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Jewelers show imagination and tech savvy in reaching today's fickle holiday consumer.

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Consider the holiday shopper: stressed, confused, possibly hungry and above all, in search of a friendly face.

What will that harried consumer find in your store? Solutions or more stress?

Make sure your store is a relaxed environment where shoppers know they can unwind, take their time, enjoy a snack and a drink, and find a cheerful someone to greet them immediately and help them ASAP.

“That in itself can make all the difference,” says Tammy Benda of Bottom Line Marketing, who reminds her retail-jewelry clients that the holiday hustle can be as overwhelming for shoppers as it is for retailers. Impersonal Internet shopping, although a convenience, is missing that human touch that only you, their personal shopper, can provide. “That’s very important during the holidays because you’re not just competing with other jewelry stores, but with purses, clothes, electronics, home improvement,” she says.

Here are some ideas to make sure those stressed out shoppers find your store and find what they’re looking for when they get there.

1Make it fun to visit. Have an ugly sweater contest among your staff and ask your customers to vote on a winner. Ask customers to submit their own ugly sweater photos on social media, Benda suggests.

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2Feed them. Jennifer Farnes of Revolution Jewelry Works in Colorado Springs, CO, is planning a food-truck event. “Most highly rated food trucks have a big and loyal following on social media,” she says. “It’s a great way to promote local restaurateurs while exposing their regulars to our business. Also we are trying to put together a live music event featuring local individual musicians all day long, with hors d’oeuvres and drinks.”

3Spend money on social media to target not only your customers and their friends, but lookalike audiences as well. “A lot of businesses say ‘I have 10,000 followers on my Facebook page.’ But Facebook is not going to deliver your ads for free,” Benda says. “There is far less organic reach during the holidays than at any time of year because there is so much competition.

“Make sure everyone who goes to your site is retargeted. When they get to your website, follow them around and virtually say ‘I know you are looking for an engagement ring, this is why you should buy an engagement ring from us,’ and then list all of the reasons why buying that ring from you is the best choice.”

4Be human in your marketing. In other words, be the human being that that customer wants to come in and talk to. Have your staff appear in videos showing their favorite gifts under $500. Put a personality on your social media, a smile, a welcoming voice.

5Experiment. If you’ve always done things one way with middling results, consider trying it a different way. Tom Schowalter of Miners Den Jewelers in Royal Oak, MI, plans a big sales event each November to kickstart the holiday season. “In the past, we mailed over 20,000 direct mail cards; last year we did everything via email, text and Facebook and we got a bigger response.”

Lacey Madsen of Lacey’s Custom Jewelry in Bismarck, ND, has hosted ladies nights and men’s nights, as well as remounting, vintage and loose-gemstone events. This year, she experimented in September with a preview event, inviting customers in to help her select new holiday inventory.

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Chris Wattsson of Wattsson & Wattsson Jeweler in Marquette, MI, is updating his holiday events, including the traditional ladies night. He’s found that wish-list conversions have been steadily declining, so this year’s event will target self-purchasing women and include a gift with purchase or a dollar amount off for a dollar amount spent. Soon after Christmas, he’s also planning a new event targeted at people who received jewelry online for Christmas and are looking for sizings and appraisals.

6Start early. Ellen Hertz, owner of Max’s Jewelry in St. Louis Park, MN, is scheduling all of her holiday trunk shows in November this year to capture holiday shopping dollars earlier. “One of the things I’ve heard a few too many times is somebody coming in for an event toward the end of the year, and saying, ‘Oh, I wish I had known, I already got a present for my wife or girlfriend or daughter.’ I don’t want to hear that anymore. So I’m going to jump start the holiday season. I’m not going to be obnoxious and horrible by putting out the glass ornaments and cards that we sell before Halloween, but Nov. 1 is turning into holidays in the store.”

7Save some energy for the homestretch. Try as you might to encourage early shoppers, it’s hard to change habits, Benda says. “Those last three days — Dec. 22, 23 and 24 — are going to be the craziest days no matter what you do.”

In addition to those seven tips, here are 12 more inspirational marketing ideas.


Say It With Dinner

Croghan’s Jewel Box

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Family-owned Croghan’s Jewel Box in Charleston, SC, believes in the power of appreciation. Each year, Rhett Ramsay Outten and her team print a list of their top 100 customers in terms of dollars and frequency of purchase. “We choose something to send each of them with a handwritten note saying thank you for your business this year,” she says. “One year we partnered with an exciting new hotel in town and gave them a night and dinner on us. Some years we send a $100 gift certificate with a pretty ornament. It is a nice touchstone and people seem to appreciate being appreciated! It definitely brings them back in the store!”

