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Episode Summary

Nick Gurney and Annie Daniels of Duke’s Jewelers talk about recent and current trends in the jewelry business and how many retailers are riding a wave of retail success. They discuss how current inventory management practices allow jewelers to quickly meet the needs of their customers. Annie also shares her experience with how close relationships with vendors allow her to expand Duke’s product offerings.

Key Insights

  • Take advantage of the current environment, but keep an eye out for future trends.
  • Give your customers information and let them make educated buying decisions.
  • Retail technology solutions can let you have a broad selection of stock available to your customers while keeping your investment lower.
  • Spend time with your customers and pay attention to their needs.

Episode Highlights

  • Jewelers across the nation had record breaking years in the last two years, and we were no exception. This is the best we have ever done.
  • We have sold more lab grown diamonds in like such a small amount of time than we have probably ever.
  • Give them that information, they’re like, thank you so much. And they make their own decision, which is how I try to sell jewelry.
  • Having like, a diamond marketplace on your computer that you can, at the click of a button, show somebody thousands of diamonds and then be able to have them the next day in your store, that is like, that is awesome.
  • They were able to sit down with us and really get individualized attention and detail that you can’t really get.

Guest Bio

Annie Daniels started her career in jewelry sales at Duke’s Jewelers. Duke’s was founded in 1948 by Melvin Duke, who was local to Springville, Utah. During her more than five years at Duke’s she has learned to love the opportunity to build some awesome relationships.

https://www.dukesjewelers.com/

Transcript

[00:00:21] Nick: Welcome to the Master Stones podcast. Today I am joined by Annie Daniels, the manager of Duke’s Jewelers. Annie, welcome to the podcast. Glad to have you here. 

[00:00:29] Annie: Hello, I am so excited to be here. Thanks for having me on.

[00:00:34] Nick: Of course, of course. Now in the Master Stones podcast, we talk to retailers from all over the country to understand a little bit more about their business, a little bit more about how they manage their jewelry store and maybe the impacts of the world today, and how it affects their store. But before we dive into all that, Annie, do you wanna tell me a little bit about Duke’s and what makes you unique? 

[00:00:52] Annie: Sure. Yeah. Duke’s was founded in 1948 by Melvin Duke, who was local to Springville, Utah. And it’s a third generation business now. So the owner Richard Holmes, he has been there since he was 10 years old. He’s 65 now. He’s a master jeweler goldsmith and a gemologist through GIA and AGS and just the best guy to work for and I’ve been working at Duke’s Jewelers for five and a half years now and just been manager for a little over one year. It’s awesome. It’s awesome to be a part of a staple in the community to have been there for so long, to have people trust you with precious heirlooms. It’s awesome. 

[00:01:34] Nick: Love that. Yeah, and what you described there is, I think one of the best things about the industry that we get to work in, right is that we tend to be multi-generational businesses. It’s a very relationship driven business. and I love that you touched on those points, cuz to me that’s what makes it special. That’s what makes it fun. So that’s really, really cool. 

[00:01:51] Nick: Duke started in 1948. It’s been, I mean, that’s a lot of years now and you say it’s a staple in the community. Tell me a little bit more about the community it’s in and you know, ways that you guys participate in that. That’s something I think that a lot of jewelers do that they don’t maybe talk about together and ways that they can help their business. 

[00:02:07] Annie: Richard’s awesome. Anytime like the 4H Club asks for a donation for an auction, or the Chamber of Commerce needs something to give away at Art City Days, we like to participate. Springville is Art City and they did an art festival this year and we participated by doing face painting and it’s just anytime Richard can help the community. In past years we’ve sponsored like the Miss Springville/Mapleton pageant. and everyone goes to Duke Jewelry. That’s where you go to get your tiara for the pageant and that’s where my grandma got her wedding ring. It’s just, it’s awesome. Generational.

[00:02:43] Nick: Yeah. I love that. I  really, really like that. You know, when you lean into your community, right, it can help your business. It’s a very organic way of reminding people of who you are and where you are, right? Because when you’ve been around that long, everybody knows who you are right.

[00:02:57] Nick: But it’s still important to remind them to come and visit you and to come see your store, right? Sometimes I think when you get that kind of baseline of traffic that you’d expect because you’ve been around so long you have to remind yourself to get creative and still go out there and get business, right? That’s the type of stuff that can help you grow and help you succeed. So I love that. 

