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Jewelers keep focusing on markup

Maybe you shouldn’t be doing what you’ve always been taught what to

Whenever I speak to jewelers about their business, I get the same
thing over and over:

Jewelers keep focusing on MARKUP!!!

Jewelers consistently want to get keystone on everything and are
just unhappy if they make just a little money on selling a diamond.
It is not about markup ALONE.

The automobile industry figured this one out years ago and I didn’t
know it in the early 1990’s when I made my first repair and design
price book, but my book mimics the repair department of the car
industry. In their repair shop, the mechanics are on 100% commission
and get about 40% of the labor charge, that’s one reason why your car
repair bill has labor broken out from the parts. My price book is
based upon the same system, just different percentages. Findings has
a markup and then a 4 time markup on jewelers wages

Last night we had 30+ people over for a casual dinner and I got to
speak to the guy who is the parts manager of a very high end car
brand here in Atlanta. Over he years I have found if you give people
a lead in question, they love to open up. Tonight was no different.
So I asked the parts manager this question:

“So, what kind of turn does a parts department have in a car

Then the numbers just start dribbling out of his mouth like a baby
drooling baby food:

“We have a turn of about 10.”

(This means that 10 times a year the complete parts department is
sold out. About every 5 weeks they sell at their cost the complete
inventory. A good jewelry store has a turn of about 1. We sell
everything once a year while they sell everything in 5 weeks)

How much inventory do you have to keep on hand?

“We have about a million dollars in inventory, I’m trying to get it
down to $800,000 even to $750,000.”

Smart retailers of any type always think of HOW to reduce inventory
levels, not grow them. Most jewelers who are in financial difficulty
are always saying “More is better; we’ll have better selection;
somebody will buy it one day!”

Then I didn’t have to ask any other questions, the baby just started
drooling." Quick, get a bib!

“This month in the parts department we’ll do about $800,000 in sales
with a gross of $300,000.”

Do the math, that means they have a profit margin of only 38% and
they are happy. Jewelers want 45-55%. They are not driven by markup,
they are driven by inventory levels and turn in a year. They watch
and look at turn and inventory levels. We only look at margin. If you
follow my writing on Gross Margin Return on Investment, that gives
them a GMROI of about $3.60. Jewelers TODAY are around 67 cents to
under a $1.00. A dollar or better is good for a jeweler but most got
caught with their pants down in 2008-left with lots of high end
merchandise and too stubborn to dumb it.

“Two years ago I started putting the parts department on the web.
We’ll do this year probably a million dollars on the internet and I
don’t have to do anything. Just come in the morning, look at the
orders and ship’m!”

I then ask “People buy parts for cars over the internet? Who is
this, other dealers?”

“Oh no, we don’t sell things like alternators. People are buying
accessories. Hats, t-shirts, gloves, fancy wheels. Fun stuff. It’s
amazing, we ship all over the world. China, Australia, you name it.”

This is still a brick and mortar car dealership but he recognized
the web will be big for them. Many car dealers have at least one
person dedicated to handling inquiries on the web to buy a car, those
leads are still being given to REAL SALES PEOPLE to call and have a
personal touch with the consumer and try to sell them in the showroom
or over the phone.

What did you do today?

“I hardly ever work a Saturday. I hire that out, there’s others that
work Saturday hours, I watched football with my 2 sons today.”

I’ve met a few jewelers who don’t work like dogs and take off to be
with their family. This guy manages a back area that few customers
ever see and his area is doing about $10 to $12 million in sales a
year. He’s handling all types of parts to FIX a car; things to
CUSTOMIZE a car as well as SELLING things for fun and his staff is
trained so the back area runs without him. Did you notice the
capitalized areas I type? They are in a jewelry stoRe:

FIX: Repairing Jewelry
CUSTOMIZE: Custom Designing Jewelry
SELLING: Selling jewelry from the showcase

For you younger folks in the jewelry business today, maybe its time
to STOP emulating the boss, the boss’s father or the old codger boss
or what you were taught in the other jewelry store where you got your
training. Maybe its time to start copying other successful models in
retail. Yes, car dealers as well as jewelers have closed up in the
last few years, but this car dealership I speak of typically sells
cars from $39,000 to $100,000 each. High end and they are doing well
in this economy because they manager the numbers rather than letting
the numbers manage them.

So I ask you this question, the same question I ask myself several
times a year when I want to ask myself a body shaking question to see

“Yes, so how’s that working for you?”

If its not, time to do something different, isn’t it?

David Geller

Director of Profit.

Mr Geller - thank you for your helpful and informative posts. I have
to say, the minute I hear or read the words, “money”, “profit”,
“inventory”, etc, my eyes glaze over, but I am trying to get over it,
and your posts are easy to read and interesting (NEVER thought I’d
say that about money info).

Thank you.
Susan “Sam” Kaffine

I have to say, the minute I hear or read the words, "money",
"profit", "inventory", etc, my eyes glaze over, but I am trying to
get over it 

As another artist of whom this is largely true (and I think most of
us are like that, really) I also appreciate David Geller’s
steely-eyed realism.

Another source of down-to-earth info is Bruce Baker. He really gets
how we tend to be, and every word out of his mouth is pure gold. I’ve
heard him speak 3 times, and I own his CDs-- this is stuff I need to
be hit on the head with, over and over. He tackles salesmanship,
display, and a bunch of other topics we don’t want to think about, in
an entertaining way (at least in person), and his advice is very

The two men cover different aspects of our business, and we need
them both.


I have to say, the minute I hear or read the words, "money",
"profit", "inventory", etc, my eyes glaze over, but I am trying to
get over it 

This last Friday I took a “Marketing Designer Jewelry” class at
Revere in San Francisco, taught by Michael David Sturlin. Extremely
comprehensive, it covered the 4 P’s of marketing: Pricing,
Promotion, Placement and Product. As I am researching switching
careers from high-tech to jewelry, I found it very helpful and only
temporarily overwhelming. If you get a chance to do this and need
this sort of access to Mr. Sturlin’s advice and the
time saved by having this info all in one place is well worth it!

Mary Barker

Having heard Bruce Baker speak for the first a few weeks ago I
heartily agree with you. Loved his talk so much I purchased 3 of his
CDs on the spot.

Mary Partlan
White Branch Designs