Instant “Catalog” On Instagram

Max’s Jewelry

At Max’s Jewelry in St. Louis Park, MN, owner Ellen Hertz had been phasing out her printed holiday catalog in favor of a digital version; last year, she dropped the print version altogether. But this year, she’s going to deconstruct it into multiple Instagram stories. Hertz believes the new format will be more far-reaching. “The catalog in the past has brought us for the most part the same customers,” she says. “We had people come in who saw things in the catalog they liked, but by and large, those were our customers who were inclined to shop with us regardless of whether or not we had a catalog. I don’t know how many new eyeballs it reached. But Instagram is a good venue for us.” It’s possible they will also bundle the posts together at some point and make it a catalog. But if they do, that catalog will be digital. “Basically, it’s digital, digital, digital,” Hertz says. A year ago Max’s also launched an intense national digital branding and retargeting campaign. “My goal is to link people through those ads to those catalog stories,” Hertz says.

Customers Rock the Catalog

MJ MILLER & CO.

Every once in a while, a good idea stands the test of time.

Mike Miller of MJ Miller & Co. in Barrington, IL, has produced a holiday catalog for three decades that continues to be the best sales tool in his holiday marketing repertoire. The key to the project’s enduring success, he says, is the personalization that comes from enlisting customers as models; the models and their friends and families become instant brand ambassadors.

The 2019 catalog showcased 64 pages of jewelry worn by 24 of their customers. Each model is selected specifically to wear a featured piece of jewelry. “We look at the piece of jewelry and we think we know what will look best on a certain customer,” says Lynnette Solomon, special events coordinator. “We can envision a customer wearing it.”

They partner with a salon for hair and makeup, and the photo shoot is done at the store throughout June. Models, along with their friends and family, are invited to a champagne-fueled “Catalog Reveal Party” in September to view the finished product first.  “We are the talk of the town,” Solomon says. “Everybody wants to see who is in it and what they are wearing.”

MJ Miller enlists customers to model for a holiday catalog that’s mailed all over the world and celebrated with an invitation-only, catalog-reveal party.

If that hot commodity of a catalog is not in customers’ hands by mid-October, the phone will ring. “If it’s a day late, people want to know, `Where’s my catalog?’” Miller says.  And while the catalog has been online for years now, customers still prefer to hold this marketing marvel in their hands. So Miller keeps thousands on site and orders more from the printer as needed to meet requests that exceed the initial mailing of 150,000 copies. Most are mailed in the Chicago area, but the customer base encompasses all 50 states and 13 foreign countries, so this locally produced catalog has global reach.

“If they have an interest in it, we can overnight it to them,” Miller says.

“I make damn sure we never run out. We don’t have time for that!”

Unscripted Commercial Saves The Day

Barry’s Estate Jewelry

Barry Fixler of Barry’s Estate Jewelry in Bardonia, NY, would not call himself social-media savvy. His forte is TV commercials, in which he has invested significantly for years. So, when he decided to give away a $5,000 diamond engagement ring, he enlisted the help of a social-media guru. The first 150 couples to respond to the promotion by email would be entered in a chance to win the ring, but would be required to show up at the store for the drawing. By the day of the drawing, Fixler had set up a tent to accommodate 300 people with food, entertainment, heat, and a photo booth. Then he discovered that his guru had failed to follow up and invite the contestants to the event. “I expected 300 people and only 20 people showed up,” Fixler says.

Barry Fixler’s diamond-ring giveaway resulted in a spontaneous reaction that he was able to turn into a TV commercial with wide appeal.

But, turning to his tried-and-true marketing medium, he notified both his TV production company, (theTerry Snyder Co.) and a local TV station in an effort to salvage his marketing investment. That part turned out better than he could have anticipated. When a young couple won the ring, the groom-to-be knelt and proposed on the spot, and his bride-to-be said, “yes,” through her tears, all while the cameras rolled. Fixler was also able to use the unscripted, heartfelt moment in a memorable commercial. “That was a home run,” Fixler says. “It was a super, super hit. It brought more customers here. What I thought was a major bomb turned out to be a huge success.” 

Make Over My (Ugly) Ring!

Revolution Jewelry Works

Before and after photos of a ring that was redesigned for the Revolution Jewelry Works’ “Make Over My Ring” 2018 contest.

A few Novembers ago, Revolution Jewelry Works in Colorado Springs, CO, first partnered with a local TV station for a promotion called “Make Over My Ring.” Owner Jennifer Farnes had a good working relationship with the TV station, so much of the publicity was good will. “If you’re nice to salespeople, when opportunities come up, you can cross-promote,” she says. Contestants submitted photos of dubiously designed jewelry that they wanted to transform. TV viewers voted on the ugliest. The owner of the ring deemed the absolute ugliest would win a $1,500 makeover at Revolution Jewelry Works that included CAD design, casting and setting. That first year, voters chose a wedding ring with a missing center stone that was also afflicted with “monstrous channels” and an early ‘80s design. The winner used everything left in the ring to create a new cluster ring with a compressed halo. Social media followers as well as the TV audience loved it, and so the contest was repeated in 2017 and 2018, drawing steady attention to Revolution’s custom and makeover talents.

