Who Are You? A Guide to the New You, Part 1

Listen to The Who’s prescient 1978 rock ‘n’ roll anthem “Who Are You?” and you’ll be struck by Pete Townshend’s lyrics as they relate to key issues facing today’s jewelry retailers. In addition to the song’s title question, he asks: “Do I really want to know?” If you’re a jeweler and you want to stay in business, then your reply had better be the same as Townshend’s: “Yes, I really want to know!” Follow that up with his lyrical question for all jewelers: “How can I measure up?” If you cannot stand the process of self-examination in the crowded world of jewelry retailing, then you’re doomed to Townshend’s conclusion that you had better “get up and walk away.”

To succeed today, you must constantly reexamine your store image and what you project, not only to your own customers but also to the public at large from which you’ll draw new customers. Take it step-by-step and examine some of the elements as they relate to your ongoing business. Following are the first steps.

· Do your homework. Make time in your schedule to read the key trade publications and some online e-mail newsletters like JCK‘s eMonday. Make a point of regularly scanning the Wall Street Journal or Business Week. You can’t make intelligent decisions about your business and the lines you carry without understanding the context, trends, and issues facing the jewelry business and the world at large. Read two or three good books on marketing, sales, and customer service every year just to keep your brain working at a macro business level. (Hint: These business books are usually available on tape or CD and make for excellent listening as you travel on planes, trains, and cars.)

· Conduct ongoing research. This is a corollary to the first point, because you have to know the psychographics and demographics of your customers as well as their preferences and intent-to-purchase indices. Use research to ascertain if your customers plan to shop with you again and if they will refer you to a friend. Having asked them how you’re doing, then keep score and continue asking them so you know if you’re improving, declining, or stuck in neutral.

· Determine if your store is the brand—or if the brands you carry define you. There’s nothing wrong with being a brand destination, because you’re known by the company you keep. But sometimes the company overstays its welcome. If a brand’s sales are not trending in a positive direction, take a hard look at why it’s underperforming. Are you supporting it with enough advertising? Are there any gaps in the line in terms of price or product? Are their displays fresh and do they fit the other displays in terms of style and color? Have you tried relocating the line and remerchandising it in a new display case or window? Is the brand oversaturated in your area and too readily available in other locations?

· Work on relationships. You need excel-lent working relationships (or at least good ones) with your manufacturers and wholesalers. Elements of goodrelationships include regular conver-sations or e-mail exchanges (cordial in tone), reasonable product delivery fulfillment (mutually defined), adjust-able credit terms, active co-op adver-tising fund usage (not too much wrangling over payment and credit), and a working return/repair/replace-ment inventory policy. If you cannot satisfy these items, why do you carry the brand? Too often jewelers become captives of their brands and don’t analyze whether it’s worth it to keep a brand in stock. Unprofitable brands tie up capital, credit lines, and display space.

Too many negative responses to the questions above should net you another searing truth from Mr. Townshend: “God, there’s got to be another way!”