Host, Nick Gurney, and Tony Prater of Jensen Jewelers talk about how a regional jeweler can meet the needs of local markets. Tony discusses how he works to continue the tradition of making jewelry easily accessible to customers while growing his business.
Nick and Tony discuss how the business was built on the foundation of innovating how Jensen’s extended credit to new customers to how it now uses technology. They talk about how Jensen’s has adapted new technologies to the proven strategies of the jewelry industry.
- Take advantage of the technology and tools that you have to build relationships.
- Today’s jewelry retailers need to innovate the way they have done business.
- Risk is an inherent part of running a business. Feel the fear and move forward.
- Retailers need to use technology to overcome the challenges of the modern environment.
- “How can I get better? It’s like, look at the technology behind this stuff. But the things we use are things like customer relationship management tools, where you get the information just in talking, just in building a relationship.”
- “And as you said sometimes it’s…the grandparents sent you there…’you should go see these people because they take really good care of you.’ That’s a big part of the jewelry industry. I just don’t think you find that in a lot of other places.”
- “They want to see, touch, and feel that before they really buy it on the internet, and then by the time you make that relationship and talk to them and ask them about their kids.”
- “That’s what you’re selling, is a relationship. You’re selling something building a relationship, so why shouldn’t you have the same type of thing with your customer? And I think that that’s the piece that jewelry in general can do over the big boxes.”
- “Using the tools, the website or whatever might have, are a great way to keep the relationship, and I think that that’s where the industry is really going. I believe.”
Tony Prater is the CEO of Jensen Jewelry and has been in the industry for over 43 years. After a brief stint in other pursuits Tony found his passion in the jewelry industry. Jensen Jewelers is a privately owned company, growing from that first location in Twin Falls to 17 stores across four states: Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Wyoming.
Jensen Jewelers Website: https://jensen-jewelers.com/
[00:00:02] Nick Gurney: All right. Well, today we’re here joined with Tony Prater, the CEO of Jensen Jewelers. Tony, we’re so glad you could join us today and talk with us a little bit about your business and ways that you have been you . Know, addressing the retail industry here in the modern age. Why don’t you introduce yourself just a little bit to the podcast and we’ll go from.
[00:00:18] Tony Prater : Well, thanks, Nick. Thanks for having me on the podcast. It’s a great to be here. You know I have been in the jewelry industry for 43 years. Kind of a weird start. I got kicked out of college. I actually got appointed to West Point. I was also a Harvard legacy, so I could have done all of those things decided not to decide to go to a junior college and I think I irritated a couple of professors the first day in, and I was out within about a week.
They sent me off to meet Don Jensen, which was kind of a great story. He started this business 66 years ago with a dream and a thousand dollars in his pocket and his whole premise was, I want everybody to wear jewelry and I’m gonna figure out a way for them to afford it.
And that kind of leaves where we are today. We were big promotional credit jeweler, but his whole deal was, you know, a dollar down and a dollar a month can get you a ring for your sweetie for life. So, I really thought that that was a cool thing cause, actually, I bought my first Sweethearts ring from this company when I was in high school before I knew anything about it, before I knew how cool the jewelry industry was.
You know, I met Don Jensen. We talked a little bit about golf, a little bit about fishing and gosh, by the end of the day, he had hired me to work for him. And thank goodness. My professors had better foresight than I did and hooked me up with Don and his son, John, and in fact, their whole family. they’ve always been like family to me and grandparents to my kids. So, I think that’s one thing about jewelry that’s really cool, is the personal touch on that, the family side of it, the personal stuff that we sell. Those are things that really, touch people’s lives and that’s very important to me and I think that’s one of the reasons I’m still sitting here 43 years later.
[00:01:47] Nick: Yeah, I think that’s one of the biggest benefits. Something we forget in the jewelry space is just how meaningful it can be, right? And a lot of the times we get caught up in the day-to-day or we get caught up in the numbers and whatever else it might be, but those relationships you’re building with your clients, the experiences these clients are using their store, it’s very special because, you know, especially when a store has a legacy this long, which is common in, the jewelry industry, right? start to talk about well, my grandparents went there, and then my parents went there and then, you know, of course, when I went to go buy my ring for my sweetheart, I went there, right? And so I think that, we’re very, very lucky in this industry to be able to have those experiences. that’s really cool. I’m glad you shared that.
