Professional Jeweler Archive: Independent Retail: A Fading Art Form?

September 2004

Adventures in Professionalism


Independent Retail: A Fading Art Form?

This jeweler suggests ways to keep it going despite Big Branding


Independent retail jewelers have lost their leadership role in the eyes of the consumer. The powerful, ever-expanding influence of companies such as Wal-Mart, Costco, QVC, Amazon, Blue Nile and eBay has shaken the very foundation of the independent retail experience. The dynamics of the 21st century have arrived in critical mass to our industry, and most independent retailers can’t remain in denial any longer.

Not only has big retail competition made business more challenging, the independent retailer is also vulnerable because of changes in the supply end of the jewelry industry. Ongoing consolidation and realignment of products, power and public profiles are affecting long-standing relationships between vendor and retailer. Many relationships are being reevaluated because of the volatility of the marketplace as Big Branding takes hold at the supply level.

As we’ve watched these changes happen, many independents neglected their own specialization. They failed to invest in their own best hope for the future, the one that includes continuing to offer unique, original products in a setting conducive to sincere, one-on-one client development.

Offer Alternatives

One route to continued success as an independent, I believe, is to offer a retail alternative that showcases the great jewelry designers and artists who have come of age in the past 30 years. Designers such as Henry Dunay, Michael Bondanza, Michael Good, Jean François Albert and Steven Kretchmer, plus many others like them, offer unique designs backed by real artists who have stories that fascinate buyers looking for something different from the more generic branded lines.

Not only do these artists give independents a niche that differentiates them from many other big retailers, they support the continued life of artistry in the jewelry industry. Without our designers, the consumer will be left with an ignorance of the creative, unique alternatives that exist to hyper-branded products.

Take Action

Along with continuing to promote true artistry in jewelry, I also recommend these points of action to reawaken the independent jewelry perspective:

  • Find ways to embrace technology and use it to deliver your alternative message of unique, “something different” jewelry. If you don’t, artistic jewelry could get crushed in a wave of look-alike designs that dominate Internet offerings.
  • Dynamically dialogue with younger generations and figure out what they want – as well as how to deliver it. If you don’t, you risk this new generation deserting you.
  • Become a true specialist in finely crafted, unique jewelry creations. Embrace the best original products and make your presentation with style in the spirit of the art form.

Or continue as you are – you may soon be working for Big Brother instead of for yourself.

Darwin looms on the horizon.

Scott D. Cusson owns Brinsmaids Designer Jewelry and Fine Gifts, New Canaan, CT.

Copyright © 2004 by Bond Communications