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Performance

2021 has been a stressful year, but in a good way for a lot of jewelers, with many reporting record sales. Here they reveal their performance over the last 18 months and some of the actions they’ve been taking to boost profitability.

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1. How were sales in 2020 versus 2019?

The Big Survey 2021: Performance

There was a point around Aprill 2020, shortly after the pandemic erupted and lockdowns were imposed around the country, when one in five of our Brain Squad survey group told us they didn’t think they’d be able to last another three months. A bit more than a year later, and many jewelers are enjoying some of their strongest sales ever. Two-thirds of the independent jewelers in our survey posted sales gains in 2020, and 40 percent believe 2021 will be their best year ever.

2. Compared to the last decade (or since you opened if it’s been less than 10 years), how do you think 2021 will rank in terms of sales?
The Big Survey 2021: Performance

3. As a store owner, what did you earn (salary + share of profit) last year?

The Big Survey 2021: Performance

Almost half the jewelers in our survey made $100,000 or more in 2020, compared to about one-third in 2019. The Southwest had the most top-earning jewelers (>$150,000), while 10% of those in the West lost money in 2020.

4. The economic spurt post-lockdown has caused supply/demand imbalances. What area is causing you the most grief?

Hiring staff
31%
Supply issues with vendors
29%
More customers/jobs than we can comfortably handle
11%
Demanding customers (some people seem to have gone crazy during COVID)
9%
Volatile inventory prices
7%
Finding contractors or tradespeople
5%
Other
7%
Note: Said one jeweler: “I am fine if you tell me it is going to be three weeks, but three months, I can’t frontload that info to my customers.” Added another: “I put out my standard job ad and only got four responses. I normally get 150.” Still, as another noted, it’s a sign everyone is busy, which is “not a bad thing, but definitely stressful.”
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5. What area are you seeing costs rise the most?

Inventory (inc. findings)
47%
Sales staff
20%
Insurance
18%
Bench staff/including outsourced work
5%
Rent/location
3%
Advertising and marketing
2%
Other (shipping, packaging)
5%

6. In a lot of marketplaces, the competitive landscape has changed. Post-COVID, who is your toughest competitor?

Internet retailers
39%
Other local independent
24%
Designers/vendors doing direct to consumer sales online
13%
“Wholesale” retailers
8%
Jewelry chain stores
6%
Big box stores
4%
Designers/vendors with retail outlets
1%
Other
5%

*Most others could be summed up as “Basically anyone competing for disposable income,” followed by “Home improvement projects.”

7. How is employee productivity now compared with before the pandemic?

Way Higher
7%
Higher
37%
Same
48%
Lower
7%
Way Lower
1%

8. What change have you made in the last three years that had the most impact on your profitability?

1. Getting serious about inventory analysis.
  • “Getting rid of aged inventory through discounting and wholesaling and restocking the fast movers. (Basically, following through on all that David Brown of The Edge recommends.)”
2. Staffing: Cutting or hiring
  • “Hiring more people who have diamond sales training and experience is the best move I’ve ever made, but I need more and cannot find them.”
  • “Working by appointment only has allowed me to downsize my overhead and increase my closing ratio.”
  • “Taking the leap to increase staffing costs produced sales that more than covered the cost. I should have done that long ago.”
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3. Increasing repair prices significantly.
  • “We now turn away jobs that can’t be done at a profit.”
  • “David Geller’s book (Geller’s Blue Book to Jewelry Repair & Design) has made a tremendous difference in our repair pricing.”
4. Using new tools
  • The purchase and use of a laser welder was cited most often, but also a 3D printer and CAD software.
5. Selling laboratory-grown diamonds.
  • “Lab diamonds have an incredible positive impact on sales and profitability.”
6. Revising the approach to marketing and online sales.
  • “We made a huge cut on print advertising. We now focus online with Google ads and Facebook ads.”
  • “Increased our website capabilities and packaged online advertising campaigns with email and social media platforms.”
  • “When quoting or emailing a client that their item(s) are ready, we send a link to pay in the email. This has turned into so many sales with so many fewer emails back and forth. We get paid faster and it allows for a quicker pickup process as well.”
7. Finding ways to increase margins.
  • “Increasing our prices. Valuing what we bring to our customers, especially in custom jewelry design.”
8. Changing approach to acquiring inventory
  • “More buying from the public and building more pieces ourselves.”
  • “Not going to every trade show and getting sold on inventory we don’t need.”
  • “We started doing ‘Jewelry Swaps’ with other jewelry store owners for aged merchandise. It was fantastic! My sales associates acted like it was Christmas. I loved it because I didn’t owe anything for all the new merchandise since it was all paid for.”
9. Selling more custom bridal
10. Finding ways to ease stress levels.
  • “Welcome kind and friendly customers only. Life is too short to deal with difficult customers.”
  • “We are trying to be happy no matter what! And that has the best impact on everything.”

9. If you were to select three items for a dashboard that you could quickly review at the end of the day, what would they be?

The Big Survey 2021: Performance

10. On a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is “very pessimistic” and is “very optimistic,” how would you rate the outlook for the following?

The Big Survey 2021: Performance

Over the years, INSTORE has won 80 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INSTORE's editors at [email protected].

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Thinking of Liquidating? Wilkerson’s Got You Covered

Bil Holehan, the manager of Julianna’s Fine Jewelry in Corte Madera, Calif., decided to go on to the next chapter of his life when the store’s owner and namesake told him she was set to retire. Before they left, Holehan says they decided to liquidate some of the store’s aging inventory. They chose Wilkerson for the sale. Why? “Friends had done their sales with Wilkerson and they were very satisfied,” says Holehan. He’d enthusiastically recommend Wilkerson to anyone looking to stage a liquidation or going-out-of-business sale. “There were no surprises,” he says. “They were very professional in their assessment of our store, what we could expect from the sale and they were very detailed in their projections. They were pretty much on the money.”

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