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David Brown

These Jewelry Stores Reported Sluggish Sales for October

Plus: something to think about.

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OUR SAME STORE DATA for October 2018 again showed a drop in sales performance across the stores being measured. Monthly sales of $102,602 were down 4.85 percent compared with the same period last year. Average sale of $399 for the month was an increase of 8.7 percent on last year’s monthly average retail value of $367. Sales volume, however, continued the decline, dropping from 262 units to 218, a drop of 16.7 percent, which has dragged the overall performance down.

Our rolling 12-month figures show a decline of 0.33 percent in the result from last month, representing the ninth straight month that numbers have fallen across the data pool. Year-to-date sales figures have now declined from $1,629,755 in January to $1,574,687 at the end of October, a drop of $55,000 in sales. Given a profit at keystone this will have reduced the average store’s bottom line, assuming all other costs stayed consistent, by over $27,000 during this period.

As the numbers above show, keystone is becoming increasingly harder to achieve, with margins consistently being below 50 percent over the last three years of data. Within these figures is also another story. When you look at the result achieved for October 2018 of 48 percent margin, the breakdown shows the smaller stores under $1 million in sales achieving 50 percent margin and those up to $3 million in sales per year achieving 46 percent. The largest stores have a margin of just 41 percent for the month.

“Well, they must be selling more high-priced diamonds at a reduced margin,” I hear you say. Certainly the bigger stores are achieving a much better average sale in diamonds, which will be contributing a squeeze to margin where there are higher ticket items. However, the best-performing stores for diamond sales, as a percentage of overall store sales, are stores doing between $1 million and $3 million, with diamonds representing 55 percent of total sales. Next are stores with less than $1 million in sales, which are making 53 percent of their sales from diamond product. The biggest stores are only seeing 46 percent of their sales coming from diamonds.

Where the biggest difference lies is in the area of watches. Here’s a look at the numbers across all stores.

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As the chart shows, the bigger the store, the more significant the percentage of sales for watches, with the resulting impact on margins that watches can have compared to jewelry.

Although smaller stores can congratulate themselves on maintaining a better margin and doing well in diamond jewelry, this does raise the question, why are smaller stores not achieving a bigger percentage of sales in watches? Although we don’t carry ongoing data on the average sale from watches, a quick glance at October results does show an average sale for larger stores of $4,000 versus $1,200 for medium-sized stores and just $360 for smaller stores. The elite brands carried by the bigger stores are making a difference in this area.

20 percent of sales is a significant amount. Not every jeweler can carry a top-brand watch, or would want to, but it does show that the watch market is not all about discount stores and cheap knockoffs. Where do watches fit into your store strategy? Are you assuming they are a market you can’t get a larger slice of? Should you be reviewing your strategy in this area?

David Brown is president of the Edge Retail Academy, a force in jewelry industry business consulting, sell-through data and vendor solutions. David and his team are dedicated to providing business owners with information and strategies to improve sales and profits. Reach him at david@edgeretailacademy.com

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David Brown

How to Shed Those Extra Pounds (Of Inventory)

When old inventory clogs the cash-flow arteries of your store, here’s how to clean it out.

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LAST MONTH, WE talked about the process of controlling what you buy and what you consume with your inventory. Much like dieting — where your buying and consumption dictate how many pounds you put on — the process of clearing extra inventory is much like shedding that extra weight that works its way onto your hips and stomach. You have to hit the exercise gear when the weight goes up, and the same is true with your surplus inventory. If you don’t move it on, that inventory will sit around your business waistline, clogging up your cash-flow arteries and damaging the health of your business.

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Here are some of our best suggestions for shedding those surplus items that are no longer helping your business health:

1. Run a sale. The obvious answer is to have a major clearance, but care needs to be shown here. Some businesses live constantly in sale mode to the extent that it harms the ability to generate sales at any other time. Use this sparingly and be creative in how you promote it.

2. Have a clearance area. Less harmful than a full-on sale to your bottom line, this can allow you to drip out items that are not going anywhere at full price.

3. Talk to your vendors. In some circumstances, vendors will be happy to exchange items that are not moving for you. This, however, will depend on the item and their ability to sell it elsewhere. Don’t expect this as a right. This needs to be done in a way that is a win/win for both parties involved.

4. Talk to your fellow retailers. As the old saying goes, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Product that may not sell in your store can be fast-selling items for other retailers.

5. Try online. Giving your product a different exposure via your web store may help it move.

6. Reposition the product. It may be good product that’s in a bad location. Have you rearranged your store displays so the product is in a more prominent place? It may be in a spot that customers don’t access easily.

