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I find so much value in stories from retailers about growth and change. Matt Harris brings to today’s episode decades of retail experience, going all the way back to age 16 as a self proclaimed ‘mall rat’.
Matt’s love for retail began as a teenager, and his innate skill and passion helped him grow his career from selling ladies shoes to selling high-end art. His journey through retail takes many twists and turns as he leaves the space for a career in software, returning just several years ago with the fire for retail still inside.
During an opportunity to teach an MBA class, Matt discovered his flair for pearl jewelry design. A “practice business” led him to create designs for Debra Messing, Britney Spears, and Harry Connick Jr. So when he returned to the retail world, he absolutely rooted himself in jewelry and pearls.
Matt helped transform and grow one Austin, Texas, jewelry store by leaps and bounds with some critical changes to their sales routines.
Retailers are you focusing on…
-Training sales people
-Approaching every customer
-Consistent, realistic, fair pricing,
-Adding on sales for the complete customer experienc
Those are just some of the really great tips inside today’s episode. Matt talks about tips for increasing store traffic when you’re facing construction outside your brick and mortar, tips for branding, and a little peek into the wholesale world.
You are not going to want to miss the infinite knowledge and really interesting stories from Matt!
I’m rooting for your success!
- Retail stories backed by decades of experience.
- Real tips for retailers to increase sales and revenue.
- An interesting tip to increase foot traffic.
- How to create an impactful customer experience AND boost sales.
- Building up your small retail shop.
- Matt Harris Designs; Pearl Jewelry.
Mentioned in the Episode
Best Business Book
Best Retail Technology
Oh my goodness. You are going to love this episode with my friend Matt Harris. And honestly, I was sitting here like, how do I even summarize this episode? We covered so much, and Matt has so much experience when it comes to retail. He is deeply Rooted in Retail, and it all started when he was 16 years old.
He has Incredible stories and significant stories on how he’s built businesses, going from four stores to over a hundred stores and growing a small retail shop, a jeweler in Austin, and what he did there in just three years, you’re going to hear it all on this episode. Matt also has really great, advice for just increasing revenue and really taking care of your customers and how to sell.
I love his book recommendation. I cannot wait to read it. It sounds so, up my alley. And something that I think a lot of retailers are going to just love and can use and, create so much love in their life and success in their life. And we talk about all of it in this episode. Honestly, I feel like it’s so hard for me to recap because.
There was a lot of gold and you’re going to love listening to Matt’s stories. So grateful for him and his time. Before we dive in, let me tell you a little bit more about Matt. In 1991, while still in his early twenties, Matt went from selling fine art to a post as Western Regional Gallery Operations Manager for the Warner Brothers Studio Store division.
There. He assisted the company in expanding from four to over 100 stores in just three years and was responsible for a gallery sales force in over 20 stores on the west coast. Fast forward to 2003 when Matt entered into a completely unrelated business by accident, while teaching a class on entrepreneurship at Pepperdine’s
fully employed MBA program. He decided to start a mock business designing jewelry as an example for his class. Also, immediately his designs garnered the love and approval of customers and celebrities. Soon he was designing jewelry for Debra Messing to be worn on NBC’s while on Grace. His pearl jewelry was, has since adorned the necks of several celebrities and models, and he has been covered in leading industry journals, including JCK Modern Jeweler.
Luxury and the wedding channel. You can follow Matt on Instagram. You’re going to want to, you’re going to want to follow him and follow along with his journey as he is in between leaving a store and starting his store and wholesaling and selling his line and all of his incredible stories. So you’re going to want to follow him.
Matt Harris. Designs on Instagram and check out his site as well. Matt Harris designs.com and let’s dive into this episode. Welcome to Rooted in Retail, the show that’s dedicated to helping independent retailers thrive in today’s ever-evolving retail landscape. I’m your host, Crystal Vitis, and I’m thrilled to have you join me weekly as we explore topics that are vital to the success of your store from marketing to mindset.
Money to merchandising. Sales to leadership will cover it all. Each episode features interviews with industry experts and accomplished retailers who share their real-life insights and actionable advice. Get ready for a great conversation on how to build your dream business Rooted in Retail. Matt, welcome to Rooted in Retail.
I am thrilled you are here. And right back at you. Yeah. This is going to be such a good conversation. We had a great phone call a couple of weeks ago. I got to learn a little bit more about you because we are in a mastermind together and I was like, you’ve gotta be on my show. You have an incredible experience. So I just want to start there.
I want to, I want to go to the beginning on how you got started in the retail world and kind of your evolution in your retail career. Cause it’s really interesting. So let’s go there. Oh boy. I’m going to try to give you a speed round because it’s pretty deep. I’m 54 years old now, and, alright.
Started in retail, as a 16-year-old mall rat. Went to the mall every day after school, and worked at a stationary store. Fell in love with shopping. I’m going to be a shopper my whole life. Love, love, love the whole mall experience, and then when I went to college in, Vegas, U N L V. I worked in ‘EM Mall as well.
But I was selling lady shoes at Dillard’s, a department store for those youth that doesn’t have one around. And, and that was a commission. It was commission against Raw. So I got 10% Off every shoe that I sold, and that was great. And I, this was in 1988, and, but I was making like 30 grand in 1988.
