After a one year COVID break, 100 or so Edge retailers converged on Shelton, CT for this year’s annual Conference. Spirits were high as the jewelers, Edge team and partners eagerly and energetically got back together to share successes, challenges, and new features. We’ve put together a list of the highlights and valuable learnings from the 3 day event. Note: full conference presentations are available on EdgeUser.com, a platform of resources and forums for the Edge user community. 1. Inventory: How to manage your biggest asset Dick Abbott focused his keynote on the idea that owners should manage their store inventories like they would their stock portfolios. Just as most of you view your retirement accounts with a high degree of focus and concern, you should do the same with your inventories. The 3 keys to a well-performing ‘inventory portfolio’ are: Replace fast sellers in timely way. Maintain inventory levels relative to the store’s sales levels. Minimize unproductive aged inventory . Focusing on these 3 items ensure retailers will have a productive inventory. 2. Run Monthly Reports Just as you likely tear open the monthly mailing of your stock portfolio reports from financial firms, Dick advises that you should run these 3 key reports every 30 days. Even better you can set them up to run in an automated way. Performance by Category Report to see the overall effect of your buying – GMROI and Profits for the entire investment should incrementally increase Review the Performance by Vendor Report to see the effect on your vendors’ performance. Review Performance by Age and Sales and Stock Levels by Age. Focusing on these reports will give you eyes on the health of your inventory. 3. Aged Inventory is the bane of your store's good health Dick reminded the audience that jewelers are in the fashion business. Retailers must bring in new items regularly to keep customers buying throughout the year. It becomes critical that you ‘sell through’ last year’s fashion items in a timely way; otherwise you quickly build up aged, unproductive stock. Dick highlighted the many functions in The Edge to help keep on top of a store’s inventory: Run and analyze reports (‘it's like your stock portfolio summaries’); ask yourself if the inventory reports are aligned with your goals. Systematically reduce inventory by using Edge’s automatic markdown programs (for example, you can initiate sales team incentives and customer discounts based on the age of pieces) Use the rapid reorder function to ensure Fast Sellers are identified and ordered quickly Automation was a theme at the Conference; automating sell through and purchasing can help stores. 4. Do you know your GMROI? Gross Margin Return on Investment (GMROI) is a great measure on the effectiveness of your inventory (“your portfolio”). Stores should aim to have higher GMROI numbers (one note: if GMROI gets too high, you might be losing some business with stock-outs). GMROI is calculated by dividing gross profit by your average investment. The good news is The Edge will tell you both statics so GMROI is easy to calculate. Where do stores stand on their GMROI’s? Dick recommends aiming for a GRMOI goal of 125%. He reported that the typical jewelry store posts a lackluster GMROI of 65% (indicating they have too much inventory- much of it aged). Dick polled retailers at the Conference who exceeded 125%; there were a number of retailers who raised their hands (note: many of those retailers worked on raising this metric with the team from Edge Retail Academy). Two of the levers to impact GMROI are (1) investment and (2) product turn. These metrics will vary by store; Dick advised that you’ll want a strategy that has the right balance between these 2 metrics to deliver your goal GMROI. You’ll want to run your GMROI by vendor, product category and inventory age. Your successes and challenges will be obvious as you review inventory from these different perspectives. 5. Focus on serving your customers better (starting with your data); turn your activities into sales with Clienteling Retailers must be experts on your customers -especially the top 5% who likely account for 50% of our sales. Here’s where to start: Run your Customer Performance Report weekly (Reports>Customers>Performance Reports>Customers>Analytics> Performance) Not all of your marketing investment should be to land new customers. In fact, you should allocate at least 10% of the budget to communicating with your top existing customers. Lenny pointed out that email is a great way to message, especially with existing customers. Data’s role in better attracting and serving customers There was an era when consumers had limited choices in their buying. They certainly have many more options now with the click of the mouse. How do you compete with this? Collect the best data and utilize it to provide a better buying experience Edge POS is a great tool to view and collect this customer data (birthdays and other events, purchase history, rewards, relationships, etc.). Jewelers should use these insights both with the customer as well as in marketing to them (DriveRetail, SnapRetail, and other partners). Clienteling should be used by team members to establish long-term and lucrative relationships with key customers based on this data about their preferences, behaviors and purchases. Here are some tips actionable from Lenny about clienteling: Use Edge’s powerful customer filters to find target customers and print your clienteling forms Set up automations to message clients about cleaning/servicing their big purchases (give them a reason to come back to the store regularly) Schedule and track appointments for important clients Work with your team to utilize the Edge and partner tools to leverage the rich data about your prized customers. 6. Brick and Mortar is alive and well, yet retailers need to embrace omni-channel Physical stores make up 86% of sales for general retailers. Yet, retailers have to engage with consumers where they want, any time they want, and deliver a consistent experience. This is where offering an omni-channel experience to your customers becomes important. The Edge and its partners are committed to ensuring you are equipped to thrive in the future by providing the omni-channel experience to customers through easy and seamless integration between The Edge and website platforms like Punchmark, Shopify and now BigCommerce. 7. The Edge Community is a lot of fun; it was great to get back together The audience was eager to share their experiences and learnings over the last 2 years – both in the auditorium but also at the lively dinners and cocktail events. Many attendees commented how glad they were to return to Shelton for the annual event; they committed to getting back to the 2022 version. Here are a few quotes from retailers: "I learned so many exciting things from the variety of Edge topics and other business building presentations, and can't wait to go back to the store and implement them all!" "The conference was so helpful and I plan to send more of my team to the next one!" "Every Edge user should come to this! Loved hearing about the new Edge features coming out soon!" We hope you will consider attending in 2022 as well. 8. Get organized with Edge Calendar It is simple and fast to get organized. Here are some of the items to post on the Calendar: Customer Occasions: create mailing lists, directly email, or simply view customers with upcoming birthdays and anniversaries. Service Jobs (repairs, custom orders, special orders, appraisals, assemblies, and builds): view jobs and job tasks that are due, overdue for completion, and overdue for pick up. Customer Appointments: schedule and manage your appointments. Associate Tasks: view and manage tasks for all or specific associates. You and your staff should utilize the calendar to help prioritize your precious time. 9. Staff is very important; how can you hire and train your team better? Harvard Business School estimates that 80% of turnover is based on bad hiring decisions. Sherry Smith from Edge Retail Academy, co-presenter of the Conference, provided these tips to ensure a smoother recruiting process with better outcomes. Start with a great job description Pre-screen interviewees over the phone before bringing them into the store Build your talent pipeline Always have 2 interviewers; hold 2 rounds of interviews Consider an assessment (like Calipers) to measure functional fit and competencies Invest in a defined onboarding program Check out Sherry’s detailed interview questions in her deck on EdgeUser.com. 10. Retailers should keep doing the very things that helped them through the worst of the pandemic Becka Johnson Kibby and Sherry, both from Edge Retail Academy, reminded retailers about their learnings over the last 18 months and how they should continue to focus on these key points: Jewelers need to build and maintain a ‘slush’ fund to finance inevitable rocky periods Many retailers used the COVID break to creatively liquidate aged merchandise and invest in fast sellers Managers realize the importance of having the right staff Owners invested in the omni-channel experience including online sales and curbside pickup Savvy jewelers follow the industry stats to know how their stores are faring (Edge Retail Academy collects this data from 1200+ stores) To sum it up, Becka Johnson Kibby and Sherry, both from Edge Retail Academy, reminded retailers about their learnings over the last 18 months and how they should continue to focus on these key points: For those who attended the 2021 Conference: thank you for attending! For those who could not make it, we hope you’ll join in Shelton in 2022.