[00:02:24] Nick: Tell me a little bit about Jensen’s today. What’s it like? You know, how big are you guys? Where’s your impact most, you know, and things like that.
[00:02:31] Tony: Well, we still focus, you know, on the same things that got us here. You know, our credit business is a big part of it. About 70% of everything we sell goes on credit and we carry that credit, so that’s always grown.
Now we’re 17 stores, wide 17 locations at this point in Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Wyoming, and you know, we’re looking to continue to grow because relationships continue to grow and we find people still want what we do, which is to provide them really quality jewelry on credit.
The company has changed dramatically over what we used to sell. When I first started here, it was, it was funny. Jewelry stores were kind of the hardware, catch all, new stuff. So if you’re watching infomercials at night, jewelry stores probably carried that stuff; like we had luggage, we sold pots and pans. I remember the first Polaroid cameras that ever came into this part of Idaho came through our store. And you may not even know what a Polaroid camera is.
But you know, things like that, that happened, electric razors and so forth, those were things that jewelry stores carried, and so you you got into people’s houses in a lot of different ways other than just their jewelry and you became their jeweler, their family, and we still try to maintain that relationship with our customers, to be their jeweler for life.
And as you said sometimes it’s, you know, the grandparents sent you there, or sent parents there and the parents gave you that, “you should go see these people because they take really good care of you.” That’s a big part of the jewelry industry. I just don’t think you find that in a lot of other places.
[00:03:58] Nick: Yeah, it’s true. You, you really, really don’t and I think it’s also one of the things that’s helped the industry compete so well, right? So when you look at, how the industry’s changed with e-commerce and with these giants coming in like Amazon and Walmart, I think you’re exactly right and I think that’s why jewelry has competed in such a unique way. In this industry, relationships matter more, and then there’s also the personal touch, right?; the custom and that type of stuff. That’s the type of thing those big giants are gonna struggle really, really hard to touch.
[00:04:28] Nick: Is that something that you’ve noticed in your business as well? Or how have these big giants coming in, how have they affected Jensen’s?
[00:04:34] Tony: Well, you know, we see that, and we see the people who come in the door with a piece of paper that they printed off of their computer that says I can buy this diamond or this ring from here and whatever but, the one thing that always come in is, “do you have one like it so I can see it, so I can touch it, so I can feel it?” And that is part of that relationship thing is, they want to see, touch, and feel that before they really buy it on the internet, and then by the time you make that relationship and talk to them and ask them about their kid’s soccer team or whatever it might be, you’ve become part of the process. It’s very personal, and so they tend to hand you the piece of paper to throw away and there you go, you’ve built a relationship and that’s something, I think, every jeweler needs to take into account if they’re new at this game, or if they’ve been doing it a long time, is you can’t forget those relationships because that’s what really gets you there.
That’s what you’re selling, is a relationship. You’re selling something building a relationship, so why shouldn’t you have the same type of thing with your customer? And I think that that’s the piece that jewelry in general can do over the big boxes and over the internet and those things is that the brick and mortar store is still the place you can come see, feel, touch it and have a handshake and, you know, a bottle of water and that kind of thing with your personal jeweler.
[00:05:48] Nick: Yeah, exactly. And I think there was kind of a, an a little bit of an eb here, right? So it was interesting when, when these, big brands came online, right, and they promise these really cheap prices and these, pictures and things of what you get, and you’ll get it to your door in two days, you know, everyone got excited about all the convenience, right? And they so quickly set aside the other downsides, right, to purchasing from somebody who don’t know and you know, what’s been really interesting is I think people are changing, right. There’s still lots of things that I’ll go buy on Amazon, right? You know, the, convenience things, things I know I need, you know, whatever it might be for my house.
