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AS A REPUTABLE INDEPENDENT jewelry store owner, you likely have a love/hate relationship with the concept of “clearance.” Cathy Calhoun of Calhoun Jewelers in Royersford, PA, never even utters the word. “To me, it gives the appearance that nobody ever wanted that jewelry,” she says. “The one promotion that worked was I sent direct mail to my customers that said if they spend $350 or more, they receive one free CZ and silver bar necklace,” Calhoun says. “This way, they get an extra gift for somebody and they seem to like that. But I did not mention clearance merchandise.”

Tim Bodis of Diamond Designs by Bodis in Rice Lake, WI, has tried different types of sales with mixed results and mixed emotions. “I hate the big discounts, but usually they have the best results,” he says. “All take planning and a lot of prep time.”

Denise Oros of Linnea Jewelers in La Grange, IL, organizes several each year, and isn’t afraid to try something new. But she admits there is a downside. “The biggest problem is sale mentality,” she says. Customers say they’d rather wait to buy until the annual Ladies Night Out sale in April. “I am thrilled it is so well received, but occasionally there are times when having an annual sale comes back to bite you, especially for women who can’t make up their minds.” Pros outweigh cons, though, for Oros. “The buying frenzy of Ladies Night Out certainly makes up for it,” she says.

Have a sale too often, and shoppers will ignore it, or think of you as “that discount place.” But if, like Nordstrom, you discount once or twice a year, the sale will be more credible and take on more significance.

When Cory Schifter took over family business Casale Jewelers in Staten Island, NY, seven years ago, sales were taboo. Casale had established its brand largely through philanthropy and community involvement. But Bottom Line Marketing convinced Schifter that sales events can boost business if done properly and creatively. Now he usually holds four a year, including a Santa Surplus sale, a half-off half the store and a wedding band weekend. To promote events, Schifter uses digital marketing, advertising and a blog. “We weren’t really a sales store, but we found success in doing that,” he says. 

Ira Bergman, president of the Gordon Co., cautions that DIY, quick-hit sales are fine for what they are, but if jewelry store owners want to clear out hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of inventory over a longer period, they should consult a professional. “It’s like comparing apples and oranges. If a retailer does $1 million in a year, when we or another professional run the sale, we will in 60 days come very close to that million dollars in sales. If you’re really serious about moving your inventory and talking about substantial numbers, you shouldn’t try to do it yourself. We understand how to maintain momentum in a sale so that it will far exceed what the retailer will do on their own and will mitigate the cost of hiring a professional.”

Ready to fall in love with a sale? Here is a round-up of possibilities.

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1. The GOB Sale

Wilkerson & Associates specializes in going out of business, moving and retirement sales. “The general public has grown immune to everyday promotional events,” says Josh Hayes, Wilkerson business analyst. “We focus on sales that we can get an incredible response on, because they can’t be done every day.” Sometimes additional inventory is brought in for a GOB sale, depending in part on what state law allows. GOB sales generally last six to eight weeks and generate about 1.2 years’ worth in sales. “When we get halfway through the sale, the owner may have major categories that they run out of inventory in,” Hayes says, so it’s better to supplement inventory in that case than send a shopper somewhere else to look for diamond studs or another item. Wilkerson tracks how advertising is working throughout the sale and makes adjustments as they go along. Hayes cautions that there is no “do-over” in this kind of sale. “After a GOB sale, by law your store is going to close, and you WILL be selling your inventory to a wholesaler.” 

Customers throng Gold Mine Fine Jewelry, where doorbuster deals make Black Friday extra-special.

2. The Black Friday Doorbuster

Bill Warren, owner of the Gold Mine Fine Jewelry and Gifts in Hudson, NC, has people lining up to get into his store on Black Friday morning by promoting doorbuster specials.

Warren sends postcards at a cost of $250 plus postage to approximately 5,000 clients with special offers/doorbusters for the first two hours of the morning. Warren chooses items with price points at three low levels that have a high perceived value (usually $9.99, $19.99 and $29.99 freshwater pearl studs, bracelets and necklaces) and includes photos of the items on the postcards.

“After careful testing, I have found that this is the price point that creates an absolute frenzy,” Warren says.

Warren also programs a telephone blast to go out a few days before the event. He records the call and delivers it directly to voicemail. The cost is 8 cents per successful call. He follows up with email blasts to his mailing list of about 3,500, along with Facebook posts.

Before the event, Warren displays the doorbuster items in a special showcase to amp up interest, but doesn’t allow them to be purchased in advance.

