Tuesday, 10 December 2013


If you don’t receive Aleah Arundale’s (formerly Seagal) emails from Olympia Diamonds, they’re extremely well-done, have thought-provoking marketing and product-knowledge messages, and appear to be highly effective at promoting her business.  Her recent email focuses on making big promises in your advertising.  In her words;
Your claim could be "If you buy her a big diamond, you will never have another fight and your teeth with be whiter!!"  Silly? Yes, but it made you smile, pause, and there is a little bit in all of us that wants to believe it is true....

I’ve quoted David Ogilvy before, who said, “the heart and soul of advertising is; A BIG PROMISE."  I believe in making big promises too – as long as they’re hyperbole as above or genuinely beneficial to your audience.   A certain department store believes in making big promises that are neither humorous, nor genuine.  Today only, you can buy a pair of 1.5ct tw diamond studs and save over 75%!  That’s a pretty MASSIVE promise. 

Hmmm.  Didn't we just pass through “Black Friday?”  Isn’t that the day where merchants begin to operate in “the black?”  What are you saying, famous vendor of striped blankets?  Are you saying that we’re in the most lucrative season for merchants and you’re so desperate for cash that you’re willing to sell those diamond studs for less than you paid for them?  Are you saying that you typically mark product at 4-times your cost, and these are being sold AT COST?  Are you saying that someone who bought those same earrings yesterday paid 4-times today’s price?  Will they be getting good value if they purchase them tomorrow at 4-times that incredible price?  Has anyone, in fact, ever paid you $8,000 for those diamond studs?  Are you promising me that I’d have to pay $8,000 if I bought the same quality of diamond studs elsewhere? 

When consumers see this massive discount, is there a part of them that smiles, pauses, and wants to believe it’s true?  I’m sure there will be some misguided dupes.

Is it possible, oh historic Canadian merchant named after a large body of water which borders Northern Ontario, Manitoba, Nunavut, and Quebec that you bought really crummy diamonds for less than $1,999, put them in 18kt gold settings to make them seem valuable, and then pulled an outrageous retail price out of your @$$ that was 300% more than what you wanted to sell them for so that you could WOW people with a 75% discount and still make a profit? 

My money’s on this latter scenario.  It might have to be if they sue me because some of you repost this to your clients and the unnamed department store’s legal department takes offense.


Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Orm Shultz will be missed!

Entrepreneur, gentleman and well-respected member of the jewellery industry Orm (Ormand) Shultz passed away on Monday night.  Warrington’s Jewellers closed its’ doors almost one year ago after 48 years in business and 39 years in Prairie Mall.  The family still owns and operates Jonathan’s Jewellers in Prairie Mall, and along with the long-serving staff will miss “Mr.’s” leadership and encyclopedic knowledge.  As a sales rep, I was often astounded at his ability to identify his fast-selling designs without the aid of a computer.  With two stores and dozens of suppliers I always received a fair dose of undivided attention from him; which is why he had won numerous “Gold Nugget” awards from the rep’s associations when there was such a thing.  My thoughts and prayers are with his family and staff during what will continue to be a very busy month no matter how heart-sick they feel.

Reflecting back on one of the darkest times in my life and career, I recall being able to put-on a “good front.”  It’s not easy to focus on celebrating happy moments with your clients when you feel little joy inside.  This is the difference between a professional and an amateur in jewellery sales.  I don’t know anyone whose lives have been sunshine and rainbows the whole way along; yet some have the ability to rise to the occasion whenever a client walks through the door.

I think the key is this: as soon as a client walks through the threshold, your focus is on their needs, their emotions and finding a winning solution to their current circumstance.  Whether you’re in the middle of a personal crisis, or just absorbed in busy-work as part of your responsibilities in the store, you need to be “other-centered, servant-hearted people” to your visitors the instant you spot them even thinking about coming in.  If you’re grieving or having some personal difficulties, share it with your owner or manager, and tell them you’re going to try to focus on clients in order to do your job the best you can while you’re on the clock.  Ask them to give you feedback if you’re not accomplishing that.

Look, it’s not about fake-enthusiasm in this business.  It’s about a solid conviction that your store and your product are the best possible solution to your client’s needs and desires.  When you put the person across the showcase from you first, and you know the amazing benefits of dealing with you and buying what you have to sell, you can push through any personal crisis and be effective.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

New Manufacturer “Imanokov”

Okay, so it happens in our industry.  One manufacturer’s designs looks suspiciously like another’s.  There are certain designs, including the 17-stone cluster ring, the “stairway to heaven,”  the “Tiffany-style solitaire,” the current halo-settings, etc.  Who put-out the first 17-stone cluster?  Can anyone remember?  I recall being shocked in 1988 when Boas & Farro put out their little red catalog featuring all manor of diamond clusters, when I thought of them for original designs.  Who were the first to string various donut-shaped silver beads on a snake bracelet? Plagiarism is grounds for expulsion in Universities, but in the jewellery business seems to lead to significant financial rewards.  What’s wrong with our industry?!?

I guess like drug companies, the one who comes out with the product first, gets to enjoy the rewards of innovation before the copy-cats swoop-in and begin making generic versions.  In the pharmaceutical business, they get 10 years of patent protection before others can copy.  In the movie business, copyrights are good for 25 years, which is why Disney “remasters” their movies on each 25th anniversary.  This makes the old edition less desirable and restarts the 25 year clock of protection on the new one.