When it comes to something where I have, you know, value in this beyond it’s use, right, that’s where it’s like, I want to talk to somebody. I want to, for lack of better terms, I want to be sold. I want to be told why this one is better versus that one. I want to look, I want to touch. I want to feel. And I think that the market is starting to respond to that because we’ve seen an increase, right, in the stores, they get these inquires for custom pieces and we’ve seen stores that have people coming in, wanting something unique and wanting to experience the whole process, right? So that’s really a good thing that you’ve noticed, and I think the market is also noticing that.
[00:06:58] Tony: Well, I, totally agree. I think you mentioned custom and it seems that everybody wants their own thing, right? So they, , come in and they have a ring, or even if you have it in your case and they’re like, well, can we just tweak it a little bit? Or can we add this to the side? Or can we make it our very own? Because jewelry is always a very special thing. It’s not like going out and, you know… I know what size my jeans are, right, and I could order my jeans from any place if I know which ones I want, but a ring is different than that. My jeans are going to go on my washing machine and you’re going to get clean and all that kind of stuff and taking care of. Jewelry is a little different than that. If you really want it to sparkle, shine, and to do all those things, you need somebody who will take care of it for you and you can’t do that over the internet. You know, you can try as much as you want to hold that ring up to the camera and it is just not going to sparkle anymore.
So I think that, yeah, like you said, you want to be sold, but you want to be sold in a way that’s about the service side of it, because that’s one thing you cannot get in the big boxes or even some of the larger chains you really can’t get that. Independents have a much better way of dealing with that because there… for a lot of them, the owner operators right there in the store and that makes a big difference when, you know, somebody coming in and they know who they’re talking to, but you want that service and you can’t get that from a box and you can’t get that from some big chains. You just can’t.
[00:08:19] Nick: You’re exactly right. So one piece I want to touch in there and I actually don’t know your opinion on this, so I’m very curious to hear. So you mentioned… you’re right, when you go to buy something online, you want to touch it, you want to feel it. Do you feel like there’s a place in jewelry, retail for e-commerce, and if so, what is that place?
[00:08:38] Tony: Well, don’t know. You know, we have a website, in fact we have to like everybody else out there, right. And our e-commerce is okay, it’s not great, but it’s based on things that are more commodity type items like gold chains or watches, for example. Watches are, you know, they’re like your jeans, same thing. But
I think the place for e-commerce… maybe it’s more of a great catalog before you come into the store. So you can kind of narrow down what you like, what you don’t like, those types of things. As far as purchasing from an e-commerce standpoint, I don’t know that it’s ever going to be a huge deal. I just don’t. the game we’re in is just too emotional and I don’t know that it’s going to be a big deal. Yeah, you’re going to find some people who don’t care and they want to buy a big diamond on a big diamond website, but they still most likely, even if they do that, they’re still going to buy that ring from us because that’s the part that touches the finger and that’s a big deal. And I just don’t know that e-commerce is going to get past that, you know, some of the big companies out there right now, in fact are now taking their e-commerce and going brick and mortar. You know, a lot of the big ones that just started with an e-commerce foundation are now brick and mortar stores and building more and more of them.
There’s kind of an interesting change. I think that’s very customer driven. The customer is driving that because they weren’t getting it on their websites where they were getting the customers questions of: can I see it? Can I touch it? Can I feel it before I buy it? And so brick and mortar makes sense for even them to come back to.
[00:10:12] Nick: Yeah, absolutely. That’s really interesting. You know, I’ve heard it described this way before, too, that lot of the reason that you need the brick and mortar, especially in the first place, is in an industry like this, when it’s so relationship built, you need a place to build those relationships.
And the website, you know, people have done it. People have built relationships online. They, you know, even, you know, transactional ones like this. One way I heard it described to me that I thought was really interesting is that you need the brick and mortar to build the relationship and once you have the relationship, that’s where you can actually see your e-commerce grow, because once they trust you as a business and they trust the product that you sell, you’re more likely to be able to list something that’s more of a commodity, something like a watch online and see them come and buy it, so it’s almost like two avenues that you can approach.
