Ok, I’ll admit it.
Before I started working at Alara, I would never have considered buying a piece of jewelry from a local jewelry shop. I always assumed that local shops would charge more because they weren’t backed by bigger corporations, and I assumed that a big company would have the best selection. So, I made the mistake of going to the mall to get my fiancee's engagement ring.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful ring! However, I could have saved myself a lot of hassle (and $) if I had gone to a small local business first.
Here are a few tips I have for people that are in the market for jewelry, and are wondering about shopping at a locally owned independent business:
(1) You Find More Variety When You Shop Local
Jewelry chains that you’ll find in the mall only sell what their corporate headquarters send them. You could see a commercial for a ring that a chain jewelry store is selling in Philadelphia, and go to another branch of that same chain in Honolulu and get the exact same ring. These jewelry chains get their products mass-produced, because they know that someone is going to buy that same ring in many, many places.
By contrast, instead of focusing on the "big numbers" of selling McJewelry to the masses, your local independent jeweler is busy looking for, designing, and making jewelry that they know fits the style and lifestyle of the folks in their community. They aren't aiming for an "average style" for an "average person." We're too busy considering the taste of our actual customers. Think of the chain stores as barges--they can't turn around very quickly, but they have a lot of power. Locally owned independent jewelers are speed boats--very nimble, and able to zip around in their buying choices to suit their community's artistic desires.
When you get one of these mass-produced pieces, you miss the opportunity to find something that is truly one-of-a-kind and unique to your special someone, not something that’s “unique” to about 20,000 other people. At Alara, we have personal connections with all of our designers, and are able to offer one-of-a-kind pieces that you won’t find in chain jewelry stores. We can even make you a custom piece of jewelry, so you can add your own personal touches on your truly unique piece.
(2) A Team You Can Trust
At Alara, our team loves what we do! We work together to provide you with knowledgeable, friendly service from start to finish. We also offer many services including ring sizing, ring cleaning, prong replacement, diamond repair, appraisals, antique reproduction and everything in between. And if you look around, you’ll see the evidence! We have tools all over the shop to clean, inspect, fix, and build.
The next time you are in the mall, take a look around those jewelry stores. Do you see tools and equipment to fix jewelry? No, it probably feels like a doctor's office waiting room that’s decorated with diamonds, and that’s because chain jewelers often send their stuff to off-site facilities, where you run the risk of your piece being lost, or mixed up with someone else’s piece of jewelry. Because chain jewelers have to ship items back and forth between facilities, local jewelers often have shorter turnaround times for repairs.
(3) Keep it Local
Big name jewelers employ thousands of people, which is great! However, with that being said, they also have thousands of people to pay. Oftentimes this means that their products are greatly marked up, which is also evident when they run their big sales and take hundreds of dollars off their products to make you feel like you’re getting a great deal.
When you buy something from a big chain that money goes all over the country, sometimes even outside the country, to build the corporation bigger. When you shop in Alara, you know your money is staying in Bozeman and paying Bozeman employees, not some CEO in another country. This also helps us keep our prices low, as we don’t have to build up our prices to pay more people.
(4) The Positive Economic Impact of Shopping Locally
their You might wonder why you hear local business owners asking you to "shop local" so much. You'll notice, however, that they're not even asking you to shop at particular store. Well, that's because the local economy is the biggest winner when you shop at any locally owned independent business. And unlike big corporate chains, small local businesses tend to grow with their community. So, even if you shop down the street from Alara, we hope you are doing so at an independent jeweler...because ultimately, that purchase will make positive economic waves in our community, which benefits even us at Alara, since we are a part of the community.
For you numbers folks out there, here are the stats about the effects on the local economy when one is supporting local small businesses when they spend: according to the American Independent Business Alliance, independent retailers return to the local economy over 3.5 times as much as chain competitors do. This is referred to as the "spending multiplier" or the "multiplier effect."
Put another way: when you spend $100 at a locally owned retailer, $48 goes back into the local economy...but, when you spend $100 at a chain retailer, $13.60 goes back into the local economy. Why? Because the profits of the business, not just the wages of the workers, gets pumped into the local economy.
And speaking of labor, realize that a local independent jeweler is far more likely to be a manufacturer of jewelry, so there are more local jobs affiliated with a small jeweler. In fact, locally-owned retailers account for 75% of all new jobs and employ over half of all workers in the US.
(5) More Benefits in the Community When You Shop Local
When's the last time you saw a major donation to a Bozeman-area nonprofit from a chain retailer? Go ahead, I'll wait while you think about it.
That's right, the big box stores aren't known for donating locally, either. In fact, if you take all large corporate businesses (not just retailers), and compare their local donation levels to that of small independent businesses, the little guys donate twice as much! Think of that the next time your need a tie-breaker...!
There you have it.
So my advice to you, consider buying "locally grown" jewelry before you settle for something from a big chain shop. And it doesn’t hurt to see mall shops either! Everyone has a different taste for jewelry, so find the right piece at the right place for you, but keep in mind what you’re paying for.