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Here’s How We Make This the Best Time of Year at My Store

Warm conversation and delicious food and drink make the season jolly for customers and staff alike.

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This story was originally published on INSTOREMAG.COM in November 2016.

SITTING AROUND A TABLE with extended family, laughing, telling stories and celebrating is something I cherish during the holidays. I enjoy the entire process, from planning the menu, shopping for ingredients and cooking with my kids, to greeting family as they arrive and making sure everyone feels right at home. Even cleaning up the quiet house after guests have left gives me the time to reflect on just how lucky I am.

This time of year, my team and I take this recipe for a joyful celebration and apply it to our store, making it the most fun and rewarding time of the year.

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Over the course of the last several months, we have carefully selected our menu of beautiful jewelry. We’ve worked with our vendors to select the highest quality ingredients, ensuring the sweetest holidays for our customers.

Our hostess welcomes our customers new and old, just like family. Coats are taken, warming beverages are offered (sometimes coffee, sometimes whiskey), often hugs and stories of their recent adventures are shared. They are our BBK extended family. We’ve been with them through ups and downs, new relationships, babies, new jobs and new homes. They’ve been with us too, through business booms and through slimmer years, and for this we do everything we can to make them feel appreciated.

Just as in a crowded kitchen, our team dances around each other while presenting gift ideas and wrapping the perfect packages. There is always laughter as customers and associates mingle. Often, customers share with us how important BBK is to their holiday celebrations. We have customers tell us, “It’s just not Christmas without a Becky bag under the tree!” I even once had a gentleman thank me for bringing his wife’s memory back: “She did things last night she hasn’t done in years!” After all the work we put in to build relationships and connect with our customers throughout the year, these stories make us glow!

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This is all an analogy, but of course there are very real meals involved at BBK. My team works hard, and we play hard too. I’ve learned that nothing bonds them like food and the occasional drink. Nearly every day in December, our break room becomes a huge family dinner. During this month, there isn’t much time for everyone to cook at home, so I look forward to making special lunches for the team. It’s a small way I can give back to them for all the hard work and energy they give me and my customers throughout the year. Taking the time to celebrate a little every day, especially during the most hectic days, keeps everyone motivated and excited.

Dec. 24 (closing time), the team gathers together on the sales floor and makes a toast to a very successful season and year. Lemon drop shots, of course! Our team favorite.

And just as when family has all left after any big holiday celebration at home, while locking up the store I take just a minute to peek back in the door after everyone has gone and realize just how lucky I am.

Becky Beauchine Kulka is the owner of Becky Beauchine Kulka Fine Jewelry in Okemos, MI, voted one of America’s Coolest Stores in 2005.

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Bad News Deserves an Explanation, Not an Excuse

Here’s how to talk to clients when expectations aren’t met.

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WHY IT IS TRUE: Many salespeople are scared to be the bearer of bad news, but customers appreciate honesty.

PLAN OF ACTION: Be up front, and be prepared to accept the consequences. Maybe the customer’s special order ring from the vendor did not arrive on time. The customer does not care about the problems the vendor incurred. Explain the actions you’ve taken to rectify this situation, and if necessary, offer any compensation you feel will help.

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Five Steps for Making Your Bridal Business Hum Like a Well-Oiled Machine

Paying close attention to SKUs that generate special orders is one.

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WE ARE LED TO believe that having the “biggest selection” in the market is the best approach when, in fact, that is counterintuitive to evolving retail models. Growing evidence to supports a “less-is-more” strategy across retail, and we should ask ourselves why bridal should be any different.

If having the biggest selection in bridal was the answer, retailers would have a much healthier inventory picture. The data, however, shows that the average retailer is not only seriously over-inventoried, but their current inventory is all too often misaligned with their best-sellers. You want your customers to have choices, but your bridal story should be curated for clarity, and you should closely analyze your data as part of the ongoing process.

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Fixing your bridal category doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Here are a few initiatives you can implement immediately:

Set your stock turn and return-on-investment targets. You should expect a minimum of a one-time stock turn, a big improvement on the current overall industry average of 0.47.

