Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Things that are bought

Jewellery which people can come-in and ask for by name and/or model number and purchase are things that are bought.  If the popularity, the branding or the marketing are that effective, and you’re not the one driving that demand, those products are eventually going to end-up discounted, sold on the internet, over-distributed or all three. 

I hear the complaints.  You invest thousands or tens-of-thousands of dollars into a branded program only to find that people are coming to you to find-out what your price is on a given model.  They’ve already decided to buy that item independently of everything you’ve done to develop your business.  The brand has usurped your best intentions and ultimately your business.

Flash-back to the last sentence in the opening paragraph.  I said, “(if) you’re not the one driving the demand…”.  Here’s the thing.  If you choose to carry branded product, be the one to drive the demand.  Make it part of your store’s marketing.  Don’t let the brand take-over, because if the brand ever closes-down or walks down the street, so go your customers.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

The Secret of Selling More

Psssst …. Wanna know a secret?  The secret to selling more is … wait for it … selling more. I read a recent article by Seth Godin about things that are bought and things that are sold.  I believe that most jewellers have both items in the same store.

When I briefly worked for Peoples, the $99 diamond heart pendant was always something that people came in and bought.  I didn’t have to be particularly clever to close that sale.  It was my job to sell them something else more precious.  Silver charm-beads are bought.  Gold charm-beads are sold.  Entry-level engagement rings are bought, premium designer engagement rings are sold.

Now consider this plot twist:  Internet retailers by necessity have to sell things that are bought, because it’s 10-times harder to sell something without personal contact.  More next time…

Monday, 27 February 2012

Painted Cows

After landing at the Calgary International Airport, I drove past a painted cow.  It was a life-sized cow like dozens of others that were put on display around Calgary.  I don’t know the specifics of the art organization or the charity, but I do know that a challenge was issued for people to paint and decorate the identical blank cows in unique ways.  Every one turned-out to have a distinct theme, different color scheme and promoted some cause or sponsor.  I saw the silhouette of a cow.  Then I saw bright prime colors.  I never got close enough to investigate the theme or the sponsor as I hurried away from the airport.

So it goes with jewellery stores.  A person walking down the street or mall looks upon your store and recognizes through the silhouette that you are a vendor of jewellery.  But then they begin to recognize the differences between you and other jewellers.  They see colors, displays, counter-cards, and people dressed in a certain way.  If they like what they initially see, they may actually look at your product.

From the superficial trappings that mark you as a jewellery store to the colors, textures, lighting, dress-code and millwork that begin to whet their appetite, you set the stage for customer expectations.  Those expectations will mentally be compared to your presentation of the product.  If the expectations are met, then there is a clear path to making a sale.  If they expect one thing and you demonstrate another, they will be distracted by the incongruity.

The movie preview promises an action-packed suspense thriller.  The movie actually takes-on a more subtle story line and a relaxed pace.  It may be a great movie but because you were expecting something else, you feel like the producers tricked you into buying a ticket.

I think Ben Moss has done one of the best jobs of creating an accurate silhouette with their bright stores and colorful murals.  They don’t have dark-stained hardwood millwork and curved glass cabinets.  I’m sure they could afford such luxurious settings, but it would send the wrong message.  Keep this in mind if you are planning on remodeling. 

Until then, make sure that you take advantage of dress-codes, service and sales presentations.  Don’t try to be ultra-funky and modern if you have classic, conservative jewellery to show.  If you boast the finest products and a rich history, your repair service had better be top-notch too.  Don’t try to be overly formal if you’ve brought-in a bunch of clearance merchandise to supplement your half-off sale. 

Think of your customer experience as the paint on that cow.  What colors and shapes are required to artistically reflect the experience that awaits them inside?

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Time for some “potty-talk.”

My wife’s cousin hires young people to work on loading docks.  One of his hiring questions is, “have you ever cleaned a toilet.”  An unusual question, but the point is, a mature person will do what needs doing.  Your mom does not follow you around erasing your messes.  They just accumulate.  Eeewwww.