When I visit the “designer section” of JCK Las Vegas, I expect to see new innovative concepts.  Which ones might become trends, and which will fizzle into oblivion is the question of the day.  Maybe one hot new designer will inspire other designers to take a motif and shape it in a new direction.  That’s how we continue to come-up with new design variations after you think thousands of designers over hundreds of years have exhausted all possible variations.  “Duplicators” can see a design at JCK, walk down the aisle making a sketch, digitally send it to their goldsmiths, and before returning to their home office, could have a “new design” to offer their clients.

As a representative of a design firm that seeks to innovate, I can tell you that not all innovations are profitable.  It takes trying a number of new things to prove one highly favorable.  The overall business model requires loyal supporters to try some new and continue to buy the tried and true in order for innovators to survive.  I would humbly ask that you show respect to the innovators and give them every opportunity to supply you.  If the innovators get pushed out of business by the duplicators, then the duplicators will all have only each other to copy; and our design world will become a very bland place indeed.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Fake it ‘til You Make it?

<Wondering where I’ve been?  Much of my writing-time has been directed toward editorial contributions to Canadian Jeweller Magazine.  I’ll continue to send articles as they don’t conflict with that effort.  Enjoy a new game like “Where’s Waldo?” – see if you can find my articles buried in the back of Canadian Jeweller Magazine (not in every issue.) >

My good friend Quentin was talking about his experience in retail.  He began working at The House of Knives a few years back and when he started, he felt the all-too-familiar temptation to “fake it ‘til you make it.”  After getting caught giving misinformation by knowledgeable shoppers, he was embarrassed and he recognized the need to get ahead of the game.  He committed himself to learning about the different metals used in knife-blades.  He built his own collection of kitchen and pocket-knives, so that he could personally attest to the advantages of one product or another.  He now feels a sense of confidence that he can approach clients and almost never get “stumped” by a product knowledge question.  He approaches new and repeat clients with genuine conviction that they are going to get the best possible advice when selecting product, and his sales are impressive. 

Has a client ever asked you a question you didn’t know the answer to?  When that happens there are a few ways to handle it:

Bad Choices:
·      Invent:  Fabricate an answer that you think will help make the sale
·      Interpolate:  You can make something up that sounds like it might be correct, based loosely on your knowledge of jewellery
·      Impart:  You can give them an answer that you’ve heard someone else give, even though you’ve never actually verified the accuracy of that answer
 Better Choices:
·      Ignorance: you can admit your ignorance, and ask if the answer affects their desire to purchase the item in question.  If not, sell-away!
·      Interrupt:  You can ask the client to wait while you look-up the answer or attempt to get it from the manager or another staff member

Here’s the thing.  There’s no replacement for a wealth of product knowledge.  I’ve written before about how important it is not to overwhelm customers with unwanted facts, but when they ask and you don’t have the answers, you stand a chance of losing the sale.

Call to action – “Stump-Log:” When a customer stumps any one in your store with a question, deal with it the best way you can.  Once finished with the client, log the question at the top of the page of a notebook.  Make sure you go-back when you have time, research and write-down the best answer you can find and then share it with your teammates at the next staff meeting.  Add comments to the answer as the team collaborates on the best possible responses, and as the manager gives direction.  This notebook will become great reading and a valuable resource for new hires.  Managers, when there are few or no new entries in the stump-log, write-down an every-day question and task a staff member with writing their best answer.  Something like, “I saw an ‘SI’ clarity diamond at another store, but it didn’t look clear to me.  Why’s that?”, or “are dark Sapphires the best quality?”

Knowledge leads to confidence.  Confidence leads to effective selling.

Monday, 26 August 2013

The Road Behind

Last week I visited some stores in the Vancouver area.  One of the malls I visited was Lougheed Mall in Burnaby, BC.  I expected a degree of nostalgia.  You see, for a few very important months of my life in 1988-89 I worked there for Mappins Jewellers.  It was during that time that a friend of mine told me about a cousin who worked at the same mall.  I ventured downstairs to the Cotton Ginny to introduce myself to her one day.  A few days later in front of Mappin’s Sandicast display on December 2nd, 1988, I asked Jana out on our first date.  I couldn’t wait for my shift to end.  After Christmas, the hours from Mappins weren’t quite so abundant and a friend recruited me to come work for him.  I returned to Lougheed Mall frequently over the following months to visit Jana, and buy her treats from the Cookies by George kiosk.

Fast-forward 25 years.  Mappins is gone from the mall, and I couldn’t really tell which clothing shop is in it’s place.  O.B. Allen and Ben Moss are gone.  Cookies by George moved and Cotton Ginny is gone.  The parking lot has been reconfigured and built-up so I couldn’t even envision where I used to park.  Businesses come and go but the people and experiences live-on.  I met my life-partner in that mall.  I remember Dwight, Tom, Irena, Demetre & Kelly with whom I worked, and I’ve seen and heard-tell that some are still in the jewellery business.

No trace of that store remains, but the impact of the people I worked with is an inescapable part of me.  I witnessed some very effective sales-people, and caught invaluable sales techniques.  I learned that individual commissions can lead to conflict and resentment.  I came to understand that chain-stores would never suit me quite right.  Even though I was low-man on a pretty high totem pole, I resented the cutting of my hours and it drove me to prove to them that they overlooked a “diamond in the rough.”