7. Melt it down, make it back up and move it on.

8. Bundle it up. Often, those slow-moving items will benefit by being combined with other pieces. Maybe slow items could be put together as a special, or you could combine a slow item as a deal to go with a full-priced fast seller.

9. Use as a contest giveaway. Of course, if it’s particularly bad, it won’t encourage contest entries!

Managing dead inventory is a fact of business. You can never eliminate it completely, but regular “inventory exercise” is needed to make sure the fat in the system isn’t causing trouble to your business health.

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David Brown

How Eating Right Is Like Managing Your Inventory

The right items and advance planning can make your business fit.

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KEEPING YOUR INVENTORY in order is a little like painting the Eiffel Tower … you no sooner get to one end than you feel you have to repeat the process all over again!

Inventory is a dynamic part of your business. It is constantly in flux, and as such, difficult to manage. However, having a good system will go a long way toward helping you keep your inventory under control.

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There are two aspects to your inventory: what you buy and what you keep. It’s the buying part that contributes most to what is left after the customers don’t want it, so let’s start with that first.

Food dieting consists of what you eat and how much of it you consume. Buying inventory is the same. There is what you buy, and then there is how much you are spending. If your diet consists of eating healthy greens, vegetables and fresh fruits, then part of your food diet will take care of itself. The same is true of ordering fast sellers — make these the mainstay of your inventory diet, and you will take care of a good 70-80 percent of the inventory you will need to consume. That leaves the remainder — the combination of poor choices and overconsumption that can cause the most problems (I’m still talking inventory here!).

In the same way that meal planning can reduce overeating or making poor food choices, planning your purchasing will work the same way. We recommend an open-to-buy budget as the most effective way to do this. An open-to-buy will balance what you are selling with what you are buying. Think of it like a calorie checker that enables you to eat once you have burned enough fat. The open-to-buy will track the money released from outgoing inventory that is then freed up to spend on new product and let you know how much this is so you don’t over-buy. This will help you to keep your inventory situation from becoming any more bloated.

So what about the surplus inventory that is aged and isn’t going anywhere now? This is the same as the few extra pounds that might be sitting around your hips — it’s one thing to stop the increase, but it’s another thing entirely to get rid of that unwanted fat.

Much like systemizing your buying with an open-to-buy program, you can systemize the aged inventory with a series of means to move it on. This can consist of a variety of options that work well for you on a regular basis to keep that aged inventory from clogging up your store arteries. I’ll talk more about these options in the next article.

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David Brown

6 Solutions to Short-Term Cash Flow Problems

Problems can arise if you aren’t vigilant about how your receipts and payments are tracking.

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MANAGING CASH FLOW can be an urgent issue for any business. Problems can arise if you aren’t vigilant to how your receipts and payments are tracking. Sometimes, you need a solution that can give you quick and easy cash to keep you going. Here are some of the best options you should consider.

1. Get short-term financing. If you feel the situation can’t be resolved without external help, then short-term financing, such as a line of credit, can see you through. It has the added advantage of being able to be repaid when the funds are no longer needed, keeping costs to a minimum.

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2. Long-term financing. This can be a longer process and will generally involve putting up assets as security for a more permanent arrangement. Although this may result in a larger sum of funding, be careful: your assets and debt should match in terms of time frame. Using long-term debt for short-term cash flow needs can be a recipe for disaster (as can short-term debt for long-term asset purchasing). Long-term debt should be used primarily to purchase assets that provide long-term returns to the business, not as a means of “tiding you over” until things get better. You need cash flow every day, but you only have so many assets you can draw against.

3. Speed up recovery of receivables. Although retail is normally a cash business, there may be some areas in which you run an account (e.g., insurance companies) or other parties with whom you have a good relationship. In these circumstances, it’s important to manage the repayment process. A discount can be an effective incentive for this.

4. Get a larger deposit. Your customers are often your best means of short-term funding. Increasing your deposit on custom jobs from 20 percent to 50 percent can add several thousand dollars permanently to your bank float.

5. Manage your repairs. Follow up consistently with repairs that aren’t collected. This is dead money sitting that is easily forgotten about because the items don’t belong to the store. You have an investment in those items you need to recoup.

6. Sell surplus assets. Inventory is often the first choice for doing this, but is there other equipment or assets you no longer need? If you’ve ever run a garage sale, you’ll know how much cash you can round up from extra stuff you have — the same may be true of business assets such as old desks, tools and display cabinets you no longer use. Don’t assume they are worthless just because you will recoup much less than what you paid for them.

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