Professional Jeweler Archive: Fortune Telling

September 2000

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Fortune Telling

Jewelers of the future may not even sell jewelry. There are other trends a futurist says you should watch for

Because of the mind-boggling amounts of information and merchandise available, Edie Weiner of Weiner, Edrich, Brown Inc., New York City, predicts some jewelers may become full-time editors and consultants for jewelry purchases rather than purveyors of goods. Other jewelers may specialize in financing the leasing of jewelry, as more customers see wisdom in renting over buying.

These are just a few of the predictions Weiner shared during a seminar at the recent JCK Show in Las Vegas. She suggests jewelers look for trends and countertrends that will shape the way they do business in the future. Some to watch for:

Privacy

Everyone’s talking about privacy, especially as use of the World Wide Web makes it easier to collect personal information. Consumers will likely pay a higher price to keep purchase histories from the prying eyes of marketers. Privacy also extends to intrusiveness. “Seven years ago, if you had a cell phone and received a call, people thought you were important,” says Weiner. “Seven years from now, when you go on vacation and leave the cell phone behind, people will marvel at how important you must be.”

Jewelers’ Application: Interrupting customers by phone, even infrequently, may become gauche and untenable. Finding less intrusive ways to reach them – such as a polite e-mail or even a hand-written note that is more genteel and personal – may be the only effective means to remind customers who and where you are. Guaranteeing you won’t give their names to any marketer will add to your cachet as a private jeweler.

Young at Heart

It’s no secret the Baby Boom is fighting its long-in-the-tooth years kicking and screaming. Continuing to “stay a kid” will be a hallmark of this significantly large generation, she says. The boom in outdoor outfitting for women over 45, the huge sales of children’s books such as the Harry Potter series to adult readers and the adult popularity of movies such as Chicken Run will continue.

Jewelers’ Application: Market to this prime audience with appeals to its need to stay within reach of Woodstock. Liken jewelry to the latest toy, stress the playful aspects of wearing hoops, turquoise or other iconic symbols of the hippie generation. Reassure customers a second bar mitzvah, confirmation or wedding is OK and should be celebrated with a treasure such as jewelry.

Facing Facts

The countertrend to the frenzy of staying young is the rueful admission among Boomers that they must accept their ages. “From glasses to elastic waists, aging does change the way we use goods and services,” says Weiner.

Jewelers’ Application: Make sure your written communications – mail, online or in-store – are easy to read. Small type, white type against complicated backgrounds or white type on dark backgrounds can cause 50-year-olds to pass by your message. Earrings should be comfortable and have simple attachments. On-the-ear styles help hide a stretched-out ear hole. Clasps on all jewelry should be easy to open and close. Arthritis happens, even to Boomer icon Mick Jagger.

Transitions

Permanence in any area of customers’ lives is unexpected. Asked where they work, whether they are married or how many kids they have, people answer, “Well, currently ...” instead of being embarrassed about how often that answer changes. It’s important to celebrate “transitioning” as the norm, Weiner says.

Jewelers’ Application: More life events mean more potential to sell jewelry. Promotions aimed at celebrating a new job or marriage or buying gifts for stepchildren may be very effective.

Impulse Rules

Easy credit makes ambivalence about big purchases rampant. “One day a piece of jewelry may seem way too expensive, the next day a consumer could say ‘I deserve it’ or ‘I’m not worried about the future,’” says Weiner. Because of this, “just-in-time” marketing will create future sales. “In an information era, attention is the monetary unit,” she says. “If you get someone to pay attention to what you’re selling, be ready when they’re ready to buy.”

Jewelers’ Application: Make sure you tout your Web site’s ability to serve customers’ midnight whims. Consider a pager so forgetful spouses can reach you for last-minute anniversary gifts. The pager will allow the impulse buyer to reach you too. Of course, if you’re important enough to have some privacy, let your Web site do the selling.

The New Generation

Generation Y, the Echo Boomers 21 and under, will be the next big market segment to target, says Weiner. It’s larger than the Baby Boom, which will create opportunities and problems. It’ll be harder for these kids to get into good colleges or get good jobs (sound familiar, Baby Boomers?). But this generation will be plied with credit cards and may be so far in debt their spending will slow.

Jewelers’ Application: While teens, Gen Y is already spending a great deal of money. Have at least some lines in lower price ranges for these jewelry-conscious buyers. Unlike the era in which Gen X came of age, it’s au courant to wear jewelry today. Even if debt slows them later, Gen Y will develop jewelry-buying habits that profit your business.

Women Still Roaring

This may sound obvious, but women’s economic clout continues to increase. In the U.S., 52% of all households feature a woman as primary breadwinner. It’s not all lower-income women either. In three out of four households where women are at the executive level, they are the primary breadwinners, says Weiner. This means more women buy luxuries for themselves rather than wait for a man to do so.

Jewelers’ Application: Continue to market heavily to women buying jewelry for themselves. Make them feel comfortable doing it because many never expected to be in this position, Weiner says. More divorces are leading to more second and third marriages, however, so don’t discount the increase in bigger diamond sales, more important wedding band sales and more lavish wedding presents from moneyed older friends. This may be the time to invest in a more serious luxury gift department.

Nerd Alert

The nerd market will be the most important in the next five years, says Weiner. They run the world, she points out, citing brainy icons such as Bill Gates, Hillary Clinton and Steven Spielberg. Nerds love other nerds, so consider marketing to them where they gather online or in other affinity groups.

Jewelers’ Application: Nerds are also your worst nightmare because they make a bloodsport out of asking detailed questions, says Weiner. If you haven’t found a better argument for thoroughly training your sales associates, this is it. These folks research online and know their stuff. Be prepared.

D-I-Y

Do-It-Yourself will move from hardware stores to jewelry stores, as easier computer-aided design technology comes onto the market, says Weiner.

Jewelers’ Application: Stay abreast of the latest equipment in custom jewelry design. Allow your customers to design their own jewelry. E-tailers are beginning to market this way – creating in-store and online D-I-Y options for customers may be a necessity in the successful jewelry store of the future.

– by Peggy Jo Donahue

Copyright © 2001 by Bond Communications