Small Stores, Big Ideas

June 1998

Managing:Customer Education

Small Stores, Big Ideas

A retail consultant teaches small jewelers to think like the TV shopping networks

As more consumers buy groceries and automobiles through electronic sources, they're becoming less attached to the "touch-and-feel" way of making purchases. Convenience takes a prominence once enjoyed by firsthand experience: customers can browse with no pressure and spend money to pass sleepless nights.

Jewelry's not immune to the new fearlessness. "The idea that we're jewelers and customers are automatically going to come to us is passť," says Jeff Taraschi, president of retail consultant International Business Partners, Boxford, MA. "We need to communicate to women how jewelry accommodates their lifestyles."

Taraschi discussed the popularity of electronic retailing at a seminar this spring during the American Gem Trade Association GemFair in Tucson, AZ.

A former employee of QVC, the giant TV and Internet shopping network, Taraschi analyzed how the company achieved $2 billion in jewelry sales in fewer than 15 years in business.

Electronic-based companies like QVC have spent millions of dollars to train their staffs and build creative, educational programming, Taraschi says. Smaller jewelers can't possibly reach the same scope of people, but Taraschi suggests ways they can improve on the electronic retailers' strategies with the added bonus of personal service.

Romance and Education
Consumers spend an average of 50 hours "absorbing education" before they make a purchase, QVC has found. The network thoroughly trains its hosts and sends them to trade shows and producing areas to learn about gemstones, for example, then incorporates education into its on-air sales presentations. Show producers also understand the impact of using mythology and lore to romance gemstones.

Jeweler's tip: Combine romance and education to entertain and intrigue customers. Talk about where the gemstones originate and how they move from the mine to the market. Show pieces of rough next to beautifully cut stones and explain the painstaking cutting process.

Lifestyle Marketing
Jewelry has become just as fashionable as it is sentimental, and QVC caters to that by showcasing jewelry that looks good with current styles. On the network's new jewelry Web site ( an automated "style adviser" calculates facial structure, favorite colors and body type to suggest the optimal shapes and styles for each customer.

Jeweler's tip: Teach women how to accessorize. Stay aware of fashion and keep magazines such as Elle, Vogue and In Style in the store to link jewelry and gemstones with apparel. Consider hiring a fashion consultant or subscribing to a fashion newsletter to train your staff to become fashion-conscious. Keep color boards in your store to show color trends for the next two seasons.

Individual gemstones
Because they have 24 hours in a day, networks can dedicate several hours to a single product category. Consumers who watch feel knowledgeable when they finally turn off the TV.

Jeweler's tip: Set aside a case for a different gemstone each month and stock it with many varieties. One month, offer a complete range of sapphire colors; another month combine lots of pearl colors and types. Print brochures about the gems or hold lectures or receptions to pay tribute to each category.

If a person wakes at 3 a.m. from a dream about the diamond solitaire necklace she saw that day, she's not necessarily going to wait until morning to buy. "People want to shop 24 hours a day, seven days a week," says Taraschi.

Jeweler's tip: Create a CD-ROM with a store catalog and educational information to give to customers. Your obvious advantage is that customers can walk away with the jewelry the next day instead of waiting for a shipment, and they can feel and see the quality when they come to pick up the piece.

by Stacey King

Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


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