These consumers where, yes, for your higher end, for your customer for all that type of stuff, come in-store. Let’s create a great experience. When you need to buy a watch because you’re going to a wedding next week and you want to have this nice watch for it, you know, you might be able to then earn their business through the commodity online.
[00:11:10] Tony: Yeah. Very true, very true. But I think you’re right. It is that they still want to know that there’s a . Place they can go. We do, we sell online or actually we sell, you know, using all kinds of methods, whether it’s texting or some you know, customer relationship management software or whatever it might be, right. We do sell that way and it’s great to sell that way, but it usually starts with either a visit to the store where we’ve made a personal contact, or they know that we are just down the road where they know they can go if they have an issue, and I think that that is just the way of our business and I don’t know that that’s ever really going to change.
I still think that jewelry for whatever reason is still always going to be that “we’re very personal” piece and we can try, and we do it all the time, but best success is when somebody comes in the store knows that we’re just, like say, right down the road.
[00:12:01] Nick: Yep. if you were to deny that, right, and I think it’s very smart you’ve, taken this approach because if you were to deny that right, and say, we need to move this whole business online, you know what I mean? We need to focus more and more on that, you’re taking your greatest competitive advantage, right? You’re taking those relationships, you’re taking the, the personal touch that makes jewelry so special, and, and you might negate that a little bit. So that’s a really good point that you make, Tony.
[00:12:21] Tony: Yeah. And, again, you know, when you’re a jeweler like we are, who does so much on credit, we can build that relationship through using those types of things, and I think a lot of jewelers rely on credit in some form, whether they were using it outsourced to a finance company or whatever, but there is that relationship with sitting down, face-to-face, across the table, taking personal information and helping them get a payment that they want or whatever it might be. That really builds a different personal relationship than just selling them a diamond because at that point, they’re kind of books wide open to you, and you know, they opened up their heart over here and now they’re opening up their book over here and telling you all about who they are and what they do and that’s a pretty big process. They have to really trust you to do that, I believe.
[00:13:06] Nick: Yeah, yeah. And, and this is why a lot of stores carry their own credit, this exact reason because it also enables that long-term relationship, because you might sell one piece, you sell cash or you sell outside financing, sure. You know, that’s a great experience. But that’s just one experience. When you offer something like in-house financing and you carry your own credit, then there’s almost an understanding that, Yes, you’re purchasing this item from me, but now you also have this account with our store. You have this relationship, this formal relationship, and you can continue to come back and to buy new things and to turn this into your one store for jewelry.
[00:13:39] Tony: Right. And if you’re a smart jeweler, you can help them along the way by reminding them that their significant other birthday is in two weeks and we’d better, you know, get something ready, or, your anniversary’s coming up and that’s where, great tools to do that, like great software are things that really make your life easier and help build that relationship. That’s kind of the modern way versus a website, I would see of building the relationship with your customer, is using the other tools that are available to enhance the experience and it’s very techie. Be very technology driven, but it’s still the handshake at the end, I think, that makes a difference.
[00:14:15] Nick: Sure.
[00:14:16] Tony: So you’re kind of, both those things, but you know, as far as like a website versus in store, I just don’t know that there’s the same in any way, shape or form, but using the tools, the website or whatever might have, are a great way to keep the relationship, and I think that that’s where the industry is really going. I believe.
[00:14:34] Nick: Yeah. Let’s touch on that a little bit. What are some of those tools that you’re using that you’ve noticed have helped on that front, right? so you mentioned there’s kind of two website fronts, right? There’s your e-commerce, there’s your website. Then there’s all these other web tools, all these other technologies that you can use to enhance your business. What are some of those?
[00:14:51] Tony: Well, you know, we are much, much better. And it is a tough, tough thing because most jewelers are, if they’re a long business like ours, longstanding boy, we liked the way we did things back in the day when we did things, right? It’s kind of hard to make that leap sometimes. I’ve always been an early adopter, so that helps a lot.
