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David Brown

To Improve Jewelry-Store Profits, Look for Low-Hanging Fruit

Stores are continuing to battle a headwind with margins.

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Our rolling 12-month figures took a slight dip during June, with average store sales for the year-to-date coming in at $1,597,325, down from $1,602,124 in May – a decline of $4,799 or 0.3 percent.

Total units sold for the year declined by 30 items to 4,019, with the average sale per unit holding its own at $397.

Comparing June with the same time last year, store sales for the month averaged $111,422, a drop of $4,789 from last June’s figure of $116,221.

The table above shows June monthly data for the last three years. Sales figures for this June are in line with two years ago, but the trend in declining units sold is quite noticeable when viewing these monthly snapshots. Unit sales were 338 items sold in June 2016, dropping 14.2 percent to 290 in 2017. The further decline in units sold to 260 this year represents a drop of 10.3 percent on 2017. In total, unit sales have dropped just over 23 percent since 2016.

The average retail price per unit sold has increased 19.7 percent from $299 in 2016 to $358 in 2018. (Note that repair units sold are included in the average sale value but not included in the total sales numbers.)

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Stores are continuing to battle a headwind when it comes to margin, with a drop from 45 percent for each of the last two years to 44 percent for this year. Based on sales achieved, this has stolen around $600 profit from the average bottom line of each store.

Knowing this, then, we can determine that the drop of profit from $52,470 to $49,515, a fall of $2,955 or 5.6 percent, consists of the following:

  • A drop in margin: $624.
  • A drop in units sold: $2,331.

Unit sales have therefore contributed 78 percent of the cause to the decline in profitability between June 2017 and June 2018 (2,331/2,955). The difference in average retail sale achieved of $2 is small enough to ignore.

So if your own store numbers look like this, what should you do? The numbers would suggest you concentrate 78 percent of your solution efforts on increasing the unit sales, and given the large impact, it seems unlikely you would bridge the gap without some sort of attempt to improve your unit sales.

However, when coming up with a solution to any business problem, there are two elements that need to be considered: the results that can be achieved and the time and effort required to get the results.

In simple terms, it’s the low-hanging-fruit theory. Do what can give you the most impact for the least amount of effort in the shortest amount of time. In this case I would recommend looking at your unit sales after you have explored your margins.

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Let’s put it this way: Which would be easiest to do first, raise your prices or make extra sales? Before you answer this by saying you’re in a competitive market and you couldn’t possibly put your price up, let’s consider the effort required, not your customers’ (or more importantly your) perception of the impact.

You could, for example, re-price all your silver jewelry up by an average of 10 percent in the space of a few hours. Would it still sell? The truth is we won’t really know without testing it. Assuming it would, then sales would increase by 10 percent in a simplistic example, but profitability would increase even further as there are no other costs related to this price increase. In simple terms, it’s pure profit. You could afford to have some customers stop buying and still come out ahead. Is there any other activity you could undertake today that would give you a greater increase in profitability with a few hours of one-time effort?

Again, this is simplistic, and I’m not suggesting your rush out and increase the price on everything, but it is important to weigh up the return on effort as well as dollars when looking for ways to improve your business. Sometimes the best solution can be the simplest.

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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Gene the Jeweler Explains How to Fire People

In this episode of Jimmy DeGroot’s "Gene the Jeweler", Gene talks about how to fire people when necessary. He admits that confrontation is not his strong suit. His suggestion: Maybe being passive-aggressive for years on end will work?

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David Brown

Five Steps To Make Your Business More Salable

Build net profit and control your inventory tightly.

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AFTER YEARS OF hard work building up an asset that they hoped would provide for them in retirement, many business owners are finding there is nothing left at the end of the day when they come to cash in their chips. And we’re not just talking businesses that struggle — I’m talking about businesses that are making a very healthy profit each year.

How many of you know a fellow store owner who has been in this situation? I had friends recently close down at the end of December in a store that had traded for over four decades and was making a large six-figure profit. They were in their 70s, had decided to quit but could not find a buyer interested in taking over their store. Sadly, this scenario is far too common.

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Here are five steps you can take to help this situation:

1. Drive every possible dollar of net profit. Most business owners generally try to minimize their net profit to reduce tax, but this ends up costing them as they approach retirement. Jewelry stores are bought and sold nowadays based on a multiplier of net profit, so every dollar could be worth $4-6 to them when they sell … not to mention they can use that net profit to retire debt or create retirement wealth while they still own the business.

2. Establish and achieve an optimum inventory level … one that delivers maximum GMROI while still satisfying your customers. Most stores are heavily over-inventoried, and the store is not an asset unless it generates turn and margin. Many are emotionally invested in their inventory, but no prospective buyer is going to want their old stock at any price. Nor do customers. Guess what is left after a successful GOB? The old stuff!

If Business A has $100,000 of profit on $400,000 of inventory, and Business B has $100,000 on $700,000, then both would sell for the same multiplier of profit. Store B may well be left with either an inflated value that would put a buyer off because they have inventory to clear, or be forced to find a way of disposing of the surplus product.

