A Local Jewellers: Retail Review

I have removed the name of this jeweller from my review because I recognise that on e transaction isn’t a representative sample on which to judge anyone – we all have bad days. However, all my retail reviews do name the retailer when they’re first published, so for the full story please sign up for my E-zine Mindshop! on my home page.

I’d finally decided to buy a decent watch. I’d been thinking about it and then my old one died so it seemed like the right time. The only problem was that I had no idea what to get. Should I spend £100 or £1000? I’m not particularly fussed about man-jewellery, but buying one nice watch to own for many years might be a practical option (at least that’s what I’m telling myself).

I opted to visit my local town, Saffron Waldon. Cambridge is closer but parking is a nightmare and the bus is unappealing in a misty-windowed, festering flu-bugs kind of way at this time of year.

I happened across an independent jewellers and was pleased to have discovered an old-fashioned, one-off shop; none of this ‘one size fits all’ large chain stuff. I was convinced personal service and expertise were there waiting.

Initially I was served by the youngest of the three people serving in the store. I explained that I was looking for a watch and was presented with a wooden draw containing thirty or so loose watches. Short of putting them in a bucket they couldn’t have been less appealing presented.

Rummaging through products can be an effective marketing technique if people are value orientated – in fact interestingly Dave Lakhani found that people over paid for products when he sold computer parts in his store this way (because he hadn’t had time to put them out and price them).

But for someone looking for a “nice” watch this was a disaster. I know that my unconscious mind takes in the whole package, the box, the logo, the shine: often jewellers will take out a mat, polish the item and place it on the luxuriously-coloured surface they’ve prepared. This enhances the perceived value of what you’re looking at: the ramshackle box had the opposite effect.

As I was half-heartedly looking through the draw of watches a lady came into the shop and asked whether or not they sold whether clocks – a digital barometer type of thing (I must confess I find windows do an adequate job for weather checking ).

The lady serving her glanced around the shop as though encountering it for the first time (although I suspect she had worked there for years) and said with relatively little confidence that they didn’t sell this type of clock.

Bored as I was with looking at the tangle of watches in front of me I glanced around and happened to see exactly the kind of clock she was asking about. I pointed to it and asked if this was the kind of thing she was looking for? The lady thanked me, said it was and proceeded to look at the item. The lady serving in the shop didn’t thank me.

Within a moment or two the lady considering the clock said that she wanted to ring her daughter, on whose behalf she was buying it, and ask if this was the right one. She tried to get a signal on her mobile (cell) phone but couldn’t.

Within a moment it became apparent that none of the three people standing behind the counter was about to offer to help her by providing a phone, so I checked my own phone signal and offered mine to the lady. She was able to call her daughter and discuss the clock she found. Again, she was quick to thank me, but the people in the shop didn’t.

Bizarre as it may seem now, I was still feeling that sense of excitement you get when you are considering buying something nice. The third shop assistant, I suspect the owner of the store, then got involved. He had overheard me asking whether or not they had any more expensive watches. He told me that they had some in the back and proceeded to bring out a selection of three Rolex watches. None was quite what I was after and all three cost more than I had planned to spend. So I asked whether or not they had any other watches around £1000 mark. He disappeared into the back of the shop for a second time and again that excitement of being close to a thrilling purchase returned.

Buying is exciting. Is it nature or nurture? Something of both, I suspect. For some reason we seem to enjoy acquisition. I suspect that this gave us some evolutionary advantage when it was a question of finding potentially useful things for the cave. It’s also a simulation of that learned experience when a parent buys us a present and we get the thrill of tearing off the paper to see what’s inside.

Unfortunately when the owner returned a few moments later he told me that they probably did have something but it was a bit difficult to get to them so I’d need to come back another time.

With three people standing behind the counter and only myself in the shop I couldn’t pinpoint what was more pressing for him than inviting me to part with my £1000, but what do I know? You may not be surprised to hear that I didn’t go back and, as a result, I’m still watch-less.

The experience was so bad it’s almost hard to know where to start in pointing out the opportunities this retailer missed. But here are a few observations…

  • Product presentation influences how a product is perceived.  Our unconscious mind filters everything there is to see and is influenced by it, but doesn’t pass it all on to act conscious (because it would overload it if it did).  It can be advantageous to present some products in bargain bins; probably not luxury watches though.
  • Going out of your way to be helpful to a customer – for example by offering them the use of your phone (rather than another customer having to do this) is an opportunity to induce reciprocity.  Several studies have been conducted that show where someone does a small favour to someone else it tends to be repaid.  In this case the customer can repay the generous gesture by buying from the shop.
  • Even when products can’t be displayed in the store because of limitations of space, they can be presented (literrally) to the customer in a way that suggests they are as precious as the customer would like to feel they are.  In this way a £100 watch can be made to feel precious way beyond its price.
  • Watch manufacturers are very good at harnessing associations.  Think about the way in which Omega use James Bond to trigger associations between their products and status, power and style.  Some link between these images (in which millions have been invested) and the moment of purchase consideration could be used to prime these associations.
  • Be wary of judging your potential customers by their appearance. What I didn’t mention was that I’d gone shopping straight after playing golf; my winter golf attire isn’t exactly elegant so I was looking quite scruffy. Despite how I may have appeared I was ready to spend a lot of money (at least I think it is a lot of money) on a watch. Similarly, you never know which person that contacts you is going to ultimately buy from you. I know a couple of millionaires who are no slaves to fashion and on first appearances look as though they would struggle to find the money to buy a bus ticket: in fact they could buy virtually any car from any showroom if they wanted to.

All in all a very disappointing experience, particularly given my expectations from a specialist, local, independent retailer.

Image courtesy: Guillaume Baviere

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