Geo-Fencing The Consumer

Seita Jewelers

Nicole Moret of Seita Jewelers of Tarentum, PA, has worked with Gemfind for the past year on digital marketing, and this will be the first holiday season they’ve used geo-fencing as a marketing tool.

Geo-fencing draws a virtual line around a perimeter and targets mobile-device users. “If a customer has walked into a location and their IP address is grabbed, then your ad is going to be served on any of 10,000 apps,” says Alex Fetanat, founder and CEO of GemFind. “The beauty of this is it’s a targeted marketing effort. You can geo-fence the location around a big box competitor or anywhere you think your potential customers will walk into. As they walk in and when they go home, your ads will appear on their apps for about 30 days. You can grow your brand awareness and it’s trackable.” 

Geo-fencing just makes sense, Moret says. “As a consumer, I’ve been geo-fenced myself. It gets the consumer what they’re looking for in a quicker and easier way. We target local businesses within 20 miles, some of the major areas, malls, country clubs, grocery stores and other jewelry stores to raise awareness that we’re here. We’ve had proven walk-ins from them and phone calls. Our general traffic from the website and online inquiries has increased.” The geo-fencing ads include a call to action — click to call, to get directions or to make an appointment. “We talk about selection. We do have a very large selection and we offer custom design. Engagement and wedding rings are always a top priority.”

Holiday Bling Box Has It All

Borsheims

Borsheims’ Holiday Bling Box 2019 is built around a coveted pair of diamond huggie earrings.

Since 2017, Borsheims in Omaha, NE, has offered variations on a theme of a gift collection that debuts in the holiday preview catalog. The 2019 Holiday Bling Box has a “chic-glam” theme and includes a Citizen rose-tone and white-ceramic Chandler watch, 14K gold huggie hoop earrings with a full carat of diamonds, a 14K white gold diamond line necklace and an Orrefors small Carat vase, all for $1,685. All items come packaged in a single box and wrapped in Borsheims signature silver with a burgundy bow.

Adrienne Fay, Borsheims vice president overseeing the customer-purchase journey, says the Bling Boxes were created as a response to research about what customers want. “Beyond saving customers time, they’re fun to give, fun to receive, and are a gift that will really be treasured,” Fay says. After experimenting with a variety of price points and options, they determined that focusing on only one option in the $1,000 to $1,600 range worked best. They choose one strong seller — such as the diamond hoops this year — and then add pieces to complement it. The other pieces represent the breadth of merchandise categories available in the store, such as giftware and watches. “People say they really like this one item, and all of these other gifts are a bonus,” says Fay. Sometimes the boxes are disassembled and given as gifts to more than one recipient.

Two Holidays At Once

Mucklow’s Fine Jewelry

At Mucklow’s Fine Jewelry in Peachtree City, GA, “Cover Two Holidays At Once” is designed to provide value for customer loyalty. The goal of the promotion is to extend the December holiday season into the Valentine’s Day season. During December, clients receive 10 percent of their purchase back in the form of a gift certificate that can be used from Jan. 9 to Feb. 28. During that period in 2019, the store had a 19 percent increase in the number of units sold, a 40 percent increase in average ticket price, and 56 percent increase in merchandise profit vs. the previous year.

“This promotion added significant value to the Mucklow’s shopping experience, strengthened our community relationships and increased bottom line sales in a traditionally slow quarter,” manager Rod Worley says.

Sleep In, Then Shop

Midwest JewelerS & Estate Buyers

At Midwest Jewelers & Estate Buyers in Zionsville, IN, no one’s in a rush on Black Friday. Doors open at noon sharp for the Sleep-In Sale. “Unless you have a $1 TV for sale, who wants to show up at midnight?” says Allyson Gutwein, store manager. To make it even more relaxed, employees wear pajamas to work and serve hot chocolate and biscotti to customers, who are invited to show up similarly attired. Customers who do wear pajamas are entered in a drawing to win discounts, the best of which is 50 percent off anything in the store. The staff got together and found zip-up onesies to wear in solidarity. “Last year I sold a very high-end ring while in pigtails and a reindeer onesie,” Gutwein says. “If you can sell a high-end ring wearing that, you can do it any other day.” Luckily, customers’ choice of pajamas have all been quite modest, and generally climate-appropriate flannel. “You do wonder if you try something out-of-the-box that someone’s going to take it too far, but there’s been nothing salacious,” Gutwein says.

Staffers wear pajamas to work for the Sleep-In Sale at Midwest Jewelers & Estate Buyers. From left, Allyson Gutwein, Emilie Ritchie and Alley Pontius.

Most important, Midwest Jewelers & Estate Buyers has a reputation for having fun.

Owner Brian McCall jokes that he hasn’t been invited to the event, possibly because no one wants to see him in pajamas, but Gutwein disputes that claim. “Everyone is invited,” she says.

Keep ‘Em Guessing

Toner Jewelers

Toner Jewelers promoted its “Guess the Weight of the Gemstones” contest on the front cover of a holiday catalog.