[00:03:15] Annie: Especially cuz the town over is saturated with jewelers. It’s a university town and everyone’s getting engaged all the time, but we’re seeing more and more clients that are driving past that town to our town t o get a little bit more personalized care. So it was a little thing I thought to add in there. 

[00:03:34] Nick: Yeah. No, that’s awesome. I love that you pointed that out. You know, and again, so many jewelers are gonna think, okay, well this is my position because I’ve been in this area for so long. This is just kind of how it is, and the only improvements I’m gonna see are marginal with that. Right? But you can get creative, right? There’s no reason why you can’t explore expanding your business even if you’ve been around for so long. So I think that’s a great point. 

[00:03:55] Nick: Now on the other side of the spectrum we’re seeing some things in the economy now that we haven’t seen in a long time. you know, we’re, looking at this recession dead in the you know, eyes and we’re, we’re trying to decide how is this gonna affect us? How are we gonna react to it? Have you seen any effects of the economy, of late in your store, either positive or negative? 

[00:04:13] Annie: I would say more positive than negative.

[00:04:17] Annie: I think our benefit is, you know, for two, three hours south, there aren’t any other jewelers and so we get the people who don’t have anybody near them, and then, I mean, It’s across the board. Jewelers across the nation had record breaking years in the last two years, and we were no exception. This is the best we have ever done, but I do expect as people are allowed to travel more, there’s not any restrictions much anymore with COVID, they’re gonna be traveling instead of buying jewelry or you know, whatever other things they weren’t able to do during the pandemic. So as of right now, we haven’t seen the effects. People are still coming to us, people are still getting married, people are still selling anniversaries and birthdays, so as of yet, we haven’t seen total effects. I think of where the economy’s going, but the guess is to refer to your numbers from 2019 as what maybe you’re going to see this year, but who knows?

[00:05:17] Nick: Sure, sure. Yeah. Everyone for the last few years, it’s all up and to the right. What are you talking about? Things might go down? That doesn’t make sense. Yeah. Cool. Well, you know, and that’s, I think that’s an important reminder that it’s something that we do have to plan for, you know, we can’t just ignore it. and you know what, if, we do plan for it and it ends up working out better than we thought, great. But it’s better to do that than to ignore it and think that we’re gonna see another 2022, 2021 and that might not be the case. So I think that’s a really good insight.

[00:05:46] Nick: How about in buying trends, Annie? I mean, are you seeing anything change within consumers and what they’re buying and you know, is it something as simple as, you know, gold choice, right? Or are you seeing, like certain styles that are in or going out? What kind of trends are you seeing at your store?

[00:06:02] Annie: I will say in the last two months, three months, we have sold more lab grown diamonds in like such a small amount of time than we have probably ever. It’s usually been a pretty good mix, 50-50. Some people, you know, value the rarity and romance of a natural diamond, and some people like the price point to get a bigger stone in a lab grown diamond. But we have seen like consistently people choosing lab ground, which I don’t blame them because you know, It was a status thing to be able to say, I have a two carat, I have a three carat diamond, and the regular Joe like me would never have been able to dream about having a two carat diamond. So having a lab grown diamond available is an awesome choice for people and it also helps like diamond cutters have employment when there’s not as much resources of a natural diamond, you know, so what we’ve been seeing a lot lately is our lab grown diamond sales and white gold’s made a little bit of a comeback. I’ve noticed that in the last like 10 engagement rings we’ve done have been white gold, which I’m a yellow gold girl. I will always be a yellow gold girl. But it’s interesting to see what preferences people have. And Rose Gold’s come back a little bit, but rose gold is very trendy. It’s very up and down. It’s never consistent. 

[00:07:15] Nick: Sure, sure. That’s really interesting, especially the comments on lab grown. I mean, that’s, that’s definitely the it’s, it’s the talking point in the industry, right? You know, lab grown versus natural and a whole spectrum of stores, right? Stores that refuse to sell it, touch it, look at it, think about it. All the way to those stores who specialize in it, right. And focus entirely on lab grown. What do you think the future of Lab Grown is? Do you think that it’s here to stay? Do you think that the stores on the other side, ignoring it, are gonna get their way? What’s kind of your opinion on that? 

