By Michelle Graff

Reflecting back on what I saw and heard at the Vegas shows, one week later, my overriding sense is that jewelers were on the receiving end of a lot more finger wagging than I’ve seen in the past

Nearly every seminar felt like an intervention. Admonished for essentially being the retail equivalents of a 1980s hair band, jewelers were warned that they will be hurtling towards extinction if they can’t learn some new tunes.

Jewelers were told they have messed up their inventory because they lack computerized systems and that their poorly chosen merchandise is draining profits. Furthermore, jewelers were advised that if they are not Facebooking, Tweeting, blogging or, at least, ramping up their Web presence, they can rule out any customers who aren’t wobbling into their stores on canes.

Many of the observations were on target and warranted, but where was the tough love before the fourth-quarter 2008?

One thing that seemed lost, to me, was the notion that being a bit older is not necessarily a bad thing for a business. It should be recognized that jewelers aren’t Apple store hipsters showing off an armful of tattoos as they demonstrate features of the latest iPod—nor should they be. They are selling merchandise meant to last a lifetime, and being able to tout a long history, a well-honed reputation and industry credibility while doing so is not a liability.

Customers—young and old—can appreciate a business with some age spots. Consider how many people flock to the candle-lit Lafitte’s Blacksmith Bar in New Orleans, which claims it is the city’s oldest bar, or how hard it is to get tickets to see the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, which opened in 1912. Brooks Brothers, the oldest men’s clothier in the United States, has been around since 1818, and Macy’s opened its doors in 1858. 

The key for longtime retailers may be to pair their old-fashioned vibe with new technology and fresh business practices. Show off the antique showcases and chandeliers inside your store and pay tribute to your great-grandparents who opened the business, but make sure you do so with high-resolution photographs on your up-to-date Web site.

Tell your best customers about your cigar party through the usual phone calls or mailers, but post it on Facebook too. Setting up a page is free. So is a Twitter account, which will help you send out quick same-day reminders. Research has shown that jewelry stores are considered intimidating. Putting your store on one of these social networking sites with fun photos and some snappy text about store happenings can prove otherwise. 

Those using dusty ledgers to track inventory versus a computerized inventory management system that can pinpoint fast-selling merchandise should at least look into the latter. After getting over the initial hump of figuring out how the system works, it could save money and time. 

Even the oldest of retailers must, in the end, reflect today’s consumers. Younger consumers might appreciate your store’s history, but if they can’t find you on Google, you might as well not exist.

If there’s one thing I learned in Vegas, it’s this: Reflecting who your customers are now is a tradition worth starting, and keeping.

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Since 1906, National Jeweler has been the must-read news source for smart jewelry professionals--jewelry retailers, designers, buyers, manufacturers, and suppliers. From market analysis to emerging jewelry trends, we cover the important industry topics vital to the everyday success of jewelry professionals worldwide. National Jeweler delivers the most urgent jewelry news necessary for running your day-to-day jewelry business here, and via our daily e-newsletter, website and other specialty publications, such as "The State of the Majors." National Jeweler is published by Jewelers of America, the leading nonprofit jewelry association in the United States.