That’s a lot of money for an 18-year-old. Right. But then I noticed there were three ladies, Betty, Susan, and Vicky, who would always buy shoes from me, but they buy the most expensive shoes from me all the time. So one day I went to Betty and say, well, what do you do that you guys can like, or, well, I didn’t know they knew each other at the time.
I said, what do you do that you make so much money that you can buy these, you know, at the time, two $300 shoes? And she said, well, I work at the art gallery upstairs. And so then I asked the same thing to Vicky Art Gallery upstairs. And then, you know, the other one, the art Gallery upstairs. So one day I took a lunch break and I went to the Gallery upstairs.
And I walked in and I saw some guy and I said, Hey, I’d like to apply for a job here. And, he said, well, do you have any experience with art? No, do you have an art degree? No, he said, well, why do you want to work here? I said, well, because you’ve got three girls that buy expensive shoes from me. They must be making a lot of money.
And it was hilarious. He just kinda laughed and said No, but I offered to work there for a week during vacation for free. And have him then decide whether or not he wants to keep me, and weirdly enough he said yes. So I did it and worked there for a week. Weirdly enough, I actually set the record for the month in sales.
, in my first month there and they hired me, in my first month there. I actually won a contest for a free trip to France because the sales were so good, and it, so there I got outta shoes. , so now I’m in high-end, you know, art, retail, the next step was the owner of that or that, art store had another art gallery in Vegas, but it was like the really high-end stuff.
This was like a sculpture. His was like, The nice paintings from 20th Century Masters and things like that, and I heard how much money these guys were making over there. And so sometime later I went to the owner and said, Hey, I’d really like to work at the other art gallery. And he said, no, you’re too young.
You don’t have a lot of experience. You know, you’ve only been here a year, so I would ask him, and ask him and ask him, always got the same answer, but I’d ask anyways. And so one day I drove to Beverly Hills and figured I’m going to try to get a job at one of the Rodeo Drive stores, and sure enough, got a job at an art gallery on Rodeo Drive.
So the owner hears about this and calls a few days later and says, Hey, I hear you’re working at Rodeo Drive. What are you doing over there? I said, well, you wouldn’t hire me for your store. So, I mean, I’m not waiting on you. I gotta keep my career going here. Right? Yeah. , so he said, what does it take to get you back?
I’m like, just give me a job. I’m coming back. So within like two weeks, I was back, in Vegas working at that art gallery, and then I guess the next step in my retail world was, I was, secret shopped, I guess you’d say by Warner Brothers. Now, Warner Brothers, at the time, Disney Store had been really, really successful and Warner Brothers said, if they can do it with Mickey Mouse, why can’t we do it with Bugs Bunny and Donald Duck?
So they created a store concept. They built three, they were going to build their fourth. And this was going to be in Vegas at Caesars Palace. And so, the guy that was recruiting, I guess like my style and said, Hey, we’re building the store. We’re looking for a manager. Can you come for an interview? Are you interested?
So I met him at the Flamingo Hotel if you guys know about that. And, at the cafe. And he takes this salt shaker, I don’t have it in front of me, Biggers in my water, can and pushes across the table. And he says, sell this to me. I’m like, oh, great. So I romanced the heck out of that salt shaker. I wanted the salt shaker when I was done.
And he looks at me, he says, “you’re hired”, we built the fourth Warner Brothers studio store, in Caesars Palace For shops in Vegas. And that thing was amazing. The very first night we counted over a hundred thousand dollars in cash, not even counting credit card sales. And it became reportedly one of the highest per square foot, non-jury retail stores on the planet.
From what understand? So this place was ridiculous. It was constant restocking. We had a huge staff. We actually had, an employee in front of each particular, like T stand just to help. Refill it as things were sold. It was, it was nuts, so, that went so well that they said, why don’t we instead of building five this year, build 135 in two years?
And they moved me then to Warner Brothers Lot, in Burbank. And I became a regional operations manager for the studio store galleries, on the West Coast, which ended up going from Hawaii to Denver. And I was in charge of roughly 20 to 25 stores, depending on the day. , and I was 23 years old. So it was pretty cool, you know, to have this job with, with just all this retail everywhere.
And I learned everything from operations to training. We had new stores set up, you know, had to keep track of managers and stores and, you know, had, have a kind of backlog of people that I secret shop for in malls across the country, just in case I lose somebody, and that can go on and on, but that was Warner Brothers.
And then I stopped, and I ended up getting an executive MBA from Pepperdine, the Grodi School of Business. And I realized through that MBA, that while I was doing this, this organization was growing so big and so fast, and getting so thick that I didn’t think it was going to last. And I became one of the people in the organization saying, we gotta fix stuff because this isn’t, can’t sustain itself.
There was no change. And so the Monday after I graduated, I quit. And I started talking about, investments and, giving speeches about, starting companies and communicating what you’re doing to investors and to investors about how to evaluate a company if you want to invest in them. Did that for a little bit and then decided to start a software company.
So at that point, I was out of retail. Yep. , and well, all right, to skip ahead, let’s just say I ran the software company for 20 years. oh. And first though. While I was starting the software company, I was looking for venture capital funding, and at the time, Pepperdine asked me to come back and actually teach a course about entrepreneurship to their, professional MBA students.
And in my course, you’d have to come up with a business idea because all these people were going to leave and start their own companies. So they had an idea in their mind already, but I had to come up with an idea to use as an example. Throughout the semester and I was always fascinated with pearls because when I got married we decided to get pearls for the bridesmaids and it was my job to go buy them.
