JCK Las Vegas 2012: Speeches & Seminars

With all the browsing, buying, and selling going on at JCK, we know it’s tough for retailers to find time for a sales-tips session or an HPHT diamond debate. (Even we couldn’t get to all of the cool seminars!) That’s why we gathered 35 business-savvy takeaways from our expert-led events, guaranteed to educate and entertain.


Understanding Your Retail Inventory KPIs—Key Performance Indicators

Lynn Baldwin, business mentor and director of U.S. ­operations for the Edge Retail Academy

  • Move old inventory—quickly. Baldwin told retailers if they’re not moving merchandise out the door within six months of buying it, they’re not managing their inventory properly.
  • Reorder hot sellers repeatedly. “If something sells fast, buy it again,” he said. “If you don’t buy it, it’s you refusing to believe that you bought the right thing the first time. And if you don’t think people in your market want to buy what other people want to buy, I urge you to go down to your local country club and count the white SUVs in the parking lot.”
  • Buy with customers in mind, then do the necessary marketing. “Don’t buy merchandise only because you like it,” he said. “And if you don’t do the promotion ­certain items need, you can’t expect them to sell.”
  • Have an exit strategy for unloading unwanted merch before you purchase it—even if that means viewing unsold inventory as raw material for future fast ­sellers: “It’s far better than scraping it out for 20 cents on the dollar.”
  • Make a (very) short list. Baldwin challenged the ­audience to list one thing each morning “that you could do that would make a significant, positive difference to your business results. If your list has three things on it, you won’t do any of them. Pick one thing and stay on it like a laser.”

The Art and Science of Retail Experience

Ken Nisch, chairman of architectural, retail design, and brand strategy firm JGA

  • Appeal to the subconscious. “Ninety percent of purchasing decisions are made subconsciously,” said Nisch. “Sometimes the response is just, ‘I bought it because I was there.’ ”
  • Infuse great design into your store. It’s an easy way to make a connection with customers, said Nisch, citing Apple and Whole Foods stores as environments that click with consumers through superb design. “Businesses that see design as an integral part of their business do not need to rely on price as a competitive advantage as much as others.”
  • Look outside your category for inspiration. “Reebok has said that they were always looking at what Nike was doing,” he said. “But Nike never looked at Reebok, so the brand stayed the leader.”
  • Create experiences. “Forty-four percent of people are willing to pay a premium price if they know that they will have a unique experience with that brand,” explained Nisch. “We all have way too much stuff. Offering experiences is now a must. There’s always someone around the corner who has what you have, at the same price.”
  • Rethink your decor. “Not a lot has changed when it comes to the way jewelry stores look,” he said. “What has changed in the mall is everything else. Stores have become more exciting. The rest of the retail industry has moved forward while jewelry stores have stood still.… It’s about renewing the environment.”

HPHT Diamonds: What You Need to Know and Why

David Bennett, president of Bellataire Diamonds; Dr. Jim Shigley, distinguished research fellow at the Gemological Institute of America; Sonny Pope, CEO of Suncrest ­Diamonds; Carlos Cornejo, customer manager at Sundance Diamonds; moderator Rob Bates, senior editor of JCK magazine

  • Jewelers must disclose to consumers if a diamond has received the HPHT (high-pressure high-­temperature) treatment, according to the FTC’s Guides, since it affects the stone’s value, panelists said. The ­permanent, ­irreversible treatment typically takes brown Type IIa diamonds and turns them white and other colors.
  • The HPHT process shouldn’t be looked at as a treatment akin to fracture-filling. Rather, Bennett said, it should be seen as something that “adds one extra step” and “finishes what nature started.”
  • All stones sold by Bellataire and Sundance are laser-inscribed, and both have customers sign agreements committing to disclose the fact that they have undergone HPHT treatment, said company reps.
  • Because only ultra-rare Type IIa diamonds can be treated, competition for those stones is fierce. “We don’t have enough to sell to everybody,” Bennett said.
  • Identifying HPHT stones is, for now, too complex for most jewelers. The GIA lab has examined many HPHT diamonds, so Shigley is confident that the “vast majority” can be identified. For the small minority that it’s not sure about, however, the lab labels them “color undetermined.”

Empowering and Igniting Your Staff

Kate Peterson, president of Performance Concepts; Brad Huisken, president of IAS Training; moderator Rob Bates

  • What motivates employees the most is feeling like they are really involved in decision-making. “People want to make a difference, not just draw a paycheck—at least not quality people,” Peterson said. 
  • Staff members today want and expect pats on the back. “They often feel that nobody notices when they do something good,” Peterson said. When giving rewards, think about tailoring it for your specific staffers. She knew of one jeweler who gave her employees magazine subscriptions based on their interests.
  • Employees are not all driven by the same thing. The best way to find out what matters to them, said Peterson, is to ask: “Talk about what’s important to them, what makes them happy, and why they choose to work for you—just like you ask customers why they buy from you. And just don’t settle for the first answer. Draw what’s really important out of them.” The No. 1 ­complaint of employees is “not being listened to.”
  • If an employee isn’t performing, Huisken said the pattern of warnings should proceed like this: “Verbal, verbal, written, written, come-to-Jesus, go away.” At each step, managers should ask what they personally could do to bring the employee up to speed. Weekly one-on-one meetings with staff members are a great way to find out how things are going.
  • Employees don’t like being told what to do without knowing why, said Huisken. Make sure that everyone understands the company’s larger mission and the non­negotiable standards every staffer must uphold. And remember, he added: Positive feedback should outnumber negative feedback 10 to one.

