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Commentary: The Business

Hear Those Jingle Bells? They’re Also Wedding Bells

Hiding among the holiday crowds is a key customer who doesn’t want to be rushed.

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This story was originally published in the December 2011 edition of INSTORE.

THAT RINGING in your ears is jingle bells! Jewelers around the country are in the midst of the most important selling season of the year. According to J. Walter Thompson, the holiday selling season accounts for nearly 22 percent of annual diamond sales in the United States, meaning it’s still crucial to a successful year for retail jewelers.

Retailers invest months preparing for the season, not to mention dollars! Marketing, merchandising, packaging, special events, and sales training must all be in place.

The other ringing you hear is wedding bells! There is a vital statistic lurking inside that 22 percent number of which you should be aware: various studies show that about 25 percent of engagements occur during the fourth quarter in the U.S., making your diamond bridal business a key part of holiday sales.

Here’s the critical point: amid all the busy-ness of the season, don’t overlook this essential category. Make a list and check it twice. Focus on two important areas: Diamond inventory and the particular temperament of the engagement-ring shopper.

From an inventory/merchandise perspective, jewelers should be over-prepared and ready to present a wealth of options and styles to the engagementring customer. The adage that one can’t sell from an empty wagon applies! Savvy consumers will have scoured the Internet and other retail stores and seen hundreds of ring styles. Their jeweler of choice will have to provide options!

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Engagement-ring customers are not the typical Christmas shopper. They are often walking into your store for the first time after, on average, three months of shopping (according to The Knot 2011 Engagement and Jewelry Study). This consumer is not preoccupied with getting a package under the tree, but rather with making one of the most important purchases of their lifetime. They require your full attention and will not respond well to being rushed just because it’s Christmas and you’re busy. Sales associates must be prepared to give the engagement-ring shopper the time and attention they require.

When making your “list,” be sure to include a training session or two to ready your sales staff to effectively engage the wedding-ring customer during the holiday season. Train them to change gears for this consumer so they don’t feel rushed or under-served. Use all the resources at your disposal to ensure an impressive engagement-ring inventory that will excite your customer. Make sure your collection of loose diamonds includes a good number of 1-carat diamonds, and if possible, have a 2 to 3 carat on hand. Overnight and “in time” inventory is great, but sometimes you can’t make the sale if you don’t have the goods!

That ringing in your ears is jingle bells and wedding bells playing two distinctly different but profitable tunes during this Christmas selling season!

Terry Chandler is president and CEO of Diamond Council of America and has been involved in every aspect of the retail jewelry industry. Visit diamondcouncil.org or email terry@diamondcouncil.org.

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Commentary: The Business

Want to Survive? Go Custom

Tapping into jewelry customers’ desire for individuality is the key to retail success.

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YOU OFTEN HEAR THE words “it’s custom made” when referring to jewelry, but is it really? We all know there is a difference between “off-the-rack” and “custom-made” when it comes to clothing — jewelry isn’t any different.

The magic starts when the customer meets the maker. Each custom piece of art (which is what jewelry really is) should start with a conversation. Then the information provided — including style ideas, desired gemstones, personality traits and tastes, hobbies, work and social environments, favorite colors, you name it — should be incorporated into hand-drawn or 3D CAD rendered images for the client to choose from. Once a favorite design has been chosen, the creation and fabrication processes can begin.

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This specific value-add and brand differentiation is where clients realize the importance of knowing your jeweler. You have to trust the individual making the piece for you — that is paramount.

People are tired of sameness. From rampant copying to boring, uninspired designs, jewelry clients are becoming wise to seeing the same thing over and over again. The jewelry they are seeing does not speak to their individuality because these products are made for the masses on a gigantic scale. The anonymity behind fast fashion and easily consumed products that break or lose stones in a short amount of time after purchase don’t help the cause. Customer service only goes so far; the product has to have its own legs to stand on.

If you are creating one-of-a-kind pieces, you do not have the carrying costs associated with pre-fabricated designs and styles. You do not have to have liquidation sales of old, tired merchandise. You are creating exactly what the client is looking for. Being a specialty shop does not limit you to only creating custom pieces. It empowers you to design out-of-the-box and far-out jewelry that pushes the boundaries of style and uniqueness.

Seth Godin said that “survival is not the goal, transformative success is.” It is not always the strongest that survive, but those most responsive to change. Change is an opportunity that many see as a threat. It all boils down to our individual creativity. There is no competition when you create.

