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The Year Ahead

2020 promises to be a year of tumult with the most impactful changes likely to come from the political and economic arenas. The very name of the year also invites looking ahead. So, what do jewelers see? In this section, we dive into political and economic forecasting.

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POLITICS

It’s been called the era of outrage. And sure enough, jewelers are finding themselves getting irked more often. Whether it starts with the political issues, or with the political parties themselves, or is just being inflamed by the social media, we won’t conjecture. What’s clear is that many jewelers are angry. Here we look at who in particular is angry and the business and personal issues most on the minds of jewelers.

40. How much do you think the outcome of next year’s elections will affect your personal economic situation?

Greatly
41%
Somewhat
37%
Not Much
18%
Not At All
4%

41. Have the policies of the Trump administration …

Improved life for you and your business
46%
Made life harder for you and your business
23%
Had no real effect on life for you and your business
31%

42-43. Which of these political or social issues do you see impacting your business (red) or you personally (blue) in the most in the next couple of years?

44. Do you find yourself getting ticked off more often about society and life in general than you used to?

 

COMMENT: Anger is bad. It feeds hatred, it’s unhealthy and it makes you unhappy. Given how well most jewelers are doing, we were thus a little shocked so many people are so mad. Women jewelers were slightly more angry than the men, by a small margin (78% to 76%). The affluent seemed to have less reason to be irate: 67% of those earning more than $150,000 a year compared to 70% for those earning less than $75,000 said they were more ticked off or a little more ticked off than previously.

 

RECESSION

Based on their thousands of years of cumulative business experience, we thought our readers would likely know something about the prospects for the economy next year and what to look out for. Here are their thoughts distilled, along with a glimpse at their readiness.

45. From your experience as a business owner, what are the indicators that suggest tough times may lie ahead in your local market?

  • More people looking to sell gold or old jewelry
  • Smaller average tickets/fewer big sales/falling sales
  • Smaller engagement ring sizes
  • Signs of local economic contraction (less building, job losses, less hiring, store closings, poor farm prices, etc.)
  • Slowing foot traffic
  • More requests for financing
  • More people asking for remounts
  • A pending election
  • Increased competition from smaller discretionary items like guns
  • Rising gold prices
  • Oil dropping below $40
  • More people asking about alternatives such as lab-grown diamonds or Moissonite
  • More homelessness/crime
  • Shoppers’ general demeanor/Less fine jewelry being worn
  • Increased demand for repairs/Repair quotes being declined
  • More volatile sales figures
  • Negative street talk/stock market talk
  • More returns
  • More people paying with cash
  • Simpler styles (less melee)
NOTE: A lot of respondents said that things were going well at their store and they saw no indicators that a major downturn was on the way. This list is thus a combination of signs jewelers have learned to look out for, or which they may be seeing now (from the most frequently cited to the least).
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Warning signs, in jewelers’ words:
  • “Historically, our custom market has increased during a recession. Grandma’s diamond suddenly looks wonderful if it’s free, and we can set it into something fresh and current.”
  • “Folks living in big houses with little to no furniture.”
  • “Less need for a diamond purchase to go over 1.5 carat.”
  • “When the number of sales goes up, and the dollar amount of each sale goes down.”
  • “People are unsure of the future and the next election, so they hold onto their money tighter.”
  • “Sales are gradually, but consistently slowing. Stones and jewelry are not necessities for people. When money becomes tighter, or people get scared about finances, they don’t purchase stones and jewelry.”
  • “More questions about moissanite.”
  • “The big spenders are buying smaller.”
  • “Here in our resort town, the ladies are only carrying ice-cream or coffee instead of the shopping bags they would normally have.”
  • “People selling vacation homes.”
  • “I see fewer people in local restaurants on Friday nights. “
  • “Rolex sales dropping.”
  • “Greater request for financing and the inability to get the customer approved.”
  • “The general ‘atmosphere’ in regards to customers reeks of underlying tension. No one is really speaking about it, but everyone is worried about the economy and the unrest among citizens.”
  • “Paying with cash indicates customers are concerned about debt and are less likely to spend significant amounts of money on jewelry. “
  • “Our local economy has a history of rises and falls. It has been 10 years since we have had a downturn, which is about the average cycle. I am expecting somewhat of a downturn based upon historical experience of 47 years doing business in my area.”
  • “We are in a more cushioned area so no outward indicators so far, but my husband’s industry runs natural gas across the USA and there is little expansion. That is an economic indicator that makes me wary.”

