by Abe Sherman – CEO, BIG – Buyers Intelligence Group

August 11, 2020

Many of the jewelers we work with have been reporting that new customers have been shopping in their stores over the past couple of months. The why is pretty easy; malls across the country were shut down and even those that are now open are struggling to fill their parking lots. The excitement around malls that began about 50 years ago is not nearly as appealing as it once was and the golden era of malls that was fading fast, has accelerated even more so this year. It is not a coincidence that these customers are finding their way into independent retailers: There is an opportunity to take market share.

But shoppers do what shoppers do nonetheless, so if they are not going to malls to buy jewelry, they will go elsewhere. From downtowns, to shopping centers to free-standing buildings, if a customer is looking for an in-person shopping experience, they will seek out alternative places to shop. Ironically, many of them would never have given the independent retailer the shot, because they had been used to shopping in malls for so long and, they thought we were expensive!

Consumers thought we were expensive, partially because for decades the mall store employees told them that we were expensive, while they were having their 40-50-60% off sales every day, not to mention easy credit. But there was more to this. In some cases, we advertised branded lines that were far pricier than their pocket books could afford, which signaled to them that we were out of their reach, but it was also due to the merchandise mix that Independent stores carried. We left that business to the mall stores – because the ‘mall customer’ was different, which isn’t entirely accurate.

As mall shopping became less appealing, many consumers just clicked around the Internet, and because independent’s websites were not terrific nor e-commerce ready, they bought online, but again, elsewhere. Over the past several years, however, many more retailers have invested in their websites, are now e-commerce ready and have vastly improved digital assets, so that online business is also, slowly, coming back to the independent jeweler. And if not for an out and out purchase, at least we have given them a reason to walk into our stores to test the waters. So – now what?

I have always been an advocate for growing market-share. Meet the customer where they are, build a price-ladder within each category and make your customer’s first shopping experience successful for them and for you. This year, given that a significant number of customers are going to be looking for an alternative place to shop, how about you give them a bunch of reasons to shop with you! First, you have to stock some modest price pointed merchandise in different categories and then let them know that you are approachable. Next, threshold resistance that has heretofore kept them out, needs to be overcome through advertising and merchandising – online as well as in-store.

Shopping local is currently a national movement. Support your local businesses instead of multi-national chain stores is not an unreasonable request. YOU support their businesses, restaurants, car dealerships, charities, clothing stores and doctor’s offices. They should be supporting you.

Like the gold buying and bead-selling opportunities that presented themselves a decade ago, the times when we can pick up buckets-full of market share are rare. This is one of those times and I don’t want you to miss it.