[00:07:42] Annie: It’s absolutely here to stay and it’s hard because yeah, there’s uncertainty about the value. There’s uncertainty about you know, what it’ll be worth and the reputation it’ll have, but, They’re only gonna continue to make more as the equipment becomes available to make more which I don’t know, might set natural diamonds apart and give them a little bit more I don’t know if reputation’s the right word, but people will, you know, be able to look to that as unchanging and, you know, it’ll never go but lab grown, if anything, we’re only going to see more of them.

[00:08:19] Annie: The way that I look at it is like Moissanite for example. I can tell the difference and most people, if I bring in a lab grown diamond and a moissanite, people can tell the difference. They go, oh, this one is like, obviously, a diamond. You know, it’s hard when you just, when you only show them a Moissanite, they say, this is sparkly. I don’t see a difference. Anytime I compare ’em side by side, they go, oh yeah, there’s a big difference. And they, every time, nine outta 10 times, nine and a half out of 10 times, they will choose a lab grown diamond over a Moissanite, and they’re gonna only become more and more comparable in price. And it’s a good alternative to someone like me who can’t afford a three carat natural diamond on whatever day of the week in my twenties when I’m getting engaged. You know? So I don’t think they’re going anywhere. 

[00:09:07] Nick: Yeah. I actually love that you point out Moissanite there, because so many people are worried that it’s gonna take over our diamond sales, right. Our natural diamond sales and, and yeah. Maybe it’ll impact those slightly, but I think what it’s gonna do more is it’s gonna impact the diamond alternative sales, right? The Moissanites, the CZs, you know what I mean? People are gonna like, they’re gonna gravitate towards lab grown and instead of selling a cheap Moissanite that you don’t really wanna sell anyway. Instead you’ll be selling a real diamond. It might be lab grown, but at least it’s a real diamond, right. So, I think that’s some really, really good insight. 

[00:09:34] Annie: And something really important when we sell lab grown diamonds is disclosure. There’s always conversations in big jeweler forums where they’re like, how can you possibly in good conscience sell something that’s losing its value?

[00:09:48] Annie: But the way that I look at it is I say, this is a lab created diamond. Now it isn’t rare because there’s an abundance of them. You can make a good diamond every time, as opposed to a natural diamond. You have to go and find that in the earth. That’s been created for billions of years, so of course the thing that you can make over and over and over, perfect every single time. it’s no longer a commodity. It’s common. And so if you just explain, hey, it could be worth 3000 today and 1500 in four years, but I mean, it’s still less than a natural diamond. So it doesn’t hold its value. It’s not rare, but it is a diamond. It’s gonna last you your entire lifetime. And most people, when you give them that information, they’re like, thank you so much. And they make their own decision, which is how I try to sell jewelry. 

[00:10:38] Nick: Sure, sure. And then that’s exactly, you just gotta educate the buyer. Right?

[00:10:41] Nick: You’re not trying to fool anyone by selling ’em a lab grown diamond. I don’t, I don’t know anyone that would do that in good conscience. Right? And so it’s, it’s more about just education, helping buyer understand what decision they’re making. And you know, what you, you mentioned of course, the buyer there that’s willing to save some money. There’s all of course buyers. It’s jewelry. There’s of course gonna be buyers that are there for sentimental reasons, right? For the nostalgic reasons that would never consider a lab grown diamond. They want the natural diamond and they should be able to buy it. You know, the same way that lab grown diamonds aren’t going away, neither are natural and people are, there’s always gonna be that market, as well, I believe. 

[00:11:12] Annie: Yeah, I agree.

[00:11:14] Nick: Now of course being the Master Stones podcast. What about technology? What kind of role does technology play in your store? Anything in particular stand out? Anything that you try and do to set yourselves apart from others? Or are you just more of a you know, a typical jewelry store in that front in terms of your technology?

[00:11:30] Annie: Technology, I would say we’re pretty average. I mean, we have all the gemological equipment that we would need for doing appraisals, et cetera. Something kind of funny, we were cleaning out our basement of this a hundred year old building that we were in over COVID and I found a Polaroid camera and Polaroids of jewelry from when, you know, in the seventies when they left their jewelry, we take pictures on our computer of every piece that is left with us and I found this Polaroid and all these Polaroids of people’s jewelry. I think that’s just so fun. 

