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3 Ways to increase your custom design business

3 ways to increase your custom design business

As I write this in April 2009 the economy is in such a state that
jewelers are finding decreased customer traffic and lower “average
sale” for selling from the case.

There are several ways to make a living in a jewelry stoRe:

  1. The sale of merchandise
  2. Appraisals
  3. Buying customers old jewelry/scrap
  4. Jewelry and Watch repair
  5. Custom Design

Merchandise sales are off and appraisals might also be off or about
the same being many appraisals are done for the insurance aspect. In
2008 buying customers gold was a terrific money maker and many report
it too has tapered off somewhat this year.

Repair is off a little bit for many. I’m sure its not that people
don’t want to get their jewelry repaired, it’s just not high up on
the necessity level. They’ll do it when times are better, so don’t

The big surprise is that Custom Design sales are actually UP for
many jewelers. There are probably a lot of reasons for it but being
jewelry is a luxury item who would have thought custom would be so

A few of my thoughts why it continues to be strong is:

  1. When people want something, they’ll get it.

  2. Custom is mostly done for women and women (or men too) can simply
    justify why they need to have a new ring custom made.

  3. If they give you some of their old jewelry to “recycle” the
    customer believes (and rightly so) that by giving you a large dollar
    value of their goods, what you charge is small considering what
    they’ll get back.

  4. People will pay for the unusual.

  5. Lastly think about how many custom jobs you need to keep busy?
    How many custom jobs are in your work box now? 12? 20? How many
    live in your town? 1/2 million or more? You don’t have to sell
    everyone, just 12 people a week to keep yourself busy. Over 90% of
    America still has a job!

Custom is typically 3-9 times higher in average selling price than
showcase merchandise. Typical American store has an average sale
price of $150 to $500. $400 is typical.

Two years ago you may remember that I quizzed my clients as to what
was the average selling price of a custom design. It was split into 4
here’s what the numbers looked like for an average custom sale:

Percentage said / Average Custom Sale

31% $750-$1000
39% $1000-$2000
20% $2000-$3000
6% $3000-$4000
4% Over $4000

Do you see the numbers? It shows that when you sit down with a
customer, you have a 70% percent change that the sale will be
anywhere between $700 to $2000. That’s huge and 2 to 5 times greater
than a showcase sale without hardly any inventory. In addition the
closing ratio is around 80%, 2 to 3 times higher than a showcase sale
and a large percentage of people told me they get a 2.5 markup or

There’s big money to be made in custom design.

So how to get more of it.

  1. Advertise that you do it and the customer can give us their old
    jewelry to redesign. The best way I’ve found to advertise custom is
    to show a picture of before and after. We used to take the back page
    of a small regional paper every other week and dedicated 75% of the
    page to

“See what we made this week”

Many times would show what we had from the customer (we always asked
permission to showcase their piece, they always loved it) to use in
the design and then a larger picture of what we made. We usually
accompanied it with a short paragraph telling a story about it.
Example: “These were my mother’s old ring and my sweet sixteen ring.
We used all of the stones and recycled the gold to come up with a
pendant I can wear every day. I just love it, Mary H.”

The same thing can be done with direct mail to your customer list
using a postcard campaign. You’ll need to send out at least 3
mailings over several months to get their attention. This would work
well for billboard as well, just remember billboards do best with 7
words or less along with a picture.

  1. Handouts in the store

The same idea of show what can be done with the customer’s old
jewelry can be done in a brochure very easily. With the internet
printing, it’s easy to accomplish a great looking brochure for little
money. I use for our brochures. I’d hand out one
to every customer no matter what they bought or even if they bought.
Better yet, make a sticker to go on the front of a thicker larger
zip lock bag. It would great if the brochure would fit inside the
bag. But on the outside of the zip lock, the sticker would be a

Fill this zip lock bag up with the jewels sitting in the box or
drawers at home. Then bring it back in and let us give you some ideas

a. Buying it from you for cash.

b. Repairing it like new so you can enjoy it again

c. Recycling your old dated jewelry into something new, exciting,
something you’ll enjoy for years. You can have something made from
your jewelry for a fraction of what it would cost to buy it again.

Then ask each customer “Do you have any old jewelry lying around at
home?” (The answer is always yes) “Well then, take this bag and our
designing brochure home, fill it up and when you return we’ll give
you some great ideas what to do with it.” Pretty soon it will be like
planting seeds in the garden. Months later they start to bloom.

  1. Display Case

I love story telling and I love it when the customer asks me to tell
them a story. If you’re asked, they’ll listen. If you tell them “I
want to tell you a story”, not so receptive.

You’ll need four things for this:

  1. A trophy block of wood with brass plate.

  2. A bag of old jewelry, maybe stuff you recently bought off the

  3. A wax of a ring

  4. A finished ring. I’d make it in gold and set CZ’s in it.

The trophy block would be about the size of a small paperback book.
The brass plate glued to the front would have engraved “See what we
can do with your old jewelry”. Drill 3 holes in the top spaced evenly

Take half dozen pieces of old jewelry and pile it into a mound and
solder them so they stay that way. Like a football game where
everyone is piled on top of each other. Solder a wire underneath it
all, like an umbrella handle. Clean it up, but not too lean.

Make or take a wax you have of a stylish ring. You need a wax of the
ring, then manufacture the ring and set CZ’s into it. The ring needs
a wire or sprue soldered at the bottom and the wax needs a sprue as
well. Now take all three and glue the wire or sprue into the top
holes so it will stay permanently. It will be from left to right

A lump of old gold jewelry - A wax of the ring - The completed ring

Set this in your showcase, easily visible. Now customers will look
oddly at this display and say “What in the world is THAT?”

(Thank you for the invitation to tell you a story!)

You answer will be

“Do you have any old jewelry hanging around at home?” (answer is
always yes)

“Great! This is what we do (now point to each sequence)”

"First we take you old jewelry and design something really neat.
Then we carve the model for you to look at. See that green ring? Its
wax and its used to make the mold of which we melt the gold into and
make your new ring. When we’re done you have a new ring like the one
on the right. Can you think of what pieces you have at home we could
redesign for you? It’s not a lot of money, especially if you compare
it to buying new jewelry. It’s like taking you old Buick back to the
factory and saying ‘Here’s enough old steel, leather, rubber and
glass. Recycle it and make me a new car and I’ll pay you a thousand
dollars for a brand new car!’

Then give them the zip lock bag and brochure and have them come back
in with the sentimental items for you to recycle.

Remember, over half the time the typical custom sale is between $700
to $2000!

David Geller