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How has it been for everybody else?


#1

How has it been for everybody else?

We saw a distinctive slump beginning in July that has yet to end.
July was down significantly, August slightly and September
significantly. It’s my belief that we are experiencing the beginning
of the economic downturn that everyone keeps trying not to talk
about too much. Between the dropping dollar, the mortgage and lending
crisis, rapidly rising health care costs and people’s somewhat
overblown (mostly created by too much on the internet)
fears of what might happen economically (even though they are still
employed) I believe we’ve already entered a downturn. It’s not
showing up on the national level yet because it takes so long for
some of these things to impact the large companies but all of the
smaller businesses I’m talking to are complaining. So then the
question just becomes what are we all going to do to make ourselves
stand out even more so we can all weather the slower times?

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC
1780 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140
www.spirerjewelers.com


#2

This was the busiest summer I can recall, and I haven’t even
advertised at all. I’ve just now gotten my backlog down to a
manageable 3-4 week turnaround. Except for a few lingering jobs
which I just don’t want to do. In this situation the ease of buying
stock helps the business side of the business.


#3

You are not the only one to find the summer slow. Three galleries in
my area have closed, and another is on the brink of doing so.
However, some friends who participated in some shows (three day
events), over the summer tell me that they have had the best year
ever. One did say that a couple of her regular customers came by her
booth, but did not buy anything saying that they now buy most of
their jewelry over the Internet.

Alma


#4

Gee, and I was thinking of bringing a cot to work. There aren’t
enough hours in a day to get all the jobs done.


#5

Down here in the south we had the normal ups and downs, July was
terrible but august doubled from last year, after 30 years in this
business you just never can predict anything. Also in a country as
big as the US you can’t go by what other areas are doing. I was on
Texas when the east coast was dead and everyone moved to Texas, then
Texas died and the east coast was booming, its all cycles and we have
to live with them. Next part of the conversation about business is
what were the galleries that closed selling. Its wonderful to have a
store full of wild arty merchandise that looks like a museum but that
doesn’t usually keep the doors open. It works if your in NY city or
Santa Fe other wise you better have what most people want. I can
honestly say that if it were not for my custom and repair work I
would not be open. Also how much did the galleries advertise and how
many special events did they have, in this day and time you cannot
just open a store and wait for business. You got to go out and get
it.

Bill Wismar
www.metalbendersgallery.com


#6

Daniel,

Here in mid-Michigan, it is a depression that first became apparent
the end of 2000 and has gotten worse ever since then. Our gross sales
have fallen by over 1/3 during that period, and I am tickled pink
that we are even currently with last year’s dismal sales figures.

We are a bedroom community for Flint, a city built by General Motors
and in turn Delphi, where even those still lucky enough to be working
had their hourly wages cut by 50%. The GM retirees are getting by but
just barely, and they are a major source of my customer base.

Honestly if I didn’t own my building outright I would have closed a
few years ago. I opened this business in 1979, and I have never seen
a business climate like this ever. I operate at a minimum staffing
level and find ways every day to trim costs. After nearly thirty
years of doing business, it just isn’t much fun any more.

Jon Michael Fuja


#7

I have had a terrible summer, started in August and September was
worse. It’s picking up now. I just hope that the independent gets
more attention as customer’s burn out on the underpriced manufactured
jewelry. My market shifted from me wanting to utilize a maquiladora
to my clients only wanting my own work, so much for 10 years of
research. It did teach me production thinking and methods which come
in handy when making 4 of something, which I do now. If I am making
stock items I will make 4 as that number seems to best utilize
production methods but not require significant inventory or burn me
out since I am doing all the work. The high end always exists, it is
the gutting of the middle class that has hurt me.

Sam Patania, Tucson
www.bahti.com


#8
So then the question just becomes what are we all going to do to
make ourselves stand out even more so we can all weather the slower
times? 

Do what your competition doesn’t. In a market flooded with $2
widgets, make $20 flamjams, or Finnegan pins. simple, really.