It makes me pause to take stock of where I’m at today.  If my future-life unfolds in unexpected directions, what will I take away from working with Steve, Lilian, the amazing retailers (some of whom will remain friends forever,) and from my valued industry colleagues?  Take a moment to thank God, or fate or the universe for the people around you who contribute to your success, to your character and who you’ll take with you as the years march on.  Better yet, find a way to thank them for being part of your life today!

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Edmonton Show Report

What an interesting three days in Edmonton!  As some of you are aware there are new owners in place for the Western Canadian Jewellery Expo.  For Phil and his crew, they wanted to make sure that their inaugural show was both exciting and secure.

For excitement, they moved the show opening reception to Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse.  The lower level was cleared of tables, and an open cocktail reception (sponsored by Jewellers Mutual and the Canadian Jewellery Buyers Group) welcomed those of us not out on the Marriott’s patio with Corona.  Although a bit warm down there, Ruth’s Chris put-on a great reception featuring rib-eye sliders that were to die for.  The show also featured a draw for a brand new Lexus; not just a one or two year lease, the whole car – sponsored by Gold Star and Canadian Jeweller Magazine.  The winner was De Vo, owner of Paris Jewellers (as if he needs it!)  This year, the sixth annual DiGem Evening of Decadence was moved to The Sutton Place Hotel, and the beneficiary was Little Warriors; a very worthy charity who not only work on prevention of child sexual abuse, but are building a camp to act as a treatment center for victims.  There are three treatment centers in Edmonton for rehabilitating sexual predators, but this will be the first in Canada to treat the victims.  Well-done Connie and her team!  Yours truly was among those who shut the place down after dancing-up a storm to the awesome Dr. Zeus and the Blue Whos.

On the safety side, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much security at a jewellery show.  When a lightening strike set-off an alarm, the Convention center was locked-down for two hours on Saturday afternoon; traditionally the busiest day of the show.  Edmonton’s finest were strolling the show sporting automatic assault rifles during all show hours.  I witnessed a police dog sniffing around under the loading dock ramp, and three Suburban’s full of tactical squad members were present for the mobilizing of the armored cars at the end of the show.  When Steve was within a few blocks of the Convention Centre on Sunday afternoon with our rental truck, he was pulled-over by the police, searched and questioned to ensure that he didn’t have a van-full of bad-guys.

To my knowledge there were no security breaches, and that was likely because of the extraordinary effort of all security staff.  I heard second-hand that when the new owners launched their website for the all-new “Canadian Jewellery Expos” that 600 out of the first 1000 hits were from Columbia, a prime source of both emeralds and jewellery thieves.

While the extra security may sound intimidating, it made me feel safe and secure so that we could enjoy the most important networking event of our year.  Congratulations to Phil & Geoff Payne and to Lilie Ford for keeping us safe and providing the ideal meeting-place for our Canadian jewellery industry!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Between Shows...

I just returned from Toronto for the CJG buying show, and am repacking for the Edmonton show.  The definite highlight in Toronto was seeing Wayne, Joanne and Elyse Austen.  Hearing them share about the heart-breaking damage from flooding was equally haunting as it was heartwarming to hear the staggering amount of money that members had thrown into the hat for them.  As CJG President Wayne Fisher announced, “if that doesn’t bless your blesser, then you’re blesser must be broken!”

Looking forward to Edmonton, and more confident buying.  It’s been a few years since the 2008 economic meltdown in the US, and lesser degrees of slowing in parts of Canada.  Since that time the tone of buyers has been anywhere from fearful to cautious to slightly optimistic.  This year in Toronto I perceived a confidence that retailers are at a place where business is more predictible, and they’re choosing new product strategically.  The days of, “maybe this is the year that things will break loose,” or “hopefully we don’t have another crash,” or “we’re still overstocked from those boom years” seem to have faded into the past. 

When you look back on the ups and downs of the past 20 or 30 years, you recognize that highs and lows both come and go.  If you want to go for the gusto, you might over-extend your inventory during high-times.  If you want to protect yourself, you’ll pull-in your horns during every negative blip in the market.  If you think 20 or 30 years forward, your course will be dictated by the business you want to develop, rather than the numbers that rose or fell last year.  Buying is a tough job, but that’s where the shows give you a huge advantage.  You can see full selections of the latest product and compare in a timely manor to make the best possible buying decisions. 

If you’re still unsure about coming in for the Edmonton show, I encourage you to go for it.  You just might discover new designs, or new lines that will revolutionize your future.  You could also win a brand new Lexus, and that wouldn’t suck either!  See you there.

This message was brought to you by CANADIAN STAR DIAMONDS.  Click here to learn more!

Friday, 26 July 2013

Correction (oops!)

If you are sending contributions to CJG for helping out the Austens, please use the following address:

13 Minerva St. E.  
Huntsville ON.  
P1H 1P2

Thanks and have a great day!

Deadline approaching…

Kudos to those of you who have supported your fellow jewellers, Wayne and Joanne Austen of High River; in the aftermath of Alberta’s catastrophic flooding.  Donations have been trickling in, and the amount continues to grow.  Their showcases were literally obliterated and washed away.  The restoration workers have stripped the building right to the outer walls.  Think of an amount in dollars that it takes to build and furnish a medium sized jewellery store including showcases, flooring, lighting, furniture, computers, etc.  While their home was covered by a flooding rider, jeweller’s block insurance does not cover such an event and government disaster relief is offering up to $15,000 in aid (should their application be accepted.)  If you have yet to offer-up your contribution, please do so before July 31st.  I’ve sent mine, and it’s heartwarming to see the sacrifices being made for a fellow jeweller in need. 

