Many jewelers all across this country are already civic leaders in their respective communities. We tend to be a bit more generous, outgoing, service oriented people that naturally gravitate to positions of responsibility and leadership. It is no mere coincidence that jewelry is the last bastion of important family owned retail business in our great nation. Yet Wal-Mart is America’s biggest jeweler by volume.
Now is the time to use these leadership skills to more directly benefit your business. Community leadership does positively impact your business with increased visibility and good will, but you have the capacity to actually create sales with things that are already in your head... and in your store.
Think about it: Have your retail price points slid dramatically? Are you bored with your business? Are your margins getting smaller? Are you looking for a growth opportunity?
Once upon a Time... Diamonds were a very exclusive purchase. Most jewelers had to sell and service lots of things to stay alive. Colored gemstones were generally relegated to the birthstone ring tray and very few came from the earth. Furthermore, not many jewelers knew or cared about the source of all those pretty stones. Most everybody just assumed they were genuine stones. There was no malice here, just a lack of information. We are still dealing with this every time a customer brings in Great-Uncle Charlie’s Ruby Masonic ring and you have to explain that it was lab grown. Since 1985, when QVC hit the air, colored gemstones and pearls have contributed less than 10% of the retail jewelry dollar. That 10% has not changed since then and most of us retailers have done nothing to grow this aspect of our business.
Present day: Diamonds are traded as a commodity, not as that mysteriously rare and special gem comprised of a single element. Gold jewelry is often sold by weight and not beauty or originality of design or quality of manufacturing. Sterling silver beads and charms are the new profit center of most jewelry stores. And most are struggling to survive...
Do you see a pattern here?
Colored Gemstones are fun to buy and sell - if you have the knowledge and desire. Many jewelers have a hundred loose gemstones in little plastic cells just waiting to be released onto customer fingers. Set a tsavorite garnet between a client’s index and middle finger and tell her that it was mined in the same place where “Out of Africa” was filmed and remind her of that great scene where Robert Redford flies away for the last time. When she looks up at you with misty eyes and asks “What would you do with a stone like this?” You place it on one of the semi mounts you’ve been looking at for 5 years and ask if she would like it at an angle, higher or lower... and the sale is made.
I was so active in the community that my wife threatened divorce several times before I started confining my meeting schedule to mornings before the store opened. I also started carrying Tanzanite and other “exotic” gems in my store in Sturgis, Michigan in 1980 when nobody had even heard of these gems. I spoke to every group that would have me - Rotary, Kiwanis, Hospital Auxiliary, even church groups (gem cutting is the best illustration of stewardship). I used my leadership abilities to create an entirely new market of gemstone aficionados. I began traveling abroad to buy for the store. Ultimately I was generating a three time turn on my inventory. My accountants were going crazy. In 2005, I sold my store and it is still going strong today.
Later, I worked with shopping television in the UK and US. I trained presenters to give accurate yet romantic information about gemstones that would emotionally link the customer with the gemstone jewelry. This is where most jewelers have failed and allowed shopping television and the Internet to make all the colored stone sales... and all the incredible profits involved with color. There is no cartel or Rap sheet for spinel or tourmaline.
What if you spoke to 10 civic groups this summer about birthstones and their origins? You could take great samples from your existing inventory or really get exotic and bring in extra memo pieces for a promotion. Do you remember any of your GIA training? Do you own “The Curious Lore of Precious Stones” by G.F. Kunz? Do you read Diana Jarrett’s monthly column, “The Story Behind the Stone”, in this newspaper or her blog “Fire n’ Ice” or any of the weekly e-mails from our industry magazines? These are all great sources of fun and compelling gemstone information.