Appeal to the need for people to feel special or different. Stroke
their psychological pleasure zones.

Sometimes, when a customer is considering two items, one relatively
low priced and the other much higher, the perceived value of the
higher item will sway the decision if you add just that little
something to reassure them. So a higher price can actually be the
motivator. But, if you expect to see them again it must be backed up
with real quality and service.


#9

In Cleveland, OH we are experiencing the same as you are.? Our
gallery - which has been around for over 5 years- has experienced
poor sales in July, August (the worst ever!) and September.?
October, on the other hand has been a bit better… maybe there is
hope? Maybe it’s just because the Cleveland Indians are winning?
GO TRIBE!


#10

Doc,

Gee, and I was thinking of bringing a cot to work. There aren't
enough hours in a day to get all the jobs done. 

Personally I HAVE a couch at work (and I picked it because I knew
immediately it was a good napping couch). I didn’t say I didn’t have
enough work to keep me busy, just that our sales have been off the
last three months. But then since I haven’t had an employee in over a
year, and I have personally sold AND made well over a half million
dollars worth of jewelry during that period I don’t think I’ll ever
have enough hours.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC
1780 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140
www.spirerjewelers.com


#11
Gee, and I was thinking of bringing a cot to work. There aren't
enough hours in a day to get all the jobs done. 

My exact sentiments…I feel like I am riding a runaway train,
downhill, on an icey track!

And I’m LOVIN’ the ride!

Dave


#12

I’m a little concerned for those who say things are slow. So perhaps
it might be good for those who are busy to reflect a little and tell
us to what they attribute their busy-ness.

My perspective…

Whenever a salesperson comes in my door I always ask what they hear
from other jewelers. The most common comment is that its the service
oriented jewelers who are doing well or at least OK. That would
include me for which I am grateful. But it hasn’t been all luck. When
I designed my business model(cliche, sorry) I did it with the intent
to be profitable this time, not to fit some dreamy jewelry utopian
ego gratification thing. (My own utopian ideal for many years was
that I could make and sell exclusively, intricate fancy intense
colored diamond stuff. Life thankfully rid me of that delusion. That
takes extreme capital). Satisfy your customer, not just yourself.

But what is service?

Yes it includes repair. That is a great traffic generator. Before
you can sell anything you have to have the customer in your
store(bricks and mortar type here, you web types have another
problem) and repair does just that, Gets em in and exposed to you and
your products. BUT repair is also a profit center(more cliche’ sorry
again) in and of itself. Mr Geller no doubt has driven that point
home by now.

It also would include custom work. I see there are people who do
custom via the web. While I’ve done it in a few cases with
established clients I have to really wonder how one can use the
’closers’ on a stranger when you don’t have that eye to eye contact
to build confidence. But this may be something that’s just beyond me.
Old dogs new tricks as they say. But people will eagerly pay for good
custom work, and they become repeat custom-ers and bring you other
new clients. Fact.

Service also means tuning your presentation to suit that particular
client’s needs/desires. Gift wrap, delivery, returns, free appraisal
with purchase, whatever it takes to float that person’s boat. It
means seeing people, not sales figures, standing in front of you.

Now I know there are many other jewelers out there in orchidland who
will have other ideas and concepts that could be beneficial to
everybody. So I climb down from the podium…

Oh, yeah, and having a sense of humor helps too.


#13

come to buffalo and see a mirror image. our depression started in
1983 when they closed bethlehem steel.


#14
Also how much did the galleries advertise and how many special
events did they have, in this day and time you cannot just open a
store and wait for business. 

Ah, advertising… I e-mail 500 constantcontact.com monthly
announcing what is new, who is new, and whom we are featuring. Costs
are under $20.00/month.? Special events? Taste of “where ever” was
held in July (ok month) Art and cultural Festival in Sept (awful)
along with a city wide gallery hop with special trolleys’ circling
the art districts in the city (during the art and cultural festival -
still awful, empty trolleys.) I gave up on USPS post cards - too
expensive few results - I can afford under $20/month and still get
few results.

