How to plan your business & merchandise

Been there, done that… and still helping jewellers to grow their business. A Shivaram, founder, Retail Gurukul, tells you how to take the leap to the next level. Nikita Peer
What qualifies Shivaram to offer advice on such a weighty subject? Over the decade of his service at Tanishq, he was also an integral part of merchandising, the supply chain department, category management and regional business management. Shivaram shares his experiences, anecdotes and valuable advice on cracking the formula.

Make a shopping list
Most jewellers go to Signature and pick what they think is interesting or the naya maal. Usually the owner is in charge of buying, even though they have never sat in the store. It’s time that jewellers had a merchandising and strategy team. It is also important to make a shopping list beforehand because failing to plan is planning to fail.

Value addition
While talking about value addition for customers, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in one of his speeches cited the example of a shoe-polisher who would give a newspaper to his clients for their entertainment while he polished their shoes. He also scribbled on the paper – “Have a good journey.” Passengers would pay 10 paise for the polish and get ₹1 worth of newspaper.
Similarly with the jewellery industry, if all jewellers sell the same kinds of goods, then each one needs to offer its customers a value addition. Customers are willing to pay an additional percentage for added value.

Mismatch in demand-supply
The number of SKUs per store has constantly gone up, as retailers perceive that they have more customers now. The challenge is to know where to stop stocking. Jewellers should identify trends and stock only items of that kind, because the rest just create a long tail.
Also, certain kinds of jewellery do supremely well but are usually out of stock. Attempts should be made to replenish this stock on a timely basis. In a medical shop, before giving you the prescribed medicine, the salesperson at the counter notes down what items have been sold so as to get that stock replenished.
If you are a large organisation, you can do software-driven replenishment.

Extra dhandha with other simple fundas
Conduct mystery audits to understand how the rest of the industry functions.
Watch the small things, like making sure your parking valets behave humbly so as not to spoil the customer’s mood before they enter your store — you don’t want to lose your shot at that ₹50,000 they were planning to spend. To keep employees happy, jewellers should pay their salaries by the end of the month, not after. If you want back-end staff to support front-end staff, then incentivise them accordingly.
Hold a meeting every single morning about the previous day’s performance and the current day’s targets.
Give your sales staff training in soft skills especially in handling objections. Make a list of FAQs and circulate standard answers to customers’ questions to your employees, so that everybody is on the same page.
Jewellers spend about ₹500 to acquire each customer. Closing a sale is no longer enough. You have to build a relationship with the customer.