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Articles from MARKETING (105 Articles)

Ignore bread-and-butter jewellery at your own risk

Bread-and-butter jewellery items might not be the most exciting products in a store’s offering but that doesn’t mean they should be left out in the cold. COLEBY NICHOLSON has first-hand experience of a retailer who learned this the hard way.

The most common complaint I hear from jewellery suppliers is that retailers don’t re-order bread-and-butter items quick enough. A generally-accepted definition of bread-and-butter products is those that are dependable and regular sellers; those items that don’t need heavy promotion and discounting.

These might differ from one retailer to the next but all retailers have them. Bread-and-butter items are the mainstays of business – reliable income sources – and suppliers encourage retailers to replenish stock once sold.

Suppliers say there are many reasons why retailers don’t act quickly enough to ensure they have bread-and-butter items in stock at all times, and it frustrates them.

I have first-hand experience with the situation. Many years ago, during a break from the media, I ran a wholesale sports-apparel business selling to retailers. We were the market leader in our category and we had a number of high selling bread-and-butter garments including an extremely popular polo shirt.

$3 million in sales

Although it was a classic bread-and-butter item, the CEO of one our major accounts representing nearly 100 stores, approached me saying he was thinking about dropping the garment. I was gobsmacked because that one shirt represented more than $3 million in sales to his business. Worse, it was easy business; the shirt sold itself and we always had stock for a quick refill.

We arranged a meeting and I asked him how he was going to replace the shirt and he said he didn’t know. He didn’t have an alternative so I asked why he wanted to drop the garment and he said his stores were sick of it.

“The staff are tired of seeing it on display and want something new,” he explained. He was somewhat taken back by my next comment: “I don’t give two hoots about what your staff say and think, and nor should you. I only care what your customers think.”

I had done my homework so I was ready for his next statement, “I have to listen to them.”  Unveiling a store-by-store report, I replied, “Yes you do need to listen to them but you don’t need to respect their views.”

The report listed how many polos each store sold and also showed that sales were not declining. He hadn’t taken the time to analyse his own financial reports so he was a little surprised at the data. Nevertheless, he stuck to his guns.

“We need something new,” he said.

I disagreed, especially given he had no alternative, but said that there was no sense in arguing over subjective issues; we needed facts. I left the meeting with an idea that required further investigation.

To cut a long story short, two weeks later I went back with a proposal: we would design three new garments and test them in 10 stores across the country. We would put the three new shirts up against our existsing bread-and-butter design to see which was the most successful.

The test would be at no cost to the stores – whatever they didn’t sell could be returned.

I also told him he could be involved in the design of the new garments. He was impressed and then I explained, “Better still, you will personally design one garment that you believe fits the market.”

At first he thought I was joking but I stipulated that that was part of the deal. His company was a great client but I believed he had to learn a lesson. He accepted and we signed off on the stores. The result?

The original bread-and-butter shirt outsold all three together. The trial offered four garments, three of which were new designs, and still his customers chose our ‘old’ design. He was wrong, and guess what … the garment that the CEO had personally designed was the worst seller of all four!

The trial cost our business more than $20,000 but it protected his $3 million and, to his credit, he could not thank us enough. Further, it changed the way he ran his business. From that day, he saw the value in bread-and-butter products regardless of what his staff said. Re-orders flowed faster than ever.

The bottom line is that while seeing the same product in-store everyday may be tiring, you should never get bored with product that sells. If your staff are bored with bread-and-butter items, remind them that it’s that very product that helps to pay their wage.

If they still complain, change your staff rather than your product!

Coleby Nicholson

Former Publisher • Jeweller Magazine

Coleby Nicholson launched Jeweller in 1996 and was also publisher and managing editor from 2006 to 2019. He has covered the jewellery industry for more than 20 years and specialises in business-to-business aspects of the industry.


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