Manufacturing and Retail Myopia

The jewelry industry needs to come together to do something about competing more effectively with other luxury products. Industry idea man Ed Coyne developed a concept last year that would focus some of the industry’s promotional efforts on creating a National Jewelry Week in late November, just prior to the biggest jewelry sales period of the year. It would generate advertising and public relations efforts on a par with what takes place in New York for Fashion Week. The goal is to focus consumer attention on jewelry right before December and position jewelry as more fashionable than something with a plug or a gas pedal, which ultimately wears out.

An industry organization needs to take the lead and sponsor such an effort. Coyne made the rounds of the usual prospects and continued selling the idea this spring after getting the standard excuses: “The timing isn’t right.” “Budgets have already been planned.” “Jewelers with exclusive lines won’t support the idea.” “It’s not our responsibility.” No one stepped up to the plate to discuss seriously how to implement the idea or develop an alternative.

Christmas 2007 was not a good selling season. So far this year, the retail climate in the United States has been soft. There are many reasons for this. The housing crisis is one. New home sales, according to figures released in late March, were off 1.2 percent compared with the same month last year. Another reason is the financial crisis America is experiencing in the mortgage market, with better than 93 percent of mortgages being paid on time. And prices for gold, platinum, and oil are all up thanks to the declining value of the greenback. The continuing drumbeat of the negative has to stop.

The Woolmark is an example of how an industry collaborated to successfully focus the consumer’s attention on its products. So too is the Milk Marketing Board. The milk industry joined forces and developed a campaign to promote consumption of milk with the “Got Milk?” campaign. The jewelry industry is an amalgam of manufacturers, retailers, trade magazines, and associations. Each organization spends substantial sums every year to promote its own products and messages. Surely, collectively, we can take some of those resources and apply them to a really good idea.

It’s time for the industry to team up for a common purpose, just as it did for the Jewelers for Children effort. Negative thinking is consuming the minds and conversations of the business. It’s time to get off our duffs and do something positive to change the situation. Otherwise we’ll see another round of luxury car ads on TV depicting a snobby jewelry salesperson looking down her nose at a customer as he gazes out the store window to see a white luxury car wrapped in a big red bow! Myopia is not an effective strategy. Neither is failure.