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.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Don’t Forget Design!

I can’t wait to watch every monthly video-blog that Mel Moss puts out.  Seriously.  He’s a crusader, who fights hard for integrity in our industry.  If you haven’t seen his April video, click HERE to watch it.  In this installment, the King of Diamonds talks about a retailer so frustrated at losing sales to misrepresented diamonds that he simply stopped selling diamonds.

Are branded bridal programs the answer?  Mel says that they allow the consumer to compare Brand-X Model #1234 on the internet; where for even a small discount the consumer is showing an increased willingness to sidestep their local jeweller for a virtual one.

Will a more professional and knowledgeable approach help build your store as a credible brand?  Yes.  Uncle Mel and I agree on this issue.  Listening intently to your client’s “story,” holding their hand while you help them try-on a fantastic diamond and directly responding to their questions and concerns is something that scammers and online retailers can’t do.  Unscrupulous jewellers can schmooze too, but sincerity and honesty can’t be bought nor faked.

Now, to the big problemo… consumers are doing nothing different than many retailers.  Retailers want to buy their diamonds for as little as possible by aggressive sourcing, or by buying badly overstated diamonds with false savings.  Branded semi-mount programs are feeding this paradigm by encouraging clients to choose a loose diamond and setting separately.

What if we were really good at selling a fully-set designs on the merits of their uniqueness, beauty and the strong quality of the diamonds selected by the designer?  Oh, what a wonderful world it would be!  Then those who carry the most beautiful designs would achieve the highest sales.  I feel very blessed to be working for manufacturers who are not involved in the race-to-the-price-basement.  Representing the product I do leads to working closely with retailers who not only appreciate style, but work with their clients to consider design and quality before price.  Note I said BEFORE PRICE.  I’m not so na├»ve to think that price is unimportant, but if we prioritize price-per-size, it will inevitably be so for the consumer.

If you spend your entire life trying to compare diamond qualities and certificates, you’ll eventually do one of three things.  You’ll give-up like the jeweller Mel alluded to, you’ll start compromising your integrity (if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em) or you’ll become a galvanized crusader like Mel .  Maybe a fourth option is to prove yourself as a trusted source of unique designs with outstanding knowledge and impeccably honest service.  You’ll earn higher margins and more than your share of business.

Keep your eyes out for “Smart-Show Snippets”.  I’m on my way to Chicago and can’t wait to experience InStore Magazine’s Smart Show.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

How Much Sway?

As more and more retailers ask me about the emergence of yellow gold, I’ve made this comment several times.  With an alarming number of clients, we as professional jewellery consultants hold some sway over their decisions.  When they say, “I’m not sure whether to go with yellow gold or white gold,” how do you choose your response?

My first response is to probe further by saying, “tell me more about your jewellery wardrobe.”  This not only gives you more helpful information to help them in their decision making, it establishes you as someone who cares about them rather than just being “salesy.”  When you talk about their jewellery wardrobe, you’re building a “filing system” in their brain that they may never have had before.  They’ll start to view the pieces they do have in terms of collections that coordinate with different occasions and outfits.  Trust me, when they start thinking like that, there will be some empty file folders!

I know I’ve written about the jewellery wardrobe concept before, but I’m feeling like many of you believe that your job is to hook-up the next person who walks in with the best possible solution to their immediate need.  I would like to suggest that your job is to help your clients build an amazing jewellery wardrobe that suits their personality and every season and all of the special occasions in their lives.