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No time for stick-in-the-muds

I made a big decision in late August while attending the Sydney jewellery fair. You see, our store sells more men’s watches than women’s watches but the issue is that we definitely have more women entering the store than men. Why does this part of the business fall behind and what are we doing about it?

In an attempt to build that part of the business, I took the opportunity at the trade show to take on a women’s fashion watch range. The brand only produces women’s watches and is a completely different product to what we would have considered stocking just a few years ago.

You may be thinking, “Yeah OK Graeme, you took a chance on a new range. So what?”

To provide some context, I have been a watchmaker for 39 years; my business partner is a watchmaker and the original storeowner was a watchmaker – we’ve had an in-house watchmaker since 1968!

These fashion watches differ from those with which we are accustomed but this is not necessarily a bad thing. Fashion is always changing and it’s not about what we want but what the consumer wants.

A lot of successful retail jewellers don’t have a background in jewellery or watchmaking. They run a business without having any sentimentality about a ring or watch; it’s just stock to them. They embrace change and check stock departments for performance.

"With technology and fashion, our industry is changing quickly so our brands and ranges must also change."

Will this new women’s range work? Who knows? But you’ve got to give it a go. Our business motto is “Never say never,” which brings me to my main point – we all have to be open to new ideas because our industry has changed dramatically and those who don’t change will have a hard time surviving.

In the past 10 years, there’s probably been more change in our trade compared with the entire 50 years before. The biggest thing to have occurred approximately 50 years ago was moving from mechanical to quartz watches. I remember being an apprentice and my employer refused to put Japanese quartz watches in the store – we didn’t even take them in for repair!

I was in my third year as an apprentice so, in my lunch hour, I would spend time with the Adelaide watchmaker Jeff Brown who embraced this new technology and who sold and repaired quartz watches.

It’s not just the watch sector that has undergone a dramatic transformation. Take men’s jewellery. A few years back the only men’s jewellery we had in the store was watches, rings, chains and maybe some cuff links. A woman would come in looking for something for her husband and you would ask whether he had a watch to which she would respond, “Yes”.

Has he got a bracelet? “He won’t wear a bracelet,” she would say. What about a necklace? “Yes, he has one.”

Without fail, that woman would end up going down the road to another store like the grog shop.

Five or so years ago we realised men were becoming more accepting of wearing jewellery so we decided to try a stainless steel men’s range. It’s something that we would never have considered previously but we now have an extra range that sells.

In the past many jewellers were reluctant to change or slow to adjust and were missing out on opportunities as a result. You don’t have to go back too far to find jewellers who wouldn’t sell silver-filled jewellery, wouldn’t sell synthetic gemstones, wouldn’t dare stock stainless steel, wouldn’t dream of using social media and would refuse to use CAD for manufacturing. With technology and fashion, our industry is changing quickly so our brands and ranges must also change.

Retail is tough and we’re never going to get anywhere unless we experiment. So what other changes are we contemplating in our business? Newsletters, more promotions, smartwatches and better use of Facebook, just to name few. We are looking at our reports to find our next department that needs refreshing or replacing.

Again, we never say never.

Our business decisions may not be particularly ground-breaking but my hope is that it encourages fellow jewellers to embrace change and take even the smallest chance in something new. It might not pay off but you’ll never know if you don’t give it a go. Time is ticking … and I’m not just saying that because I’m a watchmaker.

NameGraeme Eckert
BusinessAllen Jewellers
Position: Co-owner
LocationAdelaide, South Australia
Years in the industry39

Nationwide Jewellers

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