This is quite a difficult post to write as it is the time that I have actually put down in to words what happened to my business between 2016 and 2019. As you can probably tell from the title, it wasn’t a great time!
Coming into 2016, I was extremely confident and optimistic, I had had my best Christmas ever in 2015, with sales far exceeding anything I had expected or anticipated, I was also going back to finish the first year of my gemmology foundation course.
The start of 2016, very much followed on from where 2015 had finished. Even though January and February don’t come close to the Christmas rush, I was still seeing year on year growth. As per usual, I visited the Jewellery & Watch show at the start of February and began making plans for what I would do for the year.
As we were heading towards the summer, I wanted to change this up a little bit and made my first major business mistake..
Mistake Number 1: Changing Name
After three and a half very successful years (in my opinion) under the Haywoods Jewellery name. I made the bold decision to change the business name to Diamond Avenue.
The Diamond Avenue name wasn’t plucked out of nowhere, it had come from a project that I had been working on for a few months, that didn’t really go anywhere. But I really liked the name and I owned the domain name, so I made the change around May 2016.
What I didn’t realise at the time was, changing domain name would have a massive impact on my website.
All the traction and rankings I had built, was pretty much destroyed overnight. It was like starting my website from scratch, fortunately there was no noticeable impact on my Ebay store.
It is also quite a hassle to change business names, from simple things like needing new business cards to having to change all your banking and business information. But I felt I had made the right decision.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing isn’t it! But throughout this post, I am going to look back on the bad decisions I made and say what I would have done differently, if I knew then, what I know today.
For this one, I wouldn’t have changed my business name. I still think the Diamond Avenue name is a great name but rather than go through all the hassle of changing everything over, I would have used the name as almost a range name for the higher end jewellery that I was planning to introduce. Almost like a brand within a brand kind of thing.
The Day it All Changed!
June 23rd is a day that has gone down in history, now I am not going to discuss my personal views about what happened but just talk about what happened to my business.
Seeing the result of the vote, I knew that my business was going to take a bit of hit. First and foremost, gold prices spiked, so I knew that my stock had just got a bit more expensive but I didn’t anticipate what was going to happen next.
Lots of people use the phrase ‘fell off a cliff’ and I don’t think there is a more apt phrase for what happened. I saw an instant drop in sales, which was to be expected but over the next 6 – 12 months my sales dropped on average 90%, my worst month saw sales of around £150. For those first 6 months, I was in what I can only describe as a daze, this couldn’t go on surely?
After an abysmal Christmas 2016, I came into 2017 determined to turn things around. I wasn’t going to be beaten by this, it was time to go on the offensive!
Mistake Number 2: Uninformed Decision Making
In my previous product line expansions, I had always spent time doing the research to make sure that I was making an informed decision, that I was sure had a good chance of working and up until this point, I hadn’t gone far wrong.
The only thing that hadn’t worked was silver jewellery and some 9ct gold football pendants. Other than that, everything had sold pretty well. Now at this point, my inventory was made up of a combination of 9ct gold chains, pendants and 9ct gold gem set pendants and earrings.
But as sales had almost become non-existent, I thought I needed to expand into more expensive 18ct gold jewellery.
My decision making process couldn’t have been much worse at this time and it was a combination of uninformed and desperate.
Not only did I buy a load if 18ct gold jewellery, that I wasn’t even sure was going to sell. But I had also gone for rings, something I had always sworn to stay away from due to the problems you can encounter due to fitting etc.
How the hell was I going to sell this stuff?
I’m still not sure to this day what possessed me to buy 18ct gold rings, I also compounded this by buying a range of 9ct gold rings as well.
I bought what I thought would sell, without having any evidence that they would sell. I also did have the right outlets to sell them either. The new website under the Diamond Avenue name was still not getting any traction and selling expensive jewellery on Ebay puts you at high risk of being scammed.
In hindsight, I would have steered clear of rings as they proved to be nothing but a headache and stuck to what I knew sold, which was pendants and earrings. I also would have done far more research to see if these actually sold before committing my hard earned money towards them.
At this point, I would have been better off investing that money into more 9ct pendants and earrings to expand on what I already had as I knew there was a market out there for this. Even though they weren’t buying much at that moment in time!
2017 – A Bad Year, 2018 – A New Hope
Honestly, nothing I did seem to work in 2017. Whatever I tried made little to no impact on my business, sales were still down but my overheads were still there and I spent most of the year just trying to break even. I had gone from thriving to just surviving.
Christmas 2017 provided little relief, sales were nowhere near where I wanted them to be and my uniformed decisions had just resulted in a lot of money sitting there in stock that wasn’t selling. I needed a new plan for 2018!
18ct gold jewellery had been a bust, I had only sold one of the pieces that I bought but what I found when I would go out looking to buy new stock, was that I was very limited to what was out there in terms of styles and there wasn’t many popular or contemporary ones available.
I also didn’t like the fact that it was all made in the far east and while I have no problem with the jewellery made out there, I wanted to take advantage of the history and prestige of the Jewellery Quarter, where my business was based.
So I devised a new strategy and went to Jewellery & Watch 2018 looking to find UK based manufacturers. I was also going to be choosing all of my own gemstones and having them made into the styles that I wanted as by this point, I was a fully qualified gemmologist.
The show was great, I met the people I needed to and set about trying something new. I went and sourced some gems and then had them set into pieces made in the heart of the quarter. Great, but I had made some big mistakes.
Mistake Number 3: Doubling Down on a Bad Decision
When I had these pieces made, I once again had not done the right research. I opted for calibrated coloured gemstones and bought basically off the shelf mounts, which once again were rings. When would I learn!
