Squirrel Spotting: 5 Reasons I Hate Memo

IndependentsFeb 13, 2018

Squirrel Spotting: 5 Reasons I Hate Memo

Fresh off another trade show, Peter Smith shares his thoughts on the widely used, and much debated, practice.

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

I have long detested memo but have never been exactly sure why. I mean, I don’t just dislike the concept of memo, I even despise the word itself. It is, I confess, a personal idiosyncrasy that’s certainly based more on emotions than anything cognitive.

Nonetheless, the feeling persists and it tends to come to the fore at and post tradeshows. Understandable, I suppose, given the prevalence of memo requests that seem to serve as an all-too- familiar soundtrack at the shows.

I have found myself thinking more and more about the “memo concept” in recent weeks and months.

I’m grateful that I’ve personally never worked for any companies where memo was a significant part of the business model and so I have very little exposure to the worst of it. That said, here are a few of my thoughts on why I don’t like it.

Memo Is Not a Strategic Initiative
I struggle to understand how getting “free” products ever makes sense as a meaningful business model.

For instance, if a retailer articulates his or her product strategy, with the attendant curated stories and brands, is it likely that a select number of vendors will give you their very best products on memo to support that? Assuming not, how could getting second-rate memo products that don’t align with your strategy be good for your business?

Supply and Demand Don’t Align
The very concept of memo seems to be the result of a failed strategy on the vendors’ parts. It suggests that supply far exceeds demand and, if that scenario is true, why is there not more demand for that product? What does it say about the product’s value proposition or, more aptly, its lack of value? Does it become more relevant filling out a jeweler’s case or, as I heard from one retailer recently, sitting in a safe?

There ought to be fundamental questions asked about the product development process of those companies, and the quality and/or viability of their products that are, at best, being flung at the nearest wall in the hopes of finding traction. Memo as a Hail Mary, you might say.

More is Not Better
A not-too-often-discussed side effect of memo is that it very often contributes to one of the biggest challenges in retail (all retail, not just jewelry) today, and that is the preponderance of “stuff” in the stores and showcases.

I have written
and spoken ad nauseam about the paradox of choice, including in a previous column for National Jeweler, and the idea that the more we have, the less the customer sees. Throwing more stuff at the abundance of stuff already in stock hardly seems smart. 

Be Like Tiffany
Connected to the overcrowding, of course, is the retail aesthetic. No showcase was ever better for having too much product.

In a series of “Future of Retail” talks that I gave around the country in the fall, I shared SKU counts for stores as diverse as Apple, Michael Kors, Coach and Tiffany & Co., and I then compared them to the SKU counts of four independent jewelry retailers.

If the latter were boats, they would have sunk, so overloaded were they with inventory. The former group—amongst the top retailers in terms of per-square-foot of sales in the country—understand that their business model is not well-served by overloading with products.

What Do I Want My Salespeople to Focus On?
Why do I want my salespeople to spend their time on memo? Wouldn’t I rather have them selling my asset products? Or are you the retailer without an aged product problem?

It is possible, I suppose, that you might be savvy enough to merchandise your memo in such a way that your salespeople can skillfully navigate asset and memo, and use the latter to fill in only where there are obvious gaps. You might, but I doubt it. Contributing to the aging of your asset inventory by selling memo goods and, potentially, paying more for them might not be the wisest course of action.

Then again, I don’t know. I might be all wrong about this memo thing.

As Kevin Dutton wrote in his book Split-Second Persuasion: The Ancient Art and New Science of Changing Minds: “When the chips are down and the going gets tough, the brain, it would seem, spends much of its time cowering behind the heart.”

It works for me.

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

CollectionsFeb 03, 2023
Chipotle Spices Up Valentine’s Day with Jewelry Collection

The fast-casual chain partnered with Anna Sheffield’s Bing Bang NYC brand on a capsule collection and it’s a little “extra.”

SourcingFeb 03, 2023
Greenland Ruby Names New CEO

Geologist Arnt-Eirik Rørnes has taken on the role.

EditorsFeb 03, 2023
Piece of the Week: Gismondi 1754’s ‘Marea’ Cuff

The diamond and tanzanite bracelet was inspired by the waves of the Italian gulf near Genoa.

Brought to you by
Bringing Over 130 Years of Diamond Expertise to Modern Grading

De Beers Institute of Diamonds provides the very best in diamond verification, education and diamond services.

