Swimming with the sharks!
The day before the last Atlanta Jewelry Show, I took my good friend and customer Scott for a swim in the shark tank at the Georgia Aquarium. You have to sign up for it months in advance, and sit through a ninety minute orientation, but eventually you get to squeeze into a wet suit, strap on a tank, and walk to the edge of a stadium sized fish tank filled with whale sharks, rays, and other potential man-eaters.
When we got the signal to enter the water, naturally, I pushed Scott in. We had a great dive, it was a wonderful experience, and I highly recommend it if you ever get the chance (feel free to contact me for the details).
Afterwards, Scott and I went to dinner to celebrate our bravery and brag about it to our wives. And, we got to talking about how fortunate I was that nothing untoward happened after I pushed Scott into the water. How could I ever explain to my sales manager how we lost this great account? “Yes, it happened right after I pushed him into the shark tank!” You could almost hear him say back to me, “What kind of idiot pushes one of his best customers into a shark tank?”
And, of course, he’d be right! Yet, today, we see so many cases of vendors not always acting in the best interests of their customers, the retail jeweler.
The best vendor/buyer relationships are where each considers the other a partner in each other’s success. When vendors start to compete with their customers by selling directly to the consumers, its obviously bad for the retailers, and in the long run, that will hurt the vendor.
Unfortunately, in these difficult economic times, too many vendors are short sighted and are driven by near term, higher margin sales, and have begun selling on-line (sometimes under a different name, but oftentimes not) and at shows, directly to consumers. Retailers who knowingly continue to buy from such vendors have no one to blame but themselves when they find customers walking past their doors.
The best vendors direct consumers to their retailers, and support them in every way possible. They certainly don’t compete with them (although they may occasionally ask them to swim with them and some sharks). You may want to check some of your vendor’s websites to see if they are truly your partner in success, or your competitor.
The 24 Karat Club is comprised of 50 or so leading members of the jewelry industry who are solely dedicated to supporting the retail jeweler. Each member is selected, vetted, and elected to membership based on a career of service to the retail jewelry community. While you are checking on your vendors, you might also want to ask if they are members of The 24 Karat Club (or you can check our website, www.The24KaratClub.org).
No mixed messages, no divided loyalties, the men and women of The 24 Karat Club will always have your back.
Which doesn’t mean we won’t use it for a playful push every once in a while!
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.