***If you feel moved to contribute to their rebuilding, please send a cheque to one of three venues marked “AUSTEN’S”.  Please make the cheque payable to the association, so that they can amalgamate the funds and then make a presentation on behalf of all of the caring jewellers who participated

8 Centre Street N
Huntsville, ON
P1H 2C2

G7, 5550 - 45 St.
Red Deer AB
T4N 1L1

Friday, 12 July 2013

Watson Gloves

An interesting news clip came on this morning regarding a B.C. based company that was just about put out of business a few years ago, and today thrives.  Imported work gloves can be bought for pennies, and easily undersold the value of Watson product.  As soon as they came to “grips” with the fact that they weren’t going to compete on price with the flood of imported goods, they began to specialize.  They looked to the energy sector and created designs that took into account their unique needs.  They listened to other clients and found where certain designs were wearing quickly and tailored their gloves to provide significant advantages to mass-produced general purpose ones.

Consumers can purchase mass-produced general purpose jewellery from chain stores or online merchants and enjoy low pricing.  There are significant advantages bricks-and-mortar jewellers can offer through personalization and custom design.

What says “I love you” better? 

 - “I got a great deal on-line on this million-of-a-kind diamond cluster for you, honey!”


- “I remember how much you admired that design we saw on vacation, so I worked with the jeweller downtown to create a similar look featuring your birthstone, and I hand-picked a Canadian diamond to go with it!”

I happen to think that the shine’s off the apple of Chinese imported goods.  I recently saw a Facebook post that put the fear of God in me to eat anything produced in China, and to never allow my nephews to play with toys made there.  Consumers are increasingly open to stories of local product and higher quality.  If I’ve been remiss in telling you the story of any of the domestic companies I represent, please let me know and I’ll be happy to fill you in!

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Passing the Hat

Since the weather has warmed, Canada Day has come and gone and a terror threat on Canadian soil has topped the news, it seems like the flooding in Alberta is fading into distant memory.  The memory is all too real for one member of our jewellery-family.  I wrote about the Austens of High River having suffered the loss of their store, and have since discovered that there is a way we can all help them recover.  Following are excerpts from a letter to CJG member stores.  I would hope that all of us could pitch-in and help. 

 Austen Jewellers, High River Alberta has been hit by the massive floods in Alberta and their store has been totally destroyed. From the pictures we have seen most of the windows are gone as are parts of the walls.  We have spoken with Wayne Austen a couple of times over the last week. They still are not allowed into the downtown and therefore into their store or into their home. They are staying with their daughter Elyse in Okotoks.

Insurance coverage is unknown at this time, but as it rarely covers flooding they are basically without insurance to help recover. Provincial aid will likely be available but how long that will take is anybody’s guess. Building inspectors will have to verify the soundness of the buildings before plans can be made to rebuild.
This is far worse than a flood, it is a disaster area currently under martial law.
They will be needing new store fixtures and displays and some new merchandise to fill them, but now there is no income source to help pay for them and it could be weeks or months before they are up and running.

If you would like to take part in a Financial Assistance Opportunity and help out a fellow (jewellery) store … then please send a cheque made out to CJG, ( Tag it-"Austen's") and we will forward the funds on to them on everyone’s behalf.
We know that the CJG family of members and suppliers will come through for them.
Our thoughts and prayers remain with the Austen’s.

***If you feel moved to contribute to their rescue, please send a cheque to one of following three venues marked “AUSTEN’S”.

8 Centre Street N
Huntsville, ON
P1H 2C2

G7, 5550 - 45 St.
Red Deer AB
T4N 1L1

Customgold Mfg. Ltd.
#529, 470 Granville St.
Vancouver, BC
V6C 1V5

Monday, 24 June 2013

Jewellery Store Washed Away in Flooding

Best wishes, and prayers go out to Wayne & Joanne Austen of High River, Alberta whose newly renovated store was nearly gutted by the flooding last week.  As the waters began to encroach upon downtown streets where Austen Jewellers is located, Wayne was attempting to “batten down the hatches,” when the first of the large picture windows in an adjacent gift-shop imploded.  He then helped a few ladies through the chest-high water to safety, during which time he had an acute revelation of how dangerous the forces of this rushing water could be.

Today the Austens remain in nearby Okotoks, awaiting the green light to return to their home, which thankfully appears to have sustained very little water infiltration.  Having lost three vehicles to the flooding, one has already been settled with insurance.  Still no word on what roll insurance will play in the building which plays host Austen Jewellers, a gift-shop, eye-wear store and other businesses; nor on whether his business insurance will cover the furniture and fixtures.  The initial news reports state that homeowners insurance would not normally cover over-land flooding, but Provincial and Federal disaster relief will be in-place shortly to help repair what insurance doesn’t.

If insurance and disaster-relief fails to help the Austens rebuild their store, can anyone out there suggest a way in which we as an industry can pull together to assist them?  I haven’t asked, but maybe some temporary showcases will be required until insurance and contractors are arranged.  Let me know if you have any thoughts.  I won’t try to “pass the hat,” or organize anything until we know more about available aid. 

For now, just keep them in your thoughts.  Send them an encouraging note if you know them.  Appreciate your warm and dry store, knowing that any one of us could have been affected by a natural disaster.