And that’s one thing I would always tell any dealer out there that asks me, “how can I get better? How can I get better?” It’s like, look at the technology behind this stuff. But the things we use are things like customer relationship management tools, where you get the information just in talking, just in building a relationship, we might ask, you know, about birthdays or anniversaries or things coming up, or those types of things and we u se the software that’s there instead of writing it down on a piece of paper that goes in the bottom of your drawer that you forget is there or some list that’s pinned to the back board and you miss all that. If you’re using software, good customer relation software, it’s going to help you out. It’s going to tell you when those things are in advance so that you can make the contact, and heck it’s even going to know what they want, so it makes you the hero. I mean, I can’t remember any of that stuff personally. I’m terrible that way and that’s why CRM softwares is fantastic for me because it reminds me of the people that I need to call and talk to, or send a thank you note to, or whatever it might be, but also, I got sold that way myself and I really found the value in it.
There’s a little boutique that’s not far from my office and my wife has a tendency to go there o ccasionally, a lot, I guess a lot would be a big, better word. We’re getting ready to leave for a trip, and I walked into my office and on my desk was a gift wrapped box and I said, well, what the heck is that? And they said, well, Kinsey from the Brass Monkey brought it over and said that you were going to need this for your trip. I thought, well, that’s really strange. Well, my wife had been in and said how much she’d wanted this thing for our trip and Kenzie had remembered that, like for a month. And so the day we were getting ready to leave, it shows up on my desk. And she uses a CRM package, right, cause she wouldn’t have remembered.
So those are the types of things that jewelers have been reticent to do, and gosh, it’s right there in our hands and so easy to do, whether you’re doing it on an iPad or your laptop or you know, whatever, it is so easy to take the information, get to know the customer, and then just make notes of it electronically. Then your business will change dramatically. I really think that relationships will grow and your business will change dramatically. So that’s kind of the old way of doing it when you had 20 customers. Now, when you have a thousand customers, you can’t keep track of it.
[00:17:20] Nick: Yeah. And, that’s actually really interesting, right? Because you know, I’ve been told before that the best salespeople, right, the best people in the industry that are selling a lot of goods, they’ve been doing this for years and years and years. They’ve been keeping track of those dates. They’ve been working with these customers, right. They’ve been doing it this way forever. The only thing this technology does is it just enables a better scale of it, right. You’re going to see better results because less things are gonna slip through the cracks, right? And so of the best salespeople have been doing this for decades and when you implement one of these tools, it’s all about the scale. And now suddenly you’ve got a store that can push out just as many sales with half the number of associates, or you can increase your sales, you know, by a third or double with the same number of employees, because the software is handling a lot of the follow-up and a lot of the management of it, right, and so that’s really interesting that you mention that.
[00:18:08] Tony: Yeah, you’re exactly right. It’s about the scale.
You know, where the population’s growing constantly, and back in the day when, 43 years ago, when I first started this, gosh, we had, you know, a handful of really good customers. We had, you know, a couple of hundred per store, but now we have thousands per store. We have thousands walked through our door in a month in some stores. You can’t do that you know, with a three ring binder or a…
[00:18:34] Nick: or a packet of sticky notes?
[00:18:35] Tony: Yeah, you can’t do that anymore and so, you used to be able to. Use to be able to write it on the back of my hand, I was pretty good at that until I washed my hands. But it’s just changed so much and if you’re not embracing the new technology…. to still be the old time jeweler, you know, it’s kind of that thing. It’s like I’m embracing all this really cool technology to still be that relationship old time jeweler to these people. It’s where the world is, more so than selling on the internet. That’s where the technology is for you. It’s, the stuff that you use to capture the information, whether it’s your point of sale systems whatever it might be that spits it back out at you, and those are great systems for that.
But if you’re not using it to its fullest, because most systems we have, we never used the its fullest, right? The only thing I use to its fullest is my car. I make sure it goes really fast and I make sure that I wear out the brakes, right. use it to its fullest, but you know, most of the stuff we use, we don’t use to its fullest and if you find those things, gosh, it’s usually some bonus thing you find in a piece of software that you already own, it goes, wow, I had no idea, and it can make or break your business in a short period of time.
