Clerks vs. Sales Pros

As we head into a new year, a brief look at the past may give us a vision for the future. The jewelry industry has been through many changes and will face many more. I remember getting on a Boeing 727 and flying to the first JCK Las Vegas. I know it was a 727 because it broke shortly after takeoff, and we had to make an emergency landing. Airlines don’t fly the 727 anymore, and JCK is preparing for its last show at the Sands Expo Center prior to moving to Mandalay Bay.

The biggest change I’ve seen in the jewelry industry is that jewelry stores can no longer get away with having clerks on the sales floor. Jewelry stores can’t have people who just pull a piece out of the case, show it, tell the customer the price, and (they hope) write up the order. Jewelry stores need highly skilled, well-trained, fine-tuned sales professionals. As with any profession, it takes a great deal of education to be considered a jewelry sales professional.

Sure, a store can keep doing what it has always done and probably stay in business, barely staying afloat and paying its bills. A jewelry store owner can probably go for a number of years working to pay the vendors, landlord, and employees without taking anything out personally. But why exist this way when there is such an opportunity available? The weak will go away, which means more opportunity for the strong. I don’t believe the pie will get any bigger for awhile. However, I do believe that a strong jewelry retailer’s piece of the pie will get bigger, if they do the right things. One of the right things is having a finely tuned, highly trained staff of jewelry sales professionals.

The people working in a jewelry store are that company’s most valuable asset. Give the staff more time, money, and energy than you give to your merchandise, advertising, displays, etc., and it will pay dividends. Train them in four areas: product knowledge, sales techniques, operations, and customer service. These are like the four wheels on an automobile: If one is low on air or flat, the auto—or the store—won’t be as effective as possible.

Training isn’t an event; it’s a constant, ongoing process. There are no shortcuts, and it takes hard work, determination, drive, and an unyielding desire to be the best at what you do. These are tough issues that every business owner needs to consider in the new economy and the new jewelry industry.

Good luck, Happy New Year, and may all your sales be huge and highly profitable. Remember, the harder you work the luckier you get.