Last year, Alisha Moore and the Toner Jewelers team in Overland Park, KS, filled a wine glass full of random gemstones and displayed it in one of their cases. Then they mailed out thousands of catalogs. The front cover of the catalog promoted the “Guess the Weight of the Gemstones” contest. Customers could enter the contest once a day while in the store, but they were required to share their contact information. First prize was a $5,000 store gift card. “There was excitement about it when regulars would come in,” Moore says. “You couldn’t touch it or handle it, but people would stand there and do calculations. Other people in the store were asking what they were doing and would join them. The first place winner was a good client of ours, and yes, she made guesses every day. It was a good, no-pressure way for us to capture information.”

Big-Ticket Items – No Waiting!

Bernie Robbins Jewelers

If you don’t have it, they can’t buy it. A Bernie Robbins Jewelers customer recently spotted a 7-carat diamond ring in a case, loved it and bought it on the spot, which made owner Harvey Rovinsky ponder the vast potential of focusing on his luxury clientele. “We’ve identified a significant number of clients who have the ability to spend six-figures-plus, and we wanted to reach out to them,” says Rovinsky, who owns five stores in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Bernie Robbins’ luxe catalog introduces a high-end diamond collection pre-holiday
in an effort to romance luxury shoppers.

So the team at Bernie Robbins is launching a Luxury Diamonds line this holiday season, which Rovinsky believes to be the largest collection of 3-plus carat diamonds in their market. They’re also building areas in their stores to house fancy, GIA-certified diamonds in green, pink, blue and orange. Some will be ready to go: “We thought if we mount them and talk about them, we are selling rings and other jewelry, which is way different than selling a diamond in a paper,” Rovinsky says. They’re also producing a high-end catalog to accompany the Luxury Diamond collection. Each book costs $25 to produce. “Everything is funneling toward the holiday,” Rovinsky says, “but we expect this initiative to be a year-round thing.”

When Life Gives You Orange Barrels

Harris Jewelers

A promotion involving the color orange saved Harris Jewelers from an anticipated road-construction slowdown for the 2018 holiday season and beyond.

When a major construction project claimed the street in front of Harris Jewelers in Rio Rancho, NM, in fall 2018, Karen Fitzpatrick expected a 40 percent drop in holiday business. But instead, due to a fun promotion combined with an aggressive radio and Facebook ad campaign, she’s met her goal every month since then, even as the construction project dragged on for a year. 

Here’s the promotion she credits with her success: For every $10 spent in the store, including on watch batteries, guests receive an orange ticket (a shout-out to the orange construction barrels). Every Monday, Fitzpatrick and team draw 10 tickets, which are then posted on a wall in the store. So shoppers must return to the store by Saturday to see if they won. She clears out old inventory with the promotion, too, since winners choose from a showcase of wrapped jewelry gifts from the half-off case. “We have customers addicted to this,” Fitzpatrick says. Winners’ pictures are posted on social media. “I cannot tell you what a success this has been,” she says. “We even have an orange barrel, named George, with a tumbleweed head in our vestibule that we decorate for the holidays.”

Eileen McClelland is the Managing Editor of INSTORE. She believes that every jewelry store has the power of cool within them.

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All In The Family

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At INSTORE, we often refer to family-owned jewelry stores as being the heart of the independent retail jewelry business. So, for our December issue, we’ve collected photos of some of the faces behind those family businesses. Whether they represent second- or fifth-generation jewelry families, they’ve learned something about how to navigate these close relationships and achieve a balance between their personal and work lives that transcend time and generational differences.

Brothers Gale and Flint Carpenter, from left, and Gale’s son, Chance.

An Unexpected Succession
Big Island Jewelers, Hawaii | Founded: 1983

When Chance Carpenter, already an entrepreneur in his own right, told his dad, Gale Carpenter, that he wanted to join the family jewelry business, Gale said it blew his mind. “He had never spoken to me about any interest in the business whatsoever,” Gale says. “I would have started grooming him much earlier.” Gale founded the business with his brother Flint, a goldsmith. When Chance joined the business in his mid-20s, he apprenticed with Flint, and when Flint wanted to retire at age 70, Gale bought him out through a stock-reduction plan. “Chance learned from a master working a foot away,” Gale says. “It was invaluable. Because you can’t learn 35 years of technique in a classroom. It just doesn’t work.” In another four to five years, Gale says, Chance will take over and begin buying his father out of the business.

1. Heather Wahl with her parents Bob and Barba Wahl. 2. Four generations, circa 1945. From left: F.X Wahl, F.C. (Frederick Charles) Wahl with baby R.C. (Robert Charles) Wahl, and F.F. Wahl. 3. A 1989 photo in front of the store’s original location 4. Barba in a 1970s era newspaper ad for the store.