The other thing is that a lot of consultants out there who’ve told us this for years and years and years and years, and we were busy being jewelers and not paying attention and now we have to.
[00:19:52] Nick: Yeah. and it’s interesting, right, because that’s the exact thing, right, let’s say you, you want your sales to increase, right? Every retailer wants their gross revenue to increase, right? So what’s really interesting is that if you hire on any consultant or you talk to anybody else, the very first thing they’re going to tell you is, well, you need to innovate. You need to change. You need to do something more and you do something different, right. If you’ve always you’re doing the same thing, you’re going to get the same.
It’s the same logic when starting a business, right. When I go and open a store, my first thought is, how am I going to be different from everybody else? Why are people going to choose me over anybody else? But you’re right. Sometimes we get stuck in our ways. We do the same thing for enough years, and our first thought is, well, it’s been working. Why should I change? And to me, that’s the whole concept of business and entrepreneurship, right, is that you’re innovating and that you’re changing, and so I think that’s really impressive, Tony, you mentioned that these technologies and these advancements, they’re not meant to be distracting. They’re not meant to be expensive, right? The thought behind all of these is that they should either be making you more money or giving you more time. And so that’s really interesting you mentioned. That is that something you’ve noticed since you’ve implemented these things, have you seen more time in your business? Have you seen more money? I mean, you mentioned more customers of course, which I’m sure translate to one of those things, but is that something you’ve noticed?
[00:21:05] Tony: Both of those things. I think both in different ways. So for example, y eah, by using it as a tool to remind customers to come in for their anniversary or those types of things, we have found that it has definitely improved sales, definitely improve sales because you don’t miss those things and believe me, you make that phone call and tell somebody that their anniversary’s in three days and I have the exact thing for you, you become the hero, and that will increase your sales because they’ll tell the next person how awesome you were, and the next person how awesome you were, and so they’re doing the job for you. Referrals are huge that way.
The other thing is that the technologies that are out there remind you to send the thank you note or even electronically, if you want to go that far, we still like to hand write them. It’s just one of those little quirks I still hang on to with handwritten stuff. But handwritten note: one is my kids, I found out, never really get any handwritten mail. When they told me they got a handwritten letter, like, oh my gosh, somebody wrote something to me? It wasn’t just printed and stuck in an envelope? And I went, oh, I just learned something real quick there. But, you know, it gives you the time and the ability to do those because you’re not chasing the paper all the time, because it’s all there and you know it’s all there and organized in a way that’s going to remind you.
So it takes that worry off your head and gives you the time to either work with the customer more or to do all the little ancillary things on the side that means so much to people. So I think it does both. I think, yeah, I’m both of that drives business, right? So it’s kind of circle that really works.
[00:22:34] Nick: Yeah, and when you adopt these technologies, right, and when you try to innovate your business, I actually love your handwritten notes. To me that’s the piece… you’re, you’re not wanting to abandon, right, what you have learned and what has set your business apart, and what has made you special. You just want to augment it, right? Or you want to scale it with these tools. The handwritten notes, to me, that’s, a perfect example of, ” we know the value that these provide as they are.” You know, it’s not another checkbox item. It is something that generates revenue and it generates business. And so we’re going to keep doing these pieces, right. But for the other stuff, the manual stuff, so you don’t have to spend all day in spreadsheets, that’s where these technologies come in, right, and they can improve and give you more time to do the things, like handwritten notes, that do make that impact.
[00:23:18] Tony: Yeah. Yeah, very much. That’s why I say technology is something we have to embrace more than we really believe we do. I mean, we, embrace it in our stores sometimes in our repair shops with the laser welder or some new high-tech piece that saves the Goldsmith, or maybe if you’re the Goldsmith, you have a bunch of time to get back out on the sales floor, and sometimes we forget the other side of the technology where we’re so busy, just doing the nuts and bolts part of it. We’ll spend our money there, but forget to, use the tools that we may already have and/ or spend a little bit of money on, buying those tools to get you back in the shop, to do what you love or whatever it is.
