Back to Business Means Back to Basics

Buyer confidence is on the rise, and customers are slowly but surely starting to reach into their wallets again. But don’t get overeager and go blowing your open-to-buy budget. Instead, take a cue from your cautious consumers. 

For more than a year, the common refrain from clients has been “not right now,” notes industry analyst Ken Gassman. Well, now’s the time to give those customers a call. Be proactive and give them a good reason to stop by the store: Maybe it’s for maintenance or to introduce new jewelry items that match their database profiles. 

Start bringing your marketing and promotions budgets back to pre-recession levels—but do it slowly. Plan in-store events, but also think about tailoring them to smaller, more targeted customer groups (by age, precious-metal preferences, popular designers).

Consider reaching out to younger customers by carrying inventory that appeals to the 22-to-35 set. Fashion jewelry and bridal are the top sellers for those born between 1975 and 1988. 

And as you begin ordering more jewelry, this is also a good time to give special consideration to the vendors who supported your store during the recession. (Remember? The ones who weren’t so restrictive with payments or inventory-return policies during the tough times.) Consider throwing a little more business their way. 

Many pundits are calling this a “jobless recovery.” With unemployment at nearly 10 percent, lots of potentially great new salespeople are looking for work. And product knowledge needn’t be a prerequisite. You can teach people about jewelry; as for the attitude and confidence—well, you’ve either got it, or you ain’t. Additionally, bringing on staffers who are more experienced, talented, and highly creative can enhance expanding custom-design departments. 

Unity Marketing, a luxury-market research firm, recently reported that jewelry spending for the super-affluent (household incomes of $250,000 or more) increased in the first quarter of this year compared with the fourth quarter of 2009. Spending on women’s -jewelry went up 37 percent, while men’s went up a staggering 66 percent. (That rise can be connected to the super-competitive job market: Guys are adopting a “dress-for-success” approach to getting hired, says Unity Marketing’s Pam Danziger. They’re taking more interest in jewelry, watch, and cufflink purchases—accessories that may help impress for meetings and interviews.)

And here’s some additional research from Unity to keep in mind when stocking your shelves: From late last year to early 2010, pearl purchases went up 71 percent, precious colored gems (ruby, sapphire, and emerald) 55 percent, and all other colored stones 63 percent. Diamond sales rose, too. So maybe you can splurge on a new bridal design or two. But that’s it—because diamonds went up only 17 percent.