Warren says he usually makes double to triple keystone on the special items. Within the first two hours of business, he normally sees gross sales of between $15,000 and $20,000. “We sell other things as well,” Warren says. “I sold a Rolex President one year, so don’t think this is just a lowball event, but hey, I’d take $20,000 for the first two hours of the event at key to triple keystone any day.”

The 2016 Black Friday event was his largest to date, Warren says. “We were packed for a solid two hours.”

3. The Holiday Wine and Whiskey Soiree

At David Jay Jewelers in Warrington, PA, the store discounts its inventory by 20 percent throughout December, but those who attended the Holiday Wine and Whiskey Evening Soiree received an additional 5 percent markdown. 

Over three hours on a Thursday evening, guests were treated to hors d’oeuvre, samples from a local whiskey distillery and four different wines. Guests also received Christmas gifts — branded whiskey glasses for the guys and soap and bath oils for the women. Customers were introduced to the work of four new jewelry designers, too.

It might have been risky to invite 5,000 people, but attendance turned out to be perfect. More than 100 people flowed in and out before and after dinner at nearby restaurants in the outdoor shopping center. Says marketing associate Jenna Shikoff: “People have returned to the store because they came to that event and liked it.”

A 60 Minutes 60 Percent Off Sale creates a stir at Peter & Co. Jewelers, which cleared $70,000 in old inventory.

4. The 60/60 Sale

James Porte of Porte Marketing has copyrighted his 60 Minutes 60 Percent Off Sale, which has yielded impressive results for many of the hundreds of stores he’s worked with over the past four years. One store in Long Island sold $800,000 of inventory in November 2016. “They wanted to hold the event on Black Friday and I figured they’d be competing with every retailer in America,” Porte says. “So, I thought, why not move it ahead six days and give them a head start to gain access to shoppers’ disposable income before Black Friday.” They called 500 to 700 people and booked appointments for four days straight for pre-sales, and then they had a huge Saturday.

Porte considers it to be the perfect storm of urgency and value. The limited time period creates a sense of urgency while the discount amount is significant enough to get people’s attention. “It’s about converting old inventory into cash in the shortest period of time,” Porte says. 

Theresia Oreskovic of Peter & Co. Jewelers in Avon Lake, OH, has tried the sale twice, clearing as much as $70,000 of inventory. Last August, during the preview week, five customers became fixated on a 2-carat diamond tennis bracelet. The morning of the sale, one of them came in as soon as the store opened and hung around until the sale began. “We had a few people that were after the same thing, but we made sure nobody left unhappy,” Oreskovic says.

In most cases, the sale is on a Saturday from 11 a.m. to noon. But the jeweler can also invite their best customers to make an appointment in the days leading up to the event to shop early and avoid waiting in line.

Each person who does wait in line on a Saturday receives a wristband with the time they arrived and their number in line so that they don’t necessarily have to stand in line.

“We’ve done this in 30 below zero weather and 105 degree weather,” Porte says. He suggests retailers anticipating weather extremes collaborate with a nearby coffee house to shelter people who are waiting.

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5. The Flash Sale

Denise Oros of Linnea Jewelers in La Grange, IL, hosted a two-day flash sale in November 2016. She emailed $100-off coupons on any jewelry item $250 or over for use on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday to her top 400 customers. She spent $35 for a Constant Contact email blast.

“It was terrific! It increased our traffic and brought in nosy customers from the street because our store was so busy,” Oros reports. It led to a record-breaking November, up 28 percent month to month from 2015, which was also a banner year. “I created a holiday buzz and got in a ton of wish-listers for future sales.”

6. The Facebook Promotion Sale

Chuck Jacobson of International Diamond in Adrian, MI, discounts everything in the store and markets it only on Facebook by posting pictures and descriptions and boosting that post. Every few days, he adds pictures and descriptions in the comments area. 

“It keeps them coming back to my post,” he says. “I also ask people to share my post and offer a $200 gift certificate in a drawing for everyone who does. I spent $1,000 on the ad and more than doubled my business for the month. I was able to reach over 150,000 people and had almost 28,000 post clicks.”

7. The Professional 60-Day Sale

The Gordon Co. focuses on 60-day sales for upscale retailers, who, under normal circumstances, would never expect to run a sale. “Every retailer has a lot of aged inventory,” says Ira Bergman, president of the Gordon Co. “That is what is hurting them. If you don’t keep the inventory to the barest minimum, you’re stuck with these pieces that have been in your showcase for years. If they have a million dollars worth of inventory, we ask them what portion they would like to sell off in this sale.” This kind of sale shouldn’t be done very often and certainly shouldn’t happen more than every three to five years. “You can’t fool the public,” Bergman says. “You can’t run this kind of sale and then a year and a half later try to run another one.” The Gordon Co. assigns someone to manage the sale, but they defer to the retailer at all times, Bergman says. They are trained to act as if they are guests in someone’s home.