I knew nothing about ’em. But as I researched ’em, I thought they were really fascinating. And so I decided for this kind of test company, that I would say I’m going to be a pearl jewelry designer. And throughout the semester we went through the steps, things I had to look out for, planning, marketing, and all that sort of stuff.
And the weird thing is that I started designing pearl jewelry during class. And people started buying it, and then someone would see somebody in it and say, oh, I want one, and then I want one. And then, all of a sudden I figured, what’s the number one, like holy grail thing for a designer and jewelry?
And I asked my class, you know, we’re, we’re talking about marketing now. I said, what do you need to do? What’s like the absolute coolest thing that could happen to you as a jewelry designer? And someone said, Get a celebrity to wear your piece. So I said, that’s exactly right. So I wrote an email to everybody I know and I said, I love Deborah Messing.
She seems like my perfect demographic. Does anybody know her or know how to get to her? And it turns out there’s a guy that I drank wine with all the time, and he said, Matt, you don’t know this, but I’m a photographer for N B C and I work on the Will and Grace show, why don’t you send me a few pieces and I’ll bring them to her?
Within like two days. I got a call from her costume designer and, she said, Deborah loved your stuff. Come and meet her. So I went over there and then before, you know what I was designing for Will and Grace for Deborah Messing. And so we go and try on all the outfits for the season and I bring all sorts of things.
And then she introduced me to Britney Spears, who I did some custom stuff for. And then, Harry Connick Jr. Called up and said, Hey, I hear you’re doing this stuff. I need to buy some stuff for my wife, but the funny thing is that this was just a sample in my class, and at the same time, well, I decided to start wholesaling it.
Why? Why not? And we read something like 20 stores within six months at the most. But I got venture capital funding for the software company. And when you get other people’s money, you have to be a good steward of that money. And I had to make the sad decision, but I was excited to start the software company, to shut it down.
So, yeah. Then 20 years later I exited, and that was maybe three years ago, almost four years ago. Finally got out of software because I tell you guys it was great money, but I’m not a behind-the-desk guy. And, got back into retail about three years ago. Man, and here I am, Matt. I love it. I mean, and I bet you have so many stories within those stories.
It’s just so cool, how everything led you to where you are now though. And I just, I absolutely love how you were just so bold and got. The job at the art gallery when you were young and just said, Hey, I’m, I’ll work for free. Like, let me prove it. And then you fast-forwarded how the Pearl Business became.
It was just an extra, it was a class, it was an idea just to teach. And now look at where you are. Like, I love your story so much and I know that. When you got back into retail, you were working with a local Austin jeweler, Right? And really helping support them. And that’s really, you know, who’s listening to this show is the brick and mortar.
They’ve got their physical storefront, and I know you did a lot of great things there. So take us through kind of that experience, working with that store and what you did to help them grow. Yeah, sure. So, I decided to get back in the pearls because the entire 20 years, my passion never like, went away.
And I started thinking, I’ve never been that passionate about something for more than a few years. I tended to go from this to this. I don’t know. How about like you guys in your life, if that happens? So I figured, you know, I’m 50 years old now. Pearls are it, so I decided, to start designing again, and I won out and sold my pearl collection of stores.
One of the stores was here in Austin, Texas. So it makes it easy to visit them, get them to inventory, and they did a pretty good job of selling. So I’d visit often, but it was Christmas a little over three years ago, and they fired their manager, from what I understand, never really heard the whole story, but the manager was gone mid-December and I went to the owner and said, what are you doing?
You got a jewelry store and you got rid of your manager in mid-December. I’ll tell you what, I’ll come in and I’ll run the place until January. You don’t have to worry about anything but Christmas in the store, and then in January, hire somebody, but I got you covered. So I went in there and just helped out and it’d been almost 20 years.
And I, like, I fell in love again and I realized what I missed. And that was, you know, the people coming in and discussing something with somebody, somebody having no idea about what it is that they’re going to buy and buying it, you know, going through that whole process, and I had the time in my life and I realized I need to be in front of people.
But I also realized it was a gold mine this place because they weren’t doing a lot of the things that they could have been doing, and the revenue was sort of dismal, they had been through, I think, three managers and. Three or four years, since they had started, so, I wasn’t looking for a job, but I went to them and said, I’ll tell you what, I’m not looking for a position, but I just see a
Big potential here. What if I took it over? You guys stay outta my hair. Just let me run it, the way that I want to run it. And then what we’ll do is we’ll take your revenue. Now, we’ll put a target above that, and then if I reached that, we can rev or profit share above that, and they said yes. And so, I started now running, you know, a jewelry retail store and did that for three years.
And I just left a month ago. Yeah. And share if, if you’re okay with sharing what you did with that jewelry store because you really grew it, you got to that point, you got to that profit share. And, then I would also love to hear a couple of ways of how you did that. Well, you, there are a few things I noticed that in.
And all of you in retail, it doesn’t have to be a jewelry store. , there are things, that I would train my staff at Warner Brothers to do that were really successful that weren’t happening here. And, it could be because there wasn’t any training. When you have a small individual, independent retailer store, you rely on the training of the owner when the owner often has the passion, but not necessarily the, you know, the history of being able to train people on sales.
, or they have their own style, which is great. , But it brought back all of those Warner Brothers memories and, training classes that I did. And one thing that they weren’t doing is they weren’t approaching every customer. And so in my store, We drop everything, every single time there’s any customer.
