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Management & Staff

Managing is about getting the best out of your inventory, your local situation and — most difficult — your staff. Here, owners and managers tell us how they do it.




50. How would you characterize your leadership style?

Hands off

51. In what area have you improved the most as a manager?

Inventory control
Teaching skills to staff
Choosing new lines that will sell well
Merchandise display

52. For you, what is the most important channel for staying on top of industry news?

Traditional trade media
A social media group dedicated to jewelers
Your own network of industry contacts
Online forums or discussion boards
A buying or benchmarking group

53. Owners and employees often have different views on what is expected in the workplace. That clash of perspectives often makes for interesting, humorous or just plain outlandish incidents. Here we offer you Staff True Tales. (Also to be a new column in the magazine in 2020.)

  • I had two people (my entire staff) overdose on Airborne trying not to get sick during holiday season and both had to go to the hospital for zinc poisoning. And then one of them quit. In December.
  • I had a talented woman that came late every day. When she was warned, she would show up on time but need 45 minutes to put on her makeup. I warned her one more time and she told me she didn’t have a boyfriend or husband to wake her in the mornings. I let her go two weeks later on Dec. 27.
  • Hired a girl for part time office, she went to lunch, never returned. We finally got a hold of her mother, just to make sure she was OK. She said the work was too hard. She had worked three hours!
  • Our shipping/inventory clerk murdered our store’s car by driving it into a post. We didn’t believe him when he said the brakes failed.
  • A young woman worked for us years ago at the bench. The first couple of months she was good, then she started calling in, then just not showing up. I sat her down and asked if she was really serious about making jewelry, and said that we needed her at the bench. She looked at me quietly for a moment, then said, “I will wear shoes.” I skipped a breath it was so unexpected. When I said, “What?” She said, “I always wear sandals, so if I wear shoes, I might be more focused.” Dead serious. That ended that relationship.
  • We use the “up” system and are very good at letting the next sales associate know it is their turn; when I told her it was her turn, she simply said “Nah”… ?
  • Years ago, I had two employees who couldn’t get along. I finally had enough. I gave them a $5 bill and told them to go get a cup of coffee and either one of you comes back, two of you come back or neither of you comes back. (It was a long time ago and coffee was just coffee, so it was attainable for two at $5). They ironed out their differences, they both came back and things were much smoother from then on.
  • I love when the staff comes to me with a “Can I talk to you?” question. Most often it’s the silliest things, but they are the concerns of the staff, and we address them immediately to make it better for them. Example: Someone was concerned because they thought my not stocking 20 rolls of paper towels was a sign that things weren’t good. In reality, I just hadn’t gotten to Costco!

54. 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 (1)
  • E-commerce (2)
  • New lines of product (2)
  • Laser welder/engraver (4)
  • Lab-grown diamonds (5)
  • Pandora (5)

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

55. What is the average tenure of your staff?

COMMENT: Elsewhere in the labor market, people may be changing jobs regularly, but jewelry-store staff seem pretty content to hang in there. The portion of stores where the staff had been on the books for an average of more than 10 years rose in the last three years from about one in four to almost one in three in 2019.

56. What is the most epic way you’ve seen someone quit or be fired?

Dealing with employees, especially on their way out, can be problematic. Sometimes they can even culminate in award-winning dramatic performances. Read on for the most memorable ways employees have left jewelry stores.

Family feuds: True tales of relatives in turmoil.
  • My sister-in-law quit by text message.
  • Employee of 16 years falls in love with my husband and they both leave.
  • My grandson worked for me for two years. Last August he asked for a Friday off, to go up north with his mom and stepdad. He didn’t come back until Sept. 25. He came into my office and said, “I overslept.” I pointed out he had been gone a month with no explanation, so he no longer had a job. I love him dearly, but yikes!
Third and last day.
  • I had an employee who after three days on the job asked me how much her bonus would be, if she could leave early every day so her commute would take less time, and if I could pull the cases in her area because I do it quicker than she can. Needless to say, that was her last day.
A change of heart.
  • After asking for a job for two years, a salesperson was finally hired and worked one day. The following morning she posted a note on the door and ran. The note said “You guys have too many customers and work too hard. I quit.”
Mysterious disappearances.
  • An employee asked to go to Walgreens and never returned..I had a bench jeweler fall asleep at his bench. I told him to go home and get some rest. He never came back and he had been with me for eight years.
You’ve made me ill.
  • Getting a doctor’s note for work-related stress to ensure unemployment benefits.
A cyber crime.
  • Sending unsolicited revealing photos of themselves to co-workers.
A change in status.
  • An employee announced on Facebook that she couldn’t wait to settle in Vegas. We didn’t know she was quitting until the manager read the post and asked if she had something to tell us.
Top 10 Countdown.

And the award for best farewell performance goes to the staff who:

10. Screamed at the top of their lungs, “I QUIT!”

9. Showed up in pajamas, had a breakdown, quit and walked out.

8. Threw rings at the boss while asking for a raise, then quit.

7. Threw a crystal piece through a showcase shelf.

6. Hit the jeweler in the head with a bag of bananas.

5. Threw his key at me.

4. Came in wielding a pipe wrench screaming that we were liars.

3. Ran out of the shop, arms raised, saying, “He’s trying to kill me.”

2. Got drunk at a charity event we were sponsoring, hit on one of the ladies and pulled her skirt up. Police were called.