3rd Avenue West looking West - High River

3rd. Avenue West looking East - High River

Austen Jewellers is located where the beam is sticking out of the window

Bat-Sheba Gift Shop, adjacent to Austen Jewellers - where the first picture window let-go

Alberta Premier Allison Redford sees first-hand the incredible destruction

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Let’s Think This Through…

In Vegas, Martin Rapaport stood-up and made a haunting statement.  With regards to the various grading standards among competing diamond grading labs, he stated “at least we have something to complain about.”  So, let’s think this through.  Were there no diamond labs, what would our industry look like?  Well, assuming there is still an I3 through FL clarity scale and D-Z color scale, I would speculate that there will still be diamond dealers who apply those descriptions with strict integrity, and those who “stretch” a bit, and then those who “stretch” a lot.  There would remain those jewellers who choose their dealers based upon their own level of integrity.

What would be missing?  The official looking piece of paper that can be used to convince unwitting consumers that they’re getting a great deal; and which can also be used to assure savvy consumers that they’re getting the quality they desire.  If there were no diamond labs, that might be good for Gem Scan, I.G.L. and Harold Weinstein because some consumers would insist upon an unbiased “second opinion” because they don’t trust their local jeweller.

In all likelihood our Canadian appraisal labs would generate their own reputations, and you’d end-up with one taking the moral high-ground, one catering to those who want a preferential grade and one would land in the middle. 

Is this just human nature, or is it our industry?  I’m not totally sure, but I’m going to interview people from various other industries and just see if there are similar problems elsewhere in our crazy world.  Watch for the results in an upcoming Canadian Jeweller Magazine article by yours truly…

Monday, 3 June 2013

JCK Vegas Days 2-3-4

…chiming in a little late.  That’s Vegas for you.  If you can live on 5 hours of sleep per night, this is your town.

As the show is now in its’ final day, I’ve worked a few mornings at the Lashbrook booth, provided input to purchases for Steve’s store, and selected some new gemstones for future Customgold designs and added new skus to Courtney Gold’s offerings.  Besides show-business,  there have been social gatherings including a 24kt club Canada dinner organized by Gunther Mele’s Darryl King, a dinner with Fishers, Austen’s and team Foster at P.F. Chang’s (our favorite!), a CJG cocktail reception, and the ever popular “JCK Rocks the Beach” pool party.

This year’s beach bash featured a live performance by Maroon 5.  Word to the wise: If you’re coming to future shows, try your best to register for “Luxury by JCK”.  Without those badges, you might have waited in line for two hours, like some of our friends and not made it into the much anticipated event.  I, fortunately, had such credentials by being affiliated with Steve’s store.  Maroon 5 did all of their famous songs including “My Heart’s a Stereo,” “Moves Like Jagger,” “Payphone,” and “One More Night.”  The place was packed, and it was hard to move.  Many Canadians gathered together, and those who made it in had a lot of fun.  Thank you to the CJA for hosting a cabana and some drinks for Canadian members!

The size and scope of the show, the entertainment, and the venue all combine to provide a compelling draw for Canadian Retailers.  There was even talk of creating a “Canadian Pavilion” in the international section of the show.  I’m not so sure that exhibitors such as Corona and Beverly Hills would want to move to such a location, but with something like 1,700 Canadians registered for last year’s show it’s possible that more Canuck exhibitors could join-in.

I met Phil Payne, the new owner of the Canadian jewellery shows last night, and he confirmed that each show, Toronto and Edmonton will be awarding a brand new Lexus to one lucky retailer in attendance.  Not a one-year lease, not a two-year lease, but a free Lexus.  The car giveaway sponsor is to be announced soon.  Make your plans now for your chance to win!

Exhibitors we spoke to reported strong sales, and there seemed to be a bit more action in Vegas than in most years I’ve been here.  Maybe the US economy is on the mend, or maybe more Canadians coming here is keeping the Vegas lights bright!

More reflections on seminars to come; including thoughts on the Rapaport diamond conference.

Friday, 31 May 2013

JCK Vegas Day 1 - Seminars

While all of the main-show vendors are setting up, Luxury exhibitors are busy selling, AGTA vendors are up and running and the conference halls were quite busy with seminars.  The day kicked-off at 8:00am with a breakfast session featuring Barbara Corcoran.  She is a New York rags to riches real estate broker, who you might recognize if you watch The Shark Tank.

Although during question time she offended pretty much the whole room by admitting that she’s a millionaire who doesn’t wear fine jewellery, she shared some very inspirational lessons from her 65 years of living.  She encouraged us to be good at failure; not striving for it, but tempting it often, and learning from it.  She shared how she built her own celebrity by writing free reports with well-researched information to establish herself as an expert.  When she was setting-up real estate offices, she always could base each location on two key people; and expander (creative, sales and development oriented) and a container (organized administrative type.)

She went on to urge that “the best leaders kiss down,” not up.  By that she shared stories of pouring her life into the people below her who were responsible for making her business money.  Even though some in the room felt they didn’t have the kind of capital that she began to amass once she sold her business for $65Million, she admonished that small guys have creativity, and during tough times when big money people stop spending it, creativity can be poured-out in order to increase your market share.  The final two points of her presentation were that “fun is good for business” and “you have the right to be there.” 

The stories were excellent, and as an occasional watcher of Shark Tank, she was pretty candid about her fellow panelists.  She also had a few things to say about “The Donald” who cost her $500,000 in lawyer fees to collect a $5Million commission.

