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.