CollectionsFeb 02, 2023
Lowe’s Is Now Selling Jewelry

The home improvement store’s website features an “Empowerment Tools” demi-fine jewelry collection.

Weekly QuizFeb 02, 2023
This Week’s Quiz
Test your jewelry news knowledge with this short test.
Take the Quiz
Events & AwardsFeb 02, 2023
Registration is Now Open for JIS Spring 2023

The show will feature a new pavilion of 30 jewelry designers and manufacturers from Surat, India.

Policies & IssuesFeb 02, 2023
Tiny Radioactive Capsule Lost in Australian Outback Found

A government official said search crews “found the needle in the haystack” when they located the capsule belonging to Rio Tinto along an 870-mile stretch of road.

Brought to you by
De Beers Institute of Diamonds Expands to Offer Education

De Beers is sharing over 130 years of experience and expertise through the De Beers Institute of Diamonds with a selection of courses.

TrendsFeb 02, 2023
Amanda’s Style File: Purple and Playful

Amanda Gizzi welcomes February with a selection of amethyst jewelry, a birthstone that “deserves its own time to shine.”

EditorsFeb 01, 2023
Designers to Watch in 2023: Boochier

Behind the playful and nostalgic brand lies deeper meaning.

Events & AwardsFeb 01, 2023
New Miami Jewelry Center Slated to Open in Q1

The Time Century Jewelry Center is located in downtown Miami’s jewelry district.

SurveysFeb 01, 2023
Consumer Confidence Falls in January

Wariness about the year ahead offset a more positive view of the current economic situation.

MajorsFeb 01, 2023
Six New Retailers Appointed to IJO’s Board of Directors

The IJO also welcomed one new vendor member to its 13-member board, Brecken Farnsworth of Parlé Jewelry Designs.

ColumnistsJan 31, 2023
Squirrel Spotting: How About a Word for the New Year?

It begins with a “t” and ends with a “c” and is imbued with warmth and positivity, Peter Smith writes.

Policies & IssuesJan 31, 2023
Rio Tinto Issues Apology After Radioactive Capsule Goes Missing

The tiny capsule, which is believed to have fallen out of a truck, was lost somewhere along an 870-mile stretch of desert road.

MajorsJan 31, 2023
Indian Jewelry Brand Tanishq Opens First U.S. Store, More on the Way

The jeweler’s expansion plans include 20 to 30 more stores in North America and the Middle East over the next two to three years.

Events & AwardsJan 31, 2023
Gucci Is Getting a Gem Award

The Italian luxury brand will receive the first Gem Award for High Jewelry Excellence.

MajorsJan 31, 2023
Martin Flyer Names New VP of Business Development

Industry veteran Kevin Lane has stepped into the role.

MajorsJan 30, 2023
Researchers Uncover Bejeweled ‘Golden Boy’ Mummy

The ancient Egyptian teenager was buried 2,300 years ago with 49 amulets to guide him through the afterlife.

SurveysJan 30, 2023
Consumers Embracing Non-Traditional Ways to Mark Valentine’s Day

The NRF’s annual survey shows that consumer attitudes about how, or even whether, to celebrate Feb. 14 continue to evolve.

Events & AwardsJan 30, 2023
JA Is Searching for the Next Retail ’20 Under 40’

Nominations are open now through March 24.

MajorsJan 30, 2023
10 Jewelry News Stories You Might Have Missed

A column detailing how independent jewelers did last year and the top watch brands of 2022 were among the most-read stories last week.

FinancialsJan 27, 2023
Tiffany & Co. Shines for LVMH in 2022

Acquired in 2021, the brand’s high jewelry sales have doubled and its new “Lock” collection was an instant hit.

MajorsJan 27, 2023
Diamond Council of America Appoints Treasurer, Board Member

Executives from Fred Meyer Jewelers and Riddles Jewelers have filled the roles.

CollectionsJan 27, 2023
Piece of the Week: Heavenly Vices’ Lock Necklace

The Victorian-inspired design is a functional lock and key.

Supplier BulletinJan 26, 2023
JA New York Spring Brings the Industry Together

For over 100 years, JA New York has played an integral role in facilitating the evolution of our industry, while also honoring past traditions.

TrendsJan 26, 2023
At Vicenzaoro, Paola De Luca Gazes Into Jewelry’s Future

The trend forecaster and her guests explored unconventional jewelry designs, NFTs, AI art, and more during her Trendvision presentation.


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