When I started in retail jewellery in 1987 at Forest of Jewels in Heritage Mall Edmonton, I had no idea that it would be the beginning of my life’s passion.  I think Guy Forest was just happy to have another male to talk to.  Despite what some strains of modern psychology say, there are distinct differences between men and women.  Men stand, ladies sit.  It wasn’t long before one of the ladies I worked with firmly suggested that I wipe the rim of the toilet bowl after using.  I didn’t think I was that messy, but I made a habit of making sure the toilet was clean and shiny after use.  Also, after drying my hands with paper-towel, I use it to wipe around the sink.  Two simple things that ensured that nobody ever had to cleanup my disgusting mess.

Whenever I use a washroom where the same care is not taken, I realize that someone in that workplace has never stepped-up and made the “firm suggestion” that everyone have a hand in keeping a tidy and sanitary workplace.  So, here it is.  Even if you can’t see your sprinkles fellas, they’re there and you need to wipe them up.  Use the toilet brush when necessary.  Toothpaste and soap don’t spontaneously evaporate.  It takes a rinse and maybe even a wipe to erase evidence of your trip to the loo.

If you don’t think it’s important enough, consider the client that needs to use your washroom.  What kind of impression are you making on them if it’s worse than a truck-stop rest room.

There.  Now it’s been said.  Everyone enjoy a nice clean workplace.  Then when it’s your turn to clean and disinfect the washroom and lunchroom, it won’t ruin your entire day.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Guest Blog - Customer Service - by Don Johnson

Funny story,

I thought I knew what customer service was. I just had a customer redefine it for me.
“customer service=attitude”

Yesterday, I sold a $2,000.00 wedding band. I was on the floor when this nice lady walked in and went straight to the wedding band counter.  Within a few seconds, I acknowledged her and went of to help her. I noticed a very large Princess Cut diamond engagement ring on her finger.  Knowing that we have never had that ring in stock, I knew we never sold it, but instead of dwelling on that, I mentioned “what a lovely ring?” where did you get it? “In Vegas” she replied... I smiled and said “well, I guess you need a wedding band to match it?...... I opened the showcase and pulled out a 14K White gold wedding band with 10 princess cut diamonds that I thought would go great with her “ring from Vegas”.... she smiled and said “that’s brilliant, its’ a perfect match... I’ll take it”

(I’m thinking to myself..... that was easy) When my customer says, “well, that was easy!” I was just next door at the national retail jewellery store and when I walked in, I got “bad customer service”.

 I asked for her to explain, she said just before coming in here,” I walked into your competitors and asked for help as I needed a wedding band.  They looked at my ring (that was not bought locally) and told me “that it would have to be custom made and that it would be VERY expensive”.  She said thanks anyway and came to us.  I listened to her needs and with a smile provided a solution....

(Keep in mind that my customer just had the flu and wasn’t dressed very well, so she looked like she couldn’t afford very much)

At first glance I saw a very large purchase that happened someplace if I give the “attitude” that it was not bought local, so I have no interest in helping..... I guess I would get the response that my competitor got... A customer, walking out the door.

So the end result was our competitor having “Attitude” and losing any chance of making a sale, and me listening and putting 2 grand in the till........

The funny part is, my customer told me “they have bad customer service”

So was it Bad Customer Service or was it a Bad Attitude?

I guess the customer is always right.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Why can’t we be friends?

Why do we find it so hard to think of our competition as brothers in arms when it comes to battling the dragon of “other consumer products?”

I’ve got a theory.  I believe that no matter how much retailers struggle or prosper, we think we’re living in a bubble.  We worry about consumers finding-out that there’s enough margin in jewellery for a competitor to undercut us by a good sum and then nobody will pay our asking price.  We go into a trade center with a few other jewellers, they’ll undercut us and take all of our customers away.  Or, we’ll undercut them and then we’ll be stuck with a bunch of clients that always want a deal.  There’s no honor among thieves.  It’ll all fall down like a house of cards.