After the keynote presentation, I attended sessions on “Successful Online Marketing and Web Presence,” “Working with new alloys and Metals,” “Pricing Stratagies for Custom Design,” and Brad Huisken’s “Sixteen Principles of Sales Management.”  I may go into detail on some in future articles, however even though he picked on me a little bit, Brad shared some particularly great wisdom.  The overall theme of his sixteen principles had to do with taking ownership over your salesperson’s success.  He has seen a lot of stores where the management is pretty laissez faire.  He acted-out a manager telling a sales associate to “go sell more,” contrasting that with one who says, “Hey, I noticed that your average sale is down 8% from the store average, so I’m going to watch your next few sales presentations and see if we can’t identify a few things we need to work on in order to improve that.”  If you’re not having weekly sales training and sitting down with each of your staff individually for 15 minutes per week, he considers you “out of touch.”  For a copy of his notes, just email me and I'll ask Brad if I can forward them to you.  There's lots of good stuff in there.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Doing it Right

As I look forward to Thursday's seminars at JCK Las Vegas, I’m reminded of Brad Huisken’s saying, “sales training doesn’t work…” Huh?  He really said that?  Further, he explains, “…sales training doesn’t work if it’s an event.  It has to be a process.”

After completing my Spring visits around Western Canada, I’ve been doing some renos at home.  The new home we moved into in March isn’t exactly the Taj Mahal, it needs some TLC and personal touches before we can call it our own.  The flooring guy said they could install the new lino in about a day, and the carpet could be done in another two days.  One corner of our basement had to be filled-in as the pad had sunk long ago and two layers of previous carpet failed to hide the flaw.  Before the flooring goes down, the baseboards have to come off.  If we’re replacing the baseboards with a newer style, the door casings won’t match, so might as well take them off too.  If you’re going to replace all of the trim, it’s an ideal time to paint.  In order to paint, there’s some patching that needs to be done.  Oh, and by the way, the exposed concrete footing wall should be framed, insulated, drywalled, trimmed and painted too.  Okay, so the three days of flooring installation requires three weeks of other work; without which the new features will be dragged down by everything else in the room.

Going to JCK Vegas to attend a sales training event is like the carpet installation.  One or two days and “all’s good,” right?  Wrong.  Without some sales experience, you won’t know what the heck they’re talking about.  Without product knowledge, you’ll have a hard time filling in the blanks that the sales trainer is referring to when she talks about answering objections, or romancing the product.  Without an instore sales manager guiding your attempts at putting the training into practice, you might apply new knowledge to the wrong scenarios. 

Learning to be a superstar jewellery seller is no easy one-day fix.  It has to be important enough to spend the time continuously to learn, practice, refine and perfect.  If you’re not going to Vegas, pull that sales training kit off of the shelf, and give it a once-over this weekend.  Think about how nervous you were the first week on the sales floor, and how much more proficient you are today.  Now imagine another 5, 10 or 20 years, and how much more effective you’ll be at serving your clients then.  There’s always more to learn, and until you’re closing, adding-on and gaining referrals from 100% of the people who walk into your store, you’re not done.

Proverbs 1:2-5 “for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to those who are simple, knowledge and discretion to the young – let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance…”

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Best wishes!

Those of you who deal with Courtney Gold surely know my friend Peter Keymer.  Pete has been handling outside sales in the Lower Mainland of Vancouver along with inside sales, marketing support, inventory management and photography.  Peter will be retiring at the end of May, and we will miss him greatly.  I want to extend a personal debt of gratitude for all of the ways he’s helped me, inspired me and made me laugh.

If you know of someone who may be a candidate to join the Customgold / Courtney Gold family’s sales team, will you please have them contact Steve Parker at 1-800-563-8949.  The ideal candidate will be looking for a full-time position, but those carrying complimentary jewellery lines will be considered.

Also, best wishes to John and Claudette Craft on their anniversary.  If John’s visiting your store today, remind him to call his wife and sell him something fabulous to bring home to her!

Monday, 13 May 2013

Copping a ‘tude

One day I had it illustrated to me in vivid side-by-side detail.  Two ladies came to see me in my store.  Both could have been sisters.  Same build, same hands, same finger size.  One said, “I can’t wear rings that are too narrow, I mean look at my hands.”  The other later told me, “I need something quite fine with these short fingers.”  And then it hit me.  It’s not about the length of fingers, it’s about their self-image: their attitude.  Thereafter, I paid better attention to the intensity of color they wear, the boldness of their accessories and the amount of makeup worn.  A brassy realtor with big hair, massive bejeweled hand-bag and outrageous high heels is going to be a good candidate for my biggest, boldest designs!  It’s all about the attitude.

Don’t we wish there were more “big attitudes” out there?  Well, we can have a hand in encouraging that.  Whenever I see the lady with her three-piece wedding set, anniversary band, family ring and her mom’s wedding set all piled-up onto her left ring finger, it’s a great opportunity to encourage her to spread things out a bit.  Since she’s been wearing 15 rings on one finger, she is open to wearing something wider on another finger, but might need some enCOURAGEment.  If you talk about the attitude of wearing bigger bolder jewellery; there are very few women who don’t wish they were a bit more fashionable, and exuded a bit more of a confident attitude.  I enjoy the challenge of getting a lady to put a ring on a middle finger or index finger for the first time, because it opens-up a whole new world of possibilities in her jewellery wardrobe.

