Multifaceted Benefits: Custom Jewelry Design and Customer Preferences
With the recession affecting both consumers and jewelry businesses, what are the advantages of a focus on customer preferences for custom jewelry artisans?
Writer Jonathan Devin of The Commercial Appeal found a custom jeweler in Memphis, TN, who has kept her business going at a brisk pace with “a little less bling” and more customer service. In his article, “Jeweler says her focus on individual customer preferences builds repeat business,” Mary Beth Harris of Mary Beth Harris Jewelry discusses her “multifaceted” approach. The key points of her approach summarized below should come as no surprise to CustomMade artisans who specialize in custom made jewelry.
Smaller Inventory and More Choices
A smaller inventory means lower overhead costs. But how does having a smaller inventory equal more options for the consumer and therefore more opportunities for the artisan? Harris is aware that many people “are intimidated by going to a jewelry store.” Rows and rows of display cases with fabulously expensive pieces don’t help. With only two showcases in her lobby that feature examples of her best sellers, she first focuses on meeting with potential customers to get an idea of their price range and stone quality requirements. After selecting from four to six stones overnighted by Harris based on the customer’s criteria from the Jeweler’s Board of Trade or the Diamond Exchange of New York and discussing a setting, the customer feels a deeper connection to the piece.
“That’s why I get repeat business,” said Harris. ”I don’t just say, ‘Here’s my diamond, this is what you have to buy.’ When they see their choices, they will fall in love with one of them.”
Old Pieces Reborn as New Custom Jewelry
One of Harris’s specialties is custom jewelry design that uses elements from her customers’ older items.
“Everybody has jewelry but may have been given something they don’t like,” Harris said. “They want something different because styles change. I redesign it with their help. I show them catalogs of pieces, or they can bring pictures of things they have found.”
Communication and The Trust Factor
For repeat customers, “the trust factor is as important as the cost,” and the basis of that trust is effective communication. One of Harris’s longtime customers explains:
“She actually custom-designed and made one piece for me. We collaborated on it and it’s one of my favorite pieces. She’s really able to communicate what she is thinking to me so I can see it or sometimes she’s able to show you things so that you can get a visual. I definitely trust her.”
Alternative Metals …
Although tough economic times have taken a toll on the luxury jewelry market, the time is right to spotlight alternative, less expensive metals. Advised by her son, Harris has diversified her offerings.
“I love the different things he’s brought to the company,” Harris said. “It used to be just fine jewelry — gold and diamonds — but he’s introduced me to ‘silver boutique’ and the alternative metals like titanium, tungsten, and stainless steel. It really flies off the shelves.”
… And Alternatives for People
A customer’s budget, of course, will limit material and design options, but Harris is keenly aware that the end product must still satisfy the client.
“Of course you’ve got to be conscious of what’s going on and what people can afford,” Harris said. “I have customers who used to spend $50,000-$100,000 with me a year and they come back and say, look this is all I’ve got, but I still want to buy my wife something nice. I don’t care if it’s $100, I will find them something nice.”
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