The following is a transcript of an “Inside the Jewelry Trade” Radio Show episode titled: ITJT 003: Exclusive Conversation with Matt Stuller.
This is part two of three transcripted articles that covers the exclusive conversation with Matt Stuller, who is the Chairman and Founder of Stuller Inc.
This is a link to the podcast episode which was released on June 29th, 2014: ITJT 003: Exclusive Conversation with Matt Stuller.
Electronic transcription is seldom perfect. Please accept our apologies in advance if we missed a correction.
We sincerely wish to thank Matt Stuller for being so gracious with his time and sharing the story of Stuller Inc.
Also would like to thank Doug Meadows of David Douglas Diamonds and Jewelry in Marietta, Georgia, for being instrumental in setting up the interview and participating in the interview.
ROD WORLEY: The jewelry trade has changed over the past 40 years. How do you see changing in the next five to ten years?
MATT STULLER: Well, certainly I laugh. I think we’ve been in the change industry as all businesses are for the 40 years that I’ve been in it. I think what happens, however, is that change is happening much quicker. Where it used to take seven years to run a style, you could operate your business in the same way in the groove, where you’re really comfortable for a period of five to seven years without having to change the business model.
Well today, it’s coming every year. So as I look in answering your question, “What do I see over the next five to seven to ten years, the next decade?” Certainly, as I thank God and as I get older, the decades happen much, much quicker. It’s that the businesses are going to change very, very substantially.
Today, we have a much more demanding consumer. The end consumer is ever more demanding and they’re more educated with all of the information pushing the jeweler harder. They’re walking into the store knowing what they want and knowing what they want to pay for it, and often the jeweler doesn’t have the product in their store. I think it’s easier today for the jeweler to buy the product thinking that it will sell and it becomes obsolescent much quicker.
For the jewelry manufacturer, we had a complete paradigm change back in the mid-90s when 14 karat yellow gold wasn’t the predominant metal and color. People started wanting to go to white gold, platinum, and palladium. They wanted pink gold. They wanted different colors depending on the ethnic group.
Today, our systems will have to have 19 different types of metals and colors in order to be able to satisfy the customer every day. I think the biggest change that’s going to happen is the technology of CAD design and manufacturing. We are on the leading edge. We own the number one CAD jewelry software in the world called Matrix created by Gemvision and Jeff High and his brilliance. We own the number one, in my opinion, CAD software for over-the-counter sales where we have a trade name called CounterSketch Studio.
We highly recommend the jewelers who use it, to change it to create their own brand. But it’s kind of a CAD, it’s made simple. You just have to slide the bars back and forth and all of the geometry, the scale of the product, changing sizes, and shapes of stones all change automatically.
So I believe what’s going to happen is that instead of aggregating manufacturing where it becomes smaller because of consolidation, we’re going to see a large spread of manufacturing. We really believe most jewelers that have bench jewelers will want to actually start manufacturing much of their product, but that goes against the grain of a company like Stuller. But I think this technology because it is easier to manufacturer, it is easier to create a design, it’s easy to plan it, will happen sooner probably than later.
We will have laser printing where you will actually take powdered metal like 14-karat gold, put it into a printer and you can bypass the entire lost wax casting process. Literally building gold product off of a laser printer. There are a lot of crazy things that are going happen to our jewelry industry over the next decade. We’re all in for a really fun and exciting ride.
DOUG MEADOWS: That’s great. I’ve got an opportunity to see that 3D printer for the gold. It opened up new ideas for designing and technology that just was crazy. Years ago, I learned about the Stuller Family Foundation, the way that you give back to your community and the way that you work charitably in your area. Could you share a little bit about your philosophy?
MATT STULLER: Well, it’s real simple, Doug. The fact that as a person experiences successes, part of their responsibility is to give back, or the new term today is “pay it forward.” I think it’s faith-driven for Stuller. Over the last 15 years, we’ve committed 10% of our entire profit. Whether it’s through the company or whether it’s my personal investments or other businesses that I may own or be involved in, putting it into a foundation where we can go out and do good things for a combination of two causes. One, that our people that are in need that we would love not to have to support, but it’s there, people who are struggling, children that have been inflicted, the wives that have been abused. The list goes on and on and on.
