Columnists Chuck Koehler The Retailer’s Perspective: Two years and counting

The Retailer’s Perspective: Two years and counting

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Long ago, in another time and another place, people would walk into jewelry stores to shop for, and buy, jewelry and gift items.  They’d come in and look to see what you had in your showcases.  They’d try on the jewelry, and then they’d go home and think about it for a day or so.  And, in this magical place so far away, they might even go to another jewelry store to see what baubles they had to offer.  Then, the customer would make a decision and pull out their checkbook and purchase the above jewelry.  And everyone lived happily ever after… until now!

“Well, I can get it online for less.”

Yep, that’s what we’ve been reduced to.  Way back in the day, we had wholesalers, retailers, and middle men.  Now it’s all mixed up.  Back then, people bought their jewelry at a jewelry store.  Now they buy it at their desk when they should be working.  Nowadays, people don’t go from store to store to shop and compare, they just sit at their desk and do it online - when they should be working.  Heck, I’ve even had someone who worked for me that would sit at her desk and buy herself jewelry online… on the clock!

I sometimes feel like we’re the little hometown grocer in a small town that just found out they’re building a new Wal-Mart Super Center on the edge of town.  Competition has always made us stronger in many ways, but how the heck do you compete against Wal-Mart when they move to town?  That’s about what the internet has done to the small owner/operator jewelry stores.

Like a lot of you out there, I got into this business long before the internet came along.  And, even while the internet was in its infancy, most of us didn’t really take it seriously at the local level.  The internet was something that we used to steal music from, watch funny videos, and follow NASCAR on a daily basis.  Then Blue Nile came along and people could now buy diamonds somewhere other than a jewelry store.

For several years, people that I’ve never met before would stumble into my store with a diamond (in a fancy diamond paper) in one hand, and a bunch of official looking documents in the other.  They’d ask me if the diamond and the documents matched up.  I’d spend about 20 seconds glancing at both and say either yes or no, and they’d go away either happy or sad.

Of course, at the time it wasn’t really evident what was really going on - people were buying their diamonds on this new internet thingy.  It took a couple of years for me to fully fathom that.  Looking back, I probably should have caught on earlier, but in reality this wasn’t like a Wal-Mart moving to town and you’re given an advance notice about a major game changer coming along. 

In the beginning though, not every customer shopped online.  Lots of people were scared of it.  It probably took about a decade for the internet to fully integrate itself into the population.  Hell, I was still using the yellow pages to find phone numbers two years ago just because that was how I’d always done it.  Now, I can’t remember the last time I looked at a phone book.  For that matter, I can’t remember the last time I thought about using a phone book instead of the internet.  And, to be honest with you, I don’t even know if I’m still listed in the phone book.  I think I am, but I haven’t looked in years.

So, that being said, if I’m not using the phone book to find a business’s address and phone number, neither are my customers.  It’s now time for every jewelry store, even in the smallest of markets, to have an online presence because a decade later, that’s just how everyone does it... whether you like it or not.  Here’s a run-down of what I’ve done that all my readers are more than welcome to cut/paste/copy/steal, because that’s mostly how I got it.

First off, the websites I have now are not my first websites.  The very first one was about 7 or 8 years ago when some website designer dude came to me and wanted to start a company designing websites.  He wanted me to be his guinea pig and I said okay.  The thing that stood out the most during that initial experience was the amount of written content that we needed.  At the time I was partners in a small design company and we needed to ‘describe’ every single piece. I swear, if I heard; ‘This piece was inspired by nature’…. uh, no, we’ve already used that one... ‘This piece was inspired by…..’ 

Honestly, I don’t know why we couldn’t just say; ‘We thought this looked cool and we think it’ll sell.’  Anyway, lots of written content and lots of pictures later, it was a colossal failure.  Turns out, our phone number was wrong on the website and we could never get him to fix it because he was busy ‘building’ websites, not maintaining them and we never got one call.

Next up, a year or two later, I bought Microsoft FrontPage and built one myself.  Once again, total failure.  It wasn’t that there was anything wrong with FrontPage; it was just that after I built it, I didn’t update it again for well over a year.  Mostly because I still wasn’t taking this whole internet thing seriously.  The internet was still something that other people did, not us small mom and pop shops.  And then, two years ago, on New Year’s Day, we sat down and finally decided to take it seriously.

Today, there are lots of choices for free website building programs.  I chose Weebly.com and have been very happy with it, but there are hundreds out there.  Just a week ago, an out of state client called me (hey Amber) to make sure that a package arrived because the address on my website was different than the address on my business card.  Oops, it was a typo on my website and I logged on and corrected it in about 2 seconds…without calling anyone.  With Weebly (or most of them I suppose), they allow you to maintain control over your website.  It’s a lot of work, believe me, but it’s also the new reality.  You’ve JUST GOT TO DO IT!!!

Google placement is also very important.  Should you ‘buy’ your way to the top of Google?  I don’t, and here’s why.  My store is located in Nashville, Tennessee.  If anyone in Nashville is looking for ring sizing, they are not going to Google ‘ring sizing’.  They are going to Google ‘ring sizing Nashville TN’.  Go ahead, try it.  My store is Anthony Jewelers and/or Consignment Jewelry Nashville.  BAM!  Right there on page one.  Here’s how I do it (notice I didn’t say ‘did’ it.  It’s an ongoing effort, not a one-time thing).

I made one page of my website a ‘Landing Page’, that I set to ‘Hide page in Navigation Window’ so it’s not normally visible.  With this page I am constantly thinking of every conceivable combination of words that someone would type into Google to try and find my products and services.  Google sees this and remembers.  I usually keep it hidden, but I’ll let ya’ll see it.  This is something that you need to add to your website as well; www.anthonyjewelersnashville.com/landing-page.html.

But, there is one major drawback to Weebly; it’s not an e-commerce site, so it’s not really designed to ‘sell’ online, but if you don’t have an online presence now, all I can say is ‘baby steps’.

If you’re reading this, you probably have a brick and mortar store and you’re still looking to drive traffic into your store, just like me.  Being visible to your local customer base that is no longer using the phone book is crucial.  I’m slowly but surely figuring it out and it’s complicated, but it’s only been two years and counting.


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. If you would like to contact Chuck or need a speaker or instructor for your next conference/event he can be reached at 615-354-6361, www.CMKcompany.com or send e-mail to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 
 
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