Q: What issues should gem and jewelry industry leaders be taking on?
“One topic I feel is important has to do with the relationships we have with our vendors/suppliers and both sides understanding it’s a two-way street. About three years ago, we started placing expectations on both the companies we buy from as well as the sales reps. As an example, the vendor is to provide a picture of every piece of jewelry we buy and the sales rep is required to make at least one trip a year to West Texas and spend at least two hours with my sales staff training them on their product. If I am going to buy from a vendor then we must have a relationship that benefits both of us. Another example, 20 percent of the congregation gives 80 percent of the money. Only 20 percent of that new bridal line that just came in is going to sell. What to do with the other 80 percent? I require IN WRITING an agreement with quite a few vendors that says EVERY fast seller (less than six months old) that is reordered (we reorder fast sellers the next morning) qualifies us for a 2-to-1 or 3-to-1 stock balance in dollars. This way I restock with something that has a good chance of selling and returning some of what doesn’t. This doesn’t work with all of our vendors. It does for those that want a long-term relationship. I tend to find that the better the relationship, the more product we sell from that vendor. A final aspect of this relationship thing is that I ALWAYS pay my suppliers on time. Works for me. Works for our vendors.”
Mark Priest, owner
San Angelo, TX
“There are a few issues, I feel, that the ‘gem and jewelry industry leaders’ could pay more attention to. Synthetic and simulant diamonds tend to be an issue for us when dealing with customers. We can identify many of them, but the public still seems unaware of the differences between them and how these differences can affect them long-term. I would also like to see the industry of independent retailers pull together to more effectively compete against the major chain stores. It used to be that the chain stores were part of the landscape of competing jewelers. Now the chains tend to pump out mass lots of inferior goods, and being on the bench, I’m forced to explain why a customer’s treasured item broke, even when they didn’t acquire it from me. It makes us all look bad in the customer’s eyes. The chain stores tend to have deeper pockets for sales training, advertising, and customer financing, but I feel we really care about our customers, and that should count for something. There are options out there to help independent jewelers better compete, but again, it’s a matter of having the resources to invest in them, such as sales training and business coaches. I look forward to a day when the jewelry industry comes together as a whole to create general jewelry advertising campaigns to support the independent retailer.”
Mark Enix, owner
Fountain City Jewelers
“Wholesalers selling directly to retail customers. I have been in the industry since 1971 and this has always been an issue. I am now seeing more of this and it is creating confusion in our business. This is very unethical and is also allowing the consumers to question us about our pricing structure. Another main issue is over-inflated appraisals. The consumer is paying high premiums to their insurance carrier. When a loss occurs, and the time comes to replace an item, they do not understand why their jeweler appraised it for such a high amount and this can lead to losing a valuable client. Another issue is the JBT. I think if they are going to have the ability to place a number on my store rating, they need to be more responsive to each situation that occurs. When someone calls to get a current rating on a store, they need to take the time to read what has been documented and diligently try to help us. When attending the New York show, I had these discussions with many of my colleagues in this profession and realized they were just as disappointed with JBT.”
Carolyn Linder, owner
“Informing customers by telling them their good deal is too good to be true. The products - specifically rings we see coming through our doors to have sized, welded, diamonds furnished, setting, etc., are increasingly poorer and poorer in quality. Internet, cruise ship and ‘Mart’ purchases we see are increasingly lightweight, filled with low-grade diamonds, off-cut diamonds, prongs that barely exist and the list goes on. As with most independent jewelers, they come to us because they trust us. Why, oh why don’t they do that from the beginning? What is with all these ‘labs’ cropping up seemingly out of nowhere? Online dealers are selling diamonds and diamond jewelry accompanied by ‘diamond grading’ reports from labs I’ve never heard of in all my years. People come in thinking that this piece of paper authenticates the quality of their diamonds when in fact, they’re often one, even two grades difference in color and clarity when compared to GIA standards. We really dislike being the bearer of bad news. Yet on the same note, it often allows us to educate and inform the consumer resulting in a lifelong customer.”
Karla Doolittle, owner
La Crosse, WI
“I think the industry should be more aggressively lobbying for internet sales taxes. Each year the government is losing a lot of revenue. If they can figure out where to send items they can certainly figure out how to tax it [an internet sale] at its destination. And, each year retailers lose sales to internet-based businesses. One way to help draw attention to this issue would be to emphasize the importance of in-store customer service and after-sales support. Second, there’s a lot of hate in this world going on right now. Jewelers are in the love business and industry leaders should think of a way to make us missionaries to help promote love and caring in this world. There’s simply too much hate and venom in this world and we can help work against it. Lastly, as a proponent for the environment, I think industry leaders really need to take a look at the ‘green’ qualities of man-made diamonds. In my mind, the energy and resources needed to produce man-made diamonds has a much greater environmental impact than mining diamonds from the earth. I haven’t seen any studies on this, but I’m of the opinion that man-made diamonds have huge energy costs.”
Jeff Horlacher, president
Horlacher Jewelers, Inc.