Random Thoughts

Summertime is all about being easy, breezy, and a little lazy. While it’s the equivalent of Christmas for jewelers in summer resort locations, it’s a slow time for most of the rest of the industry. In fact, many in the manufacturing sector still adhere to the tradition of closing their factories for two weeks in the beginning of July.

So, in the interest of easy, breezy, short, and sweet, here are a few random thoughts to ponder:

  1. It’s 95 degrees on Park Avenue today, just the time to start thinking about Christmas. Ours is a business full of crazy workaholic people. (Visit www.jckonline.com and check out my blog posts, “Why We Love This Business,” Jan. 12, 2007, and “It’s Midnight, Do You Know Where Your Staff Is?” May 24, 2007, to see what I mean.) So while we all know the importance of making time to plan and strategize, we rarely have time to do it. This could be a good opportunity to gather your troops; review all the notes you took at the various shows, conventions, and conferences; and brainstorm your holiday advertising, special events, training, and staffing requirements, and even whether you need to order more boxes and bags. Set the wheels in motion now so that when selling season comes, you can concentrate on sales, not party planning, packaging, or media placement.

  2. Don’t stop with holiday planning. Pick a day, close the store, and take the entire team off-site to a hotel or restaurant for a daylong strategic planning session. Do a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis and tap your team’s creative juices for new solutions to competitive issues. If you’re worried about missing a potentially big sale from someone who remembered his or her anniversary at the last minute, hang a sign on the door directing customers with jewelry emergencies to call your cell phone.

  3. For a new take on the romance of diamonds, watch Ice Road Truckers, Sundays at 10 p.m. (9:00 p.m. Central) on The History Channel. The program is all about transporting construction equipment to the diamond mines in Canada’s Northwest Territories, just below the Arctic Circle. Follow the lives of six tough truckers (and yes, tough-talking truckers, but most of that gets bleeped out) as they risk their lives hauling heavy machines over a series of frozen lakes to get to the BHP Ekati Mine, the Diavik Mine, and De Beers’ Snap Lake Mine (still under construction). All this happens long before the first diamond comes out of the ground.
    The mines are located a few hundred miles north of Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories. There are no roads leading to them—indeed, there’s nowhere to build a road. The only way to get the heavy equipment necessary to build and operate the mines is to truck it across these lakes during the two months of the year when they’re frozen thick enough to (hopefully) hold 18-wheel tractor-trailers whose weight is calculated in hundreds of tons. It’s precise and dangerous work in harsh, unforgiving conditions, and it’s very risky because sometimes the ice gives way and trucks go down.

  4. Read the list of the Top 100 and Hot 100 retailers as compiled by the National Retail Federation’s Stores magazine. The lists can be found online at www.stores.org. No jewelry-only stores made the Top 100 list (tallied by revenue), although a number of retailers on the list sell jewelry. Three jewelry-only retailers made the Hot 100 list (tallied by growth rate), along with a number of general retailers who also sell jewelry. But two of the jewelers, Finlay Enterprises and Tiffany, clocked in at Nos. 94 and 81—with annual growth rates of 7.2 percent and 8.63 percent, respectively—while Blue Nile placed 25th with 20.05 percent year-over-year growth. Of course, Blue Nile is a relatively young company, whereas both Finlay and Tiffany are mature businesses that can’t realistically match the stellar year-over-year growth rate of a new business. At the same time, the relative lack of jewelry-only stores on both lists is another sobering reminder that consumers are happy to buy jewelry outside of a traditional jewelry store.

Maybe it’s time to have that strategic planning meeting, after all.