8.The Estate Spooktacular

For Eileen Eichhorn of Eichhorn Jewelry in Decatur, IN, the Estate Spooktacular, an estate clearance sale, began as a way to participate in the city’s Halloween-themed Callithumpian Festival. Most of the store’s estate jewelry is acquired in large lots from individuals, attorneys and banks. “Because we bid the lots, including entry-level costume style to high-end, we needed a way to move it in quantity,” she explains. So she sets up tables of $10, $25, $50 and $100 items and half-price silver.

Better items, such as diamond jewelry, move well with a half-price tag. Recent acquisitions are tagged with a smaller discount but are quick to sell to loyal shoppers. The tables are refilled daily as an enticement for shoppers to return repeatedly.

She buys newspaper and radio ads, but the direct mail postcard gets the biggest bang for the buck. The store has added Facebook ads in recent years, encouraging shoppers to check the website to view better estate items throughout the year.

Clients pack the store for a “divorce sale” at Alara Jewelry.

9. The Divorce Sale

In 2015, Babs Noelle of Alara Jewelry in Bozeman, MT, advertised her clearance event as a divorce liquidation sale, which, in truth, it was. She had decided to liquidate her assets to reach a divorce settlement.

She worked with Marsden liquidation sale service company and made sure that all the ads associated with the event expressed her trademark sense of humor. Catch phrases included: “Help me wash that man right outta my hair!” and “We’re liquidating the assets and splitting the sheets!” She also sent out a mailer to existing clients, explaining that their purchases would ensure the business would stay open. 

Noelle found that being honest opened up a dialogue and forged deeper relationships with clients as she planned to start over with her business post-liquidation. “The support was incredibly meaningful,” she says. “Five different women brought gifts of shampoo!”

The sale exceeded expectations by a wide margin. “We restocked the entire store and had plenty of time to make considered decisions as we did so,” she says. Also important was making sure there were additional funds to pay for post-sale advertising. “Even though all the ads and signage said ‘Divorce Liquidation,’ people swore that we had held a ‘going out of business’ sale,” Noelle says.

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10. The New Year’s Detox Sale

Shetler-Wade Jewelers in San Antonio hosts an annual January sale that targets inventory older than four months. It’s important in the market to refresh merchandise often, says Michelle Shetler.

One year, the three-day customer appreciation sale had a “detox” theme featuring a juice bar, chair massages and daily live drawings for spa treatments. The “detox” theme subtly referenced the fact they wanted to move out old inventory, while also tying in a focus on health and well-being resolutions in the new year. On the evening before the sale began, they also hosted a private VIP viewing party.

11. The Ides of March Half-Off Half the Store

Mark Kasuba of M. Edward Jewelers in Pittsfield, MA, takes half off one half of the store’s inventory for two days every year around the Ides of March. This month will mark the 10th year for his Ides of March sale.

“Something about death and the Ides of March go hand in hand, so we thought we’d add our dead inventory to the mix,” he says. “It’s also a good distance from Christmas and Valentine’s Day so as to not interfere with those occasions.”

They typically remove inventory that is less than 18 months old from the sale. “We do leave our more important inventory on display, which represents the other half of the store that is not on sale.”

They promote the sale via newspaper and radio, but the most effective means has been in-store posters, counter cards and staff reminders to customers.

“We tend to advertise with less frequency and spend considerably less than we did in the past. Our Facebook page and online posts seem to be generating plenty of interest, but we also do print, radio and personal reminder phone calls the week of. This year we will be putting ‘Born On’ dates for select items that might be more anxious to find a new home.”

The sale takes place for two days only, Friday and Saturday. 

For the sales team, the store holds a competition to see who can sell the oldest piece. Last year’s winner sold an 18K emerald and moonstone ring “born” in 1988.

12. The Panic Sale

Cory Schifter, owner of Casale Jewelers on Staten Island, NY, recently tried a Christmas “Panic Sale,” which helped clear out inventory and brought up December sales numbers. The sale was five days only; buy one gift and get the second 50 percent off. 

If guests RSVP’d, they’d receive a $50 gift card to be used one weekend only.