125 years, five generations
R.C. Wahl Jewelers, Des Plaines, IL | Founded: 1894

“I am so proud of my family’s longevity in the jewelry industry!” says fifth-generation family member Heather Wahl, who is the first woman to own the business. “This year we are celebrating one family, five generations, 125 years!” Her parents, Bob and Barba Wahl, met at an Illinois Jewelers Association event in Springfield, IL, in the late ‘60s. “Mom worked at another jewelry store in Illinois and they were seated at the dinner together and the rest is history,” Heather says. Heather’s parents are retired from day-to-day operations but make special guest appearances and step in to help as needed. “They are fabulous sounding boards and have a wealth of background and knowledge to share,” she says.

Harold, Cathy & Hunter

A QUALITY TRADITION
Tivol, Kansas City | Founded: 1910

Charlie & Mollie Tivol

Immigrant Charles Tivol opened a jewelry shop in downtown Kansas City in 1910, meticulously crafting each piece of jewelry by hand and launching a family tradition that would continue through generations. His son Harold began working in the store as a boy, studied at the GIA and joined Tivol in 1946. In 2003, Tivol was recognized by the American Gem Society as top retail jeweler of the year. Harold’s daughter Cathy, representing the third generation, has worked in the family business for three decades. In 2010, Tivol celebrated a century in business, and a year later, Cathy’s son, Hunter Tivol McGrath, joined the company as a salesperson at the Hawthorne Plaza location, making him the fourth generation of the Tivol family to work for the company. Harold Tivol remained chairman until his death at the age of 92 on July 6, 2016.

A STRONG WORK ETHIC
Josephs Jewelers, Des Moines, IA | Founded: 1871

Toby Joseph, Trisha Joseph, Jake Joseph and Deb Joseph.

Jake and Trisha Joseph represent the fifth generation of the company founded by watchmaker Solomon Joseph in 1871 as a repair shop that also was officially in charge of timing the trains for the railroad. By the turn of the century, Josephs had expanded into fine jewelry and giftware. In 1934, Josephs was a founding member and investor in the American Gem Society. They attribute their success to respect, teamwork and a strong work ethic. “The Joseph family has always lived a modest life,” Deb Joseph says. “No one has ever had a second home or taken any more vacation than what their employees have. Toby is almost always the first one here in the morning and Jake, Trisha and I are usually in the group that is the last to leave the store.”

FAMILY COMES FIRST
Tapper’s, Troy, MI / Founded: 1977

Founder Howard Tapper is the company’s CEO, brother Steven is vice-president, son Mark is president, daughter Marla Tapper Young is a director and Mark’s wife Leora is heavily involved in the store’s merchandising and runs its estate department. Mark ascribes the company’s success in part to the tight family bond they all share. “We hired a family business consultant who asked each of us individually, ‘There’s no wrong answer, but is it family first or business first?’ And each of us answered ‘family first.’ We don’t always agree, but once a final decision is made, we all get on the bus and start driving in one direction.”

Founder William Croghan’s granddaughters and great-granddaughters form the current management team.

LAUGHTER IS A CURE-ALL
Croghan’s Jewel Box, Charleston, SC | Founded: 1907

Mini and Kathleen Hay; Rhett Ramsay Outten, Mariana Ramsay Hay and their mother Mary Croghan Ramsay.

Founder William Croghan’s granddaughters and great-granddaughters watch over the store that William opened around 1930 at 308 King Street. By 2000, granddaughters Mariana Ramsay Hay and Rhett Ramsay Outten, the third generation, began to knock out walls and expand the jewelry business in that original building. They’ve since been joined by fourth-generation Mini Hay and Kathleen Hay. Says Rhett: “Too many retail jewelers hang onto the image or idea of who they’ve been in the past. Our survival has been based on ‘Let’s try it; let’s see what happens.’ We also believe that laughter is a cure for just about anything, so we laugh a lot. And probably most importantly, we are always counting our blessings and looking for ways to give back in a meaningful way to this community that has given us so much.”

Robert and Jonathan McCoy

Old Place, New Course
Mitchum Jewelers, Ozark, MO | Founded: 1965

Jonathan and Jennifer McCoy, left, with Robert McCoy and Samantha Smith, head of operations.

“When I was growing up, it was more like a routine,” says Randy Mitchum of the family store. “My dad, a watchmaker, went to work during the day, then he came home and we ate dinner and watched Wheel of Fortune.” Although he’d been assigned chores in the store, he never really thought of it as his life’s work. Randy graduated high school in 2000, but after a year in technical college, he lacked direction. “I asked my Dad, ‘Why don’t you let me work in the store part time?’ At first he told me, ‘No, I don’t think we’d get along very well.’ Then he needed someone after my first year in college and I started working in the store. The next semester came along and I wanted to work full time in the business.” Although he was trained on the bench, his dad told him, “You’re a hell of a better salesperson than you are a bench person. Why don’t you stay on the sales floor and make some money?” Randy never did go back to college. “Once I got into the store and started working, I saw some potential and started taking some ownership,” he says.

John Mitchum (right), shown with his son, Randy, purchased Trantham Jewelry in 1965. It came with a prominent, double-sided clock on the town square that now has a new name and a place of honor in their current location.

