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Why You Need A Custom Visual Standards Manual

How and why to create a custom visual standards manual for your store.

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ONE OF THE BEST WAYS to guarantee that your employees maintain the look and feel of your stores is a custom visual standards manual, or CVSM. Such a manual explains how a store should look and how to keep it looking that way. A good manual allows room for change and it teaches the store employees how to access their creativity while staying within the boundaries of the store’s image and brand.

Visual standards include everything that can be seen as you drive or walk up to, into and through the store to the back door. The CVSM includes lighting, signage, flooring, all surface materials, fixtures, merchandising the fixtures, displays, focal areas, aisles, wrap desks, daily maintenance, safety standards, back room standards, washroom standards and office standards. Standards must be maintained in order to retain your image and feed your brand.

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Podcast: A Flash of Cash and Other Meditations on the Value of Jewelry

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Podcast: Craig Husar Discusses His Career, and His Spectacular New Store, on ‘The Barb Wire’

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Podcast: Make Sure You Open the Dang Box

Each person has his or her own style of creativity. Some of those creative endeavors may not exactly be in keeping with your image. A standards manual clarifies your image and gives clear direction and boundaries to the various styles and quality of individual creativity and expression.

If a chain of jewelry stores (of any size) has an image that requires presentation standards, or you are re-creating your image and want to retrain your employees, a manual is one of the first steps to making this transition happen consistently and successfully.

Here’s how you develop a CVSM.

1. Assign this job to one or two people who have a clear understanding of your merchandising, visual merchandising, fixtures, signage, store design direction and overall brand and image. If you choose two people, consider one in marketing and one in operations. Or, hire someone from the outside with CVSM and jewelry store experience.

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2. Develop an outline for the manual. Add a chapter for each area of your store. You’ll be describing the fixtures in each area and how to merchandise each one. Add chapters on non-selling spaces, lighting, signage and safety.

3. Take a ton of photos. Before and after shots of merchandise presentation and displays are especially valuable and great teaching tools.

4. Determine what final format will work best for your employees and stores: a loose-leaf book, a bound printed manual, a webinar in several parts, or a training movie. In each case, you may consider a quiz after each section to make sure your employees actually looked at the CVSM. Flexibility for changes is important, so plan for that in your format.

5. Have storewide or companywide meetings and introduce the manual either in a seminar or hand it out to each person. If it’s in digital format, give everyone the link and let them know when they will be quizzed on the book. That’s pretty much the only way they’ll look at it all the way through.

Rather than just stating rules, explain why the rule exists and why it’s necessary. It will be remembered much longer than if it’s just stated without any explanation. Pare down the information so it’s a good mix of photos and copy. People today are used to reading bullet points and listening to sound bites.

The ultimate purpose of producing a CVSM is to have a standard that all employees are required to live up to on a daily basis. If one store is falling down on sales, one of the most easily observable issues may be the visual presentation. Getting everyone “on the same page” will help keep the stores looking great.

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Linda Cahan, owner of Cahan & Company, is an internationally known retail design expert specializing in visual merchandising and store design. She also teaches at The Art Institute of Portland in Oregon. Contact her at linda@cahan.net

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He Thought It Was a Great Time to Retire — So He Called Wilkerson!

As David Kiselstein, owner of J. Albert Johnson Jewelers in Fairfield, CT says, it was a perfect time to close the store he’d owned for 45 years. “I’m 72-years old, the lease came due and I thought it would be a great time to retire.” A savvy businessman and one of the founders of the Continental Buying Group, Kiselstein urges others who want to conduct a retirement sale to pick up the phone and call Rick Hayes at Wilkerson. “He’ll talk you through it. He’ll help you understand it. He’ll give you the confidence you need to go through such a big experience.”

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Commentary: The Business

Building Something Cool Means Having No Regrets, Says Stephen Webster

The designer pulled out all the stops to stand out with his Beverly Hills boutique.

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PRIOR TO PENNING this column, I looked back at some of the columns written by previous winners of the INSTORE Small Cool and Big Cool jewelry stores in America. Each is a story of passion, dedication and determination (or blood, sweat and tears) to build and maintain stores that never stop compelling and engaging with their clients and communities.

As we all know, building a successful or indeed a “cool” store, no matter what the size, has never been about doing just one thing well. It may start with great product, but that is only the beginning. As jewelers, we have to build trust, offer not only outstanding service but develop almost telepathic relationships with clients, create unique and welcoming environments, and as if that weren’t enough, a brick-and-mortar store owner also has to be as tech-savvy as a 14 year-old, able to navigate the plethora of digital platforms and social channels, apparently without which no one any longer crosses your threshold.

Podcast: A Flash of Cash and Other Meditations on the Value of Jewelry
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Podcast: A Flash of Cash and Other Meditations on the Value of Jewelry

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The Barb Wire

Podcast: Craig Husar Discusses His Career, and His Spectacular New Store, on ‘The Barb Wire’

Podcast: Make Sure You Open the Dang Box
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Podcast: Make Sure You Open the Dang Box

Despite all the above, we love it and continue to strive to be the best and the coolest.

My home is not America; I have, though, traveled across the pond on average every month for the past 25 years, growing not only millions of air miles but also my brand through an incredible network of independent and larger groups of retail jewelers across the USA, witnessing firsthand what it takes to stand out as a store.

When it finally became time to open my own boutique, I wasn’t attached to any one community, so I did what most domestic brands do and blindfolded, stuck a pin in a map of North America, at least I think that’s what other brands do, I might be wrong. My pin landed as far away from my home as it’s possible to get, the “City of Angels”: LA, right bang on the set of Pretty Woman, opposite the Beverly Wiltshire hotel on Rodeo Drive.

