12132017Wed
Last updateTue, 12 Dec 2017 7pm

Chuck Koehler

The Retailer’s Perspective: I hate it when that happens...

As I’m struggling with this whole Internet thing, I asked my readers for input on my websites and what I’m doing wrong in regards to them.  Well, apparently I’m doing everything wrong!  But, I’m bound and determined to get this thing right which is why I asked for input. 

I’m adamant that 100% of the websites be built in-house so as to retain control of how long it takes content to be posted on or deleted from my websites.  I don’t want to wait 5 days for my computer geek dude to get around to calling me back only to tell me it’s going to be three weeks before he can even think about my problem.  I’m a fix-it guy and I want to fix it or update it on MY schedule, not his.  So below are excerpts and comments that I received about what I’m doing wrong… and what you’re probably doing wrong as well!  Reader feedback and comments are in italics and edited for publishing reasons, but I think you’ll get the point.

So Chuck, why do you even have a website? In other words, what is its purpose?

You have a successful brick and mortar store and need one so you’re not left behind by everyone else (not a very good reason), or I wanted one for when someone “Googles” my store’s name (slightly better reason) or I wanted a website to be an extension of my store’s operation, perhaps to make some sales and enhance my business (much better reason) or I wanted to become a real player in the e-commerce, niche market space where I want to operate (the best reason). 

For the record, I need a little bit of all of the above, but it’s the last one that I’m really interested in!

Informational websites abound all over the Internet!  We’ve all seen them and been disappointed. We went to a company’s website and found it was nothing of real substance aside from the usual who, what, when, where and why of the company.  It had some founding history, mission statement, contact information, Google map directions and store hours. It was flashy, slick and using the latest trends in websites such as rotating images, splash screens, embedded videos and all the bells & whistles you could imagine. Very creative!

Unfortunately we have to contact them during business hours to be able to ask any questions, inquire about products or conduct any business.  Oh well, time to move on to a competitor most likely. If an informational website is what you have, that’s pretty much the response you’re likely to get from most customers that come to your website outside of your normal business hours looking for solutions to problems, answers to questions, or products and services to buy.

There are many good, free webhost providers out there. You mentioned Weebly.com as the one you used to develop and host your site. They do seem to have all the necessary components to develop an attractive informational website with a number of professional templates to choose from, with one glaring exception…an e-commerce solution!! Now we’re talking a full shopping cart system and not just some PayPal ‘Buy Now’ buttons.

Oops, this is where I goofed because my entire umbrella of websites are built on the Weebly platform.  I really like Weebly, but if it doesn’t do e-commerce, then I’m starting over.  I want to do e-commerce and I guess I didn’t really understand the full blown shopping cart system when I started.  I hate it when that happens!

E-commerce websites abound all over the Internet, too!!  If you’re serious about making money from a website and not just spending money on a website, then an e-commerce solution is what you need.

Unfortunately, not all e-commerce websites are equal. The most successful one’s (Amazon.com, eBay, Overstock.com, etc.) all spend a great deal of time, money and resources to create the near perfect online shopping. Well, you might never get to be another Amazon.com but you are in the same cyberspace as they are, so why not? We can all probably remember when they didn’t even exist! Everyone has to start out from the bottom and work their way up. The two most important virtues in the e-commerce cyberspace universe are patience and perseverance.

Realistically, most e-commerce websites are not successful because of many factors. Most suffer from little or low traffic flow. Generally, this is because of poor organic search engine listing and/or no pay-per-click advertising. It takes a combination of both of these to be successful in cyberspace.

A reader asked me who was bigger, my company or Amazon.com?  Of course I said Amazon.  Then they pointed out that on a computer screen we’re the exact same size.  So I’ve as good a shot at making a sale as they do in cyberspace.  And ‘pay-per-click’ came up over and over and over again.  I don’t really understand it yet, but give me a month or so and I’m gonna be pay-per-clicking with the best of them.