During the panic sale, the store also gave away keys to customers who spent $100 or more. They were invited to return to try their keys to open a treasure chest that contained 10 pieces of jewelry.

Most sales require extra staff and extra security, Schifter says. “At our half-off half the store sale, we did so well that I had to call my entire family to come and help. We were extremely busy.”

13. The Temperature Incentive

Kim Hatchell of Galloway & Moseley Fine Jewelers in Sumter, SC, attracts people to an August sale with this pitch: “Shop with us from Aug. 1-Aug. 10, and if the temperature reaches 101 degrees on Aug. 31, your purchases could be free!” Customers sign in if they’d like to participate and agree not to return anything they purchase during that time. Says Hatchell: “Most people love the chance that they could get something free! Who doesn’t, really?”

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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Gene the Jeweler Explains How to Fire People

In this episode of Jimmy DeGroot’s "Gene the Jeweler", Gene talks about how to fire people when necessary. He admits that confrontation is not his strong suit. His suggestion: Maybe being passive-aggressive for years on end will work?

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Cover Stories

THE INSTORE DESIGN AWARDS 2019 – Winners Announced!

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Jewelry design is the lifeblood of our industry, and those on its forefront are constantly challenging the status quo, pushing boundaries in creativity and wowing jewelry lovers with their skill and passion. These are the creators we seek to honor with the INSTORE Design Awards.

For 2019, we expanded our categories from eight to 25, allowing designers more freedom to enter the best category for each piece. And we received more than 171 entries as a result. In order to determine the best of the best, we recruited a judges panel composed of nine retailers, all of whose businesses carry multiple designer lines, to vote on their favorite jewelry in a “blind voting” process. We also opened voting to all North American jewelry retailers online at instoremag.com, where more than 9,300 votes were cast to decide the “Retailer’s Choice” winner in each category.

And finally, as we have since our competition began, we recognize one up-and-coming designer who embodies the inventive spirit so long encouraged by our former colleague Cindy Edelstein, who passed away in 2016.

Now, turn the page and see the very best that our industry has to offer. Who knows, maybe you’ll find your next hot-selling line right here in this story!

Best Men’s Jewelry

Best Statement Piece

THE JUDGES

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Cover Stories

3 Simple Ways a “Good-Better-Best” Display Can Make You More Money

The success of these pricing strategies has been proven beyond dispute.

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The success of thoughtfully implemented “Good-Better-Best” (G-B-B) pricing strategies has been proven beyond dispute. Look around. Airlines offer coach class seats with variable options. Allstate offers auto batteries with warranties ranging from 12-48 months at prices that vary disproportionately. Heating oil suppliers sell plans based on a monthly fluctuating rate as well as a “premium” package in which the rate is fixed for the season.

I read a recent article in the Harvard Business Review (“The Good-Better-Best Approach to Pricing,” by Rafi Mohammed) that made me wonder why retail jewelers were not taking full advantage of this strategy in their stores.

Twenty years ago, Allstate conducted research to determine just how much price really mattered to their insurance customers. They learned that drivers are very concerned that if they are involved in an auto accident, their rates will go up. They introduced three new policy levels to add to their “Standard” level policy. They have a “Basic” policy at 5 percent below “Standard,” a “Gold” policy (6 percent higher price), and a “Platinum” level policy (15 percent higher price). Last year, only 10 percent of their customers downgraded to “Basic,” while a whopping 23 percent upgraded from “Standard” to “Gold” or “Platinum.”

So what can we do in a retail jewelry store to take advantage of this tendency of consumers to move up in price when given attractive options?

Implementing a “Good-Better-Best” plan in your store has three benefits. One, it can entice new and existing customers to spend more. Two, it allows you to compete directly with lower-priced competitors, including Internet shops. And three, a G-B-B strategy will change your customers’ actions through consumer psychology.

Successfully offering a G-B-B option depends on the following considerations:

  1. The price level of the “Good” option should be no more than 25 percent below the price of the “Better” option. The “Best” option should be no more than 50 percent higher than the “Better” option. For example, if we have a $1,000 “Better” item, the “Good” option should be about $800, and the “Best” option about $1,400.
  2. There should be a perceived important difference between the “Good” and “Better” options that motivate the customer to opt up for the “Better” selection. Limit the number of features in your “Good” option to improve the perceived value of the “Better” option.
  3. Each option should be explained in four attributes that differentiate it from the lower-priced option.
  4. Signage should clearly explain the differences and costs of each option. Name each option intelligently. Don’t use descriptions that confuse the merchandise. There is nothing wrong with simply using “Good, Better, Best.”

