Thoughts From the Great White North

Some key thoughts from my "Thriving in a Down Market" seminar at Collections by JCK in Vancouver, Canada:

What was is gone. The global recession has hit everyone’s mental and fiscal reboot button, not only in terms of the consumer’s mindset but also because we face a new economic reality where old rules and traditional methods of jewelry sourcing and retailing are guidelines at best. Retailers, wholesalers, and support people nodded agreement to this reality check from Neiman Marcus CEO Burt Tansky: "Our opinion is that the recovery, when it comes … will come slowly. It will not be the same break out of the gates as we had seen in the past."

Shift happens. The group was surprised by a 2007 American Express luxury study revealing that jewelry went from the No. 1 consumer luxury category in 1960 to off the list. (The cell phone/PDA/electronics category is No. 1, which surprised nobody.) The Canadian retailers raised an interesting point: They now see jewelry as a much bigger element in travel and tourism. One conjecture is that travelers make some of their jewelry purchases when traveling.

Venus and Mars. Men account for 75 to 80 percent of attendees’ sales, but female gift recipients, especially in bridal, heavily influence that purchasing. She’s a competitive shopper participating in a sport; he’s looking for reasons and rationales and wants to know specifics. He thinks he knows what he’s buying; she knows what she wants! (That drew knowing chuckles and got heads nodding again.)

Female self-purchaser. Finding the pricing sweet spot for female self-purchasers is critical. It depends on location, affluence of a store’s customer base, and the type of woman who happens to walk in. According World Gold Council research, every woman has a threshold for making a self-purchase, and once she crosses it in your store, she becomes not only a repeat customer for herself but also a shopper for jewelry gifts. Expanding the number of SKUs in the $300–$500 range provides more opportunities to convert a shopper into a self-purchaser and raises the likelihood of repeat business.

Concentrate on why she buys jewelry, not just what she buys. The two main reasons cited by WGC are: "It makes me feel good," and "It makes a statement." When she talks about wearing jewelry, she’s saying, "I feel beautiful." If it was a gift, she feels "loved and worthy."

Motivators. When pushed, women admit they enjoy it when friends admire their jewelry (and they enjoy admiring their friends’ jewelry). Other motivators are the "I deserve it!" and "I earned it!" sentiments. (What she did to earn it is irrelevant, but intuitive salespeople explore this mood and use it to full advantage.)

Tapping into the motivations for buying and wearing jewelry is critical to expanding your customer base and selling more product. Focus on the sentimental and milestone aspects of jewelry as well as the lift she gets from wearing shiny, sparkly adornments. Cater to her need for self-affirmation, self-worth, and sense of accomplishment. Advocate for the role of jewelry in her life versus her perception of the need for spa treatments, name-brand clothing and accessories, or an expensive cell phone with "cool apps" that she’ll likely never use.