And it doesn’t matter who they are, it doesn’t matter what they look like. It doesn’t matter if you look at ’em and say, there’s no chance this person’s ever going to buy. We drop it all and we just talk and we talk about whatever stuff. There are a million ways to start a conversation. So I knew that they weren’t doing that.
From the pricing perspective too, I also saw that they, in my opinion, and there are different styles, I think a lot of high-end, high-ticket stores, jewelry, and art, we’ll overprice stuff. And so let’s say they think they can sell a ring for $5,000, they’re going to price it at eight or nine and then negotiate down to five and make the person think they have a good deal, not my style.
And I think what was happening then was you get lucky on a few, but you’re not having consistent revenue in high unit sales. And so I took the prices and really made them a lot better, and it gets, it’s kind of, kind of in the weeds, but this is, was a consignment store. So we had the ability to price things the way we wanted.
So rather than a consignor coming in with a piece and pricing it, it tells the consignor or Consignor, we think we can sell it for nine, but we may pay you less if we sell it for five. I just say I feel really confident we can sell this at five, and we leave it that way. And we trained all of our customers to know that.
So when customers come in, And they say, oh, what’s my best price? I’m like, it’s five plus tax. You’re like, you know this, right? And so we joke about it with customers. So I think we trained our customers, there was no, we just put into all those classic retail strategies that we, we would do. Building a book, building a wishlist, communicating with people, building rapport, again, approaching customers, and then, you know, selling, you know, when somebody.
I always tell people, salespeople, the customer’s not done until they say that they’re done. Right. And so another thing that I noticed a lot of stores is that when the customer says, Great. Okay. I’ll buy that can of water. Then the salesperson says, okay, come on, I’ll ring you up. Right. As opposed to, awesome.
I’ll tell you what, I’ll hold it here for you while you look a little bit more. Or, hey, the can of water, great. Or, let’s say, it’s fashion, right? So, hey, dress, you know, I’ve got a hat. I think they’ll look really cute with that, you know, or Shaw, you know, or what else do you need? Or, you told me you’re going to some event, you know, any other events coming up that we can get you for while you’re here in the store.
So, all of those things are what helped me turn it around quite a bit. But, when I left a month ago, we had over doubled sales in the full third year and raised net, income 451%. Wow. That’s, oh. And tripled the unit vole. Wow. Incredible. Yes. I’m very proud of it. Yeah. Yeah, I am very proud of that too.
That’s awesome. I mean, people listening to this are like, I would love to do something like that. Right. I mean, those are significant results and like you said, it’s a lot of things leading up and getting to that point. , but you got there pretty quickly. I mean, three years is not a long time, so I feel like you really were focused.
I love. That you said that the customer’s not done shopping until they say that they’re done. Because I’ve been in those experiences where it’s like, okay, let’s ring you up and I’m not done. And I feel like, oh, well I’ll just get it later then. Like they totally lost that sale. But I’ve been in stores that do that for me.
What else is coming up? Where else can we help? And I feel so taken care of, it’s not about, I’ve gotta sell and meet my quota. It’s about really taking care of, the customer. And it’s an experience. Like I love when people are helping me in those ways. And of course, you know, some stores are different depending on what you sell, but I think that’s a really important point.
I was, you know, what I didn’t put into that mix is that I lived in Napa Valley for a while and I was running the software company still, but at this point, it was kind of dwindling a little bit, and I had a very, very small staff and, and honestly I put in like 10 hours a week because I was just kind of.
I wasn’t into it, you know, and so it’s, I was kind of purposely letting it fizzle out. So I love wine, and I worked for a winery on a Saturday. Oh, cool. And this winery is, was my favorite wine in Napa Valley. And my job on Saturday was to host people and bring them for like a good hour and a half, tour the property and sit in this big mansion, and drink all sorts of wine.
So I got free wine on a beautiful property. I mean, it was amazing every Saturday and got paid really, really well for it, but I remember when I went there, they’d been around for like 20, 30 years, something like that. But within the first few months, I set a whole bunch of sales records. And the one was how much wine could one group, your group was limited to under 10 people.
Could one group. Buy in a day. And we kept track of that record in the back and I had this group that was buying a bunch of wine, but they had bought a case of this case of that or whatever, and it was getting to like three, four, $5,000. And, I remember them coming up and getting ready to check out and I said, well, you know, You really like that 1988 wine, you know, that we tasted and I noticed, I mean, you were just like enjoying that.
How come you didn’t get any of that? Oh, I don’t know. I’m like, well, you know, there’s not a lot of it. I think maybe you should get a case of that too. And the guy goes, yeah, all right. So then I did, but I wasn’t done there and noticed. I didn’t say get a bottle or two. I said to get a case, which is 12. , and then I was having fun with it.
I remember this. And I knew I was close. I was getting close to the record, right? So then I said, you know, you do you guys entertain. And of course, they do. You know, they’re in Napa Valley with a bunch of friends, right? And I said, you know, it’s, it’s summer, it’s Atlanta, you need something kind of on the chili side to start the party with.
I know you love the Chardonnay as well. I know you didn’t buy any, why don’t you add a case of two Chardonnay onto it? You can open that as. At the beginning of the evening and then move into the reds at night. And then the wife is like, yeah. I’m like, okay, do you want one case or two cases? Well, two. And then kept on going and going.
