By Michelle Graff

With the election over (finally), it's time to forecast where our industry is heading.

If we're not in a recession now, we will be shortly. What was learned during the recessions of 1980, 1990, 2001, etc., should test your leadership as well as your management expertise. More than 10 percent of U.S. companies disappear annually, often because of their leaders' denial that consumer needs and distribution channels are always changing. Recessions just speed these downfalls along. 

For example, Henry Ford failed to notice in the late 1920s that consumers wanted more from a car than transportation; they wanted status. His denial gave General Motors a chance to seize market share. In the 1970s, with oil expensive and stagflation rife, the Big Three automakers denied that consumers wanted reliable, affordable transportation—not gas-guzzling status symbols. So the Japanese swept in with precisely what Americans wanted.

To stay ahead of competitors, jewelers need to understand that every product or service has a primary purpose (with jewelry, it's probably appearance) and a secondary purpose (such as enjoyment, status). The line between the two inevitably shifts, depending on what's happening in the economy and society. Detect when it shifts—from high-end to low-end, or from yellow gold to white gold—and you stand a better chance of offering consumers what they want.

We would all like to hear—and learn—what you did to manage your jewelry company during past recessions. We could all benefit from the information.

Jan Brassem is founder of Eclipse Global Consulting LLC, a firm that assists jewelry retailers who are expanding into foreign markets and/or sourcing globally. You can e-mail him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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