Watch Out! Part 2

Last month we explored the dichotomy between jewelry stores that sell some watches and watch stores that sell some jewelry and what it takes to close the gap.

Watches should embody your jewelry store’s style and commitment to service. Often jewelry stores carry too many me-too lines of watches found in mall department stores and big box merchants. If you’re making money carrying some of these, congratulations. But if they represent entry-level lines in your store, you may be missing an important sales opportunity and tying up shelf space and inventory dollars.

Even if you’re making a modest profit on these commodity watch lines, you’re sending the wrong signal to your better customers. It’s time to get out of your comfort zone and bring in fresh new product. Ask your sales associates if they like selling hum-drum watches. These products seldom have notable designs or interesting features worth explaining to a customer. The biggest sales challenge is helping a customer decide between a strap or a bracelet, white or black dial, or Roman versus Arabic numerals. Why pay a commission for this level of product knowledge?

Selling watches should be fun. It’s about history, romance, and craftsmanship. It’s selling a work of art. The joy is in learning about and exploring complications, tourbillons, enameling, and other features, and appreciating the skill required to make a beautiful mechanical watch or the technology needed to create an ultraslim quartz movement. At the same time, selling watches is also about fashion and fun. It means deep diving into your customer’s wardrobe and finding out about her favorite colors and textures, whether she likes colored stones or fine diamonds (or both). From your sales associates’ perspective, the types of watches you carry are critical to keeping them interested and involved in the daily grind of selling. There is always something new for them to learn and integrate into their selling skills.

To revamp your watch brands, categorize them by good, better, and best and match the categories with the size and quality of the loose diamonds you typically sell for engagement rings and anniversary jewelry. Let the price range of your gold jewelry guide you toward the price points you can reasonably expect watches to sell for. The better your designer gold lines, the better the Swiss watches you can carry. You want the lines to overlap the top end of one line’s price with the bottom end of the next line up the price scale. That way you can up-sell or upgrade customers over time as they become more sophisticated and appreciative of what you have to offer.

As you rethink your watch strategy, give new inventory time to gain traction. It will take 18–36 months to overhaul your lines and raise your profile as a watch destination. You and your sales associates will have to immerse yourselves in additional product knowledge. Do your homework. Look at competitors’ catalogs to see what they’re carrying, and avoid duplication. Go online and check prices. Determine if they’re within the suggested retail structure of the brand or if watches are being prostituted via the gray market. Plenty of great watch brands control inventory supplies and work to police the gray market.

In testing new lines, have a clear understanding of the new brands’ financial commitment to you in terms of credit, memo, return policies, training for watch technicians, advertising, and marketing (above and beyond the standard co-op terms) in launching their product in your store. Get their distribution policies in writing—including terms of exclusivity in your sales area—and be clear about whether they will permit you to sell their watches online and for what price.

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