46. According to a recent Bloomberg survey of professional economists, there’s a 32% chance of the economy contracting next year. Based on your experience and your current sales what chance do you see the country falling into a recession?

47. STRESS TEST: How would you assess the strength of your business right now?

Very Strong
13%
Strong
51%
Fair
30%
Weak
5%
Very Weak
2%

48. What will be your greatest priority next year?

Growth
20%
Boosting profitability
31%
Bringing in new technology
5%
Clearing old inventory
21%
Cutting expenses
5%
Surviving
2%
Preparing to exit the business (succession, retirement, etc)
9%
Other
8%

49. How do you now think of the 2008 recession?

It still haunts every business decision I make
19%
We learned a few lessons but it was basically just another business cycle (if a little more extreme)
60%
I don’t give it any thought
17%
I’m young. It’s basically ancient history to me
40%

Over the years, INSTORE has won 80 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INSTORE's editors at editor@instoremag.com.

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Big Survey

Jewelers Studied These Topics In-Depth … And Decided They Weren’t Worth It

They’d rather spend their time pursuing other things.

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ONE QUESTION WE asked in Big Survey 2019 was this: “In recent years, is there anything that you studied deeply and decided wasn’t worth pursuing?”

In-house CAD/CAM capabilities were the overwhelming winner here, as many jewelers studied it but decided that outsourcing was a better option for them.

Interestingly, e-commerce was next-most mentioned (tied with “new lines of product”). Most experts and top jewelry stores have concluded that e-commerce is a must-have for selling to today’s consumer, who likes to shop via mobile device.

  • CAD/CAM (19)
  • E-commerce (12)
  • New lines of product (12)
  • Laser welder/engraver (9)
  • Lab-grown diamonds (7)
  • Pandora (7)

Some other interesting answers included buying rough diamonds, joint ventures, hiring an IT person, cloud-based appraisals, and “cutting debt.”

Many of our readers have researched, and then decided against, doing things that may seem valuable to other jewelry stores. Here were some of the things that just didn’t work for them.

  • We have tried a few “new and exciting” lines over the past few years, only to find that they were overhyped and complete duds!
  • CAD design … too long to get proficient.
  • Researched Pandora and charm jewelry and decided against it.
  • Buying a 3D printer. Just pay for the file instead.
  • Laser welder. I have wanted one for years, but have realized that at 60-plus, I simply do not have the TIME during the day, week or year to learn this new skill to the level that I would require of myself.
  • Brand name lies and fads. Our market is just too small.
  • Several online review subscription services, those that would help to build reviews. Most are overpriced and inefficient.
  • Photography of jewelry … I have had to delegate it.
  • Manmade diamonds; I learned a lot, but my clients want “real” ones.
  • CAD/CAM in-house. I spent time and money into something that I can now outsource much more cost effectively. The more CAD/CAM business that comes online, the less expensive the services become. My time is better spent designing than going through the mechanics of computer operation.
  • Online marketing: You buy these expensive websites with the hopes of boosting your bottom line as a mom-and-pop shop. Customers may look online before they buy, but still do the touchy-feely in the store.
  • Constantly looking at new small US designer lines and knowing with our weak dollar, it won’t sell at a profit.
  • Geo-fencing … actually pursued it and found it to be a total waste of money and time.
  • But our favorite answer was this one:
  • I don’t believe anything you study isn’t worth a try.
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Big Survey

The Big Survey 2019: Big Data

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THE BIG SURVEY 2019

Big Data

Gabriel & Co. is king. Earnings for many jewelers have flat-lined. And customers — and almost as often staff — are still confounding. Those are some of the broad takeaways of the 2019 Big Survey. Dig in and enjoy our analysis of data provided by 802 North American jewelers.

