By Michelle Graff
Michelle-blogWhen I picked my first retail word of the year a couple weeks back, I promised a three-part series but I didn’t have the foggiest idea what Part III would be when I published Part I. This violated a rule I was taught early on in my journalism career, that you don’t run the first article in a series and dub it as such until all the parts are at least near completion.

Fortunately for me, the fog lifted when I was interviewing a retailer last week for our Black Friday weekend sales roundup.

During the course of our conversation, she told me that one of the biggest issues she is confronting, and will continue to confront, as a longtime jeweler is the ongoing battle between the old and the new ways of doing things. How much should she conform in order to keep up with the crowd versus standing her ground as a traditional seller of fine jewelry? Should she discount deeply, stock non-precious pieces, drop her standards on quality?

These dilemmas are not unlike what I face as a journalist today, and that’s why this particular retailer interview stuck with me.

Just like yours, my industry has changed substantially because of the Internet, and not all the changes are good.

For example, when I first started my career as a newspaper reporter, I remember citing reports from other news outlets (outside of the wire services) was considered taboo and a last resort. You were only supposed to use, “according to,” if you absolutely had exhausted every avenue in trying to obtain the information first-hand.

Today, the recycling of already-reported content is the norm. We here at National Jeweler do it too. Staffs have been cut to the quick while, at the same time, organizations are expected to pump out “news” at a frenzied pace.

These dilemmas are why I have chosen change as my third and final retail word of the year.

There is no judgment here but also, unfortunately, no answers.

I can’t tell tens of thousands of independent jewelers what’s right for their business or their market--what they should change and what should stay the same. That’s a decision everybody needs to make on their own.

I can, however, relate to the struggle. There is something you’ve done for a long time that you love. But it’s no longer what you once knew it to be, and you’re trying to determine: Do I just need to “get with it” or is it time to pack it in? Would I ever be happy doing something else?

If you are grappling with these types of questions, know that you are not alone.

And, if it helps at all, here’s what the retailer I mentioned above has decided.

She said once upon a time, she thought that everybody who wanted to buy jewelry was her market, and so she set about trying to make contact with just the segment of the local population: everybody.

Over time, she came to the realization that anybody buying jewelry is not her market--she doesn’t want to cater to bargain-hunters who care more about price than quality. “They are not going to be happy here (in my store),” she said. “I don’t say '50 percent off' when you walk in the door.”

She wants people that appreciate fine jewelry and its value, and that’s how she’s marketing now. Come into my store for the big pieces. Take your small purchases and repairs elsewhere.

Though she still grapples with how much she should change, she still likes the business enough to stay in it, at least for now. “That’s what I love about the jewelry business,” she said. “You can analyze, change it, do it differently.”

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