Your Turn

WHY PUT LIMITS ON BUYERS’ CHOICES?

Frank Dallahan (Counterpoint, March 1998) is quite right when he says that a buyer would be foolish not to accept the right of return. But when a buyer has to commit all his or her open-to-buy only to those vendors who unconditionally grant the right of return, even of others’ merchandise, then indeed he or she is doing the company a great disservice.

Regrettably, many senior executives have given their buyers just such a directive. It is based on what I call the nuts and bolts theory of jewelry product. This is that all manufacturers produce the same thing so it doesn’t matter who supplies you as long as they meet your demand.

It may be time for them to reconsider their position. What may seem to be sharp bookkeeping now is, in the long term, very costly. It deprives the company of new and creative sources of merchandise from smaller and newer vendors. If the buyer cannot focus on securing the most salable product offered, no matter who the source, he or she will miss merchandise that would have sold through and generated the revenue the returned merchandise failed to do.

Returns do not generate profits; only sales do. There can be little consolation in returning merchandise that wasted valuable space and advertising cost. The lure of easy returns leads to new criteria for product selection that have nothing to do with design, quality and price. In fact, the higher price manufacturers must place on their product to cover the cost of returns adversely affects salability. A friend of mine who knew Morris Zale quite well recently told me that Morris stressed to his buyers that their primary job was to search for new merchandise. This is a luxury many buyers today cannot afford: they may see something they like from a source they cannot patronize.

Leo Thaler, President Thien Po USA Inc. Trenton, N.J.

SHOPPING YOUR COMPETITORS: COURTESY NEEDED

I read with interest the article “Shopping Competitors” in the March 1998 issue of JCK. While I agree with the importance of knowing and understanding the competition, I feel that the article failed to cover one area of professional courtesy. Let me tell you of a “competitive shopping” story we recently experienced.

On a very busy day last fall, our store in Denver was packed with customers. Although we have a sales staff of 14, many of our customers were waiting for service. I was working with a sales representative and had to excuse myself many times to assist with our customers. After a short time, the sales rep called me over and pointed out three women who had been in the store for over an hour. He said, “I know those women … they’re shopping you. They work in the corporate office of one of your competitors.”

It turned out that these “competitive shoppers” had, for over an hour, tied up four of our staff at one time or another while moving from watches to pearls to diamonds and so on. While they were gleaning information about us, our own customers were inconvenienced, and valuable time and money was wasted by the staff they baited to wait on them. Does competitive shopping justify the loss of sales and income realized by the “duped” sales staff trying to be helpful?

I feel that if competitive shopping is a necessary part of a jeweler’s training strategy, professional courtesy, if not just common sense, might dictate the time and place.

Ralph F. Klomp President, Trice Jewelers Denver

WHY SCARE PEOPLE?

I read Jim Cory’s article “Roulette” in the April issue and am not sure what its purpose was. If your intention was to frighten and/or discourage people from going into sales, you certainly accomplished that.

Every profession comes with risks. I choose to be a salesman and am very aware of the risks associated with my chosen profession within this particular industry.

I think that your article would have been better if you researched the precautions people should take when going out to sell and offered suggestions as to what to be aware of when on the road selling. Instead of a fact-based piece like this, you chose to write an emotionally based one using terms designed to incite fear such as “They know where you live, they know who you call on…” etc. If you had taken the time to research helpful facts, then your article could have offered useful information to aid salespeople.

Unfortunately, when you deal with any valuable product, certain risks and dangers are present. When people are made aware of the risks and offered ways to minimize them, that potentially is very useful information. I do not feel that an article like yours featured in a trade publication such as JCK is helpful or appropriate.

Mitchell Feuer Pe Jay Creations Ltd. New York, N.Y.

JCK has published many articles on how traveling jewelry salespeople can protect themselves against criminal attack. “Roulette” dramatized the need to be ever-watchful. Sometimes you have to scare people to get a message across.