Marketing to a New Generation

Steve Stoute, founder and CEO of brand-marketing firm Translation 

  • Stay plugged in. Former music exec Stoute urged the retailer audience to “figure out how to be in lockstep with popular culture. You want to be part of the conversation. Being out of the conversation is the death of a brand.”
  • Be culturally curious. “You have to have an interest in the unknown,” he said. “The value of cultural curiosity—and the innovation that takes place because of cultural curiosity—is invaluable to your business.”
  • Forget profiling. “You can’t market to a certain skin color anymore,” said Stoute, who authored a book, The Tanning of America, on the ­subject. “That’s over. Don’t assume because someone is black or Caucasian that you know what they like and need.”
  • Don’t get sucked into the vortex of the category. “When competitive companies are constantly looking at only one another, you create what I call the sea of sameness,” explained Stoute. “Every price goes down, but nobody’s standing out in the category because they’re all chasing the same conversation.”
  • Tell a story with your products or store. Stoute cited the success of message-drive yoga wear company Lululemon: “You have to have a social mission that builds a community—a product value or a philosophy that results in a community. Even at a one-store ­location, you have to have something that’s uniquely your own. People should feel good when they buy the products.”

The New Rules of Retail

Robin Lewis

Michael Dart, senior partner at retail consultancy Kurt Salmon; Robin Lewis, founder of the Goldman Sachs retail consulting subsidiary Vantage Marketplace

  • Understand our era. Where the manufacturer, and then retailer, once had all the power over what and how the consumer shopped, that paradigm has shifted in the past 20 years. “Essentially, we have reached a point of oversaturation in the retail industry,” said Lewis. “We have too many stores and now websites on top of that. The cycle of power has gone from manufacturer to consumer.”
  • Know what you’re up against. The glut of retail options has made standing out in the marketplace more challenging, said Lewis: “There used to be just one Tide detergent—now there are 39 different versions. Shoppers have hundreds of equally compelling products to choose from.” 
  • Create experiences. “New product doesn’t even win today,” said Lewis. “It’s just the price of entry. Consumers want, on top of everything else, a new experience.” Think Maxwell House in a can versus a Starbucks coffeehouse.
  • Embrace customization. “It’s gone from consumers needing to feel included to them wanting exclusivity,” said Lewis. “It used to be cool to wear the same brands all your friends wear, but now young millennials define cool as individuality. In 1980, there were six jeans brands. Now there are over 800—one for every behind.”
  • Get community-minded. The buyer attitude has shifted from self to community, added Lewis. “Less is becoming more. Quality is beginning to trump quantity. Consumers are not cohorts, they’re communities. ­Sustainability is a way of life now—it’s sticking. Think about cause-based retailing. People will pay more for companies doing good things for their communities.”

The Great E-Commerce Debate

Jeff Corey, president of Day’s Jewelers; Matt Lauzon, founder and CEO of Gemvara.com; Joel Schechter, CEO of Honora; moderator Daniel Ford, Web editor of JCK magazine

  • Start with an informational site, and gradually build up to one with e-commerce. When Corey debuted his site 15 years ago, the content was educational in nature. Later, he incorporated e-commerce functionality. Then he realized that ­having just one style of each SKU wasn’t enough, so he uploaded his stores’ entire inventory. “People thought we didn’t have what they were looking for,” he said. In turn, sales grew—a phenomenon others, too, can experience with the right planning and investment. “A small town jeweler can look mammoth online if he puts resources into it,” said Schechter.
  • Enlist good help. “I would not be involved in e-commerce if it weren’t for the talented people who run my stores,” said Corey, who relies on an in-house photography studio, two copywriters, and a Web coordinator.
  • Think about increasing online advertising initiatives. After learning that up to 70 percent of shoppers did online research before making in-store purchases, Corey decided to invest heavily in online. (He’d always relied on traditional advertising mediums like newspapers.) “We reduced our traditional advertising by 70 percent,” he said.
  • Give great customer service. This will go a long way toward managing the “flow of humanity” that inevitably will find its way to your website, explained Schechter, with consumer review sites like Yelp in mind. Meanwhile, Gemvara’s typical shopper talks to customer care reps several times over the course of a purchase. “We establish a dialogue with the customer online,” said Lauzon.
  • Offer an experience. Gemvara had previously been transaction-focused. Now, e-commerce is more about building relationships—an area where independent jewelers excel. “From our perspective, online doesn’t need to be about price or eroding margins,” Lauzon said. “We give buyers a meaningful piece for a ­significant life experience.”

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