Don’t want to sell online? Then warn us retailers


Retailer Elaine Nicholson on battling with fastidious brands.

By Elaine Nicholson

As an independent retailer we’re always on the look-out for jewellery that’s a bit different to help us stand out from the crowd and keep our customers interested and coming back.

I recently came across a company whose designs I was very keen to stock. In fact they were one of the reasons I visited the Jewellery Show at Spring Fair. After admiring the designs and expressing my interest in representing the brand, I asked what sort of online selling assistance they gave, for example web-ready product and promo images, a link from their site to stockists’ sites. I was told that, although they have a website of their own, they didn’t allow their stockists to sell online.

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Now, one of the great benefits of self-employment, at least for me, is not having someone else telling me what to do and for that reason I acknowledge that manufacturers are free to pick and choose to whom they sell. That said, I’m not overreacting when I say that with the words “Oh, not again” running through my head, my heart sank. This is the third time this has happened and I cannot understand the thinking behind it.

The first time the implication was that my website wasn’t of the standard where they wished to have their products sold. Well, so far so insulted. After all, it was a company we had dealt with for more than 15 years. No-one had inspected our bricks-and-mortar shop before we placed our first order.

The second time I told that only a few of the stockists would be approved for online selling. The criteria for approval turned out to be very high quarterly minimum orders.

The third time, the one which sparked this column, I wasn’t given a reason beyond not allowing it. I just wish I understood the rationale behind the decision.

To limit a potential stockist to only one selling channel is curious and I’m sure I must be missing something. I just don’t know what. After all, according to the Office for National Statistics, online spending in the UK during December 2012 grew to £3.7 billion, a 15% increase on 2011.

I’m wondering whether my experience is unusual or do other retailers have similar stories to tell? Did they feel the brand would have sold even more successfully in-store if potential customers could have viewed the products online before visiting the shop?

Before visiting a trade fair to search for new suppliers would it be useful to know beforehand which suppliers deny permission to sell online? After all, it might save a wasted journey and time taken away from your business. Plus, we could avoid those designers who do not wish to have such stockists.

Happily, the designers and brands we do stock are forward-thinking and exemplary in their willingness to collaborate with us and promote their brand. If only that were true of every company.

Elaine’s column was taken from the May issue of Professional Jeweller. To read the issue online, click here.


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