Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s sad. Sometimes it was expected and sometimes it was out of the blue. What I’m talking about is how do you capitalize on your competitors going out of business? I had a lot of calls before the holidays about how to handle it. Turns out, the same thing was happening right here in my hometown and I didn’t have an answer.
All across the country, our competitors, friends, nemeses, buddies, confidantes and mentors make the decision to call it a career and seek greener pastures. Some do it on their own terms, but many do not. Many of these people made the hard decision to stop fighting the good fight and throw in the towel because this business is a hard business to compete in right now. So, for those of us left standing, what do we do? That’s a question not a statement, by the way. Seriously, what do we do to capitalize on this situation?
For the bulk of my career, I’ve actually known most of my competitors. Maybe not personally like getting together for drinks a couple of times a month, but we all knew each other. We all knew each other’s names, and we knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We knew who sold what, and what each other specialized in. We all found our niche to compete. Now our competitors’ names all start with www. and end with .com. And these people don’t have a rule book to play by. They can make any claim they want and not be held accountable. Maybe it’s time I try that strategy.
Here in Nashville, we had two long time independent jewelry stores call it a career over the holidays and both of these stores are in my geographic area. They probably competed with each other more than with me, but they each have 30+ years of customers that need to find a new jewelry home. My store has been in business since 1947, so it fits the profile of the type of store that their customers sought out. So how do I capitalize on this? Seriously, shoot me an e-mail and give me your thoughts. If you’ve gone through it and know something I don’t know I’d love to have your input.
For legal reasons (which we’ll get into later), let’s call them Store A, B, and me. Store A was about 2 miles from my store for 60 years. This store focused mostly on bridal and heavily advertised Tacori. I don’t carry Tacori and can honestly say I’ve never really thought about it. I’m more of a custom and repair type store. I’m sure I can attract a certain segment of their customers, but not all. With this store, I never really had a relationship with the owners so this one is hard. I really need some advice on how to attract their customer base.
Now with Store B, I have had a long, friendly history with the founders of the business and the current (now former) owners. This store carried many well-known designers and had a bench jeweler on-site. The owners just decided that this was a good time to retire and call it a career, out of blue…at least to me. They had a very public going out of business sale and had the opportunity to say goodbye to all of their loyal customers. But, now what are their customers to do? Once again, I do something completely different than what they were doing, which was why we were able to compete in the same marketplace for all of these years. How do I capture their customer base? Beats the heck out of me! Anybody got an opinion?
I sit here and wonder if I’m crossing some kind of ethical boundary by naming the two closed stores by name in my marketing and welcoming their customers to come to Anthony Jewelers as their new jeweler. If they were still in business, and I called them out by name, directly trying to steal their customers, that would probably leave me open for all kinds of legal actions. But…guess what? Neither of them is in business any longer leaving a huge void in the marketplace that I need to capitalize on.
One of the reasons I’m writing about this is I’ve had several other store owners in cities across the country asking me the same question. Since I was facing the same situation, I told them I’d just ask my readers what is the right way, and/or the wrong way to go about it.
I called my longtime friend Bill, owner of Store B and asked his opinion. He said, “That’s a good question.” He told me that he and his wife had already been recommending my store to the customers that asked, but he also wondered about the legal ramifications of using the name of his store, although now officially closed and out of business, in my advertising and marketing. There is not a manual anywhere that tells us how to get those now jewelry-homeless customers.
If you have some advice on this subject and have gone through this, my contact info is at the bottom. Please call me or write me and I’ll print it next month and try to help our colleagues out there navigate this tricky situation. And I’d also like to say congratulations and good luck on this new phase of your life to Bill and Cyndi. Our industry will miss you.
Now, how about a funny story from Christmas? A really strange guy, probably in his late 40s, comes in looking for a present for his new wife. They met recently on the internet and got married 2 months ago. He didn’t know anything about her or what she liked, so he didn’t know what to buy her. I had a few pairs of tiny 10 pt. diamond studs left that were $195. We told him that you can’t go wrong with the classics. He was hesitant, but we told him that our return policy was a full refund until December 31st.
I closed for a few days after Christmas, and when I got back I had about 5 messages from him wanting a refund. He shows up on New Year’s Eve with the earrings saying he needed to return them. No big deal, I knew he was coming in. Anyway, as I’m processing the return (remember, he’s a grown man, not a kid), he says; “My wife told me she just wouldn’t wear expensive earrings.” Without thinking, I blurted out, “Well she should have loved these then.” Sometimes I just can’t help myself.