By Michelle Graff
Michelle-blogFor me, the story highlighted two interesting points. Number one, many consumers remain, for reasons I have a hard time understanding because I know the industry so well, inherently distrustful of jewelers.

Two, transparency is imperative in retailing today.

For the story, NPR reporter Stacey Vanek Smith visited The Clay Pot in Brooklyn, N.Y. and interviewed store owner Tara Silberberg about why there aren’t price tags on any of the pieces in her store.

NPR pointed out the pricing transparency in other industries--for example, the airline industry (when buying tickets online it’s all about the price--just be sure to read the fine print about baggage fees and don’t board hungry) and the apparel industry, something that’s lacking in a jewelry store.

“If you are looking around you have to guess how much something costs,” Smith stated in her story after doing a bit of not-so-secret shopping at The Clay Pot. “You basically end up playing a kind of jewelry store version of The Price is Right … Can you imagine doing this with sweaters at the Gap? This game is not played outside of jewelry stores.”

She’s right; it’s not. The majority of other retailers have items tagged with prices right where consumers can see them.

Silberberg went on to explain to Smith, and to listeners, why this is, why so many jewelry stores hide their prices: they don’t want customers to see more expensive pieces and get scared into thinking they can’t afford anything in the shop.

Retailers, as you know, also want the chance to tell the story behind the product: what the materials are, who the designer is that made it and what the thought process was that went into making the piece. Although it didn’t come up in the story, I would guess that many jewelry store owners might also avoid having prices tags hanging off pieces in the interest of keeping their showcases looking neat.

But, is this still the way to go in an era when so many prices are accessible via the Internet and people often enter a store with the item they want to purchase, and its price, pulled up on their smartphone?

Smith said in her story that while the technique of de-emphasizing price and instead selling the story behind the jewelry has worked for a long time, people today have a “lower tolerance” for this technique; they want to know exactly what they’ll be paying up front, if they don’t know it already. And Silberberg, the jewelry store owner, even admitted that she is considering placing visible price tags on more moderately priced pieces in the window displays only when she opens a second store in Manhattan.

Indeed, the 150-plus comments on the NPR story, which are well worth reading and include a few from jewelers, show this to be true for many people.

A number of commenters stated that they think jewelry stores tuck tags simply because their prices are outrageous and they don’t want customers to know how much they are “overpaying” for jewelry (this goes back to my earlier observation of this story being further proof that many consumers have an ingrained distrust of the jewelry business). Quite a few others said they are bashful about asking for prices. If they rejected an item after finding out how much it costs then it might look like they can’t afford it, and that’s embarrassing.

Retailers, how do you handle price tags in your store? Do you tuck them, or let it all hang out?

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