You don’t have to be Amazon.com to be successful. Success can be measured in many different ways (review your purpose for having a website again), but an e-commerce website is successful when it fulfills the purpose for its existence which generally means it offers customers products and/or services they want or need with a variety of payment and shipping options from which to choose so you can accept sales online and make money. A well designed and effective e-commerce website should function with little customer/company interaction which means you have to anticipate your customers questions and/or concerns and address them with large, clear images, detailed descriptions of products or services and customer service information (such as contact, warranty and return info, etc.).

Remember, an e-commerce website is 24/7. Unlike your brick & mortar store where you can turn out the lights, lock-up and go home at the end of the day, an e-commerce website never closes so it must project whatever image and deliver whatever experience you want customers to have. Since an e-commerce website is always open it better be rock solid and bullet proof!

Well, I’ve come to the conclusion that I need a mixed bag of websites.  I’ve got a couple that are nothing more than ‘I’m right here… call me’.  But I have two different companies that I set up to be fully online entities.  So, I’m not starting completely from scratch, but I am stepping back and punting on two websites and switching to a different hosting platform that’s designed to be a full blown e-commerce site.

I got into this business decades before the Internet was even thought of, and it’s just something that doesn’t come naturally to me.  I can use the Internet with the best of them, but running an Internet store is a whole nuther animal.  Oh, and have I ever mentioned how much I hate learning new things? 

Oh well, wish me luck and I’ll keep you posted as I struggle to get a handle on this thing that didn’t exist when I got into this business, but I’m gonna kick it’s butt before it kicks mine.

Chuck is the owner of Anthony Jewelers in Nashville, TN. Chuck also owns CMK Co., a wholesale trade shop that specializes in custom jewelry and repair services to the jewelry industry nationwide.

If you would like to contact Chuck or need a speaker or instructor for your next conference/event he can be reached at 615-354-6361, www.CMKcompany.com or send e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

The Retailer’s Perspective - You were warned!

I know a lot of business owners will disagree with me, but I don’t want everyone that walks through my front door or calls me on the phone to be my customer.  And, I don’t agree with that age old saying, “The customer is always right.”  I’ve been doing this jewelry thing for 35 years. I’d like to think I know a little more about it than my customers and I’m always right.  But, what do you do about the troublemakers?

The Retailer’s Perspective: The other side of the Internet

Last January I made the decision that 2012 was gonna be the year that I got on the internet bandwagon and stayed there.  Well, I got on the bandwagon, and I stayed there, but was it worth it?  Yes.  But, it’s still a tangled web to unweave.

In this day and age, the internet is just a necessary evil that all business owners have to live with on a day to day basis - whether we want to or not.  Over the course of the last year, I’ve become quite the website snob.  I see so many companies with websites that are horrible.  Either the writing is bad, the photos are crap, or they are so hard to navigate that I just move on to a competitor, swearing I’ll never let my websites get like that.

The Retailer’s Perspective: So, that was Christmas

Last month I wrote about some of the craziness that was going to be brought into your store over the Christmas season - and I wasn’t talking about the good kind of craziness.  But, because of publishing deadlines, that column was simply a prediction based on the number of Christmas’s that I’ve been in this industry.  And, judging from the number of calls and e-mails I’ve received, I was spot on.  Well, that got me to thinking about all of the craziness that’s going to be coming your way after Christmas, because I’ve been through a few of those as well.  I think it’s going to go something like this…

The Retailer’s Perspective: It’s the Crazy... I mean the Christmas Season

Well, well, well, here we are once again at the most important time of the year for the jewelry industry.  That time of the year that brings out the best of the crazy in people.  That time of the year when normal people decide to show their craziness right out in the open... usually in my store.  Since this will be my 35th Christmas season as a jeweler, I’ve seen some of the funniest, craziest, and stupidest things you can imagine.  But, it seems, every year the following happens...

The Retailer’s Perspective: Let’s talk Shoppes

Okay, just one more column about trade shops and I’ll return to my normal, hard hitting journalistic self.