JEWELERS IN RESIDENCE
McCoy Jewelers, Dubuque, IA | Founded: 1973

The McCoys not only work together but also live above their business. Founder Robert McCoy, a master gemologist, jeweler and designer, lives on the third floor, and his son Jonathan and daughter-in-law Jennifer live on the second floor. Although semi-retired, Robert still works a couple of days a week on design and repairs. Jonathan is the head of bench operations, custom design, CAD/CAM and repairs; Jennifer oversees bridal and sales. “It’s hard to play hooky,” Jonathan admits. “My wife and I converse about the shop almost daily. Once you get in that mindset, it’s difficult to get out of it.”

Julia, Jeff and Daniel White

REBEL, REBEL
Jeff White Custom Jewelry, Las Vegas | Founded: 1995

When Jeff White opened Jeff White Custom Jewelry with 300 square feet in an office building, he received a stipulation from his wife, Michelle White. “My mom’s one condition was that he not be allowed to hire any of the kids,” says their son, Daniel White. Michelle came from a family business and knew the stresses associated with that kind of operation. Despite that warning, Daniel and his sister Julia both landed in the business (“I guess there are worse ways to rebel,” Daniel says). “My dad has cut back from his 60-80 hour work weeks — he has given me the ability to run and manage operations in the event he does decide to take off for a while. My sister, Julia, keeps our books clean and our staff happy. She is pregnant with her fourth child right now, but insists on coming in one day a week to manage the books and schedule, and when the holidays come around, she is our top salesperson. My brother, Joseph, got out of the business and became a hospital administrator; he still has an opinion on the direction of the business, but none of us listen. I have an older sister and a younger sister who are also not in the business, but they love jewelry and my dad loves giving it to them, so no one is complaining.” In total there are 11 grandchildren in the third generation.

Michael Kanoff and his father, Lenny Kanoff, became partners in 1996.

LIVING THE DREAM
Michael’s Jewelers, Yardley and Fairless Hills, PA | Founded: 1976

Michael’s Jewelers was founded by Lenny and Karen Kanoff in 1976, but the family’s jewelry roots run deeper than that. In 1918, Daniel Kanoff, a watchmaker and silversmith, emigrated from Russia to the U.S. and got a job working for a watch repair house in Philadelphia. A decade later, he opened his own business, Philadelphia Case & Repair. Daniel’s son Irving became a watchmaker, and his grandson Lenny became a retailer. Their son, Michael, fell in love with the business. “I knew I wanted to be in the jewelry business since I was 2 years old,” Michael says. After he earned his GG from the GIA, he worked at a variety of jobs in the industry. “In 1996, I was working as a jewelry rep in Atlanta, and I got a call from my father,” Michael recalls. “He said they were building a shopping center in Yardley and asked if I would like to partner with him and open a store in my hometown. So in 1997, we closed our Richboro store and we opened Michael’s Jewelers Yardley.” Michael says he is living his dream by owning a jewelry store and raising his three children, ages 9 to 13, in his hometown. “At this point, my children don’t have any interest in the jewelry business, but that might change,” Michael says.

Fourth-generation jeweler Sarah Hurwitz Robey, her parents, Jeff and Patty Hurwitz, and her sons, Tucker and Lincoln.

ALL AGES WELCOME
Colonial Jewelers, Frederick, MD | Founded: 1920

Fourth-generation jeweler Sarah Hurwitz Robey has brought her sons Tucker and Lincoln with her to work since they were 6 weeks old, with the help of her mom, Patty Hurwitz, and a babysitter. “We have an awesome staff who are like family to us and are very understanding of all of the nuances of working for a family business, whether it is Lincoln learning to crawl on the sales floor or Tucker running in from preschool excited to show everyone what he made that day. I feel like I have a dream situation. I get to work at the store, which I have always been very passionate about, as well as have my babies close to me.” The business was founded in 1920 by Sarah’s great-grandfather, Benjamin Hurwitz. Sarah’s father Jeff Hurwitz, president of Colonial, learned the business from his own parents, Will and Marilyn. They’ve had a recent surprise addition to the family lineup at work: “My 94-year-old great-uncle, who worked in the business with my grandfather, recently came out of retirement and is our official Saturday greeter. He’s a huge hit with our customers, may of whom remember him from years ago,” Sarah says. “I don’t ever want to put any pressure on my boys (the way I was never pressured) but I am hoping that having them here so young may instill in them the same love of the business that I have,” she says.

A JACK OF ALL TRADES
Spath Jewelers, Bartow, FL | Founded: 1986

Tina and Gene Spath, from left, work with their daughter Emily and son-in-law Matthew Clark.