It was great and it was all the salespeople were around and we’re just having fun with it and it like set the record. Oh. But that’s an example of what, what you and I are talking about is, and increasing your sales can be just as simple as that. If there’s one big technique. That alone can make a big difference.
Oh, that’s huge. , I love that story. And a side note, I don’t know if you know this about me. I, I love wine. I don’t, I’m not as knowledgeable about it, but I love wine. I also have a podcast called Crystal and Corked, so we’ll have to talk about wine over on that show. Exactly. , we have so much in common, but, so that, I’m so glad you shared that experience because that’s something that I absolutely love.
When we, so I have to ask you about wine real quick, really quick. Yeah. What is your favorite, like go-to your, you know, like, I know it can always change, but like, what is your go-to type of wine? , I think that I mean, I, I got nuts with it. I mean, I’ve got literally 5,000 bottles, so it’s, it’s ridiculous what I’ve done with wine.
But I kind of collect ’em like baseball cards too. However, I think the skill of a good wine connoisseur is to be able to find a bottle for under 50 bucks that tastes great. That they can drink all the time because anybody can go and spend $500 on wine. It’s going to be great. You know, and I think the skill of a good restaurant wine list is if I can go on a restaurant wine list and see that they’ve got a 35 or $50 bottle, that’s delicious.
Then I love that restaurant because they’re thinking about the consumer. I have different go-to’s depending on, what’s going on. There’s one, one called, oh my gosh, why I’m not thinking this now, Bal, which is good for say Asian food and whatnot, is very light and crispy with a little hint of sweetness.
It all depends on what you’re eating, you know what I mean? Right, there is, a chardonnay that’s called CITAs, which is only on the mailing list. It was 70 bucks, but it’s probably my favorite Chardonnay ever for a hundred under a hundred dollars. Okay, I can go on and on. My favorite expensive wine in the world is called LePen, from Bordeaux.
Okay. Oh my gosh. Love it. I’m going to look all of these up. I’m so glad. Selfishly, I’ll give you a list later. Okay, great. Yes. Send me your wide list and then we’ll, we’ll have some wine on Crystal and Co and talk more about wine. If you process credit cards, you’re going to want to listen up for this resource because it could save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars a year.
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This is a great offer. I hope they can help you like they did me, Going back to retail. , we actually have, I have a, a retailer client who she’s got, she’s a jeweler also. Oh. But she’s got major construction in front of her store. And we hear this from brick and mortar like you can’t control it. Right.
They’re, they’re. Updating the downtown area, or they gotta fix the sidewalk, or there’s a pipe burst, or whatever the thing is. And it really has an impact on foot traffic. And sometimes it’s really challenging because those projects can go on, on and on. Yeah. For a long time. Yes. And so, what, do you have a tip or two that you would give to a brick-and-mortar to help in a situation like that?
Still stay connected to your clients and your customers? Well, I mean, I can think off the top of my head of a few things, maybe depending on his or her particular situation on the spot. , it makes me think of when my store, we closed down for 70 days for Covid and I wasn’t the owner, so I didn’t get the choice, and she actually closed down more than she had to, but that’s what she felt she needed to do.
But I wasn’t going to let it go. And so I went in by myself, and I figured, well, I’m not going to sit back. This is my time. To build up our Instagram following, to build up the webpage, to literally go out there. And I went on Facebook groups, jewelry groups and became members of them. There are, a few of them that are very big and powerful that you can, if you need extra revenue, you can just sell to these groups.
And I went in and replaced. Half of the income I was doing with the store, being open by sitting at my desk with shorts and flip flops, and a snack lunch, and, just selling online. And I built up my online reputation following that way, which is kind of cool too. So, so maybe move more effort online.
Do those things you always wanted to do, like get your social media up to date and get your content going. Get new content, you know, recorded may be that you can put out in the future, but as far as literally getting people in the store, I like doing events, when we took over when I took over the store here in Austin, within a month we did a pearl event since I’m a Big Pearl guy.
And I haven’t told you guys about that yet, so, great. I mean, I, I’ve been studying pearls this entire time. I run the software company and I’m a Gia Pearl graduate and a certified pearl specialist with a. Culture, Pearl Association. I live and breathe pearls every day. So I figured what a great kickoff.
And we had a pearl party after hours on a Thursday night and we just invited, I think we must have got 70, 80 people in there and served champagne, and I gave a talk on pearls, filled the cases up with pearls, and that was a great, sales event. Not to mention keeping people involved. So events, you know, focus online and then depending on who your landlord is, I don’t know, maybe signage, maybe have fun with it if, if they’re cool with it.
Construction in front of the store. Maybe the, maybe put like a sign that says like there’s a gem in every mess. Our jewelry stores are still open behind construction or something weird like that. Hey, you know, maybe they can have fun with some signage. Oh, I, so that’s some ideas off head. That’s a those are all such great ideas.
Thank you so much for sharing that. And I would say use chat g p t to plug in some creative ideas on how you Oh, great. Yeah. You know, turn, turn this into, this kind of negative, into something funny that you can really leverage that’s still connected to your brand, but, Great tips, Matt, let’s talk a little bit about the wholesale side because that’s what you’re focusing on now with Matt Harris Designs.
