For Lora Wright, owner of Southern Jewelers in Sanford, NC, working with manufacturers and wholesalers to spur business is good business, not just another marketing slogan. She has seen, first hand, the benefits of working with suppliers to think outside the box to market and sell products that fill a niche in her community. Working alongside Rebecca Shemwell, owner of Tracy Pearls, Lora created a unique spin on a classic piece and not only bolstered sales, but helped develop long-term customers with a life-long tie to her store.
Lora’s career started at the young age of 16 as a gift wrapper in her hometown jewelry store. It didn’t take long before management realized that, even as a teenager, Lora was meant for sales. Quickly she grew in experience and expertise as she earned her certification from GIA and became manager of the store. She took on every aspect of retail management - from buying to marketing to purchasing, she did it all.
“It was really a blessing to have had experience in running a jewelry store when I decided to open my own business,” Lora recalls. “I already had relationships with suppliers and wholesalers in the industry which made it so much easier to get established.”
Lora realized the true value in working with industry counterparts when she started her business in 1991. Her long-standing relationship with Rebecca Shemwell has helped Lora capitalize on a line she calls Grandmother Pearls.
The concept of Grandmother Pearls began seven years ago when Lora started buying children’s jewelry from Rebecca. “Lora called me one day to order more of the children’s pearls and referred to them as Granny Pearls,” Rebecca explains. “At first I didn’t know what she was referring to, then it dawned on me the importance of target marketing to grandmothers. I credit Lora and am thankful that she reminded me of the importance of jewelry telling a story.”
Advertising a children’s cultured freshwater pearl necklace and bracelet set sparked the interest of new, or soon-to-be grandmothers in her community. The ladies were seeking something special to give their new granddaughters, and children’s pearls were a perfect match. Lora started calling them Grandmother Pearls. Rebecca realized that Lora’s name was the basis for how she needed to market the pieces. She ran with the concept and created a printed story (included with every purchase) around it centered on family ties and emotion.
“I’ve been doing business with Rebecca Shemwell of Tracy Pearls for more than 15 years and I trust her completely,” states Lora. “She selects and carries pearls that work beautifully for children’s jewelry. It has been a huge success for me and for Rebecca. Rebecca gives me total credit for giving a name to the children’s jewelry.”
With the success of the new line now benefiting both Lora and Rebecca, the two share a mutual respect and admiration for what each one brings to the table. They believe trust between a salesperson and a retailer is paramount.
Forbes magazine’s 2010 article on the age of trust between manufacturers and retailers speaks to this new, post-recession phenomenon stating: “Now more than ever, manufacturers and retailers need each other to solve the fundamentally universal problems facing both trading partners. That is: how to appeal to the mutual consumer in a way that will stick? The recession changed many of the rules of strategy, planning and development. The stakes are high because it potentially affects new products, new platforms, new programs and new markets. But the plans, the relationships and the results will be better for all involved – including the consumer.”
The old business rules that once kept the two factions at odds are gone as both need each other to figure out how to appeal to their mutual consumer.
Rebecca and Lora already knew that!