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Renee Blackwell
Renee Blackwell


Forward without fear

In times of looming recession, the businesses that succeed are the ones who change their strategies accordingly. RENEE BLACKWELL discusses some ways to keep the fires burning.

As we progress into the global financial crisis, we are bombarded daily with fear-based, profit-oriented hype from all major media. Many jewellers and customers have become concerned, not knowing how to proceed or how to cope, but while financial doom and gloom is all over the media, we've really got to stop and think about how it's actually affecting us right now.

My business is actually doing well, as are many businesses like mine, because there are plenty of retailers still doing well, too. Retailers continue to spend money, but they are looking for something exciting and fresh - something that's going to set them apart. This is the right attitude to have.

My perspective on fresh and exciting retail strategies comes from a lifetime in retail, and over 12 years running my own jewellery design business, wholesaling my work here and abroad. In times of economic uncertainty, any desire to maintain a "business as usual" attitude must be set aside. Instead, the time to think outside the (jewellery) box is now. Get fired-up and devise fresh ideas for your business. I'd like to share some of my own ideas here.


In-store events

About a year ago, a long-term retail customer of mine wanted to bring me into the store for a meet and greet with their customers: meet Renee the designer. The retailer had carried my jewellery for many years and I'd built a strong following at this store, so they sent out invitations and planned the event to include champagne and nibbles.

These events don't have to pertain to suppliers - they can be information evenings on how to grade diamonds, how to resize rings or how to set stones, for example. Make it interactive, exciting and interesting.

Events like this are effective because they create excitement for both the staff and the customers. In all the years I've done this, I can't think of anybody who hasn't had a good turnout.



What sort of experience are you creating for the customer? What exactly happens when they walk through your door? From the music played to the feeling they get, this is the opportunity to give the customer an experience that they want to share with others.



Don't be afraid to communicate with your customers, asking what you can do for them and what they'd like to see in the store. Then sit down with your employees and ask what would excite them about working in the store. What can you do to fire them up? Get their ideas and input. This will give them a sense of ownership, of having a part in the business.

Pink Kimberley Australia


Get technical

Facebook, YouTube, Twitter - it's time to get with it, or get left behind! I recently attended a Business Network Australia luncheon where the message was clear: if you're not using social networking sites to enhance or promote your business, you are completely out of the loop.

Inspired after the luncheon, I decided to establish my own blog: ( I mass-mailed clients to let them know the blog existed and then set-about updating it regularly, with a mix of information about my business, my jewellery and also about myself.

Though I didn't quite understand how my business would benefit from the blog, I was impressed when it started attracting enquiries after just a few days. By linking my blog to social networking sites, I now have a network of all these different ways for people to interact with my business.


Story telling

It's the biggest secret of my success - people love the stories behind my pieces. Many retailers ask how to convey stories to the customers, and I tell them: "you don't have to know everything about everything, but if you have an idea about any of your suppliers or designers, you can create a story around the piece."

While showing a particular gold chain for example, tell the customer about the multi-generational Italian manufacturer that produced it. It all adds to the romance behind the piece, and helps the sale.

The above points are hands-on, practical ways to improve your business but none are as important as your overall mind-set. With a little inspiration, most people can come up with their own unique and innovative ways to spark-up their store.



About the Author

Name: Renee Blackwell

Company: Renee Blackwell Design

Position: co-owner

Years in the industry: 25

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