For years I often wondered whether it was really worth my time to join one of the buying groups that all of us so often read about in the trade journals. My wife and I had a successful store, now in its 23rd year, and we’d made it just fine without being part of one. However, I did notice several of my fellow jewelers and friends becoming part of one of the “O’s” as I call it so I decided to investigate as to why.
As I inquired about membership in each group it quickly became apparent that you can’t just join any you like if said group already has a member in close proximity to your geographical region, which is fair in most cases. Obviously you need to have good credit to join as well since these groups take care of paying your bill in advance and need to stick to a predetermined payment schedule - again, a fair thing and not a problem for us.
Because of their collective “buying power”, each group pre-negotiates certain discounts and terms with each of its vendors thereby giving you an edge over the competition. This allows you to make a little bit more profit that really adds up at the end of the year. In addition, you also get a yearly rebate check which varies from group to group based on the amount of your purchases with said vendors. This is another nice bonus that certainly encourages you to buy from vendor members.
Another reason to join one of the buying groups is the educational seminars they bring to their functions, one of the most important reasons, at least for me. As a marketing speaker, I’ve had the opportunity to speak to several trade associations and buying groups to dispense my brand of marketing and have always come away with a feeling of gratitude for being allowed to share. As a store owner myself, I always come away from seminars feeling better armed to take on the competition and able to run the store just a bit better than before.
Perhaps the biggest reason for joining has been the opportunity to network and learn from jewelers all across the country. I’ve always felt like the best learning experiences come from talking to your fellow jewelers at these events. The sharing of ideas such as promotions, great selling lines, etc. by those “in the trenches” so to speak are certainly invaluable and sometimes heeded to more so than the actual seminars themselves!
Ok, I know you’re beginning to wonder about which group I decided to join. Ultimately for us it came down to who offered the most competitive discounts/terms, ease of show attendance and vendor selection. After visiting our first show as guests, my wife and I decided to join the Southeastern Jewelers Organization (SJO).
The reasons were simple - we liked the discount structure they offered, the show was held twice a year at the luxurious Ballantyne Resort in Charlotte, NC (a plus for us since it was only a couple of hours away), great seminars, centralized billing that makes bookkeeping a breeze, plus a close knit family oriented feel to the group. Let me not fail to mention that in doing my research I discovered that SJO is the nation’s oldest jewelry buying group - another plus in my opinion!
After having been a member for a while I truly feel like the group itself is one of the jewelry industry’s best kept secrets! They are selective about who joins but for good reason, not only do they want the prospective jeweler to be a good fit for the group, but they want to be a good fit for the jeweler! Perhaps for many organizations it’s all about group membership size which might make you feel like you get lost in the crowd. Remember, bigger is not always better!
Please understand, I’m not knocking any other organization and if you’re a member who derives benefit from another group, that’s awesome! We are friends with several fellow jewelers who are members of other groups that they enjoy and I say more power to them. The purpose of this article is simply about pointing out what works best for our operation and how it might help you!
Can you still buy elsewhere if you’re an SJO member? Of course you can. That choice is always yours. Does this stop me from going to other buying shows? Absolutely not, it only enhances what I do elsewhere. There are certain shows like SJTA in Atlanta that we’d never miss. We simply like a more intimate atmosphere and the larger shows simply overwhelm us. Again, you have to find what works best for you.
Is SJO membership right for you? Only you can decide, but I do encourage you to check them out by visiting their website at www.sjobuyinggroup.com. Once you’ve filled out an application and met the membership criteria, you’ll be invited to visit one of the two shows held each year. Like me, I think you’ll enjoy the events, we even take our entire staff to enjoy great food, fun, fellowship and learning all in one great weekend. I hope to see you there!