When you are determining the price points for your G-B-B offerings, consult your “inventory performance by category” report in your inventory management software. This will tell you the average selling price of your current sales for each different category and style of merchandise. Your goal is obviously to sell more at higher prices, so consider a price about 10 percent higher than your current average sale as your “Better” option. For example, if your average diamond stud earring sale is $1,000 now, make your price points $899, $1,099 and $1,399.

Retail jewelers should benefit from the thoughtful implementation of the G-B-B principles. Here are some display suggestions for your store.

Diamond stud earrings and anniversary bands

Offer three grades of earrings in the most popular styles. The differences in stud earring prices are obviously predicated by diamond size and quality as well as mounting material.
Start with 14K white gold mountings with round diamonds in sizes ranging from one-eighth, one-quarter, one-third, one-half, three-quarters and one-carat sizes. Develop a source (internally or externally) that can provide three different qualities in all six sizes. Obtain a display arrangement that allows the three qualities and sizes to be shown with descriptions, as well as prices and monthly payment options. Add signage that explains each of the four differentiating points between the qualities offered. Put in place a reorder procedure that quickly refills the empty space when sales occur.

Bridal

Make your most popular styles of engagement rings (halos, solitaires, sets, three-stone, etc.) and create a display with a G-B-B variation of each in a single tray. If you can, include several of these in each showcase. If you can direct your customer to those trays, you stand a better chance of easily up-selling the customer to a bigger size. Feature payment amounts to make it easier for your staff to sell up.

I am a big believer in organizing your bridal showcase by style, not by vendor brand (unless it is a very recognizable national brand) or diamond size. That is how your customer shops. With all your halo choices collected together in a single part of the showcase, you’ll find it much easier to move up in price and keep your customer from having to visit several showcases in order to see your selection.

Other merchandise

Follow this same strategy. Choose your most popular designs and identify what you can do to that item to be able to sell it at 25 percent less. Maybe it is a smaller stone or a metal change to silver. Make that new item your “Good” selection. Now revisit the original piece and ask what you can add to the design to make it worth 25 percent more. Make that your “Best” choice, and display them all together with prices and payments.

If you are successful with such a strategy, it could make both your customer and you very happy. Your store would be easier for your customer to shop, and your inventory could shrink to fewer pieces offered since your sales are more concentrated in your G-B-B offerings.

Give it a try and see what happens to your average sale. If it works, expand it. If it doesn’t, try something else. Be sure you track the results of your efforts to know what has worked and what has not.

Retail jewelry is hard enough without leaving money on the table when the customer is already in your store and poised to buy. Implementing this strategy might just move your results from “Good” to “Better” to “Best.”

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E-Commerce for Everyone: Let Your Customers Buy Something Where & When They Want To

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E-commerce has been vilified by many independent retail jewelers as an under-cutting, price-conscious evil entity intent on stealing hard-earned business from brick-and-mortar stores while ripping their profit margins to shreds.

At this point, though, it’s more or less a matter of if you can’t beat them the way you’ve been operating, you’d better consider joining them.

It’s time to rethink e-commerce as a viable option for you, the independent brick-and-mortar-based jeweler, but also to understand what it takes in dollars and time to drive traffic to a website, says Ben Smithee, digital-marketing expert and CEO of The Smithee Group. The big online players didn’t get where they are without investing considerable time and money into marketing, social media and search-engine optimization.

In other words, simply enabling e-commerce is not like flipping a switch and watching the money pour in. Instead, imagine you’re opening a second store. How much planning and preparation would you put into that? You’d work with a store designer. You’d hire more staff. You’d invest in advertising.

“Most people grossly underestimate what it takes for advertising to send people to the site,” Smithee says. “A lot of them expect to have overnight sales. Start with realistic expectations — they should be thinking about selling one, two, three things a week or a month to start and ramping up from there. Without realistic expectations, they will decide it doesn’t work and will quit,” Smithee says.

Independent jewelers like Tim Wright of Simply Unique Jewelry Designs in Yorktown, VA, have been reluctant converts in recent years. Wright says he realized in the past year that his company has to be searchable and sell its wares online. If not, he says, “We will go away like other independents in our area.”

It took time for Wright to wrap his head around the idea. “I cannot imagine people ordering jewelry, especially our one-of-a-kind pieces, off the Internet, but we are working on a new website to be more searchable and to be able to sell off of it. The basics we all have survived on over the years are not selling in the store anymore because of the Internet.”

