It’s June and graduates of all types are asking themselves: “What am I going to do with my life?” A wise friend of mine offered them this sage advice: “Choose a field that neither the Chinese nor the internet can put you out of business. This leaves either running a day-care center or giving hair cuts!”
But, if you are reading this, you’ve probably already cast your lot with the descendants of Charles Lewis Tiffany, Louis-Francois Cartier, Harry Winston, and all the other great retail jewelers who set the trends and standards that forged our trade. And, while these founding fathers of our industry all faced great problems of their own (their stories should be required reading for all retail jewelers), its nothing like the challenges facing retail jewelers today.
Synthetic diamonds, volatile gold prices, manufacturers selling directly on their websites or on TV, show-rooming… no wonder graduates often over-look the jewelry industry each spring when choosing a career path.
I was recently visiting one of the top retail jewelry stores in the country. A third generation store with a great reputation for service. The owner wasn’t expecting me and wasn’t in when I dropped by, so I parked myself in the show-room and watched the sales staff while I waited for him. Every one of them was knowledgeable, polished in their presentations, courteous and efficient. These were clearly professionals who knew what they were selling, how to politely and subtly over-come objections, and effortlessly close the sale.
When the owner finally showed up and we had a chance to chat, I couldn’t wait to ask him: “Where did you find such an amazing sales staff?”
“You don’t find a sales staff,” he replied. “You train one. Nobody is born a professional jewelry salesperson. We try to take people with either retail or jewelry backgrounds, and then train them to be professionals.”
“But who has the time to train when you are running a busy store?” I asked.
“You know what is interesting?” he replied. “Despite all of our years of sales data and all of our computer power, we usually seem to have the sales floor over-staffed. So, whenever we have extra hands on the floor, rather than give them busy work, we send them to the break room and tell them to hit the books for an hour. Everyone is enrolled in some sort of on-line course to upgrade their skills and certifications. And, of course, we are paying them while they are studying when we aren’t busy. Its good for them, good for the customers, and that’s good for me!”
As I drove away, I couldn’t help but think about who impressed me more, the sales people or their boss who encouraged and paid for their training.
To thrive today means facing and over-coming challenges never seen before in the retail business, and there are even more unique challenges facing the jewelry industry. To succeed means constantly up-dating your skills, expertise, and certifications.
The 24 Karat Club offers a variety of scholarships to help retail jewelers pay for training, whether on-line, on campus, or at trade events. Managers and store owners are invited to recommend suitable candidates who might benefit from a scholarship to take courses in diamonds, gemology, salesmanship, or other related fields. Please contact your favorite 24 Karat Club member for more information about the nomination process. A list of the members is available on the Club’s website, www.The24KaratClub.org.
As jewelers, we have been entrusted with a great legacy. The only way to protect this legacy for future generations is to encourage qualified people to come into our industry, to make sure they get the proper training and education necessary to succeed, and to instill upon them the richness of this heritage.
Otherwise, our beautiful creations will have no place to be offered as jewelry stores are converted to nursery schools and barber shops.
Hope to see you in Vegas!
Howard Kelrick is President of Finger Mate and a board member of The 24 Karat Club, SEUS. Finger Mate manufactures and installs expandable ring shanks and sells to retail jewelers throughout North America. Contact Howard at 954-458-2700 or e-mail Howard@FingerMate.com.