[00:12:00] Annie: And you know what? Having like, a diamond marketplace on your computer that you can, at the click of a button, show somebody thousands of diamonds and then be able to have them the next day in your store, that is like, that is awesome. Changes the way you keep your inventory cuz you know it’s expensive to keep 20 plus live diamonds, natural or lab in your stock and so to be able to order them and have them the next day for a customer to choose between three, send back two and choose one, like I think that’s a big game changer. People really like the option to have variety.

[00:12:37] Nick: Sure. Yeah. I love that. I love that because you can have your live stock, right when you want a show and compare and things like that. But one of the biggest, you know, challenges in the jewelry industry, of course, is aged inventory. So when you’re ordering all sorts of inventory and you hope and it sells and things like that, that can put you in a really bad spot really quick as a store.

[00:12:55] Nick: And so I, I, that’s a really good point that you make. You know, these vendors we have that can ship to us overnight and have it at the store. I think that’s a really, really fantastic approach. So that’s a really, really good point. I’m glad you shared that.

[00:14:10] Nick: So in a similar thread, right, technology is, is marketing, right? How about marketing with your customers? Is there anything unique that you guys do? What would you say are your, your best marketing channels if you’re doing marketing and, you know, how do they work out for your store?

[00:14:25] Annie: Word of mouth does so much for us and we do ads in the Daily Herald for the best of Utah Valley. We do Instagram, Facebook, social media, you know, take advantage of social media because everyone’s on social media. It’s not going anywhere. It is like the central focus of everybody’s world nowadays. We do, like, postcards for specials throughout the year, you know, estate sales, Black Friday, things like that. But word of mouth, definitely. You know, “my mom’s sister told me to come here” or whatever, that does a lot for Duke’s. 

[00:15:01] Annie: And we had a young couple come in to look at engagement rings just a couple weeks ago and they said they went to a different store first that had like 13 couples looking at engagement rings and we’re a pretty small storefront. the store that they went to is a similar size, a little bit bigger, but 13 couples and they kind of stood back and were like, “this is overwhelming.” And then they came to Duke’s and they were able to sit down with us and really get individualized attention and detail that you can’t really get somewhere that’s… and we’re pretty busy, but you know, we have the time to sit and to evaluate what your needs are and They just heard about us from their parents. Their parents said, “you know, I think there’s a jeweler in town, Duke’s. I’ve heard good things about them” and so they went to the town over, that’s saturated with jewelers and, they went to those jewelers and they were overwhelmed. And then they came to us and they were like, “this is night and day from what we experienced at the other store,” which, that is our goal. That makes our heart happy when we hear that kind of feedback. 

[00:16:08] Nick: Yeah. I love that. I love that because you know, of course there’s gonna be different types of jewelers all over, right? and depending where you’re at, and, you know, in a college town, of course you’re gonna see you know busy stores like that. But being able to offer, like personalized, you know, attention to detail that one-on-one service that people want, I mean, this is a big decision for ’em, right? Especially when you’re talking about an engagement ring. This is like, you know, a lot of the time for a lot of people, one of the first biggest purchases of their life, right? And so they, they need the handholding, they need the help, they need the focus, right, to feel good about what they’re doing. So that’s really, really good advice. 

[00:16:40] Nick: Now, tell me a little bit about your relationship with vendors. You touched on it a minute ago, being able to offer, you know loose stones overnight, that type of stuff. But yeah, tell me a little bit more about your relationship with your vendors and ways that you try and, you know, offer a, you know a set of products that you feel really are valuable to your clientele and, you know, ways that you’ve seen that reception work or not work. I mean, of course there’s gonna be stories where, you know, jewelers are ordering a whole line, none of it sells and things like that but any good stories from you there? 

[00:17:12] Annie: Yeah, so I would say something really rewarding about working at a well established jewelry store is when Richard’s been working with these same vendors for, you know, 20 plus years. And then me, I’ve been working with them for about five years and they understand the dance of the give and take to, you know, keep our business.