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Commentary: The Business

Put Yourself First and Cultivate Your Own Brand

Concentrate on custom and healthy vendor relationships to succeed in today’s jewelry retail environment.

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It’s time for independent jewelers to create their own brand identity by partnering with brands that respect and honor their relationships, and by doing whatever they can to build loyalty with custom design, whether or not they have in-house shops.

Larger stores possess the volume needed to buy branded products and the showcase space necessary to display them. Granted, branded products and their retailers have a rarefied environment, with packaging, advertising and a built-in national customer affiliation.

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But Pandora truly changed the dynamic of the vendor/retailer relationship in the last decade by building their brand off the independent’s efforts. They demanded higher sales volume and reorder numbers, then removed underachievers from the supply chain. Many independents lost the branded customer base they had acquired.

Worse, once Pandora identified the larger established consumer markets, in a checkmate move, they established their own stores, thus selling directly to the consumer. Many retailers suffered serious financial losses with non-returnable inventory and had their reputations damaged with unfulfilled customer service requests.

Following in hot pursuit, several popular companies decided they could dictate to their retailers how much they had to spend and restock in order to keep their brands. But in the end, many of these demanding brands will diminish because trends and styles change!

The goal of a supplier-retailer relationship is to be both transparent and mutually beneficial. There are many companies that go the extra mile for their retailers. Find those, buy from them and remain profitable.

It’s also time for the independent jeweler to do everything possible to create their own following in the custom-jewelry wars. The popularity of custom has created a multitude of manufacturing jewelry stores showcasing their own products and increasing their own brand diversity.
Great local and online presence, along with professional training and an engaging and well-informed sales staff, allows your store brand to flourish. Self-branding, shameless advertising and polished elevator speeches help us gain and maintain our status in the community as the go-to jeweler.

 

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Commentary: The Business

When You Run Ads And Nobody Comes

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Often it’s the message and not the medium that is the problem.

You run an ad on the radio and nobody shows up. You say, “Radio advertising doesn’t work.”

You send out 5,000 direct mail pieces, and the results are dismal. You say, “Direct mail doesn’t work.”

You constantly send out emails to all your best customers, but the open rates are abysmal and response rates are worse. You say, “Email doesn’t work.”

But have you considered that it might be your fault?

Truth is, bad marketing results typically come from three sources:

  • Targeting (or lack thereof )
  • Ineffective headlines
  • Weak offers

Targeting has to do with choosing media that your prospects engage with, digital or traditional, and making sure you actually target the right kind of people. You’ll do better if you develop a profile of your best customers. Identify their geographic, demographic, and psychographic similarities and look for a media channel that is attracting that kind of person.

Once you identify the right target, you’ve got to hook them with a powerful headline that 1) captures their attention and 2) converts their attention into interest. Do you realize that in head-to-head tests, one headline may outpull another by hundreds, even thousands of percent? You could double, triple or even quadruple the open rate of your next email, for example, if you test one subject line against another, instead of just picking one and throwing it against the wall to see if it sticks.

If you want people to pay attention to your advertising, write at least a dozen headlines for warmup. Then pick the one you like best and tweak it another half-dozen ways to improve it. Finally, test the headlines against one another.

And then there are offers! At the end of the day, this may be the biggest challenge for jewelers: How to make a compelling offer that won’t kill your margins.

For instance, that “10% OFF!” discount offer of yours. They don’t work, and you know it. You don’t respond to them when they come from other stores. Why on earth would you think your customers would respond to them?

Instead, test value-added offers.

Look, if you’re willing to give people, say, a 20 percent discount, invest that money in an added value instead. If you’re willing to take $20 off of a $100 item, keep the price at $100 and add a gift with purchase (or a second item free or at a deep discount) that costs you the same $20 out of pocket. Because you’re spending your $20 at wholesale and the customer is valuing it at retail, you can show the client a $140 value for their $100 investment. Isn’t that more compelling than a $100 value for their $80 investment?

At the heart of all three of these marketing blunders is the failure to think like a customer. If you wouldn’t pay attention to it because it doesn’t interest you or respond to it because it isn’t a good enough deal, it’s a safe bet your customer won’t either.


Jim Ackerman is a leading marketing consultant and coach to the jewelry industry. For more information on his latest training program, go to ultimatejewelrysalesbootcamp.com or call Jim at (800) 584-7585.

This article originally appeared in the July 2016 edition of INSTORE.

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