Squirrel Spotting: Products and Sales Results—The Fallacy

IndependentsSep 27, 2017

Squirrel Spotting: Products and Sales Results—The Fallacy

Jewelers shouldn’t expect sales to increase when they have the wrong product in their showcases, Peter Smith writes.

Peter Smith has more than 30 years of experience building wholesale and retail sales teams. He currently is president of Vibhor Gems.

Sales results are a function of “stuff” that has absolutely nothing to do with wishing for better sales results. It does not come from good intentions, management pressure, or--the best fallacy of all-- from the fact that it’s “not last year” and, as such, we ought to see sales increase.

We’ve all done it. Sat down at the end of the year, or the quarter, or the month, and put pen to paper, white board or spreadsheet a number that we expect to hit for the coming period. The goals usually come from someone with lots of leverage and everyone else follows along, even if they know the goals to be delusional.

It is a rare company (unless they are a public organization in the crosshairs of Wall Street analysts and prognosticators) that is bold enough to forecast a sales decline. How can we? The price of everything else has gone up. So how can we plan for a scenario that results in less business?

And yet, many companies see sales declines year over year and are left to ponder, as the Talking Heads did in the 1980s, “Well, how did I get here?”

Sales forecasting is an inexact science. It is filled with many variables and no matter how many scenarios you plan for, two things will come to pass:

1. You will be surprised by something that was difficult, or even impossible, to predict; and

2. You will have fallen victim to what Daniel Kahneman calls in his book “Thinking Fast and Slow,” the “planning fallacy.”

Sales forecasting is a hugely important part of our businesses; we need context, a frame of reference, a check and balance, etc. What ultimately determines sales results (whether good or bad), however, is 100 percent a function of doing the right stuff, or doing the wrong stuff.

And paying a lot more attention to what that “stuff” looks like will more positively impact sales results than “running the numbers” until you’re blue in the face, or holding meeting after meeting designed to motivate, threaten or cajole salespeople into doing what they might not have the tools, the resources, or the wiring to do.

One of the biggest contributors to the sales delusion is, of course, our products. And, unfortunately, most companies believe that their products are better than their customers believe them to be. We know that to be true because

dated and non-performing inventory is an industry epidemic on the retail and supplier side.  
“If it didn’t sell, it’s no good. The quicker you deal with it honestly and proactively, the better your business will be for it.”
I know of a number of companies on the supplier side that could chart a much healthier course but for the millions of dollars of non-performing inventory sitting in retailers’ stores. Likewise, almost every retailer I visit has a serious dated inventory problem that is preventing them from being the best version of themselves.

No matter how smart, intuitive or creative you thought you were when you bought, commissioned or designed that dated product, one of two things is certain. You either miscalculated, no matter how much post-rationalization ensued, or your decision was sound when you bought or made the products, but the world has changed and the product is no longer relevant.

Whether you are a retailer or a wholesaler, the good news is that you don’t have to rely on instinct, intuition, buyers or designers to provide explanations, rationalizations, excuses or promises about what and why. You have the data. If it didn’t sell, it was a bust. If it sold, do it again and again until it stops selling.

Johnny Carson once quipped: “When turkeys mate, they think of swans.” You can think of your products as swans all you want, but if it looks like a turkey, walks like a turkey and gobbles like a turkey …

Since none of us have a crystal ball, we can all agree that getting the product story right remains one of the central challenges in our businesses. It is even more so with retail evolving at the pace it is changing.

That process is not going to get any easier in the coming months and years, but there is one dynamic that is even more challenging, and which continues to haunt retailers and suppliers alike, and that is accepting the realization that some or, in certain cases, many of our products just don’t work anymore. They’re not relevant to today’s consumer.

Dressing it up, repackaging it, or pretending that it is not a problem is not a winning formula. You’ve got to be honest; stop the rationalizations and stop listening to your inner voice, your buyers’ protestations of validity, or those of your designers and production teams.

If it didn’t sell, it’s no good. The quicker you deal with it honestly and proactively, the better your business will be for it.

I know that many will read this column and keep doing the same stuff anyway. I get it.

American journalist Franklin P. Jones famously said, “Honest criticism is hard to take, particularly from a relative, a friend, an acquaintance, or a stranger.” He had a point, and he wasn’t even in the jewelry business.

Peter Smith is president of Vibhor, a public speaker and author of “Sell Something” and “Hiring Squirrels.” He spent 30 years building sales teams in retail and wholesale and he can be contacted at,, or on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter.
Peter Smithis an industry consultant, speaker, and sales trainer, and author of three books, “Hiring Squirrels,” “Sell Something,” and “The Sales Minute.”

The Latest

FinancialsDec 06, 2022
Signet Anticipates Solid Holiday Season, Raises Guidance

The jewelry giant posted a decline in same-store sales in the third quarter but is gearing up for a season of growth.

TrendsDec 06, 2022
Pantone’s 2023 Color of the Year Is A Lot Like Rubellite, Spinel, Ruby

“Viva Magenta” easily finds its colored gemstone counterparts.