The problem with what I had done, was that there was no way to differentiate my products from anyone else. Any tom, dick or harry could have done what I had done. Yes, the stones were very good quality but there was no USP to the finished item and because I had gone for top quality stones, my cost price was what most other retailers were selling theirs for!
Same question, different products. How the hell was I going to sell these?
To double down on my previous 18ct gold pieces, I took the stones out and had them set into new mounts. While the quality and style was a vast improvement, I was now in a deeper whole in terms of money invested.
Looking back, I was on the right track with the wrong products. My decision to go for rings once again was a bad one and I ended up with even more money invested in stock that I had no idea how to get out of.
If I had decided to have these stones mounted in pendants, rather than rings. I would have had a product that I would of had a larger audience for, I also should have gone for a more contemporary style, such as a halo rather than a cluster.
While I love the process of buying gemstones and it laid the seeds of what I wanted my business to be, my execution on this one really wasn’t great.
2018 – The Reality
2018 was very much the same as 2017, it was more a case of survival than growing and thriving. Fortunately though, some of the changes I had made to my Ebay store had shown some improvement. And while I wasn’t at the levels of sales I had been prior to June 16, it still showed a glimmer of hope.
I was also starting to get some traffic to my website and generated a few sales throughout the year. This was definitely encouraging as I was starting to become a bit disillusioned with the site but I was obviously doing something right.
Christmas 2018 was average at best, sales weren’t particularly strong and I noticed that I was facing a trifactor of challenges:
- More Competition On Ebay – Ebay is a very easy way to market, which is why I chose it in the first place. But since 2016, there was much more competition in the jewellery niche. When I started, there was only two other people selling the chain that was my most popular, by 2018, there was over 15.
- Increased Costs – My cost prices and overheads were going up every year. Gold had been constantly rising since 2016 and things like postage and transaction fees had also gone up as well.
- Poor Sales – Whether it was my own site or ebay, I just wasn’t getting the level of sales that I needed.
I know that life is all about overcoming challenges but I was starting to feel like I was fighting a losing battle!
Mistake Number 4: Name Change Number 2
After two years of struggling to just survive, the Diamond Avenue name had begun to feel quite tainted to me. So much so that I got annoyed whenever I said the name. So I decided it was time for another change.
My initial reaction was to go back to the Haywoods Jewellery name, it made sense at the time and I still owned the domain name etc but one random day over the summer, I had a name come into my head ‘The Haywood Collection’.
I’m not sure why but this name grew from a seed of, “that sounds ok” to, “that’s what I’m going to go for”. So just over two years from my last name change. I went through the whole rigmarole again, but after a couple of months, I knew I had made a mistake. It just didn’t work, answering the phone was difficult with that name and it just felt kind of awkward.
Once again, I undone all the hard work that I put into the website and was starting from scratch again. This time though, I didn’t do the site as an ecommerce website as I wanted to work towards doing bespoke work for people and honestly, didn’t want all the hassle that comes with running an online store.
This one is pretty obvious, I should have gone back to Haywoods Jewellery then and possibly used The Haywood Collection as the name for a range or collection (obviously!).
2019 – I’d Had Enough!
For the first time, I came into a new year with no ideas as to what to do, I had an end goal in mind but no idea how to get there.
My confidence and belief in my abilities as a business owner were shot as nearly every decision I had made over the last 2+ years had not worked. The start of 2019 pretty much followed on from how 2018 had ended but gold prices were climbing significantly and this meant that my staple lines that had kept me going were now barely profitable.
I tried increasing prices to remedy this but my returns rate went up as many of the buyers didn’t feel it provided value for money. Talk about a lose-lose situation! As 2019 moved forward, I found myself more and more looking for a way out by looking at different opportunities.
One thing I did do, was rectify the last name change mistake by eventually going back to Haywoods Jewellery, something I realised I should have never moved away from but it was too little too late.
Not only was my confidence at a low but I was falling out of love with jewellery and gemstones, I got to the point where I dreaded opening my emails in the morning as the only emails I seemed to be getting were from customers complaining or wanting to return something. By the time the summer came rolling around, I’d had enough!
The End of The Line!
I didn’t want to be doing this anymore and this was compounded in the August as I had something happen in my personal life that made me realise that life was too short. So in the September, I made the decision to close my Ebay store, sell off all my remaining stock and turn this website into basically a blog.
In some ways I was sad as I felt like a failure and by this point, I realised the impact of all the mistakes that I had made. If I had stuck with Haywoods Jewellery and put more effort into marketing my own website, who knows where I would have been. But as I said earlier, hindsight is great!
But in another way, I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Going into Christmas 2019, I felt happy knowing that I wouldn’t be dealing with the crap that I had been the last couple of years, even though I wasn’t sure what I was going to do next but I needed a break and to try something new. I wanted to feel invigorated again!
2019 Wasn’t All Bad
While I really wasn’t enjoying running my business in 2019, I did have some great things happen that were jewellery related but not directly to my business.
The first was I taught my first ever class, if you read my Becoming a Gemmologist post, you will see that I did really well when it come to my Diamond Diploma and off the back of this and my willingness to help my fellow students, I was asked to teach a diamond grading practical class between February and May. This was a great experience and although challenging at times, I thoroughly enjoyed it!
The second was that I was invited to be a demonstrator at one of the Cooksongold demonstration days in March and once again, this was an incredible day.
Seeing people queueing to ask me questions was an amazing site. They were that impressed with me, that I was invited back to do the ones in October.
I never like to admit defeat but my time with the business as it was, was over. It was time to move on to something new and fortunately, I had an idea over the summer of 2019, that I was able to start in the December.
It was nothing to do with jewellery and it was a new challenge around a business and business model that I had never been involved with before. I felt energised and excited again and as of writing this post, it is doing very well.
BUT I wasn’t done with the jewellery trade just yet and in 2020, things would change again….