In early October, I was thrilled to be invited to one of Stuller’s Bridge events. Bridge is a 3-day conference held at Stuller’s headquarters designed to help independent retailers improve their businesses and stay relevant in the ever evolving jewelry industry. It had been many years since my last visit and I was excited to return. As the world headquarters of one of the largest U.S. based jewelry manufacturers, not only was I excited to get a behind-the-scenes view of their operation, but I was, honestly, ready to flee the unyielding rain that had covered the southeast for nearly 10 days.
So, with bags packed, I eagerly headed to Lafayette, Louisiana believing sunshine in the ‘swamp’ would be better than the 10 straight days of rain I was leaving behind.
Sweet, sunny Louisiana didn’t disappoint. Oh! The sunshine felt so divine. It wasn’t long before I met Alex Graham, the daughter of Stuller Founder and Chairman Matt Stuller. Alex welcomed all attendees at the opening reception. Her enthusiasm and excitement about what lay in store for us was contagious.
Next Danny Clark, Stuller President and COO, shared his expertise with store owners who face an ever-changing landscape in terms of adapting to today’s retail environment. Titled “The Moment of Change,” Danny’s message was not only powerful, but had something for everyone as the entire room participated in the discussion. Even this media girl gleaned valuable information on how to apply that adaptive mind-set to business.
The evening ended with a fantastic dinner that included a short video clip from the movie “The Lion King” where Rafiki says: “Change is good. Without it, life can get a little mundane. So try something new!”
How true! Our industry has faced some difficult times but, true to their nature, our people did not lay down. We did not give up. We sold gold when necessary. We picked up silver lines that were never in the inventory plan. And, we figured out how to market ourselves to the Millennial generation who approach life through a smartphone. And today, we are better for it. The presentation concluded with the Bob Dylan hit, “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” I’m a huge Dylan fan, and that just made my night!
The next two days were a buffet (we southerners like to eat) of amazing sessions. I was up early and off to Stuller, which is like a mini Fort Knox. No worries! I was prepared. Despite Stuller security being more thorough than the TSA, I made it past and headed straight for all the ‘fixins’ that make up a good southern breakfast. As a Southern Belle, I know my grits and biscuits.
Then it was off to the first session of the day – Bridal. As a critical component of a successful retailer’s business plan, we learned how to maximize each bridal sale. Bridal Director, Taylor and Product Manager, Morgan provided a fresh perspective on understanding today’s bridal market as they gave us a glimpse into the extensive research Stuller does to give the retailer all the information and data to increase their profits!
Next up was customization. With their 3C Collection (Choose, Change, Create), CounterSketch®, CAD/CAM services and Create Bar, Stuller certainly has all the customization bases covered. Gemvision Sales Director Doug Kerns showed us the many options retailers are offered to tap into this vital trend. He was fantastic!
Then it was on to lunch – with a delicious Cajun flair! From there Stuller Events Planner Ryan Pettigrew took us on a tour of the facilities where the entire group became engrossed with Stuller’s working robots. WOW! Can I get one of those at home?
And, as if that wasn’t impressive enough, seeing the big shiny gold bars just gave me ‘chicken skin!’ I held myself together, however, knowing from past experience that you just can’t pick those weighty beauties up! No throwin’ a few of those in my bag and slipping out the side door.
Alix Gonsoulin, jewelry director and Emily Graffagnino, visual merchandising and packaging product manager then discussed business strategies that maximize jewelry sales. Next we joined the social media session, which everyone found enormously helpful. Everyone was eager to learn and do more with social media, demonstrating that adaptive spirit once again.
Back to the hotel for dinner and some very fun networking with Stuller employees and retailers as we made friends while enjoying a true Cajun band. The highlight of the evening was speaking with Matt Stuller. A true legend in the industry, Matt has always been exceptionally kind every time I’ve had the opportunity to speak with him. He is open, honest and humble, the epitomy of a true Southern gentleman.
Vice President of Merchandising Tammy Kidder and Director of Findings Nathan Button kicked off the last day with a great workshop on how to improve bench quality and productivity. The exercises were educational, and jewelers came out of those sessions with a lot of new information they could use in their stores immediately. Moving to the last two sessions, Gary Venable led the session From the Vault, while Ashley Corely and Carl Lehnhardt gave information about Stuller’s inventory depth, range and capabilities, as well as global market information. Both sessions were characterized by in depth information, great conversation and a Q&A session.
The closing address from Alex Graham was fantastic! Her passion and excitement was extremely refreshing. We literally felt like part of the Stuller family. There is a certain energy that goes on at Stuller that was contagious. Matt spoke once again, this time to the change he’s seen since starting out selling his findings out of his Datsun 280Z (I had the same car, same year! Great minds think alike, right?) Then jewelers were offered face-to-face meetings with Stuller sales specialists who tap into the specifics of the stores growth potential.
Bravo to the Stuller Team for giving the independent jewelers tools they can use right away.
Stuller’s Bridge event was truly an amazing experience. As an industry veteran with over 25 years, I’ve never experienced anything close to the Stuller Bridge event – ever! If you haven’t gone to a Bridge event, you are truly missing out on an opportunity to grow your business, network with your peers and educate yourself in this ever changing industry.
As ‘His Bobness’ states, “We better embrace… the times, they are a-changin’.”
Where does your store fit in to this moment of industry change? If you head to the Stuller Bridge Event you’ll find out! Trust me, you won’t be disappointed!
Elesa Dillon is the Vice President of Sales for Southern Jewelry News and Mid-America Jewelry News. You can contact Elesa at 336-389-1950 or Elesa@SouthernJewelryNews.com. For more information about Stuller’s Bridge events, please visit www.Stuller.com/Bridge.