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Commentary: The Business

Bruce Goodheart: Fill Your Wagon



The Business: Fill Your Wagon

Maintain your advantage over the competition with the right inventory


Published in the March 2014 issue

“You can’t sell from an empty wagon.”

I still remember these words of advice from a jeweler my brother worked for. The expression goes back to street vendors going doorto- door hawking their wares, be it fruit and produce, flowers, baked goods or clothing.

Owning and running our business for 27 years has been challenging. Surviving stock market swings and 9/11 — we’ve seen the best and worst of times. Every year we ask the same questions: “What do our clients want and need?”, “Are they brand-conscious?” and “What can we do differently to make us stand out from our competition?”


In other words, how best do we fill our wagon?


I believe the toughest obstacle we as brick-and-mortar jewelry businesses face is our online competitors (i.e. Blue Nile, Ice, Costco, Sam’s Club). Have a credit card with a smartphone, tablet or computer, and you can shop from anywhere in the world. And consumers are growing more comfortable each year buying jewelry and other goods online. You don’t have to fight the traffic, crowds or weather. It’s too easy — with one click, you’ve got speed, convenience and price.

So, my questions are still not answered.

Every year I return to The SMART Jewelry Show in Chicago to discover new vendors, listen to motivational speakers that energize me, and meet with my fellow jewelers. I learn from them what’s worked and what hasn’t. Last year’s keynote speaker Martin Lindstrom in his book Buyology discussed the marriage of science and marketing, and how engaging your senses makes for a more intriguing and memorable experience for jewelry buyers. Another way to differentiate ourselves from our competitors.

All year long we jewelers are constantly making strategic decisions to better our positions. We attend trade shows looking for new relationships and to maintain our current vendors with face-to-face visits.

We think of our “wagon” then and who has the right inventory and services to make our stores great. It is hard to find new vendors — ones that will work with us. But if we know our clients’ likes, what they do socially and who they do business with, that guides us to their fashion sense and what we should be buying. And almost every vendor is at a show not just to sell merchandise, but to make us more profitable, more successful.


If we fill our wagons with what our clients desire, they will return again and again, plus they will refer their friends and family. Remember, selling from a “full wagon” gives the small retailer a distinct advantage over online concerns and larger stores.

Having a full wagon may not always be enough. We as owners are there to create relationships and develop our clients’ trust, and the customer must have a satisfying buying experience. But if you have little to sell it is difficult to have a buyer. So commit to having your wagon full when your clients come calling.

BRUCE GOODHEART owns Goodheart’s Jewelry in Overland Park, KS.

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