I notice, lately, all new people, many tourists who actually buy.
Don’t know how they are hearing about us. EyeCandy-Gallery.com
(hope it stays this way!)


#15
Appeal to the need for people to feel special or different. Stroke
their psychological pleasure zones. >... if you expect to see them
again it must be backed up with real quality and service. 

Neil has it exactly right. Sounds like what I’ve come up with.
Here’s my three key points.

  1. Don’t compete downward. You’re wasting you time competing with
    cheap, mass produced junk. Repair it if you need to, but don’t buy
    it, make it, or worry about being all things to all people. You carry
    that crap, you’ll get the customers that go with it.

  2. Jewelry is a personal and emotional purchase. You need to make
    every customer feel special and secure in the sales environment. Make
    sure you are more concerned with their satisfaction than you are in
    making the sale. They will know if you are not sincere, so don’t fake
    it.

  3. Every piece of jewelry you work on, whether it’s a $10,000
    platinum and diamond original or a repair on piece of sentimental
    costume jewelry, must be approached as if you will be judged on the
    quality of your work by a professional. You be that professional. Use
    your highest standards at all times. After all, it’s not about the
    value of the jewelry, its about the value of the customer.

What I’m saying may sound like I’m ignoring the need to “think
profits” but I’ve had the experience to know, it’s not only the best
long range plan that will help you thrive, it’s the only thing left
to us independents. It’s the only thing the big box stores won’t pay
for their people to provide. Hence, “quality product and service is
the last untapped market” in this new age of throw away goods.

David L. Huffman.


#16
I'm a little concerned for those who say things are slow. So
perhapsit might be good for those who are busy to reflect a little
and tellus to what they attribute their busy-ness." 

I have got to agree, sales are sooooo slow lately, it’s the custom
work and the repairs that are paying the bills…sure hope Xmas
heats up soon!!! I actually moved my apartment a couple of months
ago to within a couple hundred feet of the store, and am working 14
to 17 hours a day just to stay afloat!!! As the only store offering
repairs and custom work on-site in a small town, we are staying busy
all day every day, and I give 100% kudos to Mr. Geller for his blue
book (which we follow as faithfully as possible)… repairs ARE trust
based, and if the customer doesn’t wanna pay your prices, let 'em
walk!!! They’ll be back!!

Repairs by themselves have truly slowed also in the last few months
(as the dollar falls I think), but we took up the slack by
partnering with a local businessperson and licensing charms /
pendants / cufflink / keychains for a coup le of universities’ alumni
associations. I have a meeting with a local sorority next week to
see about creation of jewelry for them!! My advice is to seek out
these potential markets, especially if you have the facilities for
production/custom work. True, I had to kick in a few thousand $$ for
the initial investment in some production finishers, and the time
spent working out the details was/is enormous, but I think the return
(and the potential for a great spread of word of mouth) will be
wonderful.

(I might add here…talk to the people at Stuller, their tech
support has greatly helped me keep this place going, and getting the
right tools and supplies!!) (I’m NOT a Stuller employee, lol, just
someone who greatly appreciates the help they have given and hopes
struggling others benefit also).

In summary, yes, sales suck lately, but you can take up the slack if
you search out new markets! Especially the local ones, who just LOVE
the idea of jewelry being make locally, even if you mass produce a
few hundred pieces, they aren’t gonna love a catalogue piece nearly
as much. Who knows, those pieces could be collector’s items someday?

Thanks for reading, and I appreciate all of you out there who take
the time to pass on your knowledge and experience!!!

Tim Dwornick
Jewelry Design Studio Inc


#17

My number of reorders as a whole are down and are now starting to
pick up. I think lots of my stores are waiting until the last minute
to reorder. (I wholesale to retailers)

However, I do have some stores that are reordering like crazy…
doing really well with my line and selling out quickly. They have
been consistently busy all year. These stores have been reordering
large amounts on a monthly basis.

