How do you deal with people asking for free services like free quickie appraisals?

Take it in, says industry veteran J. Dennis Petimezas, owner of Watchmaker’s Diamonds & Jewelry, Johnstown, PA, then let people know they are going to have to pay for your services. “Seldom do anything on the spot for free,” says Petimezas, “because when you do, you underprice your professionalism.”

How much autonomy should I give my staff?

Striking the right balance between autonomy and control is one of the essences of being a good manager. Too little control and chaos descends, but too much and there’s still the risk of inflexibility and of failing to capitalize on the talents of your employees. “Loose monitoring” of employees, according to Harvard Business School research, makes for higher profits as well as happier workplaces. For example, casinos make more money when their frontline staff get autonomy in dispensing freebies and discounts. From our observations, jewelers do, too.

What’s the best way to handle the client who says: “It’s lovely, but I don’t think I can afford it”?

As a professional salesperson, you have to respect your customer’s budget — and find a way out of this dead end. Your response really depends on your reading of the customer.

Will they respond to humor?

  • “Neither can I. That’s why I’m selling it.”

To a challenge? 

  • “Isn’t owning beautiful things why you’ve earned the money in the first place?”
  • “But you deserve it!”

To a rationalization of their financial choice?

  • “You know, if you wear this every day for 20 years, that’s 365 x 20, divided by the cost of the jewelry ...”

An offer that helps them pay for it?

  • “Ms. Jones, many of our clients can’t put down the money immediately, that’s why my father started our layaway plan back in 1939 for a dollar down.”

Or a ratcheting down of the pressure?

  • “Then don’t buy it. Let me show you something you’ll be thrilled with!”
  • “That’s OK, we can provide sparkle for any budget. Let’s find the right thing for what you want to spend.”
  • “Well, let’s look at some other choices.”

But if you go for any of these last three, remember to always keep that original piece out because sometimes they end up buying it.

What’s the best indicator of my store’s health?

Our surveys over the years have repeatedly shown most jewelers focus primarily on sales, but that’s something David Brown, head of the Edge Retail Academy, finds worrisome, and may help explain why the churn rate among jewelers is so high (every year about 5-6 percent of jewelry retailers close their doors, according to JBT data). “There are many recent examples of major U.S. businesses with huge sales volumes going spectacularly broke,” Brown notes, adding that the best approach is to pay equal attention to sales, gross profit, expenses, net profit, inventory levels and GMROI. Erosion in any of the areas should be a red flag that trouble lies ahead.

I’m torn between doing a radical overhaul of my stagnating business or trying to eke out small improvements to keep it going. What do you recommend?

Take the plunge. The odds are you won’t regret it. That’s the implication of a giant, unconventional experiment conducted by economist Steven Levitt, co-author of the Freakonomics books. Levitt asked thousands of people who were contemplating a major life-change, like leaving a job or relationship, to visit a website, where a virtual coin-flip told them what to do. When Levitt followed up, six months later, he found those who had made the change were happier than those who hadn’t — even if their reason for changing was nothing more than a coin-flip. The lesson: faced with two seemingly equal options, choose the scarier. Not because the universe will respect your courage, but because fear — and our ingrained bias toward inertia — is almost certainly skewing your judgment.


This article originally appeared in the January 2018 edition of INSTORE.

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