AuctionsDec 06, 2022
Jewels from the Sunken ‘Ship of Gold’ Smash Auction Estimates

Holabird Western Americana Collections offered hundreds of treasures recovered from the S.S. Central America in its Dec. 3 sale.

Brought to you by
How To Buy Colored Gemstones

Give your customers the full gemstone buying experience by using the 6C's.

ColumnistsDec 06, 2022
The Smart Lab: 6 Holiday Email Marketing Strategies To Boost Sales

From creating catchy subject lines to retargeting abandoned carts, Emmanuel Raheb has a half-dozen pieces of email marketing advice.

Weekly QuizDec 01, 2022
This Week’s Quiz
Test your knowledge of the latest jewelry news with this quick test.
Take the Quiz
TechnologyDec 05, 2022
Timex Ticks into the Metaverse with Bored Ape Yacht Club

The watch brand will create 500 custom timepieces for holders of Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs.

EditorsDec 05, 2022
Meet Jewelry’s First TikTok Star

When it comes to translating luxury into the social media platform’s approachable style, JewelsWithJules has cracked the code.

Brought to you by
Knowledge and Skills for Today’s Hot Topics

From laboratory-grown diamonds to design to country-of-origin, GIA's Alumni Collective™ has a seminar to suite your needs.

Events & AwardsDec 05, 2022
WJA Foundation Awards Nearly $60K in Scholarships for 2022-2023

Scholarship winners received awards in six different categories.

SourcingDec 02, 2022
Alrosa CEO Sergey Ivanov to Step Down, Report Says

According to Russian news sources, the sanctioned head of the diamond company is leaving to take a job with an investment group.

SourcingDec 02, 2022
Lucapa Sells 170-Carat Pink Diamond Unearthed This Summer

Said to be the largest pink diamond found in hundreds of years, “The Lulo Rose” was sold for an undisclosed sum.

AuctionsDec 02, 2022
Here’s How 2 Royal Jewels Performed at Auction in Denmark

A princess’s tiara fell within its pre-sale estimate while an Art Deco bracelet from a queen doubled it.

CollectionsDec 02, 2022
Piece of the Week: Foundrae’s Chain

A closer look at the bold links reveals a subtle, surprising detail.

Supplier BulletinDec 01, 2022
Take Your Jewelry Design Process Digital with the GIA Alumni Collective™

Sponsored by GIA Alumni Collective™

WatchesDec 01, 2022
Rolex to Certify Pre-Owned Watches

Retailers within its official distribution network will be able to sell the authenticated timepieces.

CollectionsDec 01, 2022
Kendra Scott’s New Collection is for Barbie Girls

The capsule collection combines the brand’s classic styles with Barbie’s signature pink color.

AuctionsDec 01, 2022
13-Carat Pink Diamond Withdrawn From Christie’s Auction

The auction house is not offering any details on why the fancy vivid pink stone was pulled from its upcoming “Magnificent Jewels” sale.

SourcingDec 01, 2022
Nomad’s Is Selling Its Stones to Raise Money for Ukraine Again

In the spirit of an advent calendar, “Gems to Help Ukraine” will sell a stone a day through Dec. 24 on the Nomad’s Instagram account.

GradingDec 01, 2022
PhotoScribe Granted Patent for Method that Verifies a Stone’s Identification

The secure mark combines an overt mark with a covert data set to provide assurance on a gem.

SurveysNov 30, 2022
5 Things Retailers Should Know About the Start to the Holiday Season

Plus, what a potential rail strike would mean for retailers.

WatchesNov 30, 2022
Watchfinder & Co. Will Launch a Marketplace Next Year

It will provide a place for select luxury watch retailers to sell their stock.

MajorsNov 30, 2022
Pomellato Buys Into Italian Goldsmith

The brand has purchased a minority stake in Costanzo & Rizzetto.

SourcingNov 30, 2022
Firestone Restarts Operations of Lesotho Diamond Mine

Liqhobong has been in a care-and-maintenance period since the start of the pandemic.

MajorsNov 29, 2022
LVMH Acquires Jewelry Manufacturer Pedemonte Group

The strategic acquisition will bolster the luxury titan’s production capacity in its watch and jewelry division.

CollectionsNov 29, 2022
Alex and Ani Founder Carolyn Rafaelian Has Launched a Fine Jewelry Line

The new brand, Metal Alchemist, focuses on unisex, classic jewelry designs.

IndependentsNov 29, 2022
Reinhold Jewelers’ Holiday Book Is an Ode to an Important Beverage

The 2022 edition of the retailer’s annual publication pays homage to the coffee farms and shops of Puerto Rico.

CollectionsNov 29, 2022
Gabriel & Co.’s ‘Fashion Book’ Is Out

Not a catalog, the magazine is a tool for Gabriel & Co. retailers to connect with their customers.


This site uses cookies to give you the best online experience. By continuing to use & browse this site, we assume you agree to our Privacy Policy