And the No. 1 best dramatic performance goes to:

The employee who hired a marching band to quit.

57. What things are red flags on a resume?

Spelling mistakes
Obviously hasn’t researched your store
Out of work for six months or more
Crappy formatting
Use of terms such as “visionary,” “thought leader” or “Sales Ninja”
No career progression at a single firm
A history of social or labor activism
Paucity of references
Lists Microsoft Office Suite as a skill


COMMENT: Among the “Others” that stood out were “Desired income of 30k” for a part-time job; “Asks where we are located”, misspells store name, types in the cover letter “excited about (not the position advertised)”; or handwritten resumes — “especially if it’s in pencil.”

58. What do you think your staff dread the most?

Demanding customers
Working Saturdays
Role-play training
Setting up and breaking down
Toilet duty
Polishing silver
Cleaning showcase/door glass
The annual review
Explaining your return policy


COMMENT: There were some positive things listed among “Others” such as “Losing a sale to a competitor” but these were greatly outweighed by answers that hinted at an underlying misalignment between staff and management’s views on work. According to these bosses, staff dreaded: “Having me come in the store”, “Customers … I know, that is not a good sign”; “Having to learn anything new,” and “Keeping busy.”

59. Dark Arts of Jewelry Retail: Tell us a sales strategy or technique that would be in the quiver of a streetwise jeweler (but which perhaps isn’t something they’d want their clients to know about).

Our question prompted one survey-taker to reply “I suddenly feel like an innocent rube. Say whaaaaa?” But to succeed in just about any human endeavor, from sports to politics to business, it requires at least a knowledge of the not-so-high road, even if you don’t take it yourself. We broke the Dark Arts into 10 categories:

  • Facebook stalking to find things about customers.
  • When a customer buys an engagement ring, we follow them on social media until we know they’ve proposed, then we bombard them with congratulations, review requests, info on wedding bands, free cleanings, referrals, etc.
  • Read the obituaries.
  • I will meet any price, even make no margin, to take a sale from a competitor if there’s a genuine chance of capturing a high-end client for the future.
  • Pleasing aromas that subconsciously encourage customers to stay longer and spend more. I’m convinced the pine smells at Christmas do encourage people to buy.
  • Pricing a diamond at near cost and making it up on a custom mounting.
  • Sales discounts we would receive from a vendor without reducing the price quoted to the customer. Helped our bottom line, wasn’t a need-to-know for the customer.
  • Mark up to mark down!
  • Pretend you like them and are interested in their lives.
  • Have a shop pet. It makes you relatable.
  • Guessing finger sizes. It inspires confidence. In reality 75 percent of women and men are roughly the same size give or take 1/2 a size, and if they are not it’s easy to see.
  • Ask to clean all their jewelry and hold it hostage until you’ve shown them everything in the store.
  • Match their movements and speaking pace.
  • When selling diamonds I present three options and always place my preferred one in the center, while for the lowest budget option I present a not-so-nice choice and don’t display it the best. They always go for the better or best option. Same for custom: I draw the preferred one larger and in greater detail with little sparkle lines and everything.
  • The importance of saying to a client, “Do you want me to wrap this up?”
  • People just love to buy a used piece if they think the original owner had to sell it because they needed money.
  • Buying old jewelry for scrap gold, restoring it and selling it in the half-price case. Moves well and gets great markup.
  • Buying colored gems from pawnbrokers that they have removed from scrap and have no idea what they are. I find some real deals!
  • Just because something is custom or house-made might not mean it is the only one ever made or going to be made. If it sells, sell it again!
  • Taking in jobs that will need to be outsourced.
  • Sometimes you just have to take their piece in the back, pretend you’re doing something to fix it, and then give it back; it makes them feel heard and now they’re happy.
  • Pulling old product out of the safe and presenting it as just arrived.

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



Wilkerson Testimonials

A Packed Store Like the Day Before Christmas? Wilkerson Makes It Happen

Deb Schulman says once she and her husband, Ron, decided to retire, she could feel “the stress start to leave.” The owners of B. Alsohns Jewelers in Palm Desert, California, the Schulmans had heard about Wilkerson over the years and contacted them when the time was right. Wilkerson provided the personalized service, experience and manpower it took to organize their GOB sale. “We are so impressed with the way Wilkerson performed for us,” says Ron Schulman, “I’d send high accolades to anyone who was interested.”

Promoted Headlines

Big Survey

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

They’d rather spend their time pursuing other things.



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





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%).

1. How well is your business performing in 2019 compared to your expectations going into the year?

Far below expectations
Below expectations
In line with expectations
Above expectations
Way above expectations

2. How many stores do you operate?

3. Where is your store located by region?

Mid Atlantic


Mountain (Rocky Mountains)
(including Alaska)
West (including Hawaii)

4. Is your (main) store located:

On a downtown street
In its own free-standing building


In a strip mall
In a lifestyle center
Office building/Business park
In a mall
Home studio
On the Internet
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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.



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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