Donald Ritchie: Harry Ritchie Jewelers

What is your single best money-saving initiative?

Harry Ritchie Jewelers has 31 stores in the Pacific Northwest. Of our 31 store managers, we selected five to become regional managers. The main mission of regional managers is to work in each store in the region for a week. They observe and report on day-to-day operations on how each store is utilizing the sales and management tools from the corporate office. Every two months the five regional managers meet to share information and determine how well the system works. We are gleaning a lot of valuable data.

What one advertisement elicited the most response and why did it work?

In the late 1990s we ran a special promotion on the radio. Glik Imports, in Champlain, N.Y., supplied us with 18-inch freshwater pearl necklaces at a price that allowed us to give them away with a nominal purchase. At the end of each commercial the announcer would say, “Don’t buy the pearls, because they’re free.” The voiceover talent could be described as a raspy, gravelly East Coast mobster-type voice. We were very careful in selecting the voiceover talent for maximum impact. And it did make an impression. The promotion was very successful, and we gave away almost 2,000 necklaces. To this day people still come up to me and do an imitation of that “don’t buy” voice.

What was your finest hour in customer service?

When a couple buys engagement jewelry from us, we take a picture of the couple and put it in a special album. Four to five months after one couple was married the husband came in. While we were helping the husband, the wife came in with a pair of baby shoes. This was her way of letting her husband know she was pregnant. We were very surprised and taken aback that she made such an announcement to her husband in our store. So we took another picture of the couple for our photo album. Later the couple came in with their new baby. We took a picture of the expanded family and shared with them that we hoped they would continue to visit us on other significant occasions. This story exemplifies who we are as a store and the relationships we have with our customers.

What advice have you received from a fellow jeweler that changed the way you run your store?

The advice I received was that after every sale the sales associate is to place the piece of jewelry in a bag and walk out from behind the counter and shake the customer’s hand and thank them for the sale. Then the sales associate walks that person to the store’s front door. Over the years we’ve heard from many customers that they like the treatment. It’s kind of like a service station giving you a free car wash after an oil change. It’s all about validation and expressing your gratitude for the customer’s patronage.

When you walk through your front door, what do you like most about your store?

The corporate culture. There are a lot of things we can’t be to the customer, be it the least expensive retailer or the jeweler with the largest inventory. But what we can do is constantly give each customer a “wow” experience each time they come into a store. Whatever the interaction, whether it’s a basic repair or an important jewelry purchase, I want the customer’s experience in our store to be the highlight of their day.