My business increased by 78% from 2004 to 2005, then from 2005 to
now, another 57% so far. But this is due mostly to my having
increased my client base. Some of my retailers have slowed down a
bit, some have stayed the same. There is one who seemed to have
positioned himself well, and his business has increased. I have a
client who does roadshows selling estate jewelry, and his sales have
gone down for the most part. But it’s less small items for him and
more large ones.
I’m a wholesale trade shop owner. It seems the stuff that requires a
high skill set is filtering up to guys like myself. I do the stuff
other jewelers either won’t or can’t do. I also act as a long
distance “in house” consultant, and the clients I have that want my
advise do well. But unfortunately, many don’t want to defer to my
opinions. I offer them all the same set of tools, so I get to see the
results of the degree to which they follow my advice.
I anticipated this kind of shake out years ago, so I positioned
myself where I thought there was limited competition. The focus, as I
foresaw it, needed to shift from inventory to service, but inventory
also had to move towards a product that wasn’t a commodity where the
competition could undercut the retailer. Jewelry retailers have been
"competing down", and the chickens have come home to roost. Diamonds
became universally graded and certified, hence, low overhead sellers
took that market. “Branded” designers got greedy and opened their own
retail. Look for your favorite wholesale vendor, now a publicly
traded company, to move into retail and online sales, or to team up
with a big box or internet seller and then you can chuck that
findings catalog and mountings book in the trash.
Better hone up on your skills, you’ll need to be able to do what
only 10% of us can do, custom made jewelry, quick, affordable repair,
and all in house manufactured, distinctively unique inventory. If you
can’t do this yourself, then you need someone like me on your team.
That is an expensive hire and worth it if you have enough business,
which most don’t. So I sell the idea of “use it only when you need
it, and pay accordingly”. That’s my business.
Forget that nonsense about “branding yourself” and make yourself a
prominent personality in the community. The new, survivable paradigm
is the artist/businessman/businesswoman, a local creative phenomenon
who invites the customer seeking the participatory buying experience.
Keep the cappuccino machine fired up, a tray of biscotti on the
coffee table between the easy chairs, and get a cat for customers to
pet (get a hepafilter for the allergy plagued), and some toys in a
box in the corner. Nobody should be able to find anything like your
work anywhere else, and allow them to see some actual jewelry making
going on. The pricing structure will be completely in the context of
your store, nobody will be able to “shop” you. People will look for
excuses to come to your store.
But, if someone looks at your inventory and says (or even thinks),
“I can get that on the internet for $ less”, or “Joe down the street
will beat that price”, then you are old school and you are toast. You
need to understand how to pay attention to the competition and ignore
them at the same time. Save this post and re-read it in 5 years,
that’s about how long it’s always taken for my “prophesies” to come
true, meanwhile, most people think I’m just a blow hard. I am a blow
hard, but I’m right.
David L. Huffman