You have stunning pieces and everybody should go check out Matt online and see what he’s creating. And I, I want to. Ask you first if there’s a retailer that’s listening that is thinking about starting their own product line, you know, there’s definitely some benefits in that, but also like anything there can be good and bad of doing that.
What would, because you’ve done it and you’re doing it, what would your advice be? Well, yeah, I’m kind of weird, but I like that about myself. when I left the store a month ago, it wasn’t just a wholesale pearl, so I’m actually looking for another retail spot. So I wanted to get out and have my own store where I’m making the decisions, and they kind of stayed outta my hair, but, When they did get in my hair, it was on things that I didn’t agree with necessarily that I felt kind of kept me, held down.
And so I’m looking for a spot right now. , as we speak, we’re looking to open up a new store and do the same thing. But, yeah, so I’m very excited about that. However, at the same time, I think most of my focus is going to be retail. Mm-hmm, however, at the same time, Just through me doing pearls, people ask if I can wholesale them.
And yeah, absolutely. So I do have a collection, and I think you were asking for some kind of tips on that. Yeah. If a retailer is thinking about starting their own branded line product line, they might sell other lines Yeah. Too, in their store, but they’re going to have their own brand and create there, and launch their own line.
What advice would you have for them? What, really works for me is that when you come into my store and I have a case of just Matt Harris designs and everything’s branded. We’ve got packaging and display and all that sort of stuff, I have such an easy time selling it because people think it’s so cool.
That the designers right there and, I mean, we sell pearls like mad, whereas a lot of jewelry stores are very afraid of pearls, so I think that designing your own line and selling it in your store is a win-win. And easy right now, whole selling it to other places, you just gotta watch out for it because that can be a whole.
World in itself. I mean, it takes a lot of time. You’ve gotta have reps, you know, you got your lookbook, you’ve got, you know, trade shows. A lot of people do that by doing trade shows, you know, and do you have time as a retailer to actually go out and do a trade show, get reps, have people visit stores, manage, you know, all of that business?
I’d say before you’d get into wholesaling as a retailer, decide if that’s really what you want to do or do you want to put that time and effort into making your retail a better operation. Right. It’s, it’s hard to kind of straddle the two, I think. I’m trying to, but I’m not pushing the wholesale too much. I’m going to be pushing more of the retail.
Right. Well and to your point too, they can, it’s so easy for you to sell because it is you, it’s your name and there’s that branding like that credibility, that instant like baked-in kind of credibility that I think you get with that. And that can also make for great social content and people want to come in and meet.
There are also opportunities when it is something that’s kind of custom, like if somebody loves your store, I just see this a store that has like an. Awesome brand and people love the store and there might be an opportunity for you to do your own, I want to say mustard because, for a long time, I wanted to open a mustard store because I love mustard.
And I was like, there’s nothing like it. And I, I was really, really thinking I was going to do it. But if you have a gift shop and you also have pantry items and, and you want, you decide like, I’m going to do my own brand and my own line and that. Brand, like people already love it and you have such a strong brand.
I think that that could be a cool channel for retailers. But to your point, you know, there’s a whole other aspect. They, and if you’re going to go and sell through to other stores and do the trade shows and, and get a rep group possibly, but that could be something too, that they’re only selling exclusively.
At their store and on their site. And so that could minimize some of that, but it doesn’t work for everybody. But I do feel like it’s a good opportunity for some retailers out there. Yeah, and, and mine, you know, I think people see that I sell so many pearls in my store and then I also have my designs that are unique in pearls that it just, people are in the jewelry business, friends that I know, or people that I don’t know that just come across me in, in jewelry groups and things are going to ask, Hey, we love your stuff.
Can do you have a wholesale program? And the answer is, yes. And, you know, and I have the standard sort of thing where we have a minim order quantity. But I’ll switch stuff out if things don’t sell. , and a lot of you guys are probably familiar, with that sort of setup. But I love send selling a line to somebody.
And I absolutely love it and I do it. I’m just not doing the trade shows and, you know, and I don’t have any reps. Yeah. Okay. Awesome. So any retailer that’s listening to this, that could be selling some pearls, you gotta talk love to help to Matt. Yeah, I know of a lot. I know of a lot. So you reach out to Matt.
Alright, let’s move into our resilience round. Are you ready? I feel very resilient. Yes. Good. What is the best business book you’ve read? Okay, so, this will probably sound. You’re not expecting this, let’s put it that way. But, greatest Salesman in the World by Ag Mandino. Have you heard of that one?
No, I haven’t. So this, I’m more, I think that strategy and tactics don’t mean much unless you’ve got the mindset behind it. Right? So this is a book, that talks about, It’s going to sound kind of coy, but like loving things, loving everything, loving everybody. Your family, strangers, loving, the sun because it makes you warm, loving darkness because it shows you the stars loving success because it makes you joyful, loving failure because it gives you wisdom.
It’s a mindset sort of book, and it happens to take place around a salesman, way back, in, like the Birth of Christ time. And, I guess to s it up, It makes you realize that you have like an unbelievable amount of power. I mean, you’re so incredibly powerful. I’m incredibly powerful in that I wake up every day and I have 24 hours in a day just like everybody else.
And what I decide to do with it is up to me. And if you marry that with love for everything, and you marry that with, the knowledge that there are no limits. You can do whatever you want, you know? I mean, it just adds up. And it’s, it’s a very powerful mindset sort of book. And it’s an interesting book because it actually takes over 200 days to read if you read it right.