Then we tried to also get involved in helping to build schools and churches and do the fun proactive things. I think it has been very, very important for not only me but our company overall. Certainly, the right thing to do for my three children and being able to have that kind of mindset as you move forward in life of being able to do good things for needed causes. So it’s been an exciting program. We’ve had great opportunities to do lots of fun stuff. It is probably my highlight of the day when I can get involved in helping to make decisions within our foundation board on where dollars need to be invested in improving society.
ROD WORLEY: You bring a whole host of valuable services for jewelers. But is there one or two that you think jewelers should be taking more advantage of, and why?
MATT STULLER: Boy, it’s a great question. I think what makes Stuller so successful and yet so problematic is that we offer so many different types of products and services that it’s difficult for anyone to really grasp their arms around. How can I utilize Stuller in order to make me more successful? The origin of Stuller has always been about serving. It has been about helping the jeweler be successful. We started an ad campaign about three, four years ago about Stuller’s desires to make the jeweler a hero with their customer.
Over the last four years, actually five years now, we really have been on what I would almost call, a whole new business model. It’s that although we offer many different SKUs, products, and styles, we often don’t offer exactly what the jeweler needs. In other words, they have to modify what they have to buy from Stuller. Maybe shop the right-center stone, maybe it’s a different shape that they need, or maybe it’s the wrong finger size. We’re really on to something here. It’s what we want to do in the long term with all of our product is to be able to offer the customer what they need, not necessarily what Stuller has to offer them. It’s a real mind puzzler.
We described it two years ago in a marketing program, called the three C’s. We believe jewelers do that every day, but we wanted to formalize it. The first ‘C’ is that they can choose. They can call Stuller or any other vendor, and they can choose a product just like their customer walking into their store and choosing something that they want out of their showcase. What I call a cash and carry business and it’s fun, it’s easy, and we all love that type of business.
The second ‘C’ change. The jewelers have done this for years and years. There’s a lot to choose from Stuller, but they’ve got to change it when it comes in, modify it in order to satisfy the customer’s needs. Often the jeweler will take something out of their showcase, even if it’s just a simple changing of finger size or adding a center stone to a semi mount, or many other things that they do every day and having to change the product that they currently own to satisfy the customer’s desire.
The last “C” is to create. Now, that gets a whole lot more complex. That is really about if I don’t have it in my showcase and I can’t find it easily, let me create it. Today, particular with the younger generations of the millenniums, even the generations of the X and Y, and we’re even finding it today with the baby boomers in the traditional generations, is that they don’t want to have something like everybody else has. It’s that they want to personalize it. They want to be able to be involved in helping to create an item that they are going to give or wear in adornment, hopefully for multiple generations.
The ability to create jewelry is extraordinarily important. We have to make it user-friendly. We have to make it intuitive. We have to make it easy, that’s why we’ve been continuously working on new software to be able to modify CAD design. To be able to create it, where we can literally turn it over in the matter of a day or two. We’re working on our program today where we could literally create something by an order given to us in the morning and have it shipped that afternoon giving the customer what they need, not necessarily what we have.
Those are the three C’s, although the jewelers have been doing this for many, many years, we’re just trying to simplify it. We try to give our jewelers everything and anything that they may need to meet the demands of their consumers today. So that’s one of many, but I think it’s a very important goal that Stuller is working on. It’s a multi-year project.
As you start digitizing and as you start creating all of your inventory in a digital process, you are able to alter or change very quickly. You can use printing, growing or milling to create the jewelry in the metals and the qualities that the consumer wants. It’s a lot more complex than when you first think about it.
Transcript Series: ITJT 003: Exclusive Conversation with Matt Stuller.
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