Last updateWed, 20 May 2020 12am

Let’s talk shops duex

Earlier this year I wrote an article about the relationship between retail stores and trade shops. I got quite a bit of feedback from both sides of the equation and decided that right before Christmas would be a good time to revisit the topic.

As a retail store owner with a bench jeweler on premises (me), I know how fortunate I am. But, as the owner of a trade shop as well, I find that jewelry stores fit into two categories: 1.) I’ve never had a bench jeweler on premises and have always used trade shops. 2.) I’ve had a bench jeweler on premises for 30 years but once she retired I haven’t been able to find a replacement so I am forced to use a trade shop.

Let me tell you, there is a huge difference between a trade shop and an ‘on-premises shop’ that only does their own store’s work. If you have a jeweler on your premises, you make the decisions about how much non-revenue producing work you want your jeweler to do on each job. I talk to a lot of bench jewelers that tell me their store’s policy is every ring is to be ‘refinished as new’ after every repair. I think that’s a great policy, but...if you put ‘refinish as new’ on an envelope and send it to a trade shop you’re gonna get charged for the original repair and around $18 for the additional finish out.

If a store has never had a jeweler, then they don’t expect the trade shop to spend an extra 30 minutes on something they’re not paying for. An $8 sizing is just that, an $8 sizing with a quick thorough cleaning and polishing. Not an $8 sizing (6 minutes tops) plus 30 free, un-billed minutes to just touch up some other stuff while it’s in the shop. Stores that have never had a jeweler know that if they want any additional work done, all they have to do is write it on the ticket and it’ll get done... just with an added charge $$$.

Trade shop jewelers also have the burden of remembering what level of service each individual store wants and expects. Case in point: Fifteen years ago I had a Bailey Banks and Biddle account (before the corporate price list and contract era) that was one of the highest grossing stores in the chain. The manager and I had an agreement that if something needed to be done to a ring they sold, just do it and charge her for it. Don’t call her and discuss it. At the very same time I had an account where the owner would ask me the cost of a repair. If I said $9.00, he’d tell me to only do $6 worth of work and stop. (Little did he know I would stop after $5 worth of work and bill him $6 anyway... Hah!) But all trade shops have accounts on both ends of the spectrum that we’re juggling daily.

Now store owners and managers fall into two mindsets when it comes to the shop: 1.) You think of your shop as an asset to your business. 2.) You think of your shop as a liability that sucks away at your life, your livelihood, your profit, and your soul.

I work with both types, but mostly I work with the stores that think of the shop as a profit center and an asset. Because these stores are charging their customers triple key for the work, they usually have a pretty good idea how much their bill is going to be when they send the work out, because they priced it to the customer based on their cost. But, the #2 group is alive and well out there. This group doesn’t add a mark-up to their trade bill. They do it at-cost as a customer service and usually guess at the price. This group is always shocked and surprised every time they get their bill. Anyone that uses a trade shop knows those bills can add up in a hurry. Okay, that’s the retail stores. How about the trade shop jewelers?

Trade shop jewelers fall into any combination of these categories (usually changing several times over the course of a day): Busy, harried, rushed, pissed, irritated, hung over, weird, cranky, finicky, anti-social, extremely talented, extreme self control, extreme lack of self control, and downright friggin’ awesome. And that’s all before lunch.

Store owners and managers on the other hand are: Confident, always in control, smart, goal oriented, social, engaging, driven, team players, counselors, confidants and well dressed.

So now I ask you... how in the hell did we ever meet in the first place? We have nothing in common. We don’t like the same people. We don’t hang out at the same places. Hell, we don’t even like each other. What’s the attraction? Oh yeah... we need each other.

I write this for one reason. As the ‘in-store jeweler’ becomes harder to find (Joe Cassarino quit hogging those 6 bench jewelers for yourself up there in Rochester, NY), more and more stores are being forced to use trade shops. And, more often than not, that trade shop will be in another state. I’ve never met the bulk of my trade accounts face to face, but we manage to get the work done to everyone’s satisfaction somehow, so it does work.

If you have a trade shop in your area that picks up and delivers to your store, I want you to think about this. The number one complaint I hear from bench jewelers that do trade work is the rising cost of fuel that they have to absorb driving all the way to your store to pick up a sterling silver bracelet that needs one charm soldered on. Now if it’s for a birthday present this weekend and you really do need it, that’s one thing. If the customer was just in the area and dropped it off and said no hurry, then call your jeweler and tell him to not come by today. It used to just be a hit on your billable hours driving all over town doing deliveries. Now with $4 a gallon gas, all the trade shops out there are taking a beating. Throw an extra $20 in the plate for gas once in a while.

With Christmas right around the corner, I’ve posted on my website my article from last Christmas about my shop policy for Christmas orders and repairs. Please take a look. You’d be doing your shop, your jeweler, and yourself a favor by reading it and thinking about implementing those policies in your store over the Christmas season. You can read it at www.CMKCompany.com. Good luck... sell a bunch... and try to have fun in these crazy times.

Oh yeah, I was just kidding. We really do like you retail folks. We just can’t let the other bench jewelers know cause they’ll make fun of us.

Chuck is the owner of Anthony Jewelers in Nashville, TN. Chuck also owns CMK Co., a wholesale trade shop that specializes in custom jewelry and repair services to the jewelry industry nationwide. You can contact him at 615-354-6361, www.CMKcompany.com or send e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..