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Does customer loyalty even exist?

Many jewellery retailers feel challenged to maintain consumer loyalty to the point where some are completely giving up.

I often hear other jewellers complaining about their customers, or lack of, and it really makes me think whether they have tried everything to make their business that one shop that stands out from the crowd.

I know it can be disheartening when you feel like you’ve given your all and just don’t know what else to do. I get it; it’s tough out there. Consumers are spoilt for choice but I strongly believe – and have proof – that customer loyalty is not only possible but also worth the effort.

I came from a jewellery supplier background that was built on customer service and have to say my debut into the retail side of the industry in 2002 was an interesting one.

I purchased a run-down business in a small shopping centre full of locals who knew everything about each other. They were friendly and welcoming at first; however, it wasn’t long before the unhappy customers appeared.

I was totally unprepared for how bad the previous owner’s reputation was. Boy, did I find out fast. In some ways, it was harder to launch a business with a bad reputation than a business with no reputation at all. There were essentially two options: apologise for not being able to help customers or try to turn negative situations into positive ones.

I chose the latter.

"Consumers are spoilt for choice but I strongly believe – and have proof – that customer loyalty is not only possible but also worth the effort."

I got to know the locals, involved myself in shopping centre activities, started advertising on the local community radio, giving away prizes and doing promotions with the community newspaper. I hardly charged for a single repair or finding in the first six months and this helped to build a database of fans that were so appreciative of the fact that I did understand and I did care.

Soon the business was everywhere but we knew we had to go the extra mile in order to ensure that we were building customer confidence and loyalty.

VIP nights were always a huge hit, as were regular promotions involving customers; these gave us the opportunity to get to know them better. Having a team that was passionate about service was also a major part of our success. All staff wanted to ensure they exceeded customer expectations.

Our fan base continued to build over the next 11 years and our run-down store went through three shop fittings, including an extension, and grew to comprise most of the major jewellery brands as well as a repair area.

Everything was going swimmingly until 2012 when my landlord presented me with an offer to renew my lease with a 55 per cent increase in rent! Along with a much bigger advertising levy, a CPI increase of six per cent and a 450 per cent rise in outgoings, what was one to do?

I had set about building an online business on the side so, with little hesitation, I decided to give the online store a retail front, which involved moving suburbs, changing name and starting all over again.

The move and change of name resulted in a large shift in our customer base. We left behind a major brand and we knew some of our customers were more loyal to the bead brand rather than us but that was okay. We saw a huge opportunity to focus on fine jewellery customers who perhaps would never have come to us before, either because of location or product mix.

The new store is on a street rather than in a shopping centre so we don’t have the same traffic flow; however, we now know that when customers do come to us, they do so with purpose.

In order to increase the quality of our customers, we have really listened to them; we have let go of brands that were not performing and focused our energy into building the fine jewellery offering. We’re advertising fine jewellery and also offering repairs/remakes.

Resultantly, our sales of fine jewellery have tripled since the move.

Creating and maintaining customer loyalty is hard work and retailers who don’t put in the effort are doomed to fail.

Before saying it’s too hard and throwing in the towel, remember that customer loyalty does exist; it’s just a matter of working out how to be indispensable to your consumers.

Do everything in your power to be that store that stands out.

Name: Catherine Pevy-Trewartha
Business: My Jewellery Shop
Position: Owner
Location: Nobby Beach, Queensland 
Years in the industry: 39

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Wednesday, 26 June, 2019 02:20pm
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