The first mall in the US opened in 1956, and by 1975 malls accounted for 33% of all retail shopping. Between 1980 and 1990 16,000 malls and shopping centers opened. This was an unprecedented period of growth for the jewelry trade.
Every mall wanted fine jewelers at the center of the mall. Jewelry outlets exploded too. I can’t even imagine the percentage of growth over those years.
Did we increase the number of stores by 10 times? Well, that also meant we had to increase the number of salespeople in the trade by the same amount. So how did we do this? We focused on selling techniques and told people that the value of the jewelry was gold and diamonds.
Simple, this ring is expensive because it’s got a diamond in it. It is expensive because it’s gold. And there it is – our biggest mistake as a trade.
Today every person who walks into your store has access to the Internet. They know what diamonds cost. They know what gold costs. What they don’t know is why those in-store prices are higher than what they are finding online.
I was recently visiting a local custom jeweler at their store. While I was there one customer in particular caught my attention. It was a college age woman who had a silver ring and the gemstones kept falling out.
The jeweler noted that it needed new prongs because the prongs on the ring were worn away. The quote was around $120 based on the Geller book. It turned out that it was a promise ring and that was the cost her boyfriend paid for the ring less than two years ago.
So, why do customers look for the cheapest price when they purchase jewelry, but then go to the most expensive-looking store to have it repaired? They don’t understand the value of craftsmanship.
Creating the same ring with the same material, but with proper craftsmanship, may cost as little as $200. What if someone had expressed to the young man wanting to buy that promise ring the simple truth? “This ring is $120 and it will last a year or two. This one is $200 and it will last 20 years. The difference is the craftsmanship.” I bet he would not have hesitated to get her the ring that would last.
Big manufacturers use offshore labor and slick manufacturing processes, like stone-in-place casting, to reduce the cost of finished jewelry, but we still have to justify the cost and value of craftsmanship. We need to educate our customers on the value of craftsmanship and stop focusing on the cost of the materials.
There was a time in our trade when a customer’s pride in ownership was based on who created their jewelry. Remember when it meant something to own a piece from Tiffany, Cartier, or Van Cleef? We need to get back to those values.
Today, when a customer is shopping for jewelry they are often price driven. However, when that piece breaks, they are usually trust-driven. Where do they go to find someone trustworthy enough to fix their sentimental treasure? They go to the long-time local jeweler. They go to where they can find the craftsmanship.
When you are selling custom jewelry, focus on the craftsmanship and the design. If you focus on the cost of materials, you will lose to the Internet’s “it’s cheaper over here” every time. But the quality of your craftsmanship -make that your strength! Help your customers understand the value of it!