Trade shops are a funny animal and nothing like a jewelry store.  A jewelry store is a clean, well lit, well organized, shiny, sparkly space where everyone dresses nice and smiles a lot.  A trade shop on the other hand is a well-lit, dirty, unorganized, cluttered, cramped space where people wear grungy clothes and cuss with impunity.  Plus, trade shops are a very stressful place to work.  

The Retailer’s Perspective: Be kind to your jeweler in December

I recently spoke at the SJTA Show in Atlanta about dealing with trade shops in the jewelry business.  Afterwards, I had several people ask me to write about the topic in my column.  So, here we go...

This will be my 34th Christmas season to work in the jewelry industry, my 29th to work as a bench jeweler, and my 19th Christmas to own a retail jewelry store.  I’ve seen a few things in my career and here’s my take on dealing with your shop during December which you need to implement now.

During the Christmas season, I hear the same things from store owners and managers about the problems they are having with their jeweler or their trade shop.  Store owners and managers think they’re going through this alone.... but you’re not.  Lots of your peers are thinking about the same thing - you’re thinking about firing your jeweler and/or your trade shop after Christmas.  

Being as I’ve been through 29 of them as a bench jeweler/trade shop, I’ve had plenty of people want to fire me (and some did) in January.  And you want to know something?  The problem occurred in the showroom, not in the shop. 

The cause of most problems between the showroom and the shop in December is too much work!  Sounds simple doesn’t it?  Since its December, it’s supposed to be busy.  That’s what makes this whole jewelry store merry-go-round function.  But that’s the reality in the showroom.  That’s not the reality in the shop. 

What I see happen over and over is the sales staff taking in non-Christmas related repair work and promising it like it’s a hot and sunny afternoon on the 17th of August.  Here’s a visual for you: 

Place your hands in front of you on a table about 18 inches apart, like you’re showing someone how big the fish that got away was.  That represents the number of days between a job coming in and a job being delivered back to your customer.  Imagine that your left hand is on Monday and your right hand is on Monday one week in the future.  When you take in jobs today (your left hand) they will be ready for pick up in one week (your right hand).  Now, pick up both hands and move them to the right about an inch or so and that’s Tuesday.  Things coming in this Tuesday will be ready next Tuesday.  Move them one inch to the right again and that’s Wednesday.  The same applies for Thursday and so on.  But, since this is December, things have to operate differently.  During the month of December, your right hand is going to stop moving because that’s Christmas Eve and everything is promised around that day.  Your left hand is still moving because the work is still coming in in droves, AND, you’re still promising it like this is the second week of June.  So when your jeweler can’t keep up and misses a deadline, and you lose a sale, you get mad and want to fire him or her.  Sound familiar?

On January 2nd, your hands will move 18” apart again and the whole normal cycle of life will begin again. But now, you want to fire your shop that cost you a huge sale because they weren’t good enough or fast enough to do the work.  OR, maybe you screwed up and bogged your shop down with a bunch of work that you shouldn’t have promised would be ready before Christmas. 

So who’s really at fault here?  Is it possible that you sold your most valuable asset (available bench time in December) for pennies on the dollar when you could have sold it for thousands?  Believe me, I’ve been there, done that, and got the t-shirts - both hero and zero - and now I’ve got a much better plan.  

During December, your customer count coming through your front door is off the chart.  Since customers are coming to see you anyway, why not drop off those 5-6 things they’ve been meaning to drop off since August, but never seemed to find the time.  As an owner, manager, or sales associate, you want to provide fabulous customer service and you gladly take in all of the repairs (even though there are two customers standing at the diamond counter acting impatient while you’re taking in the repairs). 

Now don’t forget that each repair has a story that you’re going to have to suffer through and that takes time too.  Unfortunately, the man at the diamond counter didn’t have time because he just left.  But, those repairs that you just spent fifteen minutes taking in and promising for next week, will eat up about 4 hours of shop time.  You just sold 4 hours of your most valuable asset, ‘December shop time’ on something that someone has been carrying around in their purse for 4 or 5 months.  Why did you do that?

Okay, everything is written up, you’ve suffered through the stories, and you finally break away to help the other customer who is still there and wants to buy something expensive for his wife... Yeah, that’s the spirit of the season.  But, there’s a problem.  This customer has selected a ring with a 2 carat center diamond that he thinks it’s too small.  He asks if it’s possible to put a 3 carat diamond in its place.  You tell him you’ll have to check with your jeweler to see if it’s possible (knowing full well it’s possible because it’s a huge sale $$$$ and your jeweler will just have to make the 3 carat fit) and you’ll call him as soon as you hear back from your jeweler. 

Well, guess what?  It’s not possible for a very simple reason; your jeweler is bogged down with at least 40 non-Christmas repairs that you took in last week and promised for today that need to be finished before he or she can even think about looking at the situation with your new sale. 

Yes, those 40 repairs are important to the big picture, but that 3 carat diamond sale is way more important to the here and now - Christmas!  So now what are you going to do?  Are you going to call 40 customers and tell them that their repairs will not be ready till tomorrow?  NO.  You’ve got a showroom full of people wanting to buy right now.  You don’t have time to call 40 repair customers.  And remember, you’ve already sold out tomorrow’s shop time with another bunch of non-Christmas repairs so those 40 customers can’t get their items tomorrow either.  Or the next day, or the next, or the next.  And what about that next big sale that needs to be sized or set to close the deal?  It can’t happen because you’ve already sold out all of your shop time on the wrong thing.  So, how are we going to fix this?

First off, remember that ‘34 Christmases’ thing I mentioned earlier?  When I say this, I speak from experience:

Any non-Christmas repair that you take in and promise to deliver in the month of December won’t be picked up until January.

Who has the time to go back during the holidays?  Who has time to fight the traffic and fight the crowds?  There’s still more shopping to do... gifts to wrap... parties to attend... cookies to bake (send some to me too!)... travel... guests... the list goes on. 

For at least 15 years now, I’ve had a strict Christmas season policy that I will not do any non-Christmas related work between Thanksgiving and January 1st.  Even though I may lie and say, “If I get some time I’ll try to knock it out,” I won’t.  I’d rather be fresh, clear headed, non-stressed, happy, relaxed, and well rested during December because I know you’re going to come to me and ask:  “Chuck, can you pull this 2 carat diamond and set a 3 carat that I just sold?”  And you know what I’m going to say? 

“Sure.  I’ve got time.  I’m not too busy.  I hope it‘s a big sale for you!”

Just because a customer dropped something off in December because they were going to be in your store anyway, doesn’t mean you have to promise a one week turn around like you normally do the other 11 months of the year. 

Yes, I’ve butted heads with store owners about forcing them to deviate from their normal policy, but I’ve also never dropped a big job during December because I was too busy with the wrong thing.  And seriously, do you really want a bench jeweler operating on 4 hours sleep to set a $20,000 diamond in a complicated setting?

Also, consider this.  What is guaranteed other than death and taxes?  Give up?  It’s a guarantee that we’re all going to have an after Christmas sale in January.  What better way to get customers in after Christmas than to call them and tell them their repairs are ready to be picked up? 

Yes, I’m aware that this isn’t how a lot of people do it, but I promise you it works.  A well-rested bench jeweler, with available time, is the most important asset you can own during the month of December.  And only you, the front of the house peeps, can make that happen.  Try it, it works.  I hope everyone has a great holiday selling season!

Chuck is the owner of Anthony Jewelers in Nashville, TN. Chuck also owns CMK Co., a wholesale trade shop that specializes in custom jewelry and repair services to the jewelry industry nationwide.  If you would like to contact Chuck or need a speaker or instructor for your next conference/event he can be reached at 615-354-6361, www.CMKcompany.com or send e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

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