written by Ann & Mark Glynn
Looking for some ideas to jazz up your business for 2021? Our friends down under have given us hope that a strong recovery is on the horizon. In order to find out how the fine jewellery business is recovering post Covid 19 in Australia, we took some time to speak with Carson Webb, executive director of Showcase Jewellers, a buying group that represents over 200 stores. We wanted to get a more global view of the jewellery industry and how others are dealing with the changes that have come about recently.
Showcase Jewellers is a 40 year-old buying group based in Australia with members in Australia and New Zealand. Carson describes its formation this way, “In a nutshell; a small bunch of passionate retail jewellers got together and decided that the strength of a few of them is far better to purchase collectively than going it alone. The sharing of information was also fabulous, so why not make it a Group where others could also enjoy and participate, but have it owned by members, rather than one individual (or a corporate entity) that sucks all the profits but for various reasons. So here we are in 2021 and this is our 40th year.”
The most positive aspect of our conversation with Carson was his inspiring look at how business is shaping up in Australia post Covid 19. “Yes, we cancelled all for 2020. We were very fast to implement member protection strategies. It was critical that the members businesses survived and I’m proud to say we only lost one business throughout the entire period. We’re also very proud of the way our government handled the entire process and, other than one State in Australia, we were out of lockdowns pretty quickly. 2021 is here, we’re alive, the world hasn’t ended, there’s no zombies, we are healthy, positive and we’re ready!
I consider us to be super lucky, but it was certainly very tough and scary last year, just horrible.”
It sounds like Showcase Jewellers was there, every step of the way, supporting their members. We asked Carson what services his company provides to its members to get an idea of the level of commitment. “Because we’re a member owned group, everything we do is for the benefit of our members (retailers), even profits that are achieved throughout the year are paid back to our members, so there is a financial reward/incentive plus many resources that (I confidently say) are second to none out in the market place for the independent retailer.
Some examples are:
- Extensive HR assistance (start to finish)
- Our own diamond portals for members to see our loose stones and purchase,
- Amazing catalogues customised to suit the jeweller
- Photography options so their own jewellery presents amazingly on-line
- Customised ecommerce websites (fully integrated with Retail Edge with a ZERO cost to build)
- Centralised billing
- Some of the best supplier discounts for our members passed on directly to them (this is a huge savings)
- Store fit-out assistance
- Staff management and an on-line comprehensive training portal which is world class
These are just a few examples of the resources we provide for our members. I explain it like a big toolkit, you find the one that’s perfect for you, some will be, some won’t be, but we have a very large selection to choose from covering all areas of our trade.”
Event activities are a part of the services offered by Showcase Jewellers, as it is with US based buying groups. When asked how their events compare to US based buying group events, Carson explained that the traditional events were very similar to what we’d expect or have come to know in the US. However, Carson was very excited about virtual events that he was introduced to via JHJ. “Rita Lane Wade (I have to mention here) has some amazing things by introducing ideas and strategies to help stores in engaging their customers all year round. She has developed a fabulous calendar of events customised for businesses. This sort of information (or assistance) is priceless.”
We discussed the purpose behind creating branded diamonds with Carson. He explained that it was essentially a marketing plan aimed at allowing his retail members to re-enter the diamond business without the necessity of a large investment that might be cost prohibitive. So, when we asked Carson what jewellery trends they are expecting for 2021, it’ll be no surprise that he responded:
“Diamonds! Everything Diamonds! We are experiencing the diamond business, in classics and core lines like Dia studs performing very strong indeed, and coloured gems are doing amazingly well. Custom makes and in-house repair work is simply booming! In fact, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find jewellers to do the all work available. It’s not unusual for our retailers’ benches to be 4-6 weeks booked out. Let’s just call it back to basics, and don’t complicate things! Keep it simple and keep it real.”
We are somewhat curious by nature. After discussing the differences in the jewellery business and the Covid operating environments of Australia and comparing it to what’s happening in the US, we were curious to know what Carson and Showcase Jewellers wanted our readers to know about them. Carson explains:
“We’re just like you, same but different!
We have many great friends in common, I’m personally very good friends with many of our USA partners, numerous manufacturers and suppliers. The industry is huge, but yet also very small when it comes to the relationships that we all make to keep our business moving and exciting.
While we’ll never agree on everything (and that’s good), there’s substantial similarities that we all face together, and together we’re far stronger than being on our own. We’re also connected with JHJ and we enjoy seeing many of the issues and stories you guys face, whether it’s Aleah in tears with her passionate posts or some more brutal discussions on gun protocols. You’ve all experienced a 2020 like never in the past, and hopefully never again. We really feel for you all and we hope 2021 brings you loads of joy and happiness and of course GREAT business!
We are in the people business, jewellery is the commodity of course, but most importantly it’s the people business, we can all be better at it!”
Our connection to Carson came by way of JHJ. This has been an emerging trend in a lot of the work that we do. Since Carson mentioned it previously, we thought we’d ask how JHJ has helped Showcase Jewellers and its members.
“I met Rita through JHJ and the necessity of looking for new initiatives made us come together, what a fabulous connection and an honest caring person, thanks JHJ!
Many of us “Aussies” are on there too watching and learning, mostly they might be silent because many of the issues are country based (like security, etc.) but it’s so good to be connected world-wide with our industry and realising we aren’t really that far apart on day-to-day challenges! Finding great staff (creating them) finding great jewellers, paying rents, dealing with the public, etc., etc.
You know I see this time as the resurgence of the independent. Our marketing spin for our members many years ago was to simply say “We’re Local, just like you!”. This is certainly perfect in this current environment. Our members are currently performing really well, through all the hard work and pain suffered, they are (mostly) enjoying a strong performance. While many jewellers might still close up yet (as it’s been the way here just like USA for a few years now with retirements, etc.) there is plenty of opportunity for good ones to thrive! We just have to make sure we are the ones to be standing strong! The brutal truth is: your customer decides your future, so you need to make sure you’re ready for the future!”