Review your data. Identify your fast sellers (items that sell within 180 days) in loose, semi-mounts and bands. There is simply no reason why you would ever be out of stock in these categories. For example, an SI1 G-H 1-carat loose diamond tends to be a fast seller, and yet it is often out of stock when we review retailer inventory levels. Know that any bridal that generates a one-time stock-turn at full margin within 365 days should be replenished.

Pay close attention to your live samples, such as semi-mounts and diamond bands, that generate special orders. Many retailers incorrectly assume that most of their bridal pieces generate orders, when in fact the vast majority of SKUs generate little to no sales at all.

Implement strategies to purge non-performing inventory. This should include stock balancing with your top vendors. Next, you can look at markdowns, spiffs and recycling non-performers into more basic (saleable) styles. Feature your markdowns in your email blasts and, possibly, on your social media platforms. Markdowns should take place starting with the one-year anniversary of receipt of a given item and continue every 30-60 days until the piece is gone. Be aggressive, as your objective is now about recovering your investment. Research shows with each passing year, you will get less and less on the dollar.

Re-merchandise. Clean up your jammed cases. Move your non-performers out of the case and create an organized back stock. This will allow you to display your best performers and strategically highlight your key pieces and collections. Putting your rings into collections such as “by designer” or by styling such as halos, three-stones, solitaires and so forth makes it much easier for your customer to shop.

Recognize that today’s young customer is not interested in navigating your sea of insignificant merchandise. They want to know what your store is about and why they should care. They are much more likely to respond to nicely curated stories than overflowing cases. Even in the case of bridal, more is definitely not more.

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I Thought I’d Seen All the Jewelry I Needed for This Year … But I Was So Wrong

August shows in New York yielded many designs that retailers need to see.

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WITH LAS VEGAS JEWELRY Week two months in the past, I thought I had seen everything I needed to see for the season as far as new trends, hot items and designers to watch or discover. But August in New York kicked off with Spectrum Awards Editors’ Day and then, from Aug. 10-14, four shows ran almost concurrently: Melee the Show, NY Now, The JA Show and Metal & Smith. There were also press deskside appointments of saleable and noteworthy designers. A summer head cold, pad full of notes and iPhone full of photos later, I realized there was a lot more to report and bring to the attention of retailers who couldn’t make this trip into New York City.

Let’s break it down.

The colorful pieces shown above are by (left to right) Soulbound, Sofia Zakia and Rebecca Overmann.

These rings are by (left to right) Karen Karch, K8 Jewelry and Elizabeth Street.

Engaging Colors

This was the leading trend at these shows for a new wave of bridal rings rendered beautifully by both established independent and up-and-coming designers. The best in this category included Rebecca Overmann, Megan Thorne, Karen Karch and Sofia Zakia as well as rising stars Elizabeth Street, Soulbound (all at Melee the Show) and K8 Jewelry (at The JA Show).

Vibrant and unexpectedly refreshing stones for engagement rings such as green sapphires, moonstone, garnet, purple and red spinel, rubies, aquamarines, pink sapphires and a host of other gemstones we never thought would sell in this category created new excitement among retailers who shopped the show.

These old-meets-new designs are by (left to right) Talon, Sofia Zakia, Heavenly Vices and Erica Molinari.

The Past Meets the Present

This trend can be seen in independent designer collections with jewels that borrow from the past yet are imbued with both a current sensibility and built-in longevity. Contemporary designers are inspired by different periods and reimagine their influences with daring and the freedom to mix time frames and materials with abandon. A few of these creative designers also work with one-of-a-kind pieces that they transform into symbolic keepsakes for today’s woman. Designers mixing old and new or reflecting on pieces of the past and turning them into modern jewels include Samantha Jackson of Heavenly Vices (Metal & Smith), Erica Molinari (Melee the Show), Sofia Zakia (Melee the Show),  Talon (press preview) and Darsana (press preview).

Shown here are chains by (left to right) Roule & Co., Polly Wales and Mallary Marks.

