I opened a store to sell all the things I wanted to find in a bead store. I stock cabochons, cheap and gem grade quality. I have wire wrapping stones and items. I stock silver clay, silver wire and silver-filled wire. I have gemstone beads in different sizes and shapes. I have fine gemstones in gem grade quality in the case. I sell Swarovski crystals, sterling silver findings and tons of pewter findings.
My intuition told me to open a bead store but I thought it was a good idea because shopping online was a hit or miss proposition. Gemstones vary in quality and look different from one item and one strand to another. It was annoying to go back to the original picture to see what they depicted the item to look like versus what I had received. I like online prices but I still get annoyed at the quality. I would rather see what I am going to get before having to box something up and return it. I have a cheap kiln shelf that arrived broken in May that I still have not returned so it continues to drive around town with me. Here, I am unlike everyone else.
Everyone seems to be buying online using phones and tablets to shop and go. It is seductive. All my co-workers tell me that you can find anything on Amazon. (I do have customers trying to take pictures of items that they probably didn’t know existed so that they can get online to find them cheaper….)
My brother sells $1000, $5000 and $14,000 gemstone rings online. I ask myself who would buy a $14,000 ring online? They do. He photographs the appraisal that will be sent along with the ring upon purchase. He has had very few returns over the years, most from New Englanders. Most people love his merchandise.
I was just on vacation and got to go to the bank vault where his rings are kept. I held, beheld and fell in love with a tanzanite ring with a tall and deep setting inset with tiny sparkling diamond chips. I wanted it so I asked how much it was. It would retail for $50,000 and he has it online for $14,000. I cannot fathom buying a $14,000 item sight unseen online.
My brother has his customers who drive him crazy wanting assurances. (They want the assurance I would have if I bought it from a store). Customers get his items and take them to a jeweler like he suggests. The jeweler sometimes does not believe, agree with or back up his appraisal. My brother tells them, take it to 2 more jewelers that do appraisals themselves and if you can’t find anyone who says it is worth twice with you paid for it, then send it back for a full refund. He says he never hears from them again. He has a good referral rate and evaluations on ebay http://stores.ebay.com/Merritt-Jewelry
My brother has done so well online that he is expanding. He envisioned it and profited. He has sold rings to customers in the UK, Europe and Russia.
It was a woman who wanted a $5000 ring in Russia. They were unsure if it really was a real woman because of language issues and the presence of an active mafia in Russia. My brother decided to take a chance and ship the ring to Russia. UPS and Fedex would not take the delivery citing concerns of theft by the Russian mafia. My brother took the ring to the US Postal Service. The postal service delivered the package successfully without any drama. The Russian customer emailed back how much she loved her tanzanite ring and how happy she was with the experience. Overall, my brother has had good experiences with all aspects of his business.
This past Christmas, online sales were up. Retail sales in stores and malls were way down.
It is often written that we overestimate the changes technology will have in the short term and underestimate the effects it will have in the long term. The traditional big Christmas shopping blitz may be a thing of the past for traditional retailers. A few years ago my brother said that he had read that malls in ten years would be entertainment centers rather than shopping centers. With current spending patterns, we are on our way there.