Don’t Rest on Your Laurels, Part 1

If you can describe your existing business as “excellent,” you don’t need to read any further. If you would say anywhere from “fair” to “pretty good,” congratulations—now what are you planning to do to maintain and improve on that answer? Statistically speaking, you’re already behind where you were a year ago, as more—and more sophisticated—competition comes from your direct competitors, the Internet, and home shopping TV networks.

You can’t rest on your laurels. You must continue to challenge the norm, take risks, and spend money to make money. You must innovate and promote, or you won’t be able to give that same answer in a year or two. To that end, now is an excellent time to build a promotional marketing and communications campaign around a new line of branded jewelry.

Consider using a vendor/wholesaler you’ve worked with in the past that has a fresh line to promote and is prepared to spend extra effort and money to launch in your area. If you don’t have such a resource, there’s no lack of potential candidates to choose from at The JCK Shows. Make some appointments with potential vendors, discuss your vision, and review your needs for the next 24–36 months. That’s how long it will take to test lines, select one, establish it in your store, and make yourself the local destination for that product collection. Conduct parallel tests with several vendors that you think will make good partners. Before you commit to launching a program based on a new product line, get some positive initial reactions from your better walk-in customers.

This is one of only two times it makes sense to use consignment goods. (The other is to bolster an entire collection with special, limited-edition pieces for a key holiday period or a big sales promotion/trunk show.) Consignments, as part of your normal inventory stocking, will eventually corrupt the partnership with your vendor/wholesaler. Asking a vendor to consign you goods on a regular basis turns them into a bank. It implies that the vendor is not a provider of fine product that you’re proud to own and sell. You doubt their ability to make products you can sell through in a timely fashion, and so they must carry the obligation. Do not sell something you doubt, and do not add a line based solely on a vendor’s willingness to consign.

As part of the process of adding a new line, you need to negotiate favorable credit terms. Clarify what your exclusive retail trading zone will be if you meet mutually agreed upon unit sales/dollar volume and get it in writing to protect your investment and your relationship. It is a fair and reasonable request that needs to be clearly spelled out before you get too far down the path of the launch.

Buy and display a decent window’s worth of product. Without a serious investment, your commitment is suspect. Owning a fair percentage of the product assures the vendor/wholesaler that you’re investing a high degree of care and involvement in making sure it turns. Only then should you work out a reasonable amount of additional consigned goods to support the test and launch of the line.

The last thing you want is another “me too” line of jewelry cutting into the thin slice of pie controlled by your competitors. A new line of branded product is a great way to energize your sales associates and gives them something fresh to sell. It’s also your opportunity to broaden your demographic base by adding critical, younger, more fashion-forward looks to your windows. This gives you a real reason to invite existing and potential customers into your store to see something special.

Next month, we’ll explore the launch of your new line.