As Cuba Gooding Jr. said to Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire: “Show me the money!” Analyze not only your balance sheet but also all your jewelry categories so you know your real gross margin return on investments. This will enable you (and your buyers) to develop a smarter game plan come buying time at the shows. It will arm you with the data you need to hold informed conversations with your suppliers and effectively rebut their insistence that you need to buy more inventory from them, if your figures show you are already too deep in that category. This also puts you in a position of negotiating power with vendors when you need to refinance credit terms and improve merchandise return/service plans. Only when you know what’s profitable and what’s costing you money can you decide if it’s worth keeping loss leaders.
Store environment also affects success. Take a hard look at your store design and fixtures. Too many jewelry stores are a goulash of logos, fabrics, case designs, and mixed lighting plans because stores still take suppliers’ wall units, case displays, and window designs to save their own time, effort, and money. Resembling a flea market sends the wrong signals to potential customers. Not that you should have a boring, monochromatic sales environment, but greater harmony and consistent themes will tie it together.
As part of your critical self-exam, strengthen your graphic elements. Create a handbook of type styles, fonts, and Pantone PMS colors, and use it for all of your advertising, printed collateral marketing materials, and point-of-sale fixtures. Research it with friends, family, employees, customers, and focus groups, because they know your store and will give you solid feedback that will generate buy-in when you go live with the graphic redesign.
Meet with key vendors and discuss your revised business plans, graphic adjustments, and changes to your store layout. Get their support for your reengineering of the store’s mission and purpose so there are no ugly supply-side surprises. Go to your strongest brands and discuss reallocating your marketing budgets based on new inventory commitments. Find out what new co-opmedia plans they have and if any particular forms of media are working well for their other good retailers. Be sure their examples resemble stores like yours and only then work to develop those media vehicles for your store, based on the field intelligence of the vendor.
Explore new media vehicles to break out of the rut and expose your new brand to fresh prospects. Don’t forget to reconfigure your Web site. (See “The Retail Advantage,” JCK, January 2007, p. 130.)
Involve your staff in the planning. Stress the need for even more service and involvement in the lives of the customers. Share your research on customers with them. The better they know the customers, the easier it is to sell to them.
Listen to your staff about what customers are saying. Customers will tell you and the staff what they want, and they will help you understand how to fulfill their desires. Customers’ expectations are key elements in defining your store’s brand. (This is not to be confused with the brands your store carries.) Let your customers be your mirror. Then look at your store and the brands you carry. If you don’t like what you see, get busy.
As you enter the coming show season and start preparing for the end of 2007 and early 2008, it’s time to lay the groundwork for making intelligent, informed assessments about your business model. Assess your store’s DNA and establish a process that lets you see where you’re going for years to come. Base this process on sound data and the conviction that comes with the knowledge of what is working (and what is not.)