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Soapbox & Opinions

Tale of cabbages, bread and jewellery

Would you like to know what cabbage, fruit, bread and flowers have in common with jewellery? Nothing!

We’re so fortunate in this industry that the products we sell are not like vegetables, a loaf of bread or the latest piece of clothing where the item goes off or becomes last season if it doesn’t sell within the first six weeks. We’re in the business of precious metals and gemstones, great electronics and timekeeping, so why are so many jewellers selling themselves cheap to get rid of ‘old’ stock?

One can blame outside sources for this ludicrous mentality but the reality is that this mindset is mostly the result of an inside job. Too many jewellers are lazy as hell and the industry is falling over because of it. 

Buying groups definitely play their role in supporting the industry – they offer great networking opportunities and promotional ideas to name a few – but retailers shouldn’t forget to think for themselves.

If you want to do the same thing and carry the same stock as every other jeweller in a buying group then you may as well be a chain store. As an independent retailer, you’ve got to find your niche and what works for you that is different to the competition.

Additionally, forgetting to think for yourself and consequently stocking your store full to the brim of product from international brands that dictate range, price and profit margin is retail suicide.

There’s no point in following competition down any route, particularly price wars.

"As an independent retailer, you’ve got to find your niche and what works for you that is different to the competition."

I’m my own person, I know my industry and I’m forever trying to find product that is unique and will fit in with my store. My selections are also not necessarily based on how much money I will make; however, I am determined to not sell it cheap and this philosophy has served me well.

I have operated my business since 2002 and in that time have never held a sale.

If a customer wants to buy something and they think it’s cheaper down the road, well good luck to that retailer. They may have made a sale but they didn’t make a profit like I will eventually. It’s not selling quick enough, you say? Well I won’t buy that product again. 

We should all go to work to make money, not give it away. The running cost of any business does not go down – your staff don’t say they’re going to work for half of their wage, your landlord doesn’t plan to reduce your rent by half, so why give away half your profit? My father used to say to me that profit is not a dirty word and I stand by that sentiment.

You buy ‘mistakes’ at the supplier’s price, so why sell them for no profit? I’ve had my share of mistakes in the past and it’s best to put them down to a learning experience and obviously don’t replenish them.

I’m sick of perceived industry ‘experts’ – some of whom I must say come from their own pretty ordinary retail backgrounds – filling our heads with their beliefs. I don’t think jewellers should put the price up just to bring it down. You purchase product – or at least should purchase product – because you believe in its value. Should that item not sell then why not negotiate with the supplier?

I don’t view the fact that my business has old stock in a negative light either. In fact, I receive more enjoyment out of selling an old piece at full profit than I do a new piece that we’ve had for five minutes.

Of course old stock will look dated if you leave it out on the floor gathering dust so it’s important to constantly move it around and keep it in pristine condition with fresh pricing.

As an industry, we need to get off our backsides, work hard and appreciate the opportunities we have been given. We’re so lucky to be working with jewellery – I wouldn’t want to be in the rag trade and I wouldn’t want to be operating an independent fruit and vegetable store competing with the likes of Coles.

Some may say that times are difficult but people don’t stop falling in love, they don’t stop getting married and they don’t stop having anniversaries. People ask me all the time whether business is tough and I respond by asking them if they have stopped having birthdays. Jewellers cater for life in good times and in bad because those passionate parts of life never go out of fashion.

Our industry is set up to make lots of money; we’re so bloody lucky and there’s no need to sell ourselves cheap. I come back to the words of my father: profit is not a dirty word.

Name: Brent Weatherall
BusinessBrent Weatherall Jeweller
Position: Director
Location: Dunedin, New Zealand
Years in the industry: 37 

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