Spath Jewelers founders and owners Tina and Gene Spath work with their daughter, Emily Clark, and her husband, Matthew Clark, who both have the title VP of operations. Tina handles community relations and marketing. Gene works as a liaison between their two locations and oversees jewelry and watch repair. Emily is custom design manager and oversees diamond sales, HR, scheduling and marketing. Matthew handles inventory, staff training and development, marketing and sales. “In a small business, there is a lot of overlap in job responsibilities, and you eventually become a jack-of-all-trades,” Matthew says. “The way to succeed in a family business is to help and advise other family members in their areas of focus when they request the advice, and stay in your lane when advice is not needed or requested. A wise man one said, ‘You never want too many cooks in the kitchen or the food will come out tasting like you know what … ‘”

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Getting Along in the Family Business

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Mark Tapper wasn’t sure, as a young man, whether he wanted to join the family business in Michigan. He was motivated to work on Wall Street, first, which he did, but still realized he felt a pull to be an owner operator, to chart his own destiny. That idea kept him coming back to considering the family business.

“During summers, when I had the opportunity to come home, I worked in the business,” Tapper says. A turning point came when he worked with a customer to repair the watch their son had been wearing when he was killed in a car crash. “I created an emotional bond over that repair and felt more of a connection with the business. I realized that we see our guests at the best times of their lives and at the lowest times of their lives, and we can develop long-term relationships with them.”

When Mark did join Tapper’s, his father and uncle were ready to slow down a little bit. “My dad realized he wasn’t connecting with younger generations, and my sister and I were young and ambitious; little by little, he gave us more responsibility and opportunity. My dad coached us, but he handed over the reins and allowed us to make mistakes and have successes.” 

David Brown of the Edge Retail Academy says such openness is key to family harmony. While the younger family member needs to be open to learning from the older generation, the older generation benefits from being receptive to new business methods and opportunities. “We live in dynamic times, and what got you there won’t keep you there,” Brown says.

Outside experience, whether in or out of the jewelry business, can be invaluable. Kate Peterson of Performance Concepts says that ideally, family members should spend a year or more working with another, similar jeweler in another part of the country, learning sales and operations as an employee rather than as an heir.

Peterson also advises owners to be sensitive to their existing associates when bringing new family members into the fold. “Communicate honestly with staff members about your hopes and expectations for your son or daughter, about the steps you’ve taken to ensure his or her value and contribution to the team, and about how you see the chain of command evolving — both in the short and long term.”

Peterson says it’s important, although challenging, for the owner of the company to separate their roles as business owner and parent.

“Talk to your son or daughter as you would to any person applying for an eventual management position with your company,” she says. “You’ll want to make sure that your objectives, as well as your understanding of career path and process, are compatible. Now is the time to discuss timelines, expectations and performance standards.”

Mike Kanoff of Michael’s Jewelers in Yardley, PA, says he started at the bottom of the family business, an experience which, looking back as an adult, he recognizes as formative. “This is what made me the person I am,” he says. He advises patience on everyone’s part, because despite the best of intentions, parents will inevitably view their offspring as children, no matter their age or experience. “Don’t take it personally; it happens to all of us,” he says. “They will appreciate you more as they and you both get older and grow together.”

When a family member joins the firm, says Toby Joseph of Josephs Jewelers in Des Moines, IA, they will benefit from exposure to different areas of business to figure out what they enjoy. Discuss among family members and key members of the team how you can find someone to take on areas in which no one is strong or interested.

Sarah Hurwitz Robey credits a clear division of labor for ease of operation at her family’s store, Colonial Jewelers in Frederick, MD. Everyone plays to their strengths. “It’s not always perfect, but having different areas that we are responsible for, which happen to be the ones we enjoy the most, helps to give us all our own space to do things our own way.

“For example, my dad is responsible for diamond buying and inventory controls. He is really great at keeping our inventory lean and turning well to leverage our buying to make it as profitable as possible. So when a question comes up about bringing in more merchandise, I would defer to him on the purchasing budget, but we would pick out styles together. One of my areas is marketing, and while we will collaborate on the marketing budget for the year, the details of the way we spend it and the creative aspects are up to me. My mom, whose pre-jewelry store background was in social work, is our master of dealing with staff, customer relations and community philanthropy.”

Rhett Ramsay Outten, who owns Croghan’s in Charleston, SC, with her sister Mariana Ramsay Hay, says her third and fourth-generation family management team would all agree that working together is one of the thrills of their lives. “Our relationships have evolved and matured, and honestly, we really just like each other. The interesting thing about our situation is that we all bring very different strengths and weaknesses to the table. We know our lane and we have allowed each other to lead and excel in the area in which we each thrive.”

The Tapper family has been open to innovation and new ideas as younger family members come aboard.

Outten is the creative one, while her sister is a problem solver and planner. “Next generation Mini and Kathleen are similarly opposites. Kathleen has a love of spreadsheets and data and enjoys the analysis of numbers. Mini is an artist and designer, our style director. They work beautifully together.”

Although they have very different skill sets, they all share the values handed down from their grandfather and mother, she says, which include a deep faith, a belief in ethics and honesty and putting family first. “On challenging days, sometimes you just have to wake up and decide that the most important thing is to get along,” she says. “Our mother would expect that of us.”

