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Soapbox & Opinions

Mollie Burford, Mollie Burford Jewellery
Mollie Burford, Mollie Burford Jewellery

Don’t hate; differentiate

What happens when you come across an advertisement for a big-brand bargain retailer advertising a deal that’s too good to be true? Most of us probably think, “Here we go again” and brace for the customer backlash.

Prime-time television features unscrupulous jewellery practices on a regular basis and there now seem to be so many injustices in the jewellery industry that one might wonder how will small independent jewellers ever compete again?

If you’re anything like me, it can be hard to let something like this go but while speaking out about misleading advertising practices might seem like a good idea, it’s not.

Gerry Harvey, founder of super-retailer Harvey Norman, has long been vocal about the GST exemption for imported goods.

Do we see him as a hero? No way; he’s a whinger! A consumer advocacy group even called his behaviour an “alarmist red herring driven by self-interest”.

I used to feel compelled to right the wrong that I had no control over but complaining does nothing to level the playing field. If we trash talk the big brand retailers, our customers may think we’re doing the same thing. I also realised that how big brands choose to advertise doesn’t affect us or our businesses. The guy looking to pay $4,000 for a 1-carat engagement ring is not our customer and he never will be.

Independent jewellers can’t compete on price with the big brands so it’s just as well we don’t have to. Instead of complaining, consider these three things that can help your business today: positioning, education and service.

The big brands offer ‘deals’ and low price-points as a big part of their unique selling proposition (USP). Do you really want to be the cheapest jeweller in town? Where do you actually want to be positioned? What sets you apart from the big brands and other independent jewellers?

If you’re trying to do everything for everyone then stop. Do some soul-searching and focus your offerings instead. You can still provide other services if customers ask but don’t waste your time and money advertising the same thing that every other jeweller does.

I used to be a jack-of-all trades jeweller; however, my business became more profitable when I chose a specialisation – my focus is unique diamonds. I went from struggling to find enough work to being so busy that I had to turn work away. Crafting a USP gave me the freedom to refer out jobs that I didn’t want, decrease the number of hours on the bench and also pursue a master’s degree.

Some of my favourite local jewellers have done a beautiful job crafting their USPs – the Anson brand is synonymous with contemporary design with visual references to their native New Zealand and nature; well-known diamond-setter Guy Scipione is a self-proclaimed ‘old-school setter’ with more than 50 years of experience in the industry; and Tim Haab is an Antwerp diamond broker who travels to Antwerp every year to select diamonds for his store.

Defining a USP is good but take it a step further with education. You know more about jewellery than your customer and more than the salesgirl who started selling jewellery a month ago in a retail store.

Customers may be confused when they walk into your store even if they have tried to research online so have visuals and information ready. Take the time to answer questions. Consider investing in diamond grading sets so that you can tangibly show customers what the differences in the 4Cs look like. You see, they don’t have your experience and will struggle to visualise your suggestions. This is especially important if you don’t carry a wide range of loose diamonds.

Also, be upfront. How many times do we discuss service and support after the sale has been made, almost as an afterthought? Even the big-brand retailers who want to offer excellent customer service cannot compete with what we can offer.

Then there are value-adds to consider: What is your ring-sizing policy? What will you do if the bride-to-be doesn’t like her ring? Do you offer free stone checks? Do you have an upgrade policy? Do you have a reduced repair price list for jewellery made or sold by you?

The injustices in the industry can be hard to stomach but let’s focus on the issues that we can actually do something about – those that affect our bottom lines. Position yourself smartly, educate prospects and be up-front about your service and support.

Name: Mollie Burford
Business: Mollie Burford Jewellery
Position: managing director
Location: Flagstaff Hill, South Australia
Years in the industry: 11

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Friday, 15 November, 2019 05:47am
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