I believe there were 25-plus jewelers already on that famous drive, and unlike them, this was my first Rodeo. To stand a chance, the Stephen Webster store had to be different. Our jewelry was already different, so we wanted the environment to look as though the product belonged there.

I’m proud to say that if it was anything, it was different. The etched concrete floor, the crocodile skin (effect) leather covered showcases, graffiti artwork and neons by famous street artists, and up the sweeping staircase on the second floor, the now-legendary NoRegrets lounge, where we showcased everything that makes up the extended world of Webster: chefs, sculptures, conventional and graffiti artists, photographers, a milliner, too many DJs and even a classical trumpet player. The

NoRegrets lounge has earned its title.

Just like every neighborhood store, we earned every one of our clients. Due to the nature of local employment, we never knew who was going to walk through the door, and even though our policy is that everyone gets treated the same, I’m sure one can imagine that some of those Hollywood types do demand that extra mile and a half. Living exactly 6,000 miles away, we like to think we give it. It would be fun to know if any other store owners have such a ridiculous commute; I hope not, for their sakes.

Having our flagship store recognized as “cool” by peers from an industry I love and feel very much part of in a country I really should call home has been such an honor. You have no idea how cool it feels for my team in the US and also back in London, where to say we were voted the coolest big jewelry store in America is massive.

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Shane Decker

What Not To Do During the First 30 Seconds of Any Sale

Huddling at the back is a big no-no.

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HAVE YOU EVER walked into what appeared to be a nice store, only to spin and leave faster than you came in? Or, have you ever walked into a nice place of business and watched two salespeople look at each other, then you, then each other again, like they’re seeing which one of them is going to wait on you?

You’re not alone — we’ve all had this experience, and jewelry stores are no exception. At too many stores, you’re not greeted at all, and sometimes, you can’t even find anyone to take care of your needs. This is one reason the Internet is doing so well.

People today are time-starved, and they will decide within the first 30 seconds of entering your store whether or not they’re going to give you their money.

Let’s begin with the first five seconds: every customer must be greeted — ideally, from the “sweet spot” in your store (15 feet inside your door to the customer’s right as they walk in). When you’re a client and you’re acknowledged, you feel important. It’s a relief subconsciously to realize that the sales associates know you’re there.

Never allow your sales floor to be vacant when clients come in. Many say they are just looking, but that’s an opportunity for you to use your first close by saying, “I always do that before I buy; let’s get started!” or “I’m glad you came in to take care of that today.”

“I’m just looking” means “I’m just spending.” It means “I’m on a mission, and when I find what I’m looking for, I’m gonna buy it.” It does not mean, “Leave me alone.” Like I said before, we are a time-starved nation, and nobody is just looking.

Do not come from the back of the store to the front; you should be there already. When you come from the back, your mind is focused on the busy work you were doing or the donut you were eating.

Never greet a customer from a group huddle. It’s good to laugh in your store, but if you’re all laughing about something when the client walks in, they may think you’re laughing at them.

Do not use canned openings like “Hi, how are you?” or “What can I help you with?” Clients don’t need “help”; they want professional assistance to make a purchase or information about a service needed. Likewise, don’t say, “Good morning, welcome to Smith Jewelers.” That gets old, fast. What if they come in three or four times a year and hear you say the same thing? Keep your greetings creative and make sure they’re welcoming. Your greeting should be professional and make your client feel glad they came into your place of business.

Be present for the start of the sale, and keep it professional. Starting strong allows you to make it to the end (and hopefully close the sale). By doing so, you’ll keep your client from wanting to go to the Internet — after all, we do want to talk to real people, especially when it comes to jewelry.

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Columns

World’s Biggest, Heaviest and Most Valuable Coin to Make US Debut

It will be on display at the New York Stock Exchange on July 16.

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THE WORLD’S BIGGEST, heaviest and most valuable coin will make its U.S. debut at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) next Tuesday, July 16.

For only 12 hours — 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. — the “1 Tonne Australian Kangaroo” gold coin will be on public display in Experience Square, just outside the NYSE on Broad Street.

Made from 99.99% pure gold, the coin measures 80 cm (31.5 inches) wide and 12 cm (4.5 inches) thick. It weighs one metric ton, which is equivalent to 2,200 pounds or 35,274 ounces. The coin has a face value of $1 million, but at today’s gold price, the precious metal alone is worth $49.3 million.

The Perth Mint created the “1 Tonne Australian Kangaroo” in 2011 to bring worldwide attention to its popular annual Australian Kangaroo Gold Bullion Coin Series. A year later, Guinness World Records affirmed its status as the world’s largest coin.

The reverse design depicts a bounding red kangaroo surrounded by stylized rays of sunlight. The coin is bordered by the inscription AUSTRALIAN KANGAROO 1 TONNE 9999 GOLD and the year 2012.

The obverse of the coin portrays the Ian Rank-Broadley effigy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, accompanied by the inscriptions ELIZABETH II, AUSTRALIA and the monetary denomination of 1 MILLION DOLLARS.

The enormous gold coin has rarely left its permanent display at The Perth Mint’s Gold Exhibition in the Land Down Under. It did embark on a promotional tour across Asia and Europe in 2014, and now it is traveling halfway around the world for the one-day New York exhibition.

The Australian coin is 10 times heavier than the previous record-holder, a 100 kg (220 pound) coin designed by the Royal Canadian Mint.

The Australian coin is 10 times heavier than the previous record-holder. CREDITS: IMAGES COURTESY OF THE PERTH MINT.

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