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Fight back this Christmas 

The festive season is approaching and while jewellers may be tempted to lower prices to combat against those evil online competitors, I say, “Stop right there!”

Most of us are familiar that one of the main reasons online shopping has taken off is price. The middleman is cut out of the delivery chain, leading to a reduction in the cost and thus the final price of the product... or so we are led to believe.

The answer for combatting online sales and attracting consumers into stores is not discounting. Trust me, I’ve been a watchmaker for the past 18 years and we all know the watch market has been dealing with online competitors for a very long time.

I’ve also learned a thing or two working behind the counter talking to end-consumers, sales agents, suppliers and everyone in between.

Firstly, a retailer’s reputation is reflected not only by their products but also by the discounts they give. One would think this would be rather obvious so why are so many businesses running sales into sales and discounts upon discounts, offering as much as 40 to 80 per cent off RRP prices?

This not only makes product look cheap but it does not guarantee a sale – any thrifty consumer knows that they’ll get even more off if they wait until that Valentine’s Day or New Year sale, which is what consumers see as the ‘real’ price anyway.

Do you remember the old trading days?

Back then, a quality retail outlet would reward customers purchasing items on the day of sale – the more expensive the item,the bigger the reward. The idea was that those buying exclusive pieces weren’t offered discounts but given a ‘bonus’ with their purchases instead.

"The answer for combatting online sales and attracting consumers into stores is not discounting."

Discounts would be provided on a personal basis to select customers and sales would only be undertaken on special holidays, generally, once to a maximum of twice per year. These sales would promote exclusivity in the brand and store selling the item as opposed to acting as the primary strategy
for attracting customers.

In a desperate attempt to increase sales, online retailers have now discounted some watch brands and, increasingly, jewellery product so heavily that they are now ‘buy anytime’ items instead of ‘save up’ items.

In a somewhat ironic twist, however, the timepiece market is seeing a shift where online strategies are being developed to support offline strategies.

Some local suppliers have joined forces with overseas companies to offer the same RRP in store as on the internet. Swiss brand Atlantic, for example, has models that are only available from bricks-and-mortar stores. Others, such as Akteo, have removed all prices from their websites, pushing customers into retail stores where they can touch and feel the product. There are also brands that have married the two strategies.

The best businesses take this one step further by not selling online or providing prices – consumers can look at a product and see the specifications but must fill in the necessary details under an ‘enquire now’ section to view the price.

This serves as a two-prong strategy: firstly, it helps the business collect market data, such as customer location and contact information, what customers are viewing and which options interest them – all essential for future marketing purposes; secondly, it forces the consumer to visit the store to view the product or at least contact the store. Under this model, it’s a clear indication that price is becoming less of a selling point.

In another positive movement, consumers are increasingly weary of purchasing online because they can’t obtain the same warranties typically offered by service centres for watch products bought overseas. Also, customs cracking down and adding charges to purchases further dissuades would-be internet shoppers.

Every jeweller can do their part to encourage customers to purchase local, supporting Australian families and businesses. It’s time to bring back old-fashioned customer service where the customer is treated like a member of the family in a store and not just another number. I, for one, will return to any business where I am looked after with respect, regardless of the price, and I believe most consumers have the same sentiment.

It sounds like a cliché but together we can make a difference and there’s no better time than the silly season to begin this change.

Name: Krzysztof Jakubaszek
Business: AJ Watch Repairs
Position: National brand manager and watch maker
Location: Canberra, ACT
Years in the industry: 20

Sunday, 21 April, 2019 06:05pm
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