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

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