By Hemdeep Patel
The best way to gauge the growth, direction, and trends of any industry is by listening to what is being spoken about at the retail level. Even though companies and industry leaders aim to drive the market by introducing new products and trends, ultimately, retail sales associates and consumers play a significant part in determining the success or failure of any business decision.
Over the last several years, I’ve made a point of visiting jewellery stores in and around Toronto to get a sense of what people are talking about, see what new jewellery is being offered, and experience how products are being represented either by sales associates or through an informative web presence.
In the case of a brick-and-mortar store, I approach my visit as any other consumer—I simply ask questions regarding interesting products I see in their showcase. The purpose of the visit is not to trick or catch the salesperson misrepresenting or lying about a product, but rather to see how information available at the trade level is presented to a potential customer.
Since my strength is in the area of gemmology, I focus my interest and questions on gemstone and diamond products exhibiting a particular gemmological trait. In many cases, I have found the salesperson is quite knowledgeable about the products the store carries. However, there have been a few instances where the person behind the counter was ill-prepared, misinformed, or just ignorant about what they were selling. Even though the salespeople had weaved a convincing explanation, I would think that in an age where information is readily available over the Internet, a potential customer might have been able to determine the accuracy of their statements and made a decision not to trust them or the retail business.
These days, customers are hard to come by, and losing one because your staff is misinformed about the products you carry can be extremely damaging to your store’s reputation. I will describe three instances that occurred to me that highlight this issue.