Stuller CEO: Future Looks Bright

On March 28, Stuller announced that chief operating officer Jay Jackson had been named the Lafayette, La.­–based manufacturer’s president and CEO, with founder Matt Stuller assuming the title of chairman. Stuller and Jackson talked to JCK following the announcement.

What should we know about Jay Jackson taking over as CEO?

Matt Stuller: What I’ve said to everyone is: This has been earned. For the past 14-plus years, Jay has demonstrated amazing leadership and vision in every division he has managed.

Matt, what does that mean for you?

MS: I am still leading the business. But I got to the point where I felt like I was stretched too thin and involved in a lot of small decisions and didn’t have time to focus on the big things. I am still owner. I have made a substantial commitment to this organization.

Will you be a full-time chairman?

MS: I am planning to take a little more time off than I have been committing to the company. But from a time perspective, I’m still full time.

With this leadership change, where do you see the company going?

Jay Johnson

Jay Jackson: Many years ago, I heard a minister say, “People only get old when they stop growing.” The same goes for companies. All strategies ultimately fail. If you continue to do what you always did, the world will change around you. The same thing that has made us successful for the last 40 years is probably not sustainable for the next 40.

MS: Retailers are dealing with customers in a new way; our relationships with our customers have had to change as well. Being a vendor and selling product, that is how we did business in the ’90s. The retail jeweler today needs a new relationship with their vendors, who have to support them in all avenues, to be an advocate for them. 

You are in touch with a lot of independent jewelers. How do you see their businesses developing?

JJ: We believe the future is bright, but it will only be that way for stores that develop a model that can be just as successful with $1,500-an-ounce gold as they were with $400-an-ounce gold. If a store believes that they can survive long enough for gold prices to come back down, it will suffer and ultimately go out of business. With $1,500-an-ounce gold, you can’t have inventory in stock for every single transaction.

MS: We are very bullish on the ­jewelry industry. We feel the jewelry industry will always be based on a one-to-one customer interaction. Consumers want to see product; they want to feel it. The Internet will be part of the way ­jewelry is sold in our industry, but we still believe the average consumer wants a personal relationship when they are buying jewelry.

I have always said there will be ­jewelry sales as long as we have lust, love, and guilt. I believe relationships are important in our society today, and people will want to celebrate those relationships with jewelry.