“We hit a lot of home runs,” confides Michael Scott, owner of upscale RingMaster Jewelers (ringmasterjewelers.com) in Winston-Salem, NC, “not base hits. We carry jewelry from $100, but focus on that special piece that sells for $10,000 or more.”
“Our core clientele are affluent couples. They want brand names, ‘so-and-so,’ not ‘something that looks like so-and-so.’ We feature top brands - Lagos, Bixby, Slane and Slane, Lazare Diamonds - and have recently added Honora and Mia Katrin for Jewel Couture LLC. We carry $5 million in inventory. We have the product to back the sale. We’re prepared for the home run.”
RingMaster’s elegant 5000 square foot showcase situated in historic Reynolda Village sets the scene for major hits. “R.J. Reynolds designed Reynolda Village in the early Twentieth Century as a model agricultural community, complete with manor house, formal gardens and school,” Scott explains. “The Reynolds Foundation gifted our store’s building to Wake Forest University in the 1960s.”
Entering Reynolda Village surrounded by 100-year-old National Historical Register buildings, botanical gardens and art museums, visitors are transported to a charming idyllic world. “We make major sales to folks on vacation touring the museums, as well as to the Wake Forest University community. One student’s parent bought a $50,000 piece as a lasting memento of the area.”
“RingMaster moved into its current building, its third location, in 2003. We completely gutted and transformed it at a cost of a quarter million dollars, using Grid 3, a NYC jewelry interior design group. We have a 1500 square foot downstairs workshop complete with all the latest tools - CAD CAM and laser welder - for all our custom design work.”
The spacious upstairs showroom with its upscale decor, custom cases and lighting provides the ambience for RingMaster’s affluent clientele. “Our repeat and referral business is fabulous. But the concept of customer loyalty has changed. Thirty years ago, our clients would only buy from us. It was like a family. Today our typical couple both work 40-50 hour weeks and only have time to shop when they travel on vacation. They bring us back rings to size from their Caribbean holiday.”
“Now it’s all about attracting new customers. We spend 7-8% of our bottom line in marketing, including yearly extensive campaigns on local TV, digital billboards in the heart of Winston-Salem and newspaper and magazine ads.”
Scott’s clearly on top of his game. “I’ve always been driven to success. At the age of nine I was painting barns and working in tobacco fields. I already had a checking account. By the time I reached high school I was working 40 hours a week and bought a mobile home. At 16 I purchased my first car. I realized early that through hard work and focus I could buy what I wanted. I always paid cash.
“I started working at Zales in 1975 as a ‘go-fer.’ By 1977 I was doing bench work. Two years later I moved to RingMaster. It was my good fortune to work with Robert Reed, its owner. He was my mentor. I learned how to run a business from him. The most important lesson was to pay your bills within 30 days. ‘If you can’t pay for it in 30 days, don’t buy it’.”
“When Bob sensed my drive he offered me a percentage of RingMaster’s profits. Those were productive years. In the fall of the year I would work 60-70 hours a week at the bench, turning out record amounts for custom sales. Eventually he established an annuity for me, the ‘golden carrot.’ In 1998 I purchased RingMaster from him. I should be able to have a comfortable retirement in about ten years.”
What are Scott’s tips for success? “Staff is key. For our sales staff to successfully promote a line, they have to really like it. If they’re not excited about it, it won’t sell. We have a great staff including six salespersons, jewelers, watchmakers and the office managers. One of our watchmakers is a master craftsman. He travels to Switzerland every year for two weeks of training and can repair any watch. We have one employee who’s been with us for 30 years. We’re like a family.
“My wife, who comes from a corporate background, has joined us as an office manager. I try to be fair to all our employees. My wife says sometimes I’m almost ‘over fair’! But as an employer there’s an obligation.”
After two slower-than-average years, business at RingMaster has picked up again. The bottom line? “I let customers know I guarantee their satisfaction. We’re going to make them happy no matter what it takes. I’ve never lost a sale.” It’s the rule book at RingMaster for batting a thousand.
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