The Revolution Is Here

Threshold resistance is a common consumer disease when it comes to visiting a jeweler. Savvy store owners, of course, work effectively to dispel it. They eschew forbidding columns and marble faces that can chill. They advertise and display merchandise that is not only appealing and exciting but also affordable. They train their staffs to be warm, friendly and helpful. And they get out into their community to project on a one-on-one basis the message that their stores are a pleasant and rewarding place to shop.

You’d think the sort of person who can overcome a potential customer’s threshold resistance would have no trouble dealing with his or her own threshold resistance – not to jewelry stores but to computers. But it seems this is no easy task. I can think of a number of highly successful jewelers who are scared stiff of computers. They regard them as complex, failure-prone, mysterious and expensive devices they’d rather not have to deal with.

My sympathies lie with those who either hate or fear these machines. A few years ago when the publishing world said goodbye to decades of tradition and turned to the computer, most of us in the business went through a period of mental upheaval and adjustment. Once we made the move, there was no turning back.

Nor can there be any turning back in the jewelry business. Computerization is a non-negotiable unless a jeweler runs such a small and simple operation that pencils and typewriters can handle all the day-to-day chores. Such a jeweler has to be content with smallness and simplicity; significant growth is only a remote possibility.

The special report on computers in this issue spells out many of the reasons why a well-programmed and well-managed computer system is critical. The principal one is simple: such a system allows a jeweler to make more money.

There’s much more to it than that, of course. The computer is a tool – and should be regarded as no more than a tool – that will enhance efficiency when used properly. I know jewelers who, three months after their fiscal year has ended, still don’t know whether they made or lost money or by how much they were up or down. How on earth can these jewelers make intelligent buying and other management decisions for the new fiscal year?

Such talk probably seems akin to baby chatter to businesses already making good use of computers. But based on responses we’ve received from the JCK Retail Jewelers Panel, for every three jewelers who even have a computer in their business, there’s a fourth who hasn’t taken that basic step. No matter how the experts may feel, there’s still room for a lot of discussion of computer ABCs.

Our special report is designed to appeal to non-starters, beginners and experts. For the first two groups, there are some useful Computer 101 facts and figures on the value of having equipment that will complete in hours chores that used to take days. Case histories show how various jewelers put their computer technology to good use – and it’s important to note that we’re not always talking about large, sophisticated operations.

We offer the experts food for thought more than operating facts. This is where the report turns to the future, which in some cases is almost at hand because change is taking place so quickly. The two key areas we look at are on-line networks and imaging. What’s happening in both areas is little short of mind-boggling. Only a year or so ago, Polygon and RapNet were the only two networks jewelers were likely to know or be able to deal with. Today, the number is expanding rapidly; it seems only a matter of brief time before jewelry and jewelers will have a serious presence on the Internet, an international computer network.

Imaging, the ability to transmit pictures from computer to computer, also is a burgeoning art and science. Quality is improving as finer definition shows more detail and true color.

What the future will bring, and how soon, is immensely exciting and a little frightening. If you think you’ve seen changes in technology in the past five years, it’s nothing compared to what we’ll see in the next five. This will bring a profound change in the way retailers and consumers shop. Those who aren’t ready for the changes, mentally and physically, will be in trouble.