Feature Friday – Mark Desrochers
Thinking back on how I entered the jewelry industry and where we are now still amazes me. It all started with selling items on eBay. I needed a way to make some extra money, and after a while, it became a hobby. Four years ago, it became my new career path.
Jambs Jewelry started in 1999 as an online fashion jewelry business specializing in gold-plated items. We had one wholesaler and our Yahoo! store consisted of 25 pieces. I created our store name by incorporating all of my family’s first initials, including the dog. Although I might do things a bit differently if I had to rename, our name is a great conversation starter. I placed three of our top selling items on eBay as 7-10 day premium auctions, and things started taking off.
My company is still in growth mode. Every year, I’ve noticed that our best sales come from different categories. Last year, special orders was our strongest performer at 25.9% of the overall sales. This year so far, our best performing category is loose stones at 25.6% of overall sales, followed by special orders at 24.8%. Like most jewelers, our in-store fine jewelry will perform best in November and December.
We’ve seen a big difference in our diamond sales since partnering with Stuller and taking advantage of their 90-day diamond memo program. Over the years, we’ve incorporated many of Stuller’s selling systems such as the wedding band prototype display, the 5-foot engagement ring kit, and the birthstone jewelry selling system into our business model. We’ve also mixed in a few name brand designers like Gabriel & Co of New York, Rembrandt Charms and LeStage. And although estate jewelry is lower than some of the higher performing categories, it is one of the most profitable departments in the store. If you don’t sell estate jewelry, you truly should consider it. Each additional category has consistently and succesfully added volume to our store sales.
I think it’s important to differentiate ourselves from other jewelers in this market. We do this here by offering a variety of jewelry including: locally made items, fashion pieces, .925 sterling silver, gold and diamonds, on-site jewelry repairs, watch repairs from a local vendor, coins appraisals and more. We offer a wide range of price points to suite every budget. Our branding, another differentiator, is vital in today’s market. Everything from interior to exterior design was thought through including showcase design and placement, lighting, music selection and volume, merchandise displays, packaging, branded shopping bags, and more.
Repairs are a vital part to our overall business. I entered the jewelry industry not knowing a thing about repairs. A few years after we opened the retail store, I took a jewelry repair class in Tennessee. This would allow me to better handle customer repair requests right here in the shop. I’ve only been doing repairs for a couple of years now, so I still have other, more experienced jewelers doing some of the more intricate work.
My jeweler buddy Carl, from DeRosa Jewelers introduced me to many stepping stones in the fine jewelry industry, and Stuller was one of them. Today, I use Stuller almost exclusively for all of my repair items, gemstones and diamonds, and custom pieces. Stuller has shown to be a true partner to the customer. I’ve seen their excellent customer service firsthand at Bridge events and the Bench Jeweler Workshop. There simply isn’t another business in the industry who works this close with their customers and truly understands their individual business needs.
Some advice to my fellow jewelers: Bring your store into today’s modern way of doing business. Consumers want that fresh, new look when purchasing jewelry. Have a design center to create that piece the customer is looking for. Offer a comfortable seating area for couples to use while watching you create a new design, or to look at a special diamond ring. Move your jewelry displays around several times a year to refresh, and bring in new lines when you can. Customers love seeing the new. Educate the shopper as much as possible about diamonds and pricing so closing conversations flow smoother.
I believe that a major key to my success has been sound financial management – from developing annual budgets that support operating plans to prudently managing the company’s resources within guidelines. Ensuring appropriate accounting practices also plays an important part in measuring our success. I listen to others and take a bottom-up approach.
I’m a true retailer at heart. I started a career in retail at the age of 16. Needless to say, if you don’t like working with people, retail isn’t the field for you. I truly love working with people. I’ve worked for several different companies in a variety of capacities. I had one job where customer interaction wasn’t part of the everyday equation, and it was very noticeable that something wasn’t right. Of course, who doesn’t love jewelry?
I’ve been living in Raymond, NH with my significant other and two children for about twelve years. Besides owning and managing Jambs Jewelry, I’m also the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Greater Raymond Area Chamber of Commerce. As a local businessman and a supporter of the business community in Raymond, I was hopeful that my financial background and business experience could be of use to the town. This past January, I signed up for an elected seat as Trustee of the Trust Funds for the town of Raymond and won in the March election. Life is looking good, and I’m looking forward to contributing to the local economy, as well as, helping people find the perfect piece for that special day.
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