3. Transition the owners’ personal skills and responsibilities from “business operator” to “business owner.” No one wants to buy a business (or certainly not at full price) where the current owner is the No. 1 asset in the business (i.e., does a lot of personal sales, buys all of the inventory, does the marketing, is the main bench jeweler, etc.). There is too much uncertainty about what will happen to the performance of the business the day after the highly involved owner departs.

4. Build a strong team. Sometimes this involves outsourcing such things as repairs, custom design, marketing, social media, bookkeeping, etc. to effectively handle all day-to-day responsibilities. Note: this takes time, patience and perseverance.

5. Be visible online and on social media … it’s one of the first places prospective buyers will look.

In a market where supply exceeds demand, you need to give yourself a competitive advantage if you want to cash in that nest egg. It can happen, but it requires a strong level of grooming and preparation. The return, however, is well worth it.

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David Brown

How to Make The Most of Your Department Reports

Allocating the appropriate time, money and space to each department is critical to success.

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DEPENDING ON THE TYPE of business you run, chances are your sales will be coming from perhaps 30 or 40 different departments across your store. Some, such as bridal, are more obvious. Others, such as silver earrings, may not make a big difference — yet it’s important to understand the contribution from each department and where it fits into the overall performance of your store.

A department report in order of sales will reveal the biggest contributors, and it should come as no surprise to know that the top 5 or 6 departments might be contributing 50 percent or more of your storewide sales. What might surprise you is which departments make up the top 5 or 6. Take a guess now and then compare it to your actual results; chances are you’ll see at least one department that wasn’t in your estimate.

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Knowing this will enable you to allocate your resources towards these areas. These resources are, in no order of importance:

1. Time
2. Money
3. Space

Time refers to the energy you and your staff devote, both physically and mentally, to this area of your business. You might have a love of watches and enjoy spending time checking out the latest models available, but if watches represent 3 percent of your sales, this category doesn’t warrant a lot of effort.

Money will predominantly be spent on two fronts: one is your inventory, while the other is marketing. Is the inventory you carry in each department relevant to that department’s contribution to your sales and profitability? If not, consider reallocating it. Are you running ads for an area of your business that is neither a significant contributor to sales or profit? Do you allocate your marketing spend by area based on what product you are advertising? It’s not unusual to find a business spending 90 percent of its marketing on diamonds when that category represents only 30 percent of sales.

Space refers to how you allocate the merchandise within your store. Are your best sellers front and center? If your store is 50 percent bridal, does your merchandising say this when your customers walk into your store?

Review your departmental contribution and determine how you are allocating your resources of time, money and space across each area. Make a decision to rebalance each area as required so it more closely aligns to your store’s performance. The exception to this is if you are hoping to grow a particular area, in which case your resources should align with your anticipated results and performance.

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David Brown

What Business Owners Can Learn from Abraham Lincoln’s Failures

He would never have been in position to succeed if he hadn’t failed first.

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WE ARE CONDITIONED BY society to fear failure. Our education system defines performance as “getting the answer correct.” This result-based measurement is an effective method for assessing a level of knowledge, but it doesn’t encourage the hands-on learning process so necessary to develop true understanding and retaining of information — nor encourage the discovery of new knowledge.

Sadly, this aversion to getting things wrong starts at an early age and continues our whole life. Despite the copious number of successful people who have failed spectacularly before achieving success, we still attempt to follow a path that has more to do with avoiding ignominy than with enjoying the benefits of stretching ourselves into uncharted territory.

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Abraham Lincoln never feared failure — he could little afford to. His list of unsuccessful endeavors in both business and politics would have forced a lesser man to give up. Here are just some of his “failures.”

1831: Failed in business.
1832: Ran for state legislature — lost.
1832: Also lost his job — wanted to go to law school but couldn’t get in.
1833: Borrowed some money from a friend to begin a business, and by the end of the year was bankrupt. He spent the next 17 years paying off this debt.
1838: Sought to become speaker of the state legislature — defeated.
1840: Sought to become elector — defeated.
1843: Ran for Congress — lost.
1846: Ran for Congress again — this time he won — went to Washington and did a good job.
1848: Ran for re-election to Congress — lost.
1849: Sought the job of land officer in his home state — rejected.
1854: Ran for Senate of the United States — lost.
1856: Sought the vice-presidential nomination at his party’s national convention — got less than 100 votes.
1858: Ran for U.S. Senate again — again he lost.
1860: Elected president of the United States.

What sort of president would Lincoln have become if he had not had his failures? Had his life been a succession of unbridled achievements, would he have had the fortitude or fighting qualities to drag the country through its toughest challenge ever? Or would he have been ill-prepared for the physical and mental battle the presidency required? I believe his history of failing provided him with the steel and determination he needed to see the job through. Had he not “failed” so many times, he would not have become the man he was — and the history of the United States may have looked sharply different.

Learning to fail helps you overcome the fear of testing your boundaries and ultimately helps you grow and succeed. When it happens, embrace it for the lessons it can teach.

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