The idea of change is easy for some people, but for most of us change is a daunting prospect. Doing things the same way is perceived as easier than learning a new way, which can be fraught with problems such as “learning curves” and “re dos.” And the older we are, the more hesitant we usually are to learning a new way to do something that is “working just fine.”But we all know that running a jewelry store has not necessarily been “working just fine” in the last couple of years. The economy, security and logistics have all impacted the way we do business, but many of us hang on to the way it’s always been done.
Lafayette, LA based Stuller has recognized over the past decade that in order for retailers to succeed they would need to embrace the changes that lead to the future and Stuller is anxious to become a part of the change. Their 2011 Bridge Conference series is so aptly named that when this writer left the 2 1⁄2 day event at least one bridge to the future was obvious.
The Bridge Conference program is a series of nine workshops to play out over the spring and summer. It is designed to preview for jewelers the future of doing business a new way by showing tools that can be implemented in their stores to make them more profitable and to connect with clients and potential new customers. But the people at Stuller did more than simply show their technology, they made definitive efforts to talk about change and how it might be achieved in your store today.Kerry Hand, Stuller’s head of marketing illustrated at the conference, opening with a wooden tennis racket, how jewelers need to ask themselves if they are embracing the tools of today and tomorrow. By talking about the role the wooden tennis racket played in his past life and his father’s life before his, Hand showed that by playing with today’s graphite racket, the player plays better and is competitive on today’s tennis court.
In a session called Adapting to Change, Danny Clark, chief merchandising officer for Stuller, led a discussion regarding who to change, and how to change in the retailers’ stores. These discussions were broken out into roundtable conversations centered on each store and the make up of each store’s staff. Were the employees (individually and collectively) capable of change and doing it quickly, or were they not capable of change and/or slow to do so? Most agreed that each store was a mixture of both, but it would take one leader to formulate a plan and then lay it out for the rest of the team to follow. Others thought the store would be better off if the team worked together to make the change plan and implement it together? Store owners commented after the session that they were thinking about their staff and how they would begin to change in a whole new way that they hadn’t thought about in the past.
Delivering the keynote address was Mark Smelzer, publisher of JCK magazine. Smelzer shared some thoughts about social networking to connect with your clients and suggested that while a full blown website was great for the web, a mobile ready or scaled down version of that website, utilizing maybe 10% of the content, was necessary for the mobile version that will be pulled up on your customer’s mobile device.
Smelzer also touched on RFIDs and the roll they will play in our future. Radio frequency identification surpasses the 40 year old bar code technology and SKUs system in both speed and accuracy and will be on a package, a sign or a ticket in your very near future.
Retail jeweler Heather Kutzman of Artisan Jewelry in Sharpsburg, GA shared with the group how she and her parents have implemented changes in their small family run business. By first making a plan to change and then implementing the change this store has successfully rolled out some of the tools Stuller offers like jewelerkisok.com, Gemvision’s CounterSketch and Stuller Showcase and prototype programs. Heather reported that she and her parents had increased their closing rate with customers and that the new technology, while embraced by Heather and her parents, was also exciting for their customers.Another retailer from Georgia, David Douglas Diamonds in Marietta, GA sent fourth generation jeweler Joseph Meadows to the conference to share how his short 19 years of life have been impacted by technology for jewelry. At 13, Joseph attended his first Matrix training and it has been hard for his dad, Doug Meadows, to keep him down since. Joseph shared how they interact with customers in their store to custom design jewelry and help close sales with the prototypes available from Stuller. Speaking with Joseph you get the impression that there is a future for his generation in the family run store if the store keeps up with the technology his generation takes for granted and expects to be on hand.
From upstate New York, attendees Jill and Skip Hornick, owners of Van Horn Jewelers in Owego found the personality of Stuller to be customer oriented. “Jill and I felt that Stuller wanted to assist us to get going in the right direction. We were blown away by the investment in time, money and personnel Stuller made for the event. I have a real passion for my business and want to stay in the business. We realize we can’t just sit back, we have got to meet the changes and the technology of the next generation.”
So if you look into the future, do you see yourself sitting across the counter from your customer handing them a piece of live merchandise that maybe costs more (or less) than they planned to spend, or are you sitting next to your customer, with a large flat panel monitor as you browse through custom designs and all the tools to create just what they want?
Americans are customizing everything today. As jewelers we’ve already got great experience working with customers to create one of a kind jewelry. It may be time to go to the next step and offer them the slick tools of the next generation. Will you and your store be there when the next, unimaginable technology bursts forth?