[00:17:33] Annie: And with that, if I say, Hey, I have an event coming up, can you send me $20,000, $30,000 worth of inventory so I can just see if it sells during our event? And they say it’s coming next day and I have a lot of really great vendors that will do that for us and we did just have an event and we sold about half of what they sent us.

[00:17:53] Annie: And it was kind of a last minute decision, but one that really worked out well for us and, you know, to touch on like, Buying a whole line and not selling it. Like that’s a real stress for me because I do Sure. All the purchasing, I’m the one who sits with them and I go, I like this. Is everybody else going to like this? Is this something that people are gonna wanna wear? Is this something they’re gonna want to invest in? 

[00:18:16] Annie: And at the Las Vegas show. We went out on a limb and we got things that we wouldn’t usually get and we got from Parlay, Boulder Opal Styles, Uhhuh, and from Legend Jewelers, fancy natural colored diamonds in rings and necklaces. That was something we had never carried. And something really different for our store and we opened, actually, a vintage antique estate case as well and invested in getting some nice pieces for that. And then we waited . I was like, Richard was kind of like, you guys, I trust you. Whatever you think we’re gonna sell. And so, for, you know, the summer months are slow for everybody, and the show obviously is in June. And so over the summer months, I kind of went uh oh, like did I make, did I make a bad call? We sold all of the fancy diamond pieces. We sold all of the Boulder opal pieces. Our estate case has been nearly cleared out. So, it’s rewarding when you take that risk and, like your intuition, I am capable of doing this. I’ve been in the jewelry industry. I know what people are asking for. So I would say if you feel like your store could benefit from branching out, trying something new, maybe higher price points than you normally would do, you might bring in that clientele that has the money to spend and are looking for that, like one of a kind piece. That’s maybe what I would say. 

[00:19:43] Nick: Sure. Yeah. I love that. You know, taking risks is such an interesting concept in jewelry. I actually would argue that when you stack up all the different types of retail businesses and stuff I don’t know if jewelry is at the top of the list of the, of the industry, it’s taken the most risks, right? That’s one of the downsides, right, to being established for so long, is that you feel like, well, we figured it out. We’ll just keep doing what we’re doing. But, you know, to go in and to take some risk and to try new things it really can help drive your store to a whole new, a whole new level, right? And, you know, that’s a great example that you shared right there at the end. Try carrying a different price point, right? See how consumers react to it. And, you know, there’s ways to mitigate that risk. Of course, you know, try a few things on MO or, you know, something along those lines to try and make sure that you’re not gonna put your store in a bad place. But, try new things. So that’s really great. 

[00:20:32] Nick: Annie, another thing I wanna chat with you, a little bit about, so on the Master Stones podcast, we have all sorts of different retailers here. We also have a lot of different people from different roles within the industry, right? Whether they’re a store owner, store manager, an employee, whatever it else it is. Now you’ve worn the hats, right? Of a store employee. You’ve worn the hat of a store manager. Is there any advice specifically for anyone in your role or similar that you’ve learned a little bit over the years and you could help share with them, anyone new in the industry, that type of thing? I think that’s a lot of the people who listen to this podcast and so I’m sure they’d love hearing from you and a little bit about your journey there and maybe any advice you have for them. 

[00:21:06] Annie: Yeah, so I started working in jewelry when I was 18 years old. I was a hostess at a restaurant. I had just moved to the state and I was also working at an animal hospital and, you know, just jobs to get by. The manager of the jewelry store that I work at now came into the restaurant where I hostess to order lunch and just started talking to me and she said, how many hours a week do you work here? And I said, about 20. But I have another job. I work about 20 hours there. And she said, well, we just had a position open up at the jewelry store. Would you be interested? Which I was like, I don’t know anything about jewelry. But this sounds cool. My dad worked in jewelry in college. And I said, yeah, but I don’t know anything about jewelry. And she said, that’s okay. We’ll teach you everything that you need to know. I was like, okay. So I went in and I interviewed and they hired me, which I was so surprised because I didn’t really have a thing growing up. I didn’t play sports. I mean, I did, but if I wanted to continue to play ’em, I had to pay for them myself and if I wanted to pay for him myself, I had to have a job and if you have a job, you can’t play sports. So it was just one of those things. I didn’t really have a thing. And then when I graduated and I moved out when I was going to plan to go to college, I was taking a year to get residency so I could get in-state tuition and I was like, I’ll go to school for American Sign Language. I don’t know ASL. 

