Last updateTue, 19 Jun 2018 9pm

Making a graceful & profitable exit


Wilkerson and Associates lends jewelers a helping hand

Saying goodbye is never easy. For jewelers wrapping up their business or relocating after years and even decades, it can be overwhelming, both emotionally and strategically. That’s where Wilkerson and Associates steps in.

Over the past 30+ years Wilkerson and Associates has conducted more than 6,200 going out of business sales. (L-R) Jim McGee, CFO; Randy Castleman, GM; Rick Hayes, Partner & Vice President; Bobby Wilkerson, President.
Wilkerson, the country’s largest national jewelry liquidator, has been in the business of helping jewelry stores – large and small – close their stores successfully for more than 30 years, handling more than 6,200 going-out-of-business sales across the country. The company, which now runs an on-site jewelry store in Stuttgart, Ark., bills itself as “jewelers helping other jewelers.”

Wilkerson offers the entire package, from advertising to tagging merchandise. And it’s all customized for each individual client.

Bobby Wilkerson, the company’s CEO and owner, says he’s been pursuing his career ambition for almost 40 years.

“My father was a jeweler, and I grew up in the jewelry business,” he says via video on his company’s website. “All my life, I’ve worked in the jewelry business, after school and on Saturdays. At age 28, I saw a going-out-of-business sale - an exciting, high-powered going-out-of-business sale - and I decided at that time, that is all I want to do the rest of my life.”

Wilkerson and Associates offers its clients a confidential free sales consultation as a first step to determine how successful a sale will be, along with “customized, strategic turn-key plans... proprietary methods of inventory analysis, sales projections, marketing and advertising support, sales training, merchandising and accounting are part of the start-to-finish approach.”

The company assists in selling “inventory, fixtures, location, brand identity, customer list, furniture,” and can even help employees in their new job search.

Proven results

In a 60-day sale, Wilkerson clients typically average over 1.2 years of volume and can average $1.21 on the cost dollar for their assets. That’s about 50 percent more, Wilkerson says, than they could expect if they were running the sale themselves.

“One of the commitments that Bobby Wilkerson made many, many years ago was that he would put his money back into his business and he would build every facet of his business up to where he can feed the sales that we’re doing at any time,” says Rick Hayes, Partner/Vice President for Sales. “It can be the 26th day of December and if you need $100,000 of inventory, we can get the inventory to you. If you need to change the advertising for whatever reason, we can do it that day. We do everything in-house; that’s how we over achieve our goals.”

Wilkerson consultants, most of them former store owners themselves, live all over the United States, and Wilkerson takes care to assign its consultants to familiar markets. The company employs 56 people in the Arkansas corporate office and another 60 around the country.

“We analyze the market and the demographics of the jewelry store,” says Randy Castleman, Director of Field Operations. “We know who lives within a 5, 10, 15, up to 25-mile radius. The household income, that allows us to know, No. 1, what category of price goods and price points might sell in this jewelry store, and, No. 2, would it be a newspaper-reading audience, or would it be radio, or would it be signs?”

The Wilkerson consultant assigned to a closing or relocation works closely with the store’s staff and runs the sale on a week-to-week basis. Sales are traced daily and sent to the home office to ensure they are on target.

Judging by Wilkerson’s track record, they usually are.

Leading the way

“Our retail business is up, our merchandising company’s growing, our sales division is busy... everybody’s talking about tough times, but we just seem to be so fortunate,” says Rick Hayes.

“Bobby Wilkerson and Associates is a firm that has run those 6,200 sales, same ownership. In this building alone, we have over 150 years of jewelry experience. If you look around in this office, the arsenal of people that we’ve put together is incredible. When we talk about 6,200 sales, the same ownership ran all of those sales.

“The oldest store in America, Galt & Bro.; the oldest store in the State of Washington, Talcott; the oldest store in North Carolina, Baxter Jewelry – these are people who trusted their family names with this company. And the same people here who have that on their resumes are still doing it today. We tell clients whatever you’ve read about us, the people you’re talking to now are the ones who actually did all of that.

“We have our own advertising agency in-house, our own printing company, direct-mail service, merchandising company. We offer one-stop shopping to our store owners, and nowadays that’s important. When owners are already short of staff, they need all the help they’ve got. They don’t need our consultants sitting in the back room when they could be out on the floor selling products for these owners. I think that’s what separates us from the pack.”

Adds Randy Castleman: “Anything a jeweler could wish for, we’ve got it. We’re not in the selling business, but really the providing business. Whatever they need provided, we’re going to do it.”

Rick agrees: “An owner may have a third of the ring boxes or pendant boxes he needs. We’ll take care of it, we’ll send it to them, and what they don’t use, they can return it. If they need us to, we’ll tag it, put the price on it.”

Past success stories

The company has a lot of credits under its belt - Baxter Jewelry, an institution in the historic city of New Bern, N.C., Talcott Jewelers in Olympia, Wash., and Elvis Presley’s personal jeweler, along with a new deal with a 111-year-old store in Upstate New York. “They were just blown away by what we did for Talcott,” Rick says.

Randy helped with the sale at Galt & Bro. Jewelers, the shop brimming with colorful, historical tales in Washington, D.C., that catered to presidents dating back to Abraham Lincoln. “Peter Jennings covered it during his newscast,” Rick says. “They broke it like a piece of history taking place.”

At Talcott, Rick says, “They said, ‘We didn’t think you could do something like this, so elegant and nice.’

“We do what we do to honor the stores. I don’t really use the word ‘liquidation.’ ”

Randy agrees, saying he still keeps in contact with clients he had in the 1990s.

Fifty-eight to 60 percent of Wilkerson’s business comes from word of mouth, Rick says. “We get recommended by past clients, and it’s wonderful.”

The majority of the company’s work involves closings, but moving sales are big as well. “It runs in waves,” Rick says. “We’re putting together a retirement sale for a family in Oklahoma now,” he says. “Typically, the moving sales involve really good entrepreneurs, constantly building their stores up.

“When you use our company,” he says, “you’re hiring a corporation to work for you. When you work with us you know the person in that department. We’re not outsourcing. When you call my extension, you’re going to get a person. In this climate, those are pretty important things.

“The biggest horror our clients have is someone coming in there and ruining their reputation. But we’ll build your reputation and do it with a positive outcome. You can do it if you know what you’re doing.”

For more information about Wilkerson and Associates, call 800-631-1999 or visit www.wilkersons.com.