Peter W Beck
Peter W Beck
Peter W Beck
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Soapbox & Opinions

Remodel and recycle to survive and thrive

You know things have changed in the jewellery industry when your profit on a diamond is only 10 per cent, or you keep losing customers to ‘better deals’ on the internet. So, how can small, independent jewellers stay in business?

If it wasn’t for the recycling and remodelling we do in the workshop, I reckon the store would have closed and I wouldn’t be in jewellery any more. These services are what have kept the business growing – offer these to your customers, and you’ll give them a reason to visit your store more often.

I’m 66, and some of my original clients still come in – or their children. The second generation are now coming to see me for engagement and wedding rings. That’s what also helps our business, and the workshop now has four jewellers.

If you just wait for customers to come in and buy things, I don’t think you can survive. You’ve got to build up word-of-mouth referrals.

Most of my customers have inherited diamonds, gold, or things they want to trade in. Some say the jewellery has sentimental value – but what I always say is that it’s not sentimental if it’s just sitting in a drawer or a safe doing nothing!

I call it ‘ugly grandmother stuff’ – nobody wants to wear it.

Recently, two women showed me a necklace they had inherited from their grandmother, and she had worn it to Queen Elizabeth’s inauguration ceremony in 1953. Apart from that, the women believed that it had been worn only once more – then it was put in the safe, and never worn again. What a waste!

Well, now I’m taking it apart and I’m making earrings, a ring and a new necklace for both women to wear.

"I know it sometimes feels like shopping centres have taken over, but remember, customers don’t get the same service in chain stores as they do in a strip shop"

There was another woman who came to my store every five years or so, for 20 years with an inherited piece of jewellery. Each time the customer wanted to have it remodelled, but then she would start crying, go away and put it back in the safe. Eventually, after 20 years, she finally had the piece remodelled. Now she comes in and says how wonderful it is to wear it all the time.

Quite a few clients have come back and said, “It’s amazing, I feel like my mother is with me all the time” – because they’ve made a new ring from the old piece, and now they’re wearing it instead of having it locked in the safe.

So when people are having jewellery remodelled I tell them that their grandmother – or their mother – is buying it for them, because they’ve already paid for part of the gold or the diamonds. So when they wear the remodelled jewellery, it becomes a ‘new heirloom’ – just a modern version.

Then the kids or grandchildren will actually see their mother wearing the grandmother’s jewellery.

Add to your remodelling service by keeping pieces in your store that are half-set, such as a ring without a centre stone to show customers work that is nearly finished. I have lots of rings and pendants ready for this purpose.

Many people come in and show me jewellery they’re thinking of having remodelled, and I’ve had to come up with a design. If I do a drawing they’ll say “yeah, lovely”. But if I have a half-completed piece, and I put their diamond in the middle setting, they look at it straight away and see what it looks like; 90 per cent of the time they say, “Wow, it works really well!”

My last piece of advice is I have to jolt myself to do the same thing as my customers – recycle my own stock.

We keep settings for two, three or even five years, and the truth is sometimes I think they are still beautiful, but then one of my staff will ask: “When was the last time somebody wanted to look at it?”

If nobody has looked at a ring or design for two years, we get rid of it. Then it goes to the workshop, we melt it down, take the diamonds out and start again with new designs.

I know it sometimes feels like shopping centres have taken over, but remember, customers don’t get the same service in chain stores as they do in a strip shop. Small jewellers give customers more time, they get to know them – and that’s what it’s all about. That’s where you build up a following.

Remember, it’s not about what you want – it’s about keeping your customer happy.

Name: Ian Sharp
Business: Ian Sharp Jewellery
Position: Founder/Director
Location: South Yarra, VIC
Years in the industry: 42


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