They, you, you read the same chapter three times a day before you go on to the next chapter. , and I read this when I was like maybe 16 or 17, and it just, , part of the reason I think that I had the, the guts to go and ask for the job at the, at that store was because I read this book. I mean, I had no fear whatsoever.
And I’ve read it a thousand times. I mean, well, not a thousand times a lot, to the point where, you know, I wear it out and I have to buy another one. , but anyways, Agman, Dino, the greatest salesman in the world. Oh, and I could tell you a story. So there’s a guy that I knew, and I spent dozens, if not hundreds of hours with them.
Very successful, it started a restaurant chain selling, a five cent item way back when in the day. So, donuts. And, I think he. Probably had 6, 7, 800 stores around the world. Eventually ended up selling that and taking over a big restaurant chain that every one of you has eaten at; it’s funny; it’s very successful.
Very wealthy. And I was in his private library at his house one day, like looking through books and I come across this book, greatest Salesman in the World, and I pick it up and I open it. And on the inside cover, there was two Verne. This book has helped me. I know it can help you. Signed by, I don’t know exactly the person, but some, one of the DuPonts.
And so I have that book now. He gave it to me and oh my gosh, it keeps coming up in my life. Yeah. So long answer. I’m sorry that wasn’t a speed round. Incredible. Oh, I love that you took the time to share. That gives me chills. How incredible. Yeah. Check out. Yeah, I totally will. And I love the idea of looking through things through that lens of love.
Like that’s really, that’s really needed and necessary. I think it business. Yeah. I cannot wait to read that, the best retail technology, like an app or software. Airtable, do you know Airtable yet? I don’t. What is that? Air table. So I’m in between leaving a store and starting a store, right? But at the same time, I got this wholesale side of my business, as you guys know, and a bunch of other messes in between.
I try to organize it. It’s a way of organizing. It’s kind of like an Excel, but with like a lot of, customability so you can. Create your own kinda spreadsheets. They call ’em bases or tables. , and you can keep track of anything you want. So we have inventory in one. That inventory then can be poured over to resale world, which we use for consignments, like a consignment store stuff.
Or it can be imported into Etsy or it can be reported over to Shopify. , so inventory, but it also, I keep track of jokes that I like on there. I have a base that’s for jokes that I enjoy, so everything I want to keep track of is on Airtable. Oh, that’s so cool. Okay. I I can’t wait to check that out too, because retail is ever-changing.
How do you recharge your batteries? , as in you get burnt out? , yep. I, I guess when you say recharge your batteries, I think. Wine. Yeah. That helps wine. Totally. It, it, it’s like, so I drive a Tesla and you know, they’re electric, right? So if you let your, this is a good analogy because if you let your battery go out, then you’re stuck on the side of the road, you’re missing a meeting.
You gotta have the Tesla guys come over and rescue you and they charge you a fee for that. You know, it disrupts your whole life, right? So you need to know when it’s low and you recharge it. , and you know, I not just in retail, but I think in any career or any job, you know, I think the key is knowing when your battery’s low.
Mm-hmm. , and then stepping away, you know, have a glass of wine. You know, spend time with your family, cuddle your animals. I’m a big animal lover. And just cuddling with my bunny or the dog or whatever, just recharges me. , and then this sounds kind of weird these days, but, don’t answer your phone.
I don’t believe that you have to answer the phone when somebody calls you these days all the time, especially on a Sunday. So if you get a hold of me on Sunday or try to get a hold of me Sunday, it’s just, it’s probably not going to happen. And, we even have a rule at my family where, and sometimes it’s hard, when we’re eating a meal, nobody touches their phone.
And even just that is a good recharge. It so is you’re more present. And I feel like when we are present, we are filling up more. We’re able to solve problems easier because we’re not spending, so we’re not exerting so much energy on all these other things. Such good tips. Matt Levit. Yeah. Work is going to be there later.
The problem’s going to be there later, you know? So, Totally. It’s so true. My friend just said that to me, the other, the other day because I was, I didn’t want to go to the gym with her because I’m like, I have so much work to do for this event that we’re putting on. And she’s like, the work’s always going to be there, so you’re just not going to make yourself a priority.
Like, how does that work? And I’m like, yeah, oh yeah, yeah, you’re right. And so I went, I and I continue to go, you know, I have to, and that gives me energy and I gotta take care of myself so I can work. So, Yeah, Jim’s a good way to do it too. And I, I need to get back into that. I was like a gym rat for a while, but what a good recharge that is.
If you guys have it showing up is the hardest part. Amen. I said that yesterday when we were on the treadmill. I’m like, okay, this, I feel good. I’m good. I’m glad I’m here. It was the hardest part showing up, to help retailers be stronger, rooted in success. What’s a sales foundational best practice?
Sales foundational best practice? , when I think of best practices, I think my brain goes to both technical and human best practices. Technical, I think anything having to do with the social media stuff, and you and I are in the Mastermind and I’ve learned so much about, social media, and I, I, I was aware of it, but as far as using it to support your business, hugely powerful if you do it the right way and you can learn from well for people like you, you’re going to be talking about that at your Evolve conference.
So, Keeping the consistency up, but also keeping it real and giving value is what I’ve learned. It’s starting to work for me, and I’m just still kind of new at that. , but, social media management I think is a great best practice. The human side, it’s knowing who your employees are, what motivates them, talking with them, why are they there, and what they like, and what they dislike.