Make it your personal mission to expand our industry by claiming new territory on every customer’s hands.  And when they’ve got rings for every finger, start working on rings for every occasion, and color palette.  If you believe that having more jewellery than you can wear on a daily basis is excessive and wasteful, you should probably examine your own attitude.  Start by searching through the store’s inventory every single day to see which jewellery would be ideal for the outfit you’re wearing and how you’re feeling.  Then imagine having such a vast jewellery wardrobe yourself.  There are ladies coming into your store with the means to build a stunning collection, and you should be excited to help them do it; if you’ve got the right attitude.

Monday, 6 May 2013

More Ranting about EGL & Vegas

When I get engaged in conversations about EGL certificates, I’ve used the following analogy.  (With apologies to Hyundai drivers – Ron’s got a nice one!)  I say that an EGL cert is like Hyundai Motors saying that their economical Elantra has 500 horsepower.  “Well it isn’t equivalent to BMW horsepower; these are Hyundai horsepower…”  Do you think that consumer protection would allow that to happen?  EGL can choose to make a business out of providing knowingly deceptive diamond certificates, but why haven’t they been prohibited from using GIA nomenclature to do so???  That’s one of the questions I want to further investigate while at JCK Las Vegas.

Speaking about Vegas, I’ll be down there once again.  I can be found around the seminar halls at Mandalay Bay on Thursday.  Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings I’ll be at the Lashbrook Designs booth until around noon.  If you’re interested in starting your Lashbrook journey at the show in Vegas, I’ll take appointments until 11:30 on those three days, so call me to book your time.  Their booth was very busy at The Smart Show, so appointments are STRONGLY recommended. 

Beyond that, Steve, Lilian and I will be meeting with Courtney Gold suppliers, looking at gemstones and trends for Customgold and we will of course look forward to enjoying the fabulous social climate.  If you're going, make sure you seek-out the Canadian Jewellers Association booth on Sunday night at the pool party (with Maroon 5!!!); that's where all of the Canucks congregate.  We had a great time last year, and by Sunday night, Mrs. Toddwaz will be joining me, in case you have yet to meet Jana.

For those who can’t make it, I’ll let you know what you’re missing via The Toddwaz Report.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

How to Spot a Good Prospect

Two disparate thoughts crashed into my brain this morning.  The first was how difficult it is to find good staff; especially among the younger generation.  Many seem to lack the drive to acquire product knowledge and the confidence to ask for the sale.  It’s not universal by any means, but I hear the frustrations from retailers trying to identify effective prospects.

A second thought entered my head as I drove by my old highschool.  It brought-back memories of playing little league baseball on those fields, and the outstanding experience I had taking drama in highschool.  Our drama program was the best.  To our teacher, “Agrell” (Ken Agrell-Smith) drama was his life.  His dream was to one day portray King Lear, and he exuded incredible enthusiasm for stage-craft.  He confidently empowered us to direct and produce our own one-act plays in grade 12, and we always won scholarships at the Provincial one-act festival.  Being part of a most excellent team effort gave me the first-hand knowledge that even if you don’t know everything you need to know, you can work hard, acquire knowledge and achieve great things.  I’m not saying that I’m anything special, but I believe that what I achieved in my dramatic activities gave my confidence a huge boost at a young age.

Two conclusions.  If you have kids or grand-kids, look around and see where excellent leadership has a history of outstanding results, and get those kids involved.  Secondly, if anyone you interview has achieved highly in a team-sport, military, music, dance, academics or other cooperative achievements, that should be a sure sign that you’re looking at a good prospect.

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Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Smart Show Day 4

The third show-day and the final day of The Smart Show started off with some much needed energy.  After the Sunday night beach-party Shane Decker was unsure of how many would show-up for a Monday morning keynote address, but the crowd was pretty decent and I didn’t see one person fall asleep.  Some of you, like me, have seen Decker several times.  I enjoy the experience every time, but the last few presentations his material has evolved and I appreciate the newness of his messages.

He began by talking about something that’s a bit unfair in our business.  We must NEVER prejudge clients who walk-in because those who dress down might be disguising their wealth, and those who dress up might be pretending.  The unfair part is that they will prejudge you – to the point that they will decide within 30 seconds if you’re worth spending money with.  As he continued talking about meeting customer expectations, he struck a chord by stating that customers “pay us to listen.”  Some people need to pay a councilor to air their secrets, but if you listen to them and sell them something then they get to walk away with something tangible for their money spent.

Why do shoppers buy on the internet?  Shane answers that price is 4th on the list.  The first reason is that they had a bad experience at the brick-and-mortar retailer, followed by convenience and expansive (virtual) inventories.  His best suggestion to defend the awesome advantages you offer clients is by considering his punch-list of 28 things that can happen when a client walks in.  Training staff to provide a consistently great customer experience is more important than advertising in his mind.  You can win referrals and loyal clients by your service, while you can lose clients by attracting them with clever ads and letting them down once they get into the door.

Some of the 28 items on the punch-list included fairly common customer service items (prompt-greeting, body language, selling techniques), and others are less common.  Always exchanging names, wowing repair customers with product, even after the sale (or sales) are made show one last knock-out piece to the client in the last 30 seconds, clean and polish everyone’s jewellery, etc.  It’s hard to keep it brief, but the conclusion was; if you always do these things for every client, you’ll build a reputation for amazing service, and add value to what you do.

