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The Retailer’s Perspective: Mistakes, misconceptions, wives’ tales and outright lies...

Throughout the years, I’ve heard them all; oil your opals, clean your jewelry with toothpaste, diamonds can’t break.  I haven’t written about this stuff in a couple of years, so I thought I’d write a column for the newer members of our industry, and put a few of these rumors to bed… for a couple of years at least.

The Retailer’s Perspective: Every... Single... Year!

You know, it never fails to happen every year, but it still amazes me just the same. What I’m talking about is the audacity of some of the people that show up and expect impossible things from me… at Christmas!  So, now that I’ve slowed down a little, I thought I’d tell you a story or two of what happened during this last Christmas season.

The Retailer’s Perspective: Now that the gold rush is over

I’ve seen it twice.  Once in the early ‘80s, and then again starting in 2007.  What I’m talking about is the out of control gold prices that set off a mad panic and creates a gold rush. 

Through the last 4 or 5 years, I didn’t participate in it.  I know, I know, I lost out on millions and millions of dollars - or so I’m told.  But honestly, I don’t think I’m really worse off for sitting on the sidelines.

Here’s my thinking:

For as long as I’ve been in the jewelry industry, I’ve never bought jewelry off the street. I’ve always had a personal issue against the practice.  Usually, when a customer comes into a jewelry store, it’s one of the happiest times in their life.  It’s a birthday, an anniversary, someone’s about to get engaged, someone just got engaged and needs their new ring (that I sold) sized, or someone’s about to get married and shopping for wedding bands. 

But, there’s another side too.  Sometimes people come into a jewelry store at the worst time of their life.  That person that they thought they were going to spend the rest of their life with just showed his or her true colors and “happily ever after” is just a slow moving train wreck circling a bottomless drain.

Sometimes it’s the loss of a job and they need money, and it’s the house or the ring.  But, you know what I’ve discovered from decades of observing from afar (since I’ve never really participated)?  Whatever you pay them for their jewelry usually doesn’t fix their problem.  Yes, it might buy them a month or so, but the underlying problem still exists.  Now, they’ve still got the problem, but not that precious piece of jewelry that’s been handed down from generation to generation.

Of course, I’ve got hundreds of friends and readers that think I’m dead wrong about this.  They tell me that the person was going to sell it no matter what, so why shouldn’t they buy it and take advantage of the situation since it was getting sold regardless. 

Here’s my thinking:

When someone is selling their jewelry, usually their life is coming apart at the seams for any number of reasons.  And I don’t care what you pay them; they are always going to think you ripped them off.  They bought the ring for $10,000 from you 4 years ago and now you’re offering them $3,200 (on a good day).  Now, you’re showing your hand.  You just let them know that when you gave them “the deal of the century,” you made $6,800 on the sale.  WHAT?  Now they know our little jewelry industry secret… we make 400% to 500% on every sale!

Now, you and I know that’s not true, but those people out there in the world we call our customers don’t know the little ins and outs of our industry.  Chances are you paid $7,800 for the diamond at the time, but now we’re in a recession and the price of everything has fallen - but they don’t know that.  And worse, now they don’t trust you.

Something I’ve also learned from being on the sidelines is that not everyone stays down.  Some people were born poor and will always be poor no matter what the economy and they will always use pawn shops as a bank.  But, most people are not like that.  Just because someone is going through a very hard time right now, doesn’t mean it’s going to last forever.  They will get through this and bounce back and eventually replace all of the jewelry they had to sell.  And, many of these people will come to me because I didn’t rip them off when they were down.  I can’t tell you the number of people that have said horrible things to me about other jewelers that I know personally, and will never go back to them for this very reason.

Is every customer going to feel this way?  Of course not.  But how many customers are you willing to lose by becoming a pawn shop as opposed to a jewelry store?  My decision was to not lose a single one.  My thought process has always been to stay on the happy side of the business, not the sad.  If a customer is going to feel betrayed by their trusted long time jeweler, then they are going to switch jewelers when their situation turns around.  Pick me!  Pick me!

Now, am I being a hypocrite because I have a consignment store that sells people’s unwanted jewelry?  I don’t think so because I’m pretty selective about what I take.  If they need the money, then I don’t get involved.  But, if it’s some jewelry that was given to them by an ex-boyfriend or husband and it’s been in their jewelry box for years, and they’re in no hurry to sell it, then I’ll sell it for them. 