[00:22:21] Annie: And so anyway, she gave me that opportunity because she saw how I could work with people. And oh my gosh, that changed my life. It gave me something passionate. I remember the first day I was working, somebody came in and they said, I’m looking for a white gold band. And I said, what’s, what’s white gold? I knew silver. I didn’t know what white gold was. Anyway, and so as I started to learn more about gems and about diamonds, I loved, I loved everything I was learning, and I was like, how cool is this that I get to play with loose diamonds? And then I left Duke’s for about, well, I worked part-time. I went for 11 months to work at a call center because on paper it was more consistent hours, higher pay hourly with like, PTO and insurance and I was like, this is gonna be better for me. Oh my gosh. It was miserable. And I would still go to Duke’s on my days off just random days they needed covered or that I could come in and, and work.

[00:23:15] Annie: And then around the holidays, you know, 11 months later I came back and the manager was like, “you should come back,” and I was like, “I don’t know.” And then that day I made a $6,000 sale, which for me, you know, I’d only made one of those before and I did it all by myself and I was like, I’m good at this, like I can do this. And then, I quit that other job and I kept with Duke’s and then I started to make relationships with people. People started to seek me out. They’d say, “is Annie in today?” and they trust me to repurpose their Great Grandma, Grandma’s ring and their wedding ring all into one ring and as those relationships start to grow, you know, I started to find value in, like what I was doing. Like this is one of the few industries you get to see. You know, weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, funerals and deaths in the family, ways to memorialize people who have passed on. And for like the first time in my life I had kind of a realization. Oh, like, this is what it feels like to be passionate about something and then I started pursuing my education and I, I have my graduate Diamonds diploma from GIA and working toward my GG. And like looking back five years ago, I was so lost. Like I didn’t have a purpose or a plan and now like, I have a career that I would wanna do for the rest of my life. 

[00:24:42] Annie: And I don’t know if this answers your question, I’ve been on a little rant there, but when, when you work in the jewelry industry and you’re able to make connections with people and relationships where people trust you. That is, like, one of the few, like few things compare in my opinion, like that is one of the things I value the most, in my experience. 

[00:25:06] Nick: Yeah. I love that. I think that’s so fantastic. I think sometimes we struggle to step away, right from the career we’ve made and take a look, you know, at the changes we’ve made and the person we’ve become mm-hmm and, you know, jewelry, it’s so relationship driven that there’s so much to be had in terms of meaning, in terms of, you know, value that you attribute to your life in, in this industry. I mean, you’re exactly right. You said it there at the beginning, you know, how lucky am I to play with loose diamonds all day, right? And sometimes we get so caught up in the day-to-day work, right, that we have to do that we forget that it is an incredibly lucky industry that we get to work in. And so I love that and I think that you know, those listening tuning into the podcast, right to understand that there is still growth to be had, right? Still changes to be made cuz even when you started, it sounds like you weren’t like, you know, set, you hadn’t made that decision yet. But as you know, things progressed, you know, you, you really learned and found your passion. I love that. I think that’s fantastic. 

[00:26:03] Nick: Well we really appreciate having you on. It’s been fantastic getting a chat with you for these last few minutes. Really quick before we end, Annie, can you share with us a little bit more about where people can find Duke’s, your website, and where they can reach out to you if they’d like to. 

[00:26:13] Annie: Yeah. Duke’s Jewelers Utah on Instagram, Duke’s Jewelers on Facebook, dukesjewelers.com. We have all of our inventory on the website as well as a chat bubble. If you need to get ahold of us. You can purchase straight from the website. We have all of our diamond and gemstone inventory available for you to look at. And don’t hesitate to reach out if there’s, if there’s any questions or anything. I’ve had a lot of fun. I hope I haven’t rambled too much, but it’s a lot of fun to talk about jewelry. It’s something that people can’t get me to stop talking about, so I am grateful for the opportunity. 

[00:26:43] Nick: Awesome. Well, I appreciate it, Annie. Have a good day. 

[00:26:46] Annie: You too. Take care. 

[00:26:48] Nick: Bye-bye.