The final day on the show floor was a bit slower, but it seemed there were more buyers taking the time to explore new product.  My final impressions of The Smart Show is that the educational forum and interactive features were indeed impressive.  InStore Magazine has created a bit of a cult following, including their “cool stores”.  We thus expected a large draw from the entire United States, but from the viewpoint of an exhibitor, it’s a regional show.  Many of the exhibitors are in common with any major US show.  We saw a couple of jewellers from Ontario, three from Manitoba, one from Saskatoon, one from Calgary and one from Victoria, but the great majority of US retailers were from the Mid-West.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Smart Show Day 3

Today (Sunday) was by reputation the busiest day of the show.  I watched some of the bench challenges; where goldsmiths and designers squared-off in competitions to craft rings or build CAD models.  It’s a great show feature.  Now, as much as I’ve enjoyed the Smart Show, the keynote address this morning was entirely inappropriate.

The morning speaker was an expert in e-tailing, and spouted the benefits of shopping on-line to a smallish audience primarily comprised of bricks-and-mortar retailers.  I’m not sure if the Smart Show believe that she would help encourage the retailers in attendance to build their web-presence into a more effective tool or not. 

Nonetheless, one of the tactics that e-tailers should use that all of us could benefit from would be “staff-picks.”  Why not have a show-case where each of your staff’s photos are shown besides their top 5 jewellery picks each week, two weeks or month?  Wouldn’t that help engage the staff in your inventory and help connect them to your clients in a new way? 

Show-traffic proved to be busy, but we noticed that like any show, Sunday was the day for any Goldsmiths, Mom-and-Pop shops and quasi-jewellery-retailer to use their day-off to browse the show.  It was difficult to sort between retail prospects and the chaff.

The highlight of today was having a cocktail with friends from Saskatoon up at the 96th floor bar at The John Hancock Centre.  The views were spectacular as we watched the sun set over Chicago’s flat and expansive skyline.

Smart Show Day 2

Today (Saturday) was the first day of the trade-show portion.  The 8:30am session with Martin Lindstrom on “Buyology” was packed.  It was indeed evident that attendees to this show are motivated to learn.  Lindstrom started out by proving to the audience that consumers are irrational.  We knock on wood, and we buy things we don’t really need.  “Jewellery” he claims, “is irrational; it’s emotions in a little box.” 

Lindstrom’s best selling book, Buyology is about focusing on escapism, nostalgia, story-telling, sensory stimulation and community.  Note, none of these factors have anything to do with what cert your selling, which brands you carry or what your competitor is doing.  His emphasis on they psychological stimuli that make people buy had the packed conference room riveted. 

Particularly poignant was his revelation about Alfred Hitchcock’s writing.  He wrote blue scripts and green scripts.  The blue script was all about the words, and the rational parts of his screenplays.  The green scripts contained the suspense and emotion he sought to evoke from his movies.  If you don’t have a green script for the experience you’re trying to create for your clients, you’re destined to struggle against discounters, unscrupulous retailers and internet sellers.

According to Lindstrom it’s not about competing on price with that no-good competitor, it’s about under-promising and over-delivering.  Create an experience worth your clients gossiping about, and you’ve got a viral brand; whether you’re a master of social media or not!

Being the first day of a three day show, many of the buyers were previewing the show and exhibitors reported a relatively slow start to selling.  As for Customgold, The Colored Diamond Family Ring Collection is officially INTERNATIONAL.  We’ve got a good start and look forward to higher crowds tomorrow. 

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Day 1 at The Smart Show

As we approached the Navy Pier on Lake Michigan from downtown Chicago, I was literally bouncing in my seat.  I’m glad we didn’t try to walk all of the way here.  The walk along the pier is probably as far as from the show-hotel to the pier!  I’ve got to say that all of the service staff we’ve encountered make me think that Chicago is an extremely friendly city. 

The Smart Show definitely has a different sort of vibe than JCK.  The seminar day is just that.  No exhibits anywhere to distract.  The sessions I attended were filled with 50 to 100 attendees each.  One in particular got my goat.  A presentation by Andrew Rickard of RDI Diamonds Inc. on the issue of certs just made me ashamed of our industry.  He is a diamond dealer who sells nearly $70Million in diamonds every year.  He recounted the circumstances in 2010 that led to rapid, huge increases in diamond prices.  In the aftermath he claims that consumer forces are to blame for forcing diamond grading standards to nose-dive so heavily.  In his words, “EGL was first to the party” to downgrade their certs in order to satisfy consumer demand.  Steve said that would be like producing 12kt gold jewellery and stamping it 14kt because consumers were too shocked at the price of gold.  Ridiculous!!!

He claims to sell 4 EGL certs for every GIA cert (and he has a large selection of GIA graded diamonds).  This indicates that retailers are voting with their cheque books.  He made a very good case that he is aware of disparities between the grading, and expertly councils retailers who buy from him on the differences.  He even goes so far as to highlight in yellow “shaky certs” and in green “really tight certs”.  What he didn’t answer was “what about the retailers who are using bad certs to win sales from his well-informed honest retailers?”  For that there is no answer.

Something I didn’t know was that GIA has been taken to task in courts of law, and their grading integrity has stood-up.  In his research, EGL has never been sued over misleading certs, so there’s no precedent for allegations of fraud.  His conclusion for diamond buyers such as yourself is to evaluate diamonds based on price.  Claiming that there are no “stellar deals,” he asserts that if you’re looking for a $3,500 cost diamond, you should view them without considering the cert and select the best one.

I’m not sure what to do with these assertions; other than pass them along to you for your consideration.  Make of this what you will.  I did learn some great things about marketing today, and we’re still savoring the sounds of sweet jazz from the club we visited the previous night.