build a relationship that would survive through online portals, social networking sites and exchanges of e-mails and telephone calls. I might hold classes or even get them interested in jewelry through low-cost jewelry gifts or sales. My goal would be to build a lifetime customer, not simply to get revenues for this year. — Michael J. Critelli, Former CEO of Pitney Bowes

[li] I would offer the service of a writer to help clients compose a special note to go with the gift of jewelry for that important event. As a means of connecting the store with the broader community, I would welcome local nonprofit organizations to use my space in the evenings for fund-raisers. — Michael Lee Stallard, Author of “Fired up or burned out: How to reignite your team’s passion, creativity of productivity”

[li]Employees are never allowed to ask customers any question that will result in the answer, “Fine.” Instead, employees would only ask open-ended, passion-finding questions like, “What keeps you busy outside of work?” and “What was the best part about your week?” Furthermore, the question, “So, what do you do?” would be outlawed completely. Because your job isn’t to learn what people do — it’s to learn who they are. — Scott Ginsberg, “The Nametag Guy” (and Author of a dozen books)

The only column appearing in INDESIGN, “Selling Designs” invites an expert each month to give advice on how to sell designer jewelry. Here are some tips to use in your store.

[li] When you pull out that special branded piece, make it a show. Cover the piece with a cloth and gently polish it as you talk about the features and how special it will make the recipient feel to own a piece like this every time it’s worn. Build the anticipation of actually seeing the piece that you’re describing. Cradle it in your hands as if it’s worth a million dollars before presenting it with outstretched arms to your client. — Harry J. Friedman, The Friedman Group [/li]

[li] Take your cues from your client and engage her in dialogue. She sees much more than stones and metals; she sees creativity, imagination, inspiration, and you share with her the story of the work, and of the work’s author. You become her tour guide, standing and walking side by side. She is entertained … educated … and very soon, you understand what she wants and needs. — Zdena Jiroutova, Z Folio Gallery, Solvang and Monterey, CA[/li]

[li] Before I am a salesman, I am a storyteller. My design sketches, often derived from photographs I have taken, tell my story of creative inspiration and passion for life. By listening to my customer and discovering common interests and understanding, we form a bond that is the beginning of a trustworthy relationship. I offer ideas that fulfill the emotional needs and desires of the customer before me. — Steven Tapper, Tapper’s Diamonds & Fine Jewelry, West Bloomfield and Novi, MI[/li]

[li] Cut out ads from fashion magazines and role-play with your sales associates. Typically, these ads feature new or trend-driven designs, so the colors of the outfits should be representative of the clothing your clients will be wearing. Ask your associates to identify the jewelry in your store that best complements the outfit featured in the ad, then discuss why they would give that advice based on fashion trends, color trends or personal style. — Adam Graham, American Gem Trade Association [/li]

[li] Honesty is crucial when you’re selling fashion. Women will pay for your opinion. If she says, “Does this look good on me?” don’t say yes just because you want to sell it. Be honest. Not every piece was designed to go on every finger. If she asks, “Which one do you like the best?” tell her you like both but why you like one better on her. — Shane Decker, Ex-Sell-Ence, INC. [/li]

[li] An effective designer jewelry presentation requires that I clearly understand both the client’s message (either to a gift recipient or to the public at large), and the designer’s inspiration and vision, and that I can make the match between the two. What I’m really offering is the designer’s passion — not his or her name, and not the materials from which the piece is made. — Kate Peterson, President, Performance Concepts[/li]


[span class=note]This story is from the December 2010 edition of INSTORE[/span]

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