By Michelle Graff
“It’s going to take a lot of time, it’s going to take a lot of tests and it’s going to take a lot of talking to your customers,” JJ Ramberg said of developing the story behind a store.
New York--The JA New York Winter show opened Sunday with a trio of screaming children.

Don’t worry; they weren’t lost.

The children are the two sons and one daughter of JJ Ramberg, an entrepreneur and host of Your Business on MSNBC. She delivered the keynote address as the show opened on Sunday morning, starting her presentation with a home video of her three young children, all in an unhappy state.

In addition to engaging the audience, Ramberg’s video made a point: Whether it’s children, other family obligations or something else, entrepreneurs lives are busy. They need to make running their businesses as simple as possible, to “uncomplicate” them.  

“We are not just running our businesses,” she said. “We are running our lives.”

She talked about a Your Business makeover episode that profiled the Monterey Bay Silver Co. in California.

The problems they found likely will sound familiar to many jewelers: the company had too many stores, too much cash tied up in inventory that wasn’t moving, and didn’t have any kind of point-of-sale system so they had no idea what was popular among customers and what wasn’t.

Your Business gave the store one of its makeovers, which are similar to what chef Gordon Ramsey does on his show Kitchen Nightmares, where he and his crew overhaul ailing restaurants.

They consolidated the business from four locations into one and had a design company overhaul the interior. They got the jewelry store a POS system and recommended that the store employee tucked away in a tiny room in the back re-stringing pearls, a service heavily marketed by the store, be brought up front so customers can watch her at work.

These changes simplified the business, helping the store and its owners. “What we do,” Ramberg said, “is not brain surgery.”

During her presentation, Ramberg also told of the need for retailers today to have a story behind their store--a “why” explaining their reason for being in business--and to make it an experience, not just a place to shop.

A store’s story could be anything: that they are a third-generation jeweler that’s been in the same spot for decades; that they are a store that is committed to ethical sourcing and fair trade products; or that they are a store that’s extremely fashion-forward and on top of all the trends.

Whatever that story is, it has to be told the same across all platforms--in the store and its merchandise mix, on the website and across social media. And, Ramberg noted, it has to be understood and expressed by all employees.

Examples she provided of companies with a good why, a solid story, were Tattly, whose mission can be read here, and the aptly named Story, a Manhattan store where the owner changes out the theme every eight weeks.

“Consumers can buy things pretty much everywhere,” Ramberg told the audience. “But they want to shop at your store because it’s infused with this ‘why’.

“Your store has to really have this ‘why.’”

The JA New York Winter show continues through Tuesday at the Javits center.

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