Working On the Chain Gang

This is a theme that continues to evolve as designers create their own chains from cast and handmade links in different shapes, lengths and widths. There’s often an extra link that acts as an “add on” to lengthen or add one medallion or multiple charms and medallions to the chain. Whether they be necklace or bracelet chains, the links can also be worn alone. They are often textured with touches of different colors of diamonds as accents or combined with vivid colored gemstones to pump up the style quotient and add an extra dimension of elegance. Designers who have joined the chain gang include Polly Wales (NY Now), Tura Sen (Melee the Show), Michelle Fantaci (Melee the Show) and Mallary Marks (Melee the Show).

Shown here are pieces by (left to right) Theresa Kaz, Roule & Co., Michelle Fantaci and Darsana.

Show Me Your Heart

Designers have brought back this universal symbol of love in all materials. It is one of the most popular motifs I saw from Las Vegas and the August shows in New York City. Although the heart still evokes sentimental and spiritual meanings that range from romance to devotion to friendship to divine love, the modern interpretations are anything but frilly or fussy or sugary sweet. These new versions range from feminine yet bold to daring and edgy. Designs from Thereza Kaz (The JA Show), Roule & Co. (Melee the Show), Michelle Fantaci (Melee the Show) and Darsana (press preview) are sure to win the heart of today’s consumer.

Shown here are earrings by (left to right) Hannah G, Soulbound, Sarah Swell, Moritz Glik and Julie Lamb.

The Ear Party

This trend continues with all shapes and styles of earrings. Multiple piercings are still going strong in smaller studs and drops. Geometric linear styles are going strong, and those with spherical drops offer a feel of the planets and celestial themes so prevalent this season. For different styles check out Moritz Glik (Melee the Show), Hannah G (press preview), Soulbound (Melee the Show) and Julie Lamb (Metal & Smith).

These pieces are by (left to right) Alex Monroe, Lene Vibe, Lene Vibe and Alex Monroe.

In the Garden

This is where you will want to stay even when the chill of fall comes along. This is a look that seems to continue well into fall/winter and holiday as so many women love floral motifs. And when they are mixed with insects in gold or precious stones and metal, well, we even appreciate them then, especially when created by Lene Vibe (Melee the Show), whose pieces continue to grow more magical and who creates a whole little fantastical world around pearls.

Alex Monroe Jewellery (Melee the Show) also does an amazing job with the tiniest of insects and a range of small and delicate blooms that appear on necklaces, earrings and rings.

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Shown above (left to right) are displays by Julie Lamb, Heavenly Vices and Alex Monroe.

These displays are by (left to right) Soulbound, Megan Thorne and Lene Vibe.

On Display

Take a page out of these designers’ cases. All of them used either vivid colors or the perfect props that allow you to understand their designs and make them pop. Check out how Soulbound creates the feeling of its collection within a 6-foot case with small objects (Melee the Show). Alex Monroe Jewellery creates a similar vibe with their displays props and pretty little accents (Melee the Show). Megan Thorne’s touches always echo back to her feeling for antique inspired creations such as in her vintage peacocks that act as ring trays. Lene Vibe (Melee the Show) also adds an extra touch with glass and brass cases that act as displays for her little garden party of jewels. Heavenly Vices (Metal & Smith) shows that you can display pieces beautifully when you only have a table to work as long as you have just the right hue in light violet displays that pop gold and silver, diamonds and enamel touches. And Julie Lamb (Metal & Smith) proves that you are in New York with her themed posters and touches that speak to the city she captures in her collection.

These plume-inspired pieces are by Annie Fensterstock.

Stand Out and Show Your Plumes

If these styles don’t bring out the peacock in you, I don’t know what will. Peacock feathers take shape in all different renditions, but two favorites were those that appeared in earrings by Annie Fensterstock at Melee the Show and at The Spectrum Awards Editor’s Day.

Shown here are pieces by (left to right) Michelle Fantaci, Erica Molinari and Brooke Gregson.

A Jewel of a Different Color (or Many Colors)

This trend can be seen in those with enameling in everything from antique-inspired looks to those with a pop ’60s feeling. Whether the enamel technique is used to highlight bold gemstones or to create the backdrop for motifs and messages, it is now being seen in different variations, which we saw at the shows in Las Vegas and New York and at press previews.

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