24 Karat Corner: Publish or perish?

Joe is a third generation retail jewelry store owner.  His son Mark runs the shop, his wife the books.  After school, or during the weekends and summer, there is always a niece or nephew behind the counter.  This is a family that has it figured out and its consistent formula has paid off for decades.

So, what could be possibly be causing such an uproar in Joe’s office as his wife led me back there?  And, shouldn’t I wait in the showroom until the meeting was over?  “No.” I was told. “The sooner I get you in there, the sooner that meeting will be over, and you can get Joe and Mark out of here!”

On the walk over to lunch I asked the question that seemed to be hanging out there: “These guys weren’t lawyers, were they?”

“No, no, not at all,” Joe laughed. “They publish our Christmas catalog. After 50 years of doing our store’s annual book, Mark wants to discontinue it! I obviously feel otherwise.”

“Let’s order lunch!” I said, finding the only common ground we could all agree upon. “I’ll get my referee’s whistle and maybe we can sort this out over some burgers.”

Mark couldn’t wait. “You can’t imagine how much this catalogue costs to produce each year. The postage alone is ridiculous!” he began.  “And, its a relic! For just pennies, everything that is available in the catalog we can send straight to your smartphone. Plus, we have to start laying it out now for publication in November, so we can’t put prices in it since we don’t know what the price of gold will be six months from now.”

The waitress came to take our order and Mark caught his breath.  “My son is right about everything he said,” Joe offered. “And, that’s what makes this decision so difficult! Our catalog is like another store window inviting the customer in to shop. They look through the catalog, mark the pieces they’d like to buy or receive, and head down to the store to shop. And, as the guy from the catalog company said, almost 12 billion catalogs are mailed to consumers each year, and from companies much larger and with better research than us, so they must be worthwhile.”

The burgers came and the heated conversation continued. I only had to reach for my ref’s whistle once. By the time I walked Joe and Mark back to the store, still no decision had been reached. And, I could only offer one small piece of advice: “How about the two of you take a marketing course together this summer? It may be too late for this year’s catalog decision, but it might be fun, and it might just help you understand how to analyze the four P’s of marketing (product, place, price and promotion). You’ll gain the tools to make an informed decision that you might both be happy with.”

The 24 Karat Club offers a variety of scholarships each year, and while most of the recipients use them to sharpen their jewelry or technical skills, there’s no reason why you couldn’t use one to improve your business skills! If you, or someone you know, could use a little help with their management, marketing or accounting expertise, The 24 Karat Club may offer the money to help. Scholarship applicants must be nominated by a 24 Karat Club member, and the applications are on our website. Feel free to ask your favorite 24 Karat Club member for more information.

I still don’t know what Joe and Mark decided to do about their annual holiday catalog. But I do smile thinking that they may get to do a project or two together next summer in Marketing 101.

Howard Kelrick is President of Finger Mate and a  board member of The 24 Karat Club, SEUS.  Finger Mate manufactures and installs expandable ring shanks and sells to retail jewelers throughout North America. Contact Howard at 954-458-2700 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..