Utah’s jewelers were most concerned about the impact of social media on their personal lives: 75% said it had been negative. In a possible related finding, Utah’s jewelers also checked review sites most regularly, doing it daily or every few days. Jewelers in Maine were the least likely to check what people were saying about them online.
California had the highest number of multiple-store owners: 23% had two stores and 3% had three or more.
Arizona led the way in e-ccommerce with 71% saying it contributed a moderate or substantial portion of their sales (meaning more than 10%).
Texas contributed the highest portion of big city stores to our survey (23%) among U.S. stores. (Canada actually had the most in North America at 29%.)
Wisconsin could possibly change its moniker to the Surprise State: Only 15% of its jewelers said their performance this year was in line with expectations. The rest were either doing better or worse than expected.
Jewelers in Iowa were most excited about lab-grown diamonds (63%), while jewelers in New York were most alarmed by their emergence (48%).
Canadian jewelers are most likely to be asked about a diamond’s origins (83% say it happens regularly) while in the U.S. it was California that holds that distinction (70%).
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1. How well is your business performing in 2019 compared to your expectations going into the year?

Far below expectations
2%
Below expectations
23%
In line with expectations
46%
Above expectations
24%
Way above expectations
5%

2. How many stores do you operate?

3. Where is your store located by region?

Northeast
17%
Mid Atlantic

 

5%
Midwest
31%
Southeast
21%
Southwest
9%
Mountain (Rocky Mountains)
4%
Northwest
(including Alaska)
3%
West (including Hawaii)
5%
Canada
5%
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4. Is your (main) store located:

On a downtown street
33%
In its own free-standing building

 

27%
In a strip mall
24%
In a lifestyle center
5%
Office building/Business park
5%
In a mall
3%
Home studio
2%
On the Internet
1%
Other
1%
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Big Survey

These Are the Tech Innovations That Jewelers Find Most Useful

They make a big difference for time-starved business owners.

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ONE QUESTION WE asked in The Big Survey 2019 was this: “What tech innovation or app has had the biggest positive impact on your life as a time-starved business owner?”

Here were the top 10 most valuable tech innovations to jewelers in our survey.

Unsurprisingly, mobile and remote technology captured seven of the 10 spots, as they allow business owners to accomplish tasks from wherever they may be, in speedy fashion.

Here’s what some of our readers had to say about why they chose particular technologies as most valuable.

  • Email on my phone and text messaging. While it can be too much and annoying, I sell more stuff to friends and customers via text than I ever dreamed I would. Guys don’t like to shop, and if you know their significant other, they love it if you can do it for them.
  • The smartphone. We put it off for years before we got one; now I don’t know how we can do business without it.
  • The innovations of The Edge software system in letting you know “where you are” with your business very quickly.
  • Texting and emailing customers estimates and information instead of phone calls. I can do these in the evening and not during those precious working hours.
  • Wax printing. Even though I am a very competent sculptor, there is much to be said for getting the wax printer to make things while you barbeque some dinner.
  • The ability to order/reorder from vendors online to keep best sellers in inventory.
  • Alexa. I love that I can tell her what song I am feeling like and it plays right then.
  • Bank innovations that allow me to pay online, transfer money, set up auto-pay. I used to write a lot of checks!
  • Podium. The ability to directly communicate with our customers in a non-spam way has changed a lot of the way we do business, especially custom and repairs. It is expensive, but in our minds, it has been worth it.
  • Online grocery ordering apps that let you place the order for a particular time, drive in, and have it delivered to your car. No more walking through the grocery store with a list. love it.
  • My iPhone. Everything is at my fingertips. This is especially important now that I find that as I get older, I can’t spell anymore.
  • Ipevo camera at each employee’s desk, so every inventory item has a photo. Inexpensive and high quality.
  • GoToMyPC to access my computer and server from anywhere in the world.
  • iPad Pro! It has revolutionized our custom process. I can either draw up a design from scratch, or for custom shadow bands, I take a photo of their existing piece and then draw right on the photo digitally for a great visual. I do it right in front of the clients and they are always wowed by the technology.
  • Grubhub for sure. I love getting home and having a hot meal made by someone else ready to eat.
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