Retirement Figures Disputed

Bobby Wilkerson’s comments in your interview were a bit self-serving and not entirely accurate (“Mistakes Jewelers Make When They Retire,” JCK, October 1999, p. 142). No doubt Mr. Wilkerson has a pretty good take on the industry, what with all the time and effort he’s put into it. And I believe he’s accurate, in a very general way, when he asserts jewelers think they’re worth more than they really are and that they need assistance moving their stale stock.

What I found objectionable was insinuating that there’s no viable option for the jeweler seeking to retire other than using a company such as Wilkerson’s. He stated that a retiring jeweler has three choices. One is to conduct a store sale to the public, and the other two involve using Wilkerson’s company to conduct a sale. He stated that 2,500 to 4,000 stores go out of business every year, but for some reason he couldn’t come up with a number for how many new stores open up. And then he says immigrants are opening the new stores. What kind of a statement is that? Plus, he said that if you own your own store, you will find little interest when trying to sell.

I doubted these assertions, so I checked my own experience. I went back to 1988 and took 106 significant accounts from that year to see where they are now. All but two are still in business. Another three stores downsized from two stores to one. Nine stores were sold to someone other than family. Sixteen stores were sold within family. Bottom line: Not only are 104 out of 106 still in business, but many are thriving, building new, larger businesses. I have 15 significant new accounts that were not in existence in 1988. Of those, I’m not sure how many are immigrants and how many are not.

I know Mr. Wilkerson serves an excellent purpose and deserves recognition in your magazine, but your article could have been more objective, if not more accurate.

Norm Knights, St. Charles, Ill.

Bobby Wilkerson responds:

I’m pleased Mr. Knights’ accounts are doing so well, and they likely won’t need the type of services offered by Wilkerson & Associates. However, the unfortunate truth is that his accounts aren’t representative of the universe of independent jewelers.

In my interview with JCK editor-in-chief Larry Frederick, I stated that between 2,500 and 4,000 of these independent operations go out of business each year. I based my statement on the Wilkerson & Associates Brand Measurement Study (conducted by independent marketing company MVI, spring 1999). It indicated that 16% of the jewelers surveyed confirmed they “would be likely to need a company like Wilkerson & Associates in the next two years.” Applying this number to the published Jewelers Board of Trade figures of 26,000 listed outlets, that would translate into 4,160 jewelers. Recognizing that the JBT numbers are not all-inclusive, we are confident that our projections are legitimate and accurate.

A Good Case for Watch Refinishing

The article “An Easy Way to Cut Costs and Boost Revenues” (JCK, July 1999, p. 84) includes a good recommendation: “Offer to make customers’ high-priced watches look like new.” I work for trade shops and have often recommended offering “refinishing” of high-priced steel and gold and combination bracelet watches. Sadly, few repair shops see the advantage of it.

I understand the reluctance of store managers, since few watchmakers are skilled enough to do a good job. Lack of equipment is one reason. Another is lack of space. It’s a dirty job, and if you’re working on the movement in the same room where you polish, you’re likely to have a problem with dust. However, with the right incentive you might be willing to find the space.

It takes some training and knowledge of what the piece originally looked like. For example, the direction of the satin finish has changed on some models during production. The contrast of satin next to polish often requires the refinisher to disassemble the cases and bands. Crystals may have to be removed, with a risk of damage. The crystals on the newer watches may require gaskets. In order to retain a good seal, these must be replaced every time the crystal is reinstalled. With styles changing constantly, it’s hard to have all the tools to disassemble and reassemble cases and bracelets. After refinishing, you should also replace the crystals, crowns, and gaskets.

With most manufacturers unwilling to sell to the independent repair shop, it’s hard for us to do the job correctly even if we are willing and able. This is yet another way independent repair shops are cut out of the profit picture. I would like to see things changed and watchmakers have their pride restored. We’re an independent breed and always have been.

Erika Brenner, Mount Tremper, N.Y.

Correction In the Gem Note item on gem

silica and chrysocolla (JCK, November 1999, p. 42), we listed an incorrect e-mail address for Nadiene Nelson of Mississippi Pearl Jewelry Co. Her correct e-mail address is PearlKueen@aol.com.

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