With strong retail sales to date balanced with supply chain issues, jewelers and jewelry shops are getting ahead of the holiday shopping season with advertising that alerts consumers to “shop early.” Some are also hiring extra workers to help with an increase in store hours.
While some independent jewelers say they are focusing on training and sales incentives for their current staff only, jewelry chains from Helzberg Diamonds to Ben Bridge Jeweler are doing additional seasonal hiring, bringing in sales associates to maintain customer service for what are likely to be larger holiday crowds.
“Because of COVID, our store hours shrunk for a bit, so we didn’t need the same number of people to handle the customer flow. But our hours are starting to expand again,” says Mary Todd-McGinnis, vice president for Ben Bridge stores and customer experience. Ben Bridge has more than 90 retail stores—including 30 Pandora concept stores—across 11 states and in Canada.
While it has been difficult to find new hires quickly, Ben Bridge is seeing success in its referral program. If an associate refers a successful hire, they receive a cash bonus. If a customer makes a successful referral, they receive store credit, Todd-McGinnis says.
“No one knows better than either someone who’s working in the business and loving it or someone who shops in the business and is loving it,” Todd-McGinnis says. “We’re looking for the right fit and someone who would be successful in our business.”
Seasonal hiring has boomed at other retailers—including Nordstrom, Target, and Amazon—in part because of early sales predictions from groups such as Salesforce and the National Retail Federation (NRF). Both say they see shoppers coming in earlier than normal and buying more meaningful gifts—something that has translated well for jewelers.
On Oct. 15, the NRF said in its monthly update that retail sales increased again in September “as worries about the COVID-19 delta variant pushed consumer spending toward merchandise rather than services like dining, entertainment, or travel, despite supply chain disruptions and inflation.”
Salesforce also predicted that, with inventory low in some industries and global supply chains working 24/7 to catch up, consumers will be enthusiastic for pre-sales. “That means Black Friday, while still important for you, will give way to something like a pre–Cyber Week with multiple Black Friday–like events,” the group said in a recent statement.
“It’s a celebratory year,” Todd-McGinnis says. “Last year, it was heads down and do business. This year, let’s do business and make it really special for the recipient and for the customer. It should be super fun to buy and super fun to give.”
Todd-McGinnis says Ben Bridge has also stocked up on inventory in hopes of getting that early sales surge.
“There’s been unprecedented demand for fine jewelry and timepieces. We feel well-positioned to have a great holiday season, because we’re not counting on things we don’t have,” Todd-McGinnis says. “We’re counting on what we do have. We know people will be shopping early because of delays. But, hopefully, that means they’ll shop again.”
Elaine Jaeger, who owns Elaine B Jewelry in Ferndale, Mich., a suburb of metro Detroit, says she isn’t hiring more for the holidays—rather, she is always looking for “great, long-term team members.”
“Hiring in general happens organically when I know I’m looking for someone,” Jaeger says. “For the holidays, you definitely can use more hands, but with jewelry and products we make ourselves, you can’t really bring someone in quickly. For example, shipping is one of the most important jobs—that is the last person to touch the product before the customer does. We want it to be packaged impeccably…. A big part of my job is training and making sure everyone knows their job is super important.”
James Ball, co-owner of three-store chain Peter Franklin in Indiana, agrees. He says his stores typically don’t hire holiday help. “We have always stuck with our regular staff to ensure a consistently great customer experience,” he says.
Ronnie Agami, owner of Universal Diamonds in Atlanta, says his company has also been working longer hours with its current staff.
“At the moment, we haven’t hired new people,” he says. “The demand has been intense, and we are busier than we’ve ever been. But we’ve been able to shoulder the load ourselves for the time being.… Everyone that’s working for us is pitching in more and contributing in ways they wouldn’t necessarily have done before the pandemic. We’ve also been keener on setting up scheduling and appointments to keep the balance.”
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