Panel to Dealers: Find Another Career

Panelists were glum about the future at a recent discussion sponsored by the Diamond Dealers Club in New York.

“I don’t see the prognosis as very good for dealers,” said former DDC president William Goldberg. “I say to the younger generation, ‘Get involved with computers or accounting. You need to re-school yourself and find another way of making a living.’ I cry when I say it. I love the people here. But we have to face reality.”

The other panelists agreed that the industry was changing and that dealers had no choice but to adjust to those changes.

“De Beers’ new initiatives should serve as a wake-up call for all of us who have lived for so long in our cozy worlds,” said Indian manufacturer Prakash Lakhi. “The rules of the game are changing. And right now, we have more questions than we have answers.”

While some panelists were uneasy about De Beers’ plans to “go retail” with new partner LVMH, Goldberg said it could prove to be a positive move. “If it increases the size of the diamond market, we all benefit,” he said. Still, he worried about the company’s plans for the future. “The question is: Does [De Beers] have a soul or a feeling for this community which has done so much for them for so long?” he asked. “I wonder.”

Sheldon Kwiat, head of the Diamond Industry Steering Committee, said dealers must ask if they “add value.” “If all you do is go to Antwerp, buy rough, cut it here, and then sell it on 47th Street, that’s not going to cut it anymore,” he said. But when asked exactly what “adding value” means, he said, “If I knew that, I’d be on a yacht somewhere.”

A second club panel on “marketing” attempted to answer that question. Veteran marketer Steve Shain of Weston, Conn.-based Marketing Decisions, argued that dealers had to sell on more than just price.

“You can give people a better price today, and tomorrow they’ll be looking for a better price from someone else,” he says. “It’s not a long-term business. You have to promote loyalty.”

Shain suggested starting a “rewards” club, similar to the one he helped start for Marriott Hotels in the 1970s. In addition, when a local jeweler visits a bourse overseas or in New York, he should return with marketing material hailing him as a “diamond expert.” He also recommended that jewelers promote visiting dealers in the media. Panel moderator Sylvain Ringer said that, thanks to Shain’s efforts, he’s been interviewed by local news stations during his visits to jewelers. “You’d go to a small town, and people would see this diamond man with $1 million worth of goods from Africa, and they’d never seen anything like it,” he said.