[00:23:52] Nick: Exactly. You need to create more time or create more money because those are the things that bring you more opportunities to business. So that’s, that’s really, really good.
So one other question I’ve got for you is a little bit more just about Jensen’s, right. So as you’re looking into the future, right, of your business, what are the things that you see on the horizon? What are the things that gets you excited about this industry? You know, when you go to shows or when you go to meetings, what are the things that are front most on your mind as, “we need to look more into this, we need to explore that.”?
[00:24:21] Tony: Well, I think that, the jewelry industry with stagnant for quite a while. You know, there’s been some things up there, whether you love them or you hate them. Lab grown diamonds shook up the industry, got people thinking in a different direction and thinking, “well, here’s an opportunity. Should I take it? Should I not? Should I be this main jeweler who doesn’t do that? What am I going to do?”
The thing that I see out there is you just have to look. I think that’s the hardest thing is really the look, because jewelry has gotten so big. If you’ve been to the JCK show and you walk 30 miles to look for that one perfect thing and you don’t let your eyes look outside of that scope, you’ll miss something, because there are innovative things happening all the time, whether it’s new ways to build jewelry or whatever it might be. There are always new, innovative ways that we don’t always see, but you gotta spend the time.
I think looking forward in the jewelry industry, it’s a sad thing that’s happening, unfortunately. There were a bunch of stores closed over the last many years. I mean, we’re talking 900 plus stores a year and now we don’t have that going on, thank goodness. This last year it’s been much better. I think the jewelry industry has benefited from the last year or so, even during the pandmenic, people still wanted to buy things. We found that out. That was a great find, by the way. We found out that even when everything is not going to best for you, people were still going to go out and buy a little bit of jewelry to make themselves feel better. That just kind of tells you where the industry is. It’s a little bit bulletproof in that regard, and I see that our opportunity, you know, w ith the customer is trying to find the things that are cool. But we have to do it. The customer isn’t doing it.
I mean, it used to be if you go to your doctor’s office, there’d be a magazine on the counter and it’d be full of pictures of whatever. It would pick up the magazine if you’re a hunter, there’d be pictures of hunting. If you’re, you know, we’re into fashion or whatever, and in those, a lot of times there were jewelry items, and people saw the cool new thing, right? Well, I think we have pushed that out to them and I think what’s good that excites me the most is how easy I can share something cool coming down the line to hundreds or thousands of people in one shot, like this is the coolest thing just came in the door.
Again, I’m kind of going back to technology in one hand, but here’s, this cool stuff we can share with all these people and get their opinions on it before we actually even maybe buy it. And in the past it was kind of a crap shoot. You’d buy something and hope it didn’t become a museum piece, right, that it actually sold, and I think that’s what excites me about the industry is that we can innovate quickly and do things quickly we’ve never been able to do. The speed that we can do things is so different. And that excites me from a guy who likes to be on the front edge of stuff.
[00:26:58] Nick: Yeah, and no one’s going to come in there and make that decision for you to, you know what I mean? I think as a business owner, as a retailer you said you’ve got to keep your eyes open, right? You mentioned that you go to JCK, you gotta keep your eyes open and look out for those new things and those forward-thinking things, and no one’s gonna do that for you. And so I think that’s a great point that as a retailer, when, when you look at your business and look at growing your business, you’ve got to be open to those things so that you can grow your store exactly how you’d like to.
[00:27:23] Tony: Right. You know, we’ve developed a lot of our own products based on our customers telling us. We’ll throw something out there and they tell us what they like, what they don’t like. When we develop a new product for us, that really works that way, and I think that that’s something that everybody has to look at, and it doesn’t mean you have to be making that product yourself, but you can work with other people who do manufacturer to make a new line for you, which has been very interesting.
You know, we’ve been making our own lines of jewelry for a lot of years. We have a group of jewelry called Elk Ivory jewelry, and I think we’re the largest retailer in well, may, probably in the world at this point, but I know in the United States, all the Elk Ivory jewelry.