Overall, my numbers are a tad bit up from last year, but my number
of orders have been cut in half. That means less shipping! yahoo!!!
I have given up trying to find a rhyme or reason to this all!

-Amery (another sunny day in SoCal… when does fall start? I’m really
missing seasons right now!)

Amery Carriere Designs
Romantic Jewelry with an Edge
www.amerycarriere.com


#18

When we worry about how business is going, it is good to remember,
as David Huffman wrote:

Jewelry is a personal and emotional purchase. 

It is not like food or shelter. Jewelry is a want, not a need. Our
business cycles will be exaggerations of the overall economy. If we
have a run of good years it is a big mistake to think that this will
keep going forever. Likewise, if we have a down turn, it is not the
end of the world for everybody. Just because consumers are spending
less on jewelry does not mean that the butcher and baker are in
nearly as much trouble as we might be. After last Christmas I heard
on the news that consumer spending was up a small amount from the
previous year. Since my sales were down a bit I found it very
interesting because they said that the increase was due to an
increase in electronics, which is easy for me to believe because that
is where I spent my Christmas shopping dollars.

Our business is very vulnerable to shifts in fashion, taste, shifts
in the levels of disposable income and competition from other ways
people might spend their affluence. I wonder if I would have had the
courage to choose this career 30 years ago if anyone had explained it
to me how fickle our audience is.

Stephen Walker


#19
I have a meeting with a local sorority next week to see about
creation of jewelry for them!! My advice is to seek out these
potential markets, especially if you have the facilities for
production/custom work. 

What Tim says above is just what has given me a great year in '07. I
have sold a lot of jewelry to associations and nonprofits this year.
It started decades ago, with my interest in Feminism, and has
expanded to be a good niche. My advice is, follow any niche that you
truly relate to, and develop its possibilities. There is a need
there for identity jewelry and fundraising items, and there can be a
good chance for social fulfillment as well as profit. This doesn’t
have to be just for high-minded ideals, either. Love Scottie dogs,
for example? Find the breeders association, and tempt them with
adorable designs. This can be a lot of fun!

We ALL have production capabilities, with the help of casters such as
our own Daniel Grandi of Racecar Jewelry. He can help even an
inexperienced modelmaker in getting a usable, reproducable design.
Just ask.

M’lou


#20
Jewelry is a want, not a need. 

Well, yes and no, kinda sorta.

Yes its not like when your car needs a new transmission, or you go
grocery shopping.

But a desire unfulfilled becomes a need. A psychological need. In
the grocery analogy, you need coffee(those who NEED coffee know what
I mean) but you get to the coffee aisle and see a wide array of
coffees. Since its a just need, do you pick out the cheapest brand?
Or the one that’s at eye level? Or do you scan the lower shelves
looking for free trade organic for twice the price? I do. I have a
need to feel like I’m making a difference somewhere. I need to feel I
haven’t become part of the mega machine. I need to feel I can exert
my independence(which is relative indeed). Besides, it tastes much
better.

For a great many jewelry buyers the act of buying jewelry is an
identity expression. I dare say they need to buy jewelry in much the
same way as some of us need to make the jewelry.

But all that was about self purchase. Take the guy who’s in love.
Yes he wants to express that. But he needs to also. Maybe its a
special occasion or just because. You’ll see some guys scour the
market looking for that one specific item that expresses just what
he wants to say to his beloved. (this is why custom is so great).
He’s not just satisfying his g/f, wife, whatever for her need to feel
loved, he is establishing, in his mind perhaps, his worthiness. His
stature. Have you seen that Hearts On Fire commercial? Guy leaves the
store with his purchase, first he’s dressed like Romeo, then a knight
in armour, then a superhero. But when he meets his beloved at the
steps of his home he’s dressed just as himself. Both of them smiling.
Their love affirmed. So in a funny way his diamond purchase was for
himself as much as for her. Not only does he want to be HER
superhero, he wants to be HIS superhero.

I know, that sounds kinda hokey.

Desire. Its more powerful than need. That’s what I was getting at
earlier when I said to stroke their psychological pleasure zones.