Shane O’Neill, vice-president of Fruchtman Marketing, advises independent jewelers to temper their expectations when they turn to e-commerce.

Most jewelers are not going to see significant amounts of e-commerce, he says, because the marketing perspective is much different between traditional stores and online stores. “If they are marketing around a 20-mile radius, we still know that people want to touch and feel the jewelry,” says O’Neill. Plus the data that millennials don’t shop in stores isn’t necessarily true. They shop in bigger numbers than Gen X or baby boomers do. But they shop online with the idea of browsing and checking out pricing, and so they expect a shopping experience with all of the details revealed, O’Neill says.

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The preparation it takes to be ready for e-commerce almost certainly will result in increased sales in the store.

“They probably have checked all the boxes in terms of a good user experience, descriptions, photos, categories of metal type and have galleries of multiple products,” O’Neill says. “When someone comes to the website and they have the ability to have a great browsing experience, they make purchasing decisions based on that. When they stop in the store, you should have a higher closing rate. To me, that’s an e-commerce transaction, too.”

The website should be like your second store, O’Neill says, in terms of how you relate to the customer online: “How you flow people through your site is like what a sales associate does in the store.”

For Janne Etz of Contemporary Concepts in Cocoa, FL, e-commerce has grown steadily over the past two years from 35 percent of her business to a solid 50 percent. “You have to pay serious attention to it,” she says. “It is not a set-it-and-forget-it operation. What works with e-commerce this month will evolve into something else next month. It’s a constant learning process. I continue to study and learn and implement the newest techniques, so I can continue to grow!”

Stephenie Bjorkman of Sami Fine Jewelry in Fountain Hills, AZ, says an e-commerce-enabled website seems like a huge project, and it can be. But start somewhere, she says. “Just do it, or just do something,” she says. “Get ready to flip that switch. Take on little bits and pieces at a time and set goals. I am so far from anywhere near where I want to be, but my marketing department and I sat down and made a monthly calendar so that we could plan all of our marketing, social media, blogs etc.” Bjorkman’s team also worked on posting pieces for sale in groups of 24 at a time.

If even this seems like too much, start with making time for your own social media. Friend your top 100 clients and start from there.

“I think you need to make a plan, then work your plan,” Bjorkman says. “You can begin by doing this in the evening when you get home. Or have one of your employees spend an hour a day on it. The first step is that every day you should be posting on social media. Post real pictures and start creating your online image. Connect your posts to your website and tell them how to buy.”


Borsheims

E-Commerce Continues to Evolve in an Omni-Channel World

Borsheims of Omaha, NE, has been selling online since 1998 and today has seven associates dedicated to e-commerce.

“We’ve seen tremendous growth in the channel,” says Adrienne Fay, director of marketing and business sales — a 40 percent increase year over year in online sales for the past two years. This year that trend continued with a huge lift in January and February. The e-commerce staff is involved in navigation, digital photography, answering questions and virtually holding hands as needed. They also fulfill the orders — 99.9 percent of the inventory is in the store already.

In March 2018, the company introduced a new website that made online purchases easier on all devices, while updating their ring-builder tool to make it both more user-friendly and more luxurious-looking, says Andrew Brabec, director of e-commerce. “A lot of our customers will utilize their mobile device first and then make a purchase on their desktop. They prefer the process on the mobile device; it’s easier, faster.” Chat is used more than ever by customers looking for a promo code or to ask a quick question, but few purchases take much hand-holding.
One reason for that is that the new website is designed to anticipate questions that shoppers might have. Photographing jewelry items next to coins, for example, allows customers to gauge the size of the piece quickly and easily. “The main questions we get are: What size is this? And how does it look on someone?” Brabec says. One goal is to provide more views of each product.

“We try to replicate our customer service online,” says Fay. “It’s a strategic investment. We look at shoppers in an omni-channel fashion. Not as an e-commerce customer, not as a store customer. Simply a customer. We want to be able to knock their socks off in all channels.”

Shoppers who convert to online sales represent a wide demographic — established customers, gift shoppers, fine jewelry shoppers. Average order fluctuates, but recently it was $263. “We definitely have sold items that retail in the tens of thousands. Not every day, but it’s not unusual,” Fay says. Customers log in from all over the U.S. and the world; international checkout is available with exact pricing.

What’s next? Borsheims is testing out products to provide shoppers with 360-degree views of products, a technology that is increasingly common in other industries. Another huge goal is to get 97 percent of their products visible online; currently that number is about 74 percent. “We want to see more items