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Management & Staff

Hiring and retaining good workers are clearly the top challenges currently being faced by store owners. Here they share how they are coping, while dishing on a few short cuts to getting the job done.




50. What do you think is the main reason many businesses are struggling to retain staff right now?

It’s the people. They’ve gone soft.
It’s the job. No one wants to do sales/work with their hands anymore.
It’s the hours. People don’t want to work weekends or evenings.
It’s the labor pool. There aren’t enough workers.

About 4% of the respondents said it wasn’t possible to pick just one factor, while others were more certain a single factor could be blamed. “Hello? It’s the sh***y salaries!” said one. Indeed, uncompetitive money and benefits was listed by about 6% of the responses. Some people blamed the government for disincentivizing workers from seeking jobs (1.5%) while others said the problem lay with bosses who lacked vision and management skills (2%). “It’s us, not them. It starts by caring for them and training them,” said one. Although it must be noted, as can be seen by the 30% of respondents who said workers had gone soft, that was a minority view. Changes related to the pandemic, such as the allure of remote work, changing personal preferences and a shortage of housing, especially in resort areas, which meant workers simply couldn’t afford to live in those markets, rounded up the remaining “Other” responses. Ultimately, a key part of the problem is that jewelry is not like other retail or service jobs. “Jewelry requires extensive knowledge and continuing education, research and training. We have to know so much. It can be daunting for new people,” said one jeweler.

51. How would you rate the overall quality of applicants compared to pre-pandemic times?

The Big Survey 2023: Management & Staff

52. Rank these challenges faced by you as a manager right now.

The Big Survey 2023: Management & Staff

53. If you have sales staff, where did you find your best-ever salesperson?

The Big Survey 2023: Management & Staff

Others included from general network of connections, industry event, from high school or college, retired jewelers, and from a non-retail background altogether (dog trainer, teachers and construction worker were reported to have worked out well).

54. If you’ve had problems with retaining staff, how have you responded operationally? Check all that apply:

Hired more part-timers
Outsourced more tasks
Tried to automate more tasks
Scaled back growth plans
Just doing more of the
work myself

NOTE: About half of the “Others” involved cutting operating hours and often going to appointment as well. Most other solutions involved revamping operating processes, enhanced communication systems and tighter teamwork. A few mentioned stepping up training so sta could handle a wider range of jobs.

55. What’s your favorite interview question for deciding whether a job candidate may be a good fit for your store?

The most popular question was, “Where do you see yourself in 5/10 years?” Other good questions included:

  • Describe yourself in five adjectives.
  • Tell me about a client interaction that didn’t go the way you expected and what you learned.
  • What did you like most and least about your last/current job?
  • How do you build trust in relationships?
  • What do you think would be your best contribution if hired?
  • What is your biggest mistake and how did you overcome it?
  • Tell me what you know about our company.
  • Sell me this pen.

56. Which of the following jobs do you outsource?

CAD design
3D printing
Precious metal casting
Mold making
Diamond setting
Hand engraving
Watch repair
Training (besides product training from vendors)
Admin tasks
None of the above

57. Are any of your employees disabled?


NOTE: This is an area where jewelers lag trends in the wider economy. According to the Department of Labor, the percentage of the U.S. workforce with a disability ranges between 12.6% and 21.3% depending on how “disability” is defined. Even using the broader definition, there appear to be fewer opportunities for disabled people to find work in the jewelry industry than elsewhere.

58. What is one area of running a jewelry store where you’ve realized good enough is good enough?

If you think this question sounds a little counterintuitive, you’re not alone: The most common response was something along the lines of, “What? There’s no such thing as good enough! We’re always working to improve.” And we applaud your efforts! After all, that’s why INSTORE exists in the first place.

But there are times when you have to choose where to focus your time, money and effort on more important areas of business and let others be “good enough.” For many, that area is cleanliness — typically of a desk, a jeweler’s bench or a back room. One jeweler even said they used to wash their outside windows but now hire it out (although the cleaning service doesn’t do as good a job as they did). Another wrote, “I used to be OCD, but since Covid, I realized that a messy store gives customers the impression that our prices are low. I no longer wear a suit either, and sales are up.”

Others say they’ve realized that their “good enough” is better than their competitors’ best work. “After sitting at the bench for more than 25 years, I realized my 90% is better than most people’s 100%, and that last 10% for me can take hours,” said one respondent. Another wrote, “We don’t have to change watch batteries while you wait any more. One week turnaround is ‘good enough’ for most clients.”

Many said they’ve decided not to try to be open so many hours. Others have stopped working so hard to get their staff to get along. And quite a few mentioned an aspect of marketing. As one said, “Just posting on social media — not everything needs to be editorial-style photography.” Another wrote, “With marketing, it’s more about quantity than quality. Just get it out. They’ll see your ad, your info and call if they like that item or ignore it if they’re not in the market.”

One even cited lab-grown diamonds as an area that they don’t try to overdo it: “Good enough for them after we’ve explained everything, then it’s good enough for us.”

Bottom line? Improvement is important, but you can’t do everything. As one jeweler wrote, “I strive to be a better leader every day, but in the moment, I do the best I can.” Sounds like a great motto to us.

59. What is it like to work for you?

The Big Survey 2023: Management & Staff

60. Salaries by State

The Big Survey 2023: Management & Staff

61. Salaries by Market Type

The Big Survey 2023: Management & Staff

62. Check off the benefits you provide to staff. (mark all that apply).

The Big Survey 2023: Management & Staff

Among the “Others,” free meals topped the benefits o ered, followed by paternity leave, paid storm day, paid birthday o , stock ownership, profit-sharing and one we’ll have to raise with the management of SmartWork Media: “Wine at 5.”

63. How do you pay your sales staff?

Hourly plus commission
Salary plus commission
100% commission

64. Do you allow staff to do any of their work remotely?


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When There’s No Succession Plan, Call Wilkerson

Bob Wesley, owner of Robert C. Wesley Jewelers in Scottsdale, Ariz., was a third-generation jeweler. When it was time to enjoy life on the other side of the counter, he weighed his options. His lease was nearing renewal time and with no succession plan, he decided it was time to call Wilkerson. There was plenty of inventory to sell and at first, says Wesley, he thought he might try to manage a sale himself. But he’s glad he didn’t. “There’s no way I could have done this as well as Wilkerson,” he says. Wilkerson took responsibility for the entire event, with every detail — from advertising to accounting — done, dusted and managed by the Wilkerson team. “It’s the complete package,” he says of the Wilkerson method of helping jewelers to easily go on to the next phase of their lives. “There’s no way any retailer can duplicate what they’ve done.”

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