Because. Employees will tell you, and I’ve looked at a lot of studies of this, it’s not always money. Money isn’t the number one reason people were at their job, right? And then when you can understand each of your employees and what makes them tick, then you can show them that you are. Aware of them that you appreciate them and when something comes up for the business, you can know that Sally like showed interest in whatever and go to Sally and say, Hey, you know, I have a feeling you might like this task.
I mean, I’m not saying do it, but it’s available and it seemed like it would kind of fit your interest. You want to take on this project and they love it. You know, if, it’s something that shows that you’re listening to them, so I think han best practices in terms of just knowing and appreciating employees.
I know it sounds basic, but you’d be surprised at how many. Business owners just really don’t take the time to know what motivates their employees. I think you’re absolutely right. I think a lot of people are just working in the business and going 5,000 miles an hour and not taking some time for themselves and to get to know their employees and slowing down and being present.
So, such a great tip, so critical, and yeah, especially employers. Employers not, you know, taking, it’s easy to take your employees for granted because they’re doing the job and they’re making your business work, and maybe it’s working well. But you take ’em for granted long enough and then things start happening, you know?
, so beware of that is my advice. Yep. Love it. Final question, what do you think the future of independent retail looks like? I think it’s going to be coming back to, , personal relationships, which is why I’m in it. , which is great. So, I think the silver lining, go back to Ag Mandino again, right? Life isn’t, the life isn’t about.
What happens to you, it’s about the way you perceive what happens to you, right? And there’s no good or there’s no bad. It’s the way you perceive these things. So I think one of the good things that came outta Covid was you had all these closures, the mom and pops businesses, sadly going out of business. A lot of ’em, you know, you know Amazon, the big companies took over.
But I think there’s a big retake of that going on or that will go on. I think that, , customers want to know you as a business owner. They want to see you and believe it or not, they want to come in the store and just say hi, you know, even if it’s not buying something. And I realized that at my store that almost every day I had multiple people just I was in the neighborhood, thought I would come and say hi, and whether, whether they buy or not, I.
I think personal relationships are what’s coming back, and people love, love, love to support local business. And always, people would always say, well, yeah, but the prices are higher. I can’t compete against Amazon. But you know what, who cares? I mean, I will buy myself, I’ll spend 110 bucks on something local rather than going to Amazon for a hundred.
Happy to do it. And I’ve seen a lot of studies about that too. People are okay and expect to spend a little bit more money, because they have the personal experience. So, that’s what I see as the trend. , and take advantage of it as a business owner. You know, get to know your customers because that’s the other thing that’s also going to help you last through recession is that you can still sell and you can sell at higher prices with inflation if you have that good of a relationship with these people that come in on a regular basis.
So take care of the regulars, especially. Hmm. Awesome. This was such a good conversation, Matt. Thank you. I wish we could go on and on. We could go on and on, I’m going to have to have you back and on Crystal and corked; there’s just so much here. But I really, really, really appreciate your time and your knowledge and just sharing your wisdom and what you’ve been through.
And you’ve gotta keep us posted, maybe when you come back. When you get the store, I want to, I want to see pictures of the store. Hopefully, I can visit your store. Like you’re in such an exciting time right now, and I know it’s so much work launching the business, but how exciting for you? So I just can’t wait to follow that online.
If anybody else wants to follow it online, how can they do that? What’s the best way to connect with you? Oh, I think Instagram; I’m loving Instagram. It’s Matt Harris designs on Instagram, and you can see me talk about pearls and my designs. , YouTube. I just launched one little video, which is, like, so much fun.
I spend maybe 15 minutes a day just talking to people on my YouTube. , and that’s Matt Harris Pearls. , it’s educational. I’m selling anything on YouTube. It’s just learning about pearls. , those are two great ways to do it. And my very outdated website, which of course, I mean to get to Matt Harris designs.
But I’d say if you’re on Instagram, come see me on Instagram. Awesome. We’ll link to all that as well. Matt, thank you so much for your time. I love this conversation. Thank you. And thank you and for what you’re doing and for pulling people together. And just one quick thing I gotta say. You’ve got the Evolv conference coming up.
I think networking with other retailers is the best thing people can do in terms of learning what changes are happening, what other ideas are, I mean, the whole just networking alone, getting in a room with other, I would say jewelers, but whether it’s retailers or any sort of retailer, networking is great.
There are some great online groups that you can join if you’re not already in them, of other retailers. And I learn more about what’s happening in the world in those groups than I do reading any articles. Oh, I completely agree with you. N like listening to our peers and what’s happening with everybody else.
And if you’ve tried a different tech or software or tool or having a challenge, employee struggle or. Looking for products or sourcing. I mean there’s so much that retailers go through. If you can find your tribe and really connect and network events are such a great place to meet new people, we’re big.
Obviously, you and I are big fans of that because we got to meet in person at our mastermind in Arizona. So I’m so glad we both showed up because then we got to meet each other. So, thank you so much, and thank you. I’m looking thank. Forward to our next conversation and everybody listening, remember that I am rooting for your success.
Have a great week ahead. Bye. Thank you so much for being here. It means the world to me. Don’t forget to join the Rise and Shine newsletter, which is social media news you need to know. Sent via email every Monday morning. Go to crystal media co.com/rise to join, and don’t miss the newest episode of Rooted in Retail, which drops every Sunday morning.