MAKE SURE EVERYONE IS ON THE SAME PAGE

W hen Mark Tapper moved into the business, the Tapper family met individually with a family business consultant, who asked each of them if the family or the business came first for them and told them there was no right answer. “We all answered family first,” Tapper says. “So we had that as our foundation that the decisions we are going to make are for the family. That really helps drive the family culture, the business culture and the business performance.

“When things aren’t at their best, it’s because we aren’t communicating,” Tapper says. “The more you can talk and plan and be open and honest with one another, it benefits the family and it benefits the business.”

Brown says that effective, regular (timely), structured communication and meetings are vital, but only if they have context. If people don’t know what the goals and objectives are and where they all fit in, there isn’t much to discuss.  With those things in place, family members should meet weekly for an hour to review what’s working and what’s not.

Third and fourth generation owners of Croghan’s Jewel Box say that working together is one of the thrills of their lives, but on challenging days, they make the decision to “just get along.”

At Croghan’s, Outten says the family meets once a week with their CFO, their head of HR and their store manager. “This is where we discuss all of our plans, problems and triumphs,” Outten says. “It is a crucial part of our success and allows us to be on the same page as well as to be intentional in both short and long-term planning.”

Brown notes that multiple generations working together must know and agree on the short-term (one year), medium-term (five years) and long-term (five years and beyond) goals and objectives of the business and the family members involved. It’s important to discuss expectations upfront, including who will be running the business in the future. “There are few things more destabilizing than surprises, such as one of the younger generation thinking they will be taking over the business only to find someone else is earmarked for that role,” Brown says.

Other important topics are: How do the current owners get paid? How do they make it equitable? “There is nothing worse than close family members falling out due to a lack of understanding about where they fit in and how it is all going to work,” Brown says.

ADDRESS QUALITY OF LIFE ISSUES

O wners may discover that family and quality of life issues are at the forefront of expectations when it comes to millennial and Gen Z employees. “Expect to hear ‘I can’t put in the kind of hours you did’ and avoid the temptation to utter the dreaded phrase, ‘Pay your dues,’” Peterson says.

Robey is grateful that her parents recognized how important it was to her to bring her young sons to work, ever since they were six weeks old. “If someone just needs a hug from Mommy, I am right here,” she says.

Matthew Clark joined his wife’s family’s business, Spath Jewelers, in Bartow, FL. Emily works there, too, and they both have the title of vice president of operations. For them, working together is quality of life. “People are amazed that I work 10 hour days with my wife and say they could never do it,” Clark says. “But I could not imagine working 10-hour days away from her and coming home to see her just a couple hours before having to go to bed. I know it would not work for everyone, but we are very blessed to make it work and I would not have it any other way. ”

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Big Survey

The Big Survey 2019: Big Data

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THE BIG SURVEY 2019

Big Data

Gabriel & Co. is king. Earnings for many jewelers have flat-lined. And customers — and almost as often staff — are still confounding. Those are some of the broad takeaways of the 2019 Big Survey. Dig in and enjoy our analysis of data provided by 802 North American jewelers.

Utah’s jewelers were most concerned about the impact of social media on their personal lives: 75% said it had been negative. In a possible related finding, Utah’s jewelers also checked review sites most regularly, doing it daily or every few days. Jewelers in Maine were the least likely to check what people were saying about them online.
California had the highest number of multiple-store owners: 23% had two stores and 3% had three or more.
Arizona led the way in e-ccommerce with 71% saying it contributed a moderate or substantial portion of their sales (meaning more than 10%).
Texas contributed the highest portion of big city stores to our survey (23%) among U.S. stores. (Canada actually had the most in North America at 29%.)
Wisconsin could possibly change its moniker to the Surprise State: Only 15% of its jewelers said their performance this year was in line with expectations. The rest were either doing better or worse than expected.
Jewelers in Iowa were most excited about lab-grown diamonds (63%), while jewelers in New York were most alarmed by their emergence (48%).
Canadian jewelers are most likely to be asked about a diamond’s origins (83% say it happens regularly) while in the U.S. it was California that holds that distinction (70%).
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1. How well is your business performing in 2019 compared to your expectations going into the year?

Far below expectations
2%
Below expectations
23%
In line with expectations
46%
Above expectations
24%
Way above expectations
5%

2. How many stores do you operate?

3. Where is your store located by region?

Northeast
17%
Mid Atlantic

 

5%
Midwest
31%
Southeast
21%
Southwest
9%
Mountain (Rocky Mountains)
4%
Northwest
(including Alaska)
3%
West (including Hawaii)
5%
Canada
5%
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4. Is your (main) store located:

On a downtown street
33%
In its own free-standing building

 

27%
In a strip mall
24%
In a lifestyle center
5%
Office building/Business park
5%
In a mall
3%
Home studio
2%
On the Internet
1%
Other
1%
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