And it’s something that our customers came to us and said, we love this type of a product. Can you build it? And then it became more and more customers would see it and more and more customers would come and those are the things that are really energizing and, and, cool to me is that, you know, we act on what our customers like, find out what there’s a trend that they’re building that they love, and we try to accommodate them, and that’s something that the industry has right now for it was the ability to do that. Manufacturers are built to do that now. They’re set up to do that. If you send them a drawing and say, this is what I want, they’ll do it for you. It’s a whole different way of doing business than we ever did in the past where it was, you know, “here’s what I got in the case. You don’t like it? Oh too bad.” And that was it. We have this new way of building merchandise that is fantastic.
[00:28:50] Nick: Yeah, and I think that’s also something, one of those, you know, those, one of those things with the big box that just can never compete with either because when you look at those things that your customers are asking for a lot of the times they define the market that you’re already in. They define the demographic of customer that you’re building for. And these big boxes, they’ll never do that because it doesn’t scale for them.
But when your shop is local, exactly like yours is to the Western United States, things like Elk Ivory are very popular out here. And so the fact that you’ve been able to grow that and to see you become the largest in the country purely because of that is really something amazing to see.
[00:29:22] Tony: Yeah. That’s just listening, you know, that’s listening to your customer. It kind of goes back to the whole experience. What did the customer tell me when we were talking over, you know, looking at something elk and, you know, it grew from that, and I think that there are a lot of opportunities jewelers sometimes don’t jump on or afraid to jump on the bandwagon or afraid to start their own bandwagon rather than jump on a bandwagon.
[00:29:44] Nick: Sure.
[00:29:44] Tony: It’s a little scary.
[00:29:46] Nick: Yeah. You know, it takes a lot of risk, it takes a lot of courage to start a business, right, and you don’t want to lose that risk and mentality your business later on because if you’re not willing to take those risks, take those jumps, that’s where you’re gonna see the growth in your business. Do you agree?
[00:29:58] Tony: Yeah, I do. My wife has a saying She has started some business, been in business other ways too, but one of her things is, “feel the fear and do it anyway,” right. And I think sometimes you have to feel that fear and do it anyway. It’s like the first time you jump off of a bridge with a parachute on or out of an airplane, you know, is you feel the fear, but do it anyway cause the end result can be fantastic sometimes. Not always but most of the time.
[00:30:25] Nick: Well, you know, and that’s, exactly it. That’s the industry we’re in and that’s part of why we do retail, right, is because the reward is it’s great, you know, we’ve seen a lot of successful businesses grow. Jensen’s, I mean, you said it yourself. You’ve seen it grow from four to 17 locations. It’s really, it’s something amazing to see and there’s a lot of opportunity out there. But yeah, I love that if you feel the fear and do it anyways. That’s great. I love that.
[00:30:47] Tony: Yeah. I think that really kind of sums up our industry, frankly.
[00:30:50] Nick: That’s great. I love that. Cool, well um, I really appreciate you joining us today, Tony, with the podcast we’re really excited to have you on here.
[00:30:59] Tony: Cool, well, I would say one thing to everybody out there listening to this. Look, we have had a banner year for most jewelers out there. Take that money, it’s great to think about the boat you’re going to buy or the why you’re going to do whatever, but sometimes you can take that money and invest it back in the technology that’s going to make you more money because you’re going to need it when times aren’t as good. You need to invest that money back into the technology. That’s what’s going to grow your business.
[00:31:26] Nick: That’s great. I really appreciate you sharing that Tony um, you know, to all, the retailers listening and that’s exactly it. It’s been a great year for the industry. We’re very excited and to invest it back into your business is, you’re right, that’s best investment you can make, right, is one in yourself and one in your own business, so that’s great, Tony.
[00:31:42] Tony: Go out there and buy yourself some time and some customers.
[00:31:44] Nick: There you go. Awesome. Well, thank you again. We really appreciate it.
[00:31:48] Tony: Well, thank you guys. Nick, it’s a pleasure, and next time you ever in my area, you know, lunch is on me.
[00:31:55] Nick: Yeah, I’ll be there. Yep, thanks Tony!