Guess what folks.  It’s already happening exactly like that.  The only thing that’s missing is the high-profile and publicity of a trade-show.  It’s all a natural part of the economy; it’s what Adam Smith called the “invisible hand”; ensuring through competition that prices veer inexorably towards a position of fair value. 

I’m not saying that a retail jewellery trade show is the answer to defending jewellery’s position as a desirable consumer product, but because of my experience with consumer shows, let me finish the thought.  When I worked for Canadian National Sportsmen’s Shows, I camped-out on the roof of BC Place stadium for a publicity stunt.  We flew-in fishing gurus, built 100 foot climbing walls and built and filled pools for kayak  and fishing demonstrations (not at the same time.)  We spent tens of thousands of dollars advertising the shows and we were successful in bringing 40,000 people through the doors – to learn and to shop.  How did we get 200 or 300 exhibitors to pay money to set-up shop mere steps away from their competition?  Because together they could build more demand for more product and train-up more future consumers of sporting goods than if they sat in their little shops spending their little advertising budgets to sell a little bit of product.

Buying groups, the CJA and chambers of commerce are all groups who are looking for retailers who will set aside their fear of competition for the greater good:  the strengthening of an industry or the strengthening of a marketplace.  Get involved.  Bring your own ideas to the table.  There is strength in numbers.

The connection economy multiplies the value of what is contributed to it. It's based on abundance, not scarcity, and those that opt out, fall behind.
Sharing your money, your ideas, your insights, your confidence... all of these things return to you. Perhaps not in the way you expected, and certainly not with a guarantee, but again and again the miser falls behind. – Seth Godin

Thursday, 23 February 2012

The most heinous of enemies…

The third enemy we face and I think one of the most crucial is the realm of “other consumer products and services.”  Going back 30 years, people had one television that cost a good sum, but they kept it for 10 or 15 years.  Nobody had an iPod.  Nobody had a cel phone, and nobody had a laptop.  Nobody really cared about granite countertops and it was virtually unheard-of to spend $15,000 (or three-months’ wages) on a bathroom renovation.  With the loss of the DPS telling consumers to buy 1ct diamonds, spend 2 months’ salary on an engagement ring, buy tennis bracelets, journey pendants and the like, we’re all losing market share.
I daresay that the third dragon is the scariest of all.  We can’t do anything about the economy.  If we just let-go of our thinking that the guy down the street is the source of all our problems, we could work on this third enemy together.  We could cooperate with our competitors to heighten the status of jewellery.  Why do you think there are RV shows, auto shows and sportsman shows?  Why do you think reality TV covers home renos, landscaping, wedding dresses and travel?  Car dealers combine forces to have multi-dealer car sales.  Why don’t jewellers do anything like that?
Come on people now.  Smile on your brother.  Everybody get together, promote love of jewellery right now!
I'll finish this crazy thought tomorrow, but Saturday I've got a big treat: a mystery guest-blogger for Saturday Story Time.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Those good-for-nothing jewellers down the street!

The economy is the first of the “big three” competitors that we battle.  The second category of competitor is other jewellers.  When analyzing your competition, include retailers in your local market area, higher-end retailers in larger centers nearby, and the internet.  You actually need different weapons to battle each of those three tyrants who constantly work to rob you of your well-deserved market-share.

It’s pretty simple to gain intel on your local competitors.  You can put on a rubber-nose and glasses and shop them, you can listen to what your customers say about them, or you can just get to know them as colleagues.  Almost every market loses higher-end sales to a larger centre.  Unless you’re a top jeweller in Dubai, Hong Kong or New York, there are always more luxurious and more exclusive places for the top consumers in your market to go for things that you can’t effectively supply.

Competing against the internet is EASY.  Okay, it’s easy for armchair quarterbacks like me.  Fact-is that that online jewellery purchases are on the rise.  According to most estimations, it seems the volume is plateauing.  Competing against the internet requires a focus on in-person service, and getting away from branded product.  More and more I hear complaints that popular branded goods are being price-shopped like never before.  Once the client knows the designer and model-number, they can make it all-about price.  Further to in-person service, you must offer unique selections and niche-product in order to take power away from the internet.