How Does Your Garden Grow?

Running a jewelry business is not unlike tending a garden. It’s a work in progress, and you’ll face many challenges as you labor to make it a thing of beauty. It takes years to bring a garden to resplendent glory, and so too with a jewelry business.

Some years produce bumper crops, while others are less productive. Either way, you never stop working at it. Successful gardeners aren’t afraid to grow something new in their traditional plots. However, if something proves too fragile or, conversely, too robust (such as a predatory co-op advertising plan combined with an overly aggressive stocking policy by a big watch brand or designer jewelry line), then you need to make critical changes to the look of your jewelry patch.

During a drought, the wise gardener replaces some plants with heat-resistant species that require less water. Like the gardener, the jeweler is subject to the whims of the elements. A softening economy is like a prolonged dry spell, and weakening consumer sentiment is akin to poor fertilization. Neither is a death sentence, but they’ll sorely challenge the health and maintenance of the business.

Look to your basics, focus your energies on doing them justice, and remember the Byrds, who borrowed lyrics from the Bible but might have been singing about jewelry sales: “To everything, turn, turn, turn, there is a season, turn, turn, turn.” Now is the time to reduce your slow-turning, capital-intense, profit-thirsty, margin-sapping inventory. Pare back your nice-to-have specimens and concentrate on nourishing indigenous bread-and-butter examples that can keep your windows and cases looking good.

Be prepared to showcase your high-perceived-value jewelry during a retail drought to camouflage some of the bare spots left by the discarded nice-to-haves. Lay in a good assortment of the basics. Funky gold charms, colorful enameled silver pieces, simple pearl strands, earring stud assortments, and chunky 14k electroform bracelets and earrings that don’t carry excess gold content are all evergreen accessories. A solid mix of fashion bridal jewelry and easy-to-size rings with large semiprecious stones also will serve you well. And don’t forget the coming quarter’s birthstone jewelry, which can inspire impulse purchases. Finally, offer a selection of diamond stud earrings that’s well spaced in terms of carat size. This allows for up selling, which you need to take full advantage of during tougher economic times.

Be the wise gardener and spend your advertising dollars when it will do the most good. Like watering in the cool of the morning, start asking for business now, before the land gets parched from the afternoon sun. Water selectively, stretching out the intervals between advertising expenditures to better preserve your discretionary funds. Waiting until the fourth quarter to spend money on catalogs, expensive print ads, and slick commercials will be too late. Buds will have shriveled on the vine, and roots will be shallow and weak.

Come harvest time, use some reserve funds to hire additional field hands to bring in the crop. Rely on the wisdom and training of your foremen (store managers and senior sales associates) to adjust work schedules, and don’t be afraid to incur extra hours to reap the business you’ve worked so hard to sow. All too often, jewelry stores cut back on staff at the worst possible moment, leaving business sitting on the vines, to be picked off by predators.

Fiscal droughts are cyclical, and we’re overdue for one. Most of the Farmer’s Almanacs agree that we’re in for a hot, dry spell. What are you planning to do about the change in the weather as you tend your jewelry patch?