Case in point; a longtime customer was married when she was 18 years old to an older man with lots of money.  It was a short marriage, and when it was over she ended up with lots of pieces of nice jewelry.  Fifteen years later, she’s been married for 10 years with 3 kids and a great life.  Her current husband knows she was married before, but her kids don’t.  She’s never going to give the jewelry to her children because it was given to her by someone they don’t even know existed.  It was just sitting in her jewelry box doing nothing, so she put it on consignment.  I sold several pieces and she used the money to take her kids to Disneyland.  Sweet.  She had no emotional ties to the pieces and didn’t really need the money, but she wasn’t going to just give them away to a pawn shop.

So, herein lies one of the big problems I’ve had with whole “become a pawn shop” mentality that’s swept the jewelry industry over the last several years.  Customers come to a jewelry store instead of a pawn shop because they think they’re going to get lots more money for their jewelry.  When in reality, most jewelry stores don’t pay any more than a pawn shop.  After a while, customers started wising up and shopping at several different places to see who would give them the best deal, and you know what?  At least here in Nashville, most everyone (pawn shops/jewelry stores/estate buyers/etc.) paid about the same thing, give or take a buck or two. 

So, once again, where did that $6,800 dollars go that they paid you when you sold them the ring?  How do you explain the difference? 

I spoke to several jewelers while writing this article and some agreed with me, but most thought I was nuts.  But, one jeweler in West Virginia told me that because she always encouraged her customers to get a couple of bids to really see what kind of money they could get for their jewelry, she was always a few dollars higher.  She said that she’s seen several of these people back in her store as new customers because she treated them fairly!  So that blows my theory to hell, huh?

I guess to wrap it up, in my opinion, when someone is forced to sell their jewelry to pay the bills, they are never going to feel they got what it was worth.  So if they are going to hate someone, hate someone other than me.  There is an old saying that the decisions you make today, you’re going to have to live with during the ensuing years.  So over the last several years, I elected to sit out the gold rush and be where I am today, richer or poorer. 

Who’s with me on this and who thinks I’m a nut case?  Write me and let me know what you think.

And, all you bench jewelers out there, don’t forget during these cold winter months to switch to Mary Kay Satin Hands soap.  It’ll rock your world and keep your hands and fingertips from cracking.  I haven’t had a single callous split in the years I’ve been using the product.  If you don’t have a Mary Kay rep, use mine.  You can reach McKensie at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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 email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

The Retailer’s Perspective: It’s a brand new year...

Surely it can’t be, can it?  Why, it seems like only yesterday I was cussing about not keeping last year’s New Year’s resolutions.  Below is the list of what I am going to resolve to do better, resolve to not do at all, and resolve to actually start doing?  Let’s take a look;

Consolidate my communications

This is something I’ve been struggling with for some time.  Like so many of you out there, I grew up in a home where the entire family shared a single phone that was attached by a wire to a little decorative box thingy built into the wall.  Back then it was cool when the phone rang.  When the phone rang, all of us kids would race down the hallway to be the first one to answer it.  Now, I have three phone numbers, 6 websites, 13 e-mail addresses, 7 Facebook pages, an eBay store, an Etsy store, an online store, an online business, 4 Twitter accounts, a store address, a home address, and a pager (still). 

I find it funny how we still use the term “I talked to Kim today,” when in actuality, I haven’t literally talked to Kim in about a year.  Yes, I know what Kim did last night because she tweeted it.  Yes, I know that Kim took a trip last weekend because she posted about it on Facebook.  And yes, I know Kim has a new boyfriend because I saw the pictures on Instagram.  But, that’s just the way the world works nowadays, and I need to be better at roping all of these things into one place so I don’t miss out on important matters (like when Kim breaks up with said new boyfriend - a guy needs to know these things). 

So, for the last year or so, I’ve no longer been saying, “I talked to Kim.”  Instead I say, “I was in touch with Kim,” or “Kim and I communicated today.”  But, with sooo many different ways to communicate today, a lot gets lost in the translation.  I know for a fact that I’ve had readers and customers send me e-mails, or responded to one of my websites, and then, ‘Poof,’ the communication disappears.  Whoever the young lady that sent me the nice letter about wanting to become a jeweler and told me how I’d inspired you, I swear I tried to write you back but you disappeared in this small little black box with a screen and a keyboard, and I’ll be damned if I can find you again. 

I try hard to respond to all of my readers that write to me.  And for the last year or so, the communication is coming in from so many different ways, I’m certain I’m missing a lot.  If you wrote to me, and I didn’t respond, it’s not because I’m a stuck up jerk.  It’s because I lost it.  But, I’ll tell everyone a secret; the one e-mail I always check and pay attention to is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  Hit me up there and I promise I’ll see it.  And, to the young lady who wanted my advice about becoming a jeweler, write me again at the above e-mail and I’ll help you in any way I can.

So, I’m asking myself and I’m asking everybody out there reading this, do we really need a unique e-mail address for every single different thing we do?  In my case it’s:

• AnthonyJewelersNashville.com, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

• TouchedImpressions.com, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

       CMKCompany.com, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

And that’s just three out of like a hundred.  If I just sent every single piece of communication to one e-mail address or one phone number, would it be more confusing or less?  I like having the e-mail account and the company or product name match, but is it really necessary?  Thoughts?

Expand my online presence

So, how exactly do I expand my online presence, and consolidate all of my communications at the same time?  Beats me.  But, I do know that almost every new phone call and every new customer I get is a direct result of my efforts to get my company out front and center in cyberspace.  I guess the one consolation in trying to increase one thing, yet reduce another thing, is this won’t be the first New Year’s Resolution I’ve failed at!

Invest in new equipment and my new venture

Yep, it’s time to get out of ‘hunker down’ mode.  Really!  It’s time to get back out there in the world and grow my business and look towards the future instead of just getting through to tomorrow.  I started a new company about a year and a half ago and have been slowly growing it.  I think I’m good to go, ready to launch.  It’s time to do it.  We’re going to be adding new accounts in 2014.  Check it out, it’s www.TouchedImpressions.com.

Be nicer to customers

Really.  And I’m talking about all of them; the ones that e-mail me, tweet me, message me, text me, IM me, call me, and even the ones that actually come in my store and talk to me face to face.  I’m usually pretty nice to people in general, but some people just stretch my limits, I swear.  I’m gonna try harder with these people.

Case in point: A guy I’ve never seen before comes in and drops off 5 watches needing batteries.  When I finished the work, four of them worked fine, and one of them was broken and needed more work than just a battery.  When he came back to pick them up, he took the news hard.

“I just don’t understand?  It’s always worked fine.  It just needed a new battery and now you tell me it’s broken.  I just don’t understand?  How could it be broken now when it was working just fine when I brought it to you?  It just needed a new battery and now it’s broken.  I just don’t understand.  I’m new to the area and I was really looking for a jeweler.”

To which I replied, “Well, Gossage Jewelers is right down the street and they’re very good.  You should try them out.”  (Sorry Chuck and Kym Gossage, he mentioned that he’d seen your store and my store and he chose me… damn!)

In 2014, I’m going to be more sympathetic and I’m gonna handle these situations much differently from now on.  How you ask?  Hell if I know, but I’m gonna try.  More on this later.

Listen better

I have to admit, I’m the worst at listening to customers.  I don’t know why, but jewelers and hairdressers get the brunt of the personal stories on every visit.  To me, it’s just a wedding ring that’s out of round.  I’m going to put it on my mandrel, hit it with a hammer a few times, and hand it back to you… 30 seconds tops. 

To my customer, it’s the ring that her grandfather gave his first wife who died somehow or the other a long time ago, and then he married her grandmother who didn’t want this ring because it belonged to his ex-wife, so her grandfather hid it away and gave it to her but made her promise not to tell anyone because he was still secretly in love with his late wife and never really loved her grandmother.  But since her grandmother passed away last year, she’s wondering if she should tell her family that this is the ring... STOP IT!!!

Oh wait, I just made a New Year’s Resolution that I’m going to listen better.

“Well, how do you think your family will handle this news?  And please be specific.  I’d love to hear all about it…”  And yes, that is a true story, ha ha.

Change my attitude about the economy

This one is getting easier all the time.  Its 2014, not 2008 through 2012.  To quote the Beatles; “It’s getting better all the time.”

Look further ahead

See above.

Buy a sports car and order a Russian bride

Oops, mid-life crisis.  I’ll probably see what each one costs and decide against both by January 15th.

Go on a diet and lose 20 lbs.

Truth be told, I’m actually planning on failing at all of the above in the exact reverse order that I wrote them… now pass me another slice of that pecan pie… with extra whipped cream… I’ve got some failing to do!!!

And, for everyone going to the RJO show in Savannah at the end of January, I’m speaking on Saturday morning and then manning the ‘quiz me’ booth on Sunday.  Come buy me a Bud Light!!!!


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 email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

The Retailer’s Perspective: It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Well, here we go again.  It’s Christmas in the jewelry business.  If you’re keeping score, this will be the 6th Christmas season since the Great American Recession.  What will this Christmas season hold for all of the independent jewelry retailers out there?  Beats me, but I’m not as worried about it as I was the last several years.  That got me to thinking about how the Christmas season has changed since my first Christmas season - 36 years ago.

The Retailer’s Perspective: Two years and counting

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!

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