Remember when that phrase used to mean something?
It would often come on after a television ad for a high end watch or other fine piece of jewelry. It would also be printed at the bottom of glossy magazine ads for top name brand items.
It meant that the piece being shown was of such high quality and value, that’s its sale could only be entrusted to a top-line, reputable jewelry store. It was your assurance of quality and authenticity, backed by not only the manufacturer, but the retail jeweler as well.
You don’t see this tag line on ads very often anymore, and that’s a shame. The reason, of course, is that a large number of manufacturers are selling directly to consumers on their websites, and that’s a big problem for retailers.
Last week I got a distraught phone call from a retail jewelry friend of mine. “I am so frustrated I don’t know what to do,” she began without any pleasantries. “I sold a designer necklace to a customer, and she liked it so much, that when she got home, she googled the designer to learn a little more about her, and to see what other pieces from her line might interest her. And guess what? She calls to tell me that the necklace she just bought from me is for sale on the designer’s site for $300 less than she paid me! I tell her it can’t be, but let me check it out, and I’ll call you back”.
I thought this would be a good time to interject some calm and wisdom, but my friend went on without catching a breath.
“So, sure enough, I check the website, and the exact piece is available for purchase AT THE SAME PRICE I WAS CHARGED! (Yes, she was shouting). I called my customer, apologized that we had the ticket mis-marked, and I put a $300 credit on her charge card. I am furious!”
“Horrible story for sure,” I said. “But why are you telling me?” I asked.
“I know you are friendly with this designer,” was the reply I didn’t want to hear. “Can you call and find out what is going on?”
So, I made the awkward call and I was told (rather unconvincingly) that the pieces on the website are not the same weight and quality as what is sold to the trade. And, besides, business isn’t so great lately, so we will take any sales we can, wherever we can get them.
I relayed this information to my friend who said, “It doesn’t matter. I’m scrapping out the line and checking the websites of all of my suppliers to see who else is competing with me!”
Part of the implied contract between vendors and retailers is that the manufacturers supply the national advertising to support the brand and send consumer inquiries directly to their retail partners. Those suppliers that break this covenant deserve to lose their retail distribution network, and rightfully so. It’s hard to understand how making a few on-line “direct to consumer” sales can enhance a manufacturer’s brand as much as saying their product is available only at fine retail jewelry stores. What better endorsement can there be?
Smart retail jewelers know who their competition is and do the necessary things to stand apart. And business is tough enough that they shouldn’t have to compete with their suppliers as well!
Successful retailers offer their customers their expertise, their guarantee of authenticity, and their desire to stand behind the products they sell. They add real value to the entire retail experience.
The members of The 24 Karat Club are committed to supporting the retail jewelry industry. We welcome your thoughts and comments on this issue.