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Women’s Way

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The women’s self-purchase market presents huge opportunities to retailers. Eileen Alexanian unlocks its secrets.

WHEN A WOMAN comes alone into your store, you: 
 
a.) Ignore her. When she’s ready to buy, she’ll let you know.  
 
b.) Ask her if she’d like to fill out a wish-list card that you can use to give to her boyfriend/husband.  
 
c.) Pull out a few pieces to show her, but get impatient the second a man walks into the store who you think is a better sell.  
 
d.) Show her around, assuming that she’s there to make a self-purchase. And if you find that she isn’t, start trying to make her feel that it’s alright to spend money on herself.  
 
You’d be surprised at how many retailers still respond with a.) or b.) Or even c.). But to get maximum sales from your store, you need to try d.), a new approach to the female self-purchaser. The result will be more traffic, new customers, and a year-round market that frees you from the tyranny of occasion-based sales. 
 
Retailers need to get it through their heads that jewelry isn’t just for birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas and Valentine’s Day. Sometimes women should get jewelry for an even better reason. And that reason is … just because
 
Not all women are ready to buy jewelry for themselves just because. You’ll hear lots of objections ? ?Oh, I couldn’t? or ?My husband should be the one to give it to me? or ?I wouldn’t feel right about spending this much on myself? or ?I already spend so much money on clothes and shoes.?  
 
But don’t panic. And don’t give up. Here are a few ways that you can turn ?Oh, I couldn’t? into ?Oh, I shouldn’t? and finally into ?You know something … I can and I will!? 
 
Here are some of my best tried-and-true tips for wooing women customers:  
 
1. CREATE THE RIGHT ATMOSPHERE 
My store is female-friendly without being, well, girly-girly. The textured wallpaper colors are pink, white and light blue, and the showcases are white, which gives a soothing, softer look than the dark browns of some retailers. We also have a white baby grand piano and a mirror with a sign over it that says ?the fairest of them all.? It’s an elegant place but also accessible, so you don’t feel concerned about opening the door and walking in. But of course you don’t have to look like a lingerie store to successfully sell to women. The most important thing is to simply pay attention to a woman customer, especially if she walks in alone. I’ve gone into retail stores where I feel ignored, so I know how that feels. A genuine smile and hello goes a long way! 
 
2. PRESENT JEWELRY AS FASHION 
Talk about jewelry as a fashion statement, rather than a romantic symbol. Our industry has locked itself into romance-driven sales, but fashion purchases are also key. Get your female shoppers to open their minds and recognize that there are times to buy jewelry in the same way you would a purse or a belt. After all, there are women who spend $1,000 on a Gucci purse ? why not a ring or earrings? I’ve been married for 16 years, for example, and enjoy getting jewelry, but I also buy it for myself.  
 
3. BE FRIENDLY, NOT FAKE 
Your greeting and your smile can hook a female customer in the first minute they come into your store if you’re genuine about it, whether you’re commenting on the beautiful weather or remarking on the great color of her shoes. But be careful ? while a sincere compliment on her stylish purse or pretty eyes is nice, make sure it comes from a female salesperson so it isn’t misinterpreted. The point is that you’re making a connection ? like the time a lady came into my store with a little dog with a colorful bandanna wrapped around its head. It was the perfect opener ? ?I see you decorated your dog!? I said, adding, ?Well, I always like a little color too.? It’s just about making people feel comfortable, and not treating them like they’re just a transaction.  
 
4. SUGGEST A SHOT OF COLOR 
I think color is overlooked by jewelers, and find that women are much more comfortable with a colored stone piece as a self-purchase and an impulse buy. They are less apt to buy a diamond solitaire on their own, since that has such a strong connection to romance. An unusual shape of stone, or a stone they’ve never seen, always gets their attention. I love to show unusual colored stone rings, like blue zircon or rainbow sapphire, since women can always have more rings ? like they can always have more shoes! 
 
5. SHOW THEM IT’S OKAY TO BUY 
Most of the time it really comes down to whether a woman feels free to spend money on herself. I try to relate the possible purchase to reality: If the piece is $500, for example, I’ll remind her that if she really likes it and will enjoy wearing it, it will pay for itself every time she puts it on. I mean, I go out and look at designer hats or bags and I’m amazed at the prices of these things. Women will buy themselves a $600 dress that lasts for one season, so why not a piece of jewelry that lasts forever?  
 
6. AVOID MARITAL STATUS  
Don’t assume a woman is married to the man she walks in with, and don’t presume a woman is single just because she’s shopping alone or with friends. I always try not to box myself into that kind of tight spot, which can make some women uncomfortable ? I’ll just keep things simple and vague, like, ?So, who’s this fellow?? 
 
Turning women from hesitant into happy customers should make you feel great. For me, it’s a terrific feeling to know that I helped a woman to treat herself better, to value her importance, and, in a way, to transform her life. When a woman says, ?I’m going to enjoy this so much!? it gives me a thrill. I want to get all of us thinking more about how to help women celebrate themselves and feel like a jewelry purchase is money well spent. Today, women can make all of their own choices ? so don’t you want your store to be their choice when it’s time to buy a beautiful piece of jewelry?  

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