Profitable business ideas for independents

In a Thursday morning presentation, JCK magazine’s senior associate editor Jennifer Heebner instructed 125 jewelers on profitable business ideas culled from the magazine’s monthly retail panel of fine jewelers.

Heebner discussed the benefits of hosting trunk shows, which include treating good customers to wider selections of their favorite merchandise; remodeling or relocating stores; and showing customers new or unusual ideas for old jewelry. (See sidebar “Twenty Tips To Be More Profitable.”)

The highlight of the seminar was the audience participation and idea exchange that occurred when Heebner asked the audience for their own insights. Many jewelers offered suggestions, and the seminar turned into a brainstorming session, with jewelers swapping their best business ideas with each other while asking their peers questions in areas where they couldn’t offer advice.

Some of the best impromptu ideas that came out the morning seminar included:

* Define a niche of animal jewelry for your store; animal lovers spend a lot of money on their pets.
* Place an old brooch on a thick Omega chain for a new, fresh look.
* Host a trunk show or in-store party for your best customers once a year for no reason at all.
* Send press releases to newspapers when odd occurrences happen. One jeweler had merchandise returned to him after it had been stolen more than 30 years previously, and many newspapers and televisions stations publicized the jeweler’s story after he notified them.
* Collaborate with stores that carry lines that will complement your products, such as handbags and clothing, when hosting parties or shows. Those stores make events more interesting and help foot the bills.
* Give your press releases about store events to your sales account representative if you advertise with a particular newspaper; sales reps frequently work hard to get editorial exposure for their clients.
* Deliberately place errors in store newsletters and alert readers to that fact, offering them gift certificate rewards for every error they find in the literature. One jeweler in the crowd said 800 people responded to this promotion when she used it.

Heebner also noted that remodeling or relocating your store can provide numerous benefits such as increasing sales, attracting new customers, the ability to add or expand lines, more square feet, more foot traffic, more window space, better leases, and a better-looking property.

Another tip was to send press releases to local newspapers when your store has earned an honor or when someone on staff has earned a degree. Other store events that deserve press releases are parties or trunk shows, educational seminars, sponsorship of charitable giveaways, and creation of unique products.

Still other advice: If jewelers command niches, they can raise prices. Among the niches jewelers can claim in their marketplaces are bridal, designer, high end, diamonds, estate, custom work, colored stones, one-of-a-kind pieces, and pearls. Finally, designer jewelry is a terrific sales tool for three main reasons: margins, exclusivity and territories, and prestige.

Twenty Tips To Be More Profitable

1. Show people new or unusual ideas for old jewelry.
2. Host trunk shows.
3. Remodel or relocate your store.
4. Publicize your store’s achievements.
5. Send press releases and photographs to local newspapers.
6. Donate and buy items at charity auctions.
7. Promote designer jewelry.
8. Send gift certificates to customers on your store’s anniversary.
9. Keep the storeowner visible in ads and in the store.
10. Post catchy messages in your windows.
11. Place valuable pieces of jewelry on your customers.
12. Advertise more.
13. Stock more fast-selling items.
14. Raise prices.
15. Command a niche.
16. Advertise more costly items or a price range in your ads.
17. Create a “Contribution Program.”
18. Create a store newsletter.
19. Host free educational seminars on fine gems and jewelry.
20. Court wealthier customers.

Source: The JCK Retail Panel