Well, here we are in December again. It’s the Christmas season, so by now, you’re either happy, tired, worried sick, or just plain numb. Or, more than likely, it’s a combination of all of the above. And there are still a few weeks to go! But, since this is my 40th trip around the ‘Christmas in the jewelry business’ sun, I thought I’d share some do’s and don’ts for those that might be experiencing their first, or even their fifteenth Christmas season. What I want to talk about is the relationship between the front-of-the-house peeps and the back-of-the-house peeps.
Let me tell you what it’s like to be in the shop during Christmas. If they aren’t already, your bench team will soon be toast. Yet, despite this burnout, you’ll continue to hand them things ‘that need to be done today’. I get that. It’s the busy selling season and you need to make it rain. But, you don’t need to make it tornado. And way too many people create chaos where chaos didn’t need to be created. Let me explain.
Put your two hands on the paper in front of you, about 18” apart, like you’re showing me how big the fish that got away was. Your left hand is the day a repair comes in. Your right hand is the date that your store policy says it will be ready, let’s pretend it’s a week. Now, pick up both hands and move them about an inch to the right. That’s tomorrow’s situation. Do it one more time. That’s the day after tomorrow. Do you see a pattern? Both of your hands move in unison - until December.
In December, the promise dates are all the same. Your right hand stops moving and your left hand keeps squishing more work into an ever shrinking window of time. So, let’s look at what you’re promising!
Traffic counts are up in your store because everyone is out Christmas shopping. And, hey, since I’m here, why don’t I drop off these 12 repairs that I’ve been carrying around in my purse since last summer. Since your store has a policy of all repairs being turned around in ‘x’ amount of time, I see so many front-of-the-house peeps that do not deviate from that schedule during the Christmas season. Now trust me, I work the front and the back of the house at my store, so I know both sides. The sales staff is making hay while the sun is shining. If taking in a few simple repairs is all it takes to close a big sale, take those puppies in. Heck, your jeweler won’t mind. Those repairs are so easy even a caveman can do them, blindfolded, with one arm tied behind his back.
But, don’t forget, at the same time you took in those repairs, you also took in a very time consuming, complicated diamond setting job that you just sold as a Christmas present. A bench jeweler can only do so much work in one day, and the amount of work you’re sending the shop is getting out of hand - literally! So what’s the solution?
The best policy, of course, is to not let it get out of control in the first place. My policy for the last 20+ years has been that I won’t work on anything the month of December that is not a Christmas present. What? That’s crazy talk. Yeah, I thought so too the first time someone told me about it. Then, I did it that way for a Christmas season or two, and now I wouldn’t do it any other way.
Sales and bench work in a jewelry store are both hard jobs. But, at the end of the day, when the sales staff has gone home, the bench jewelers are still there burning the midnight oil trying to crank out way too many of the wrong things. They are back there, busting their butts because someone just dropped about a year’s worth of repairs on them all at once; and then promised it for next week because that’s your store policy. And that right there my friends is where expensive mistakes happen!
Doing bench work is incredibly taxing mentally. The mental process that goes into the job is just as difficult as the actual ‘hands-on’ aspect of the job. Once a bench jeweler’s mental concentration is blown, his hands, hammers and torches go south, right along with his brain. And, because someone promised all of this crap for tomorrow, they’ve got to keep going. Resulting in things like; “Oops, I didn’t mean for that to happen.” “Did I just mix these two diamonds up?” “Which ring goes in which envelope?” “Was that piece melted before I started?” “Was this ring supposed to be sized up, not down?” “Oh crap, my hand just slipped. I don’t have the nerve to look.”
This is not a good place to be if you’re the one that’s financially responsible when your benchies lose their concentration.
Think about this; you just sold a 2 ½ ct. diamond that you now need set. You have a choice between having a jeweler that is mentally fresh, or a jeweler with slobber running down his chin while he’s setting that big marquise diamond you just sold. Which one would you chose? Hah! Got cha, didn’t I? Nobody sells big marquises anymore!
But, in reality, the mental aspect of the work is very important when someone is working on very expensive jewelry. You don’t need a bench jeweler doing complicated work while brain-dead, especially at Christmas.
Something else to consider as part of this master plan is that the Christmas buying season doesn’t end at the close of business on Christmas Eve. That’s just the date you have to deliver all of the Christmas presents you promised. Note I said Christmas presents that you promised, not silly repairs, since you aren’t going to promise them by Christmas, are you?
For me, the busy season doesn’t end on December 24th. Some of my busiest retail days are after Christmas. Lots of people get money for Christmas. Lots of people don’t get their Christmas or year-end bonus until the day before Christmas. Lots of savvy shoppers will wait until January to buy their big present because they know it will probably be on sale by then.
But so many retailers seem to write off January and skip right to Valentine’s Day. What better way is there to get customers in your store than calling and telling them their repair is ready. And, it’s a great time to move the merchandise that didn’t sell at Christmas when your customers are coming back to pick up their repairs?
Yes, I know, you’re saying to yourself, this plan is genius, aren’t you? Well, it’s not genius (but thanks for thinking that), it’s just smart business. During the Christmas season, bench time is at a premium. Why would you sell a $45 repair that’s going to take 30 minutes of bench time when you can sell a $20,000 diamond that’s going to take the exact same 30 minutes of bench time? And, what level of focus do you want your jeweler to have while she is setting your $20,000 sale? Do you want the bright eyed and bushy tailed one, or the one with blood-shot eyes and slobber running down her chin?
And, look at it like this - if you don’t overwork your jewelers, they’ll be able to get out of the shop and go to some holiday parties with their spouses. Oh wait, that would be cruel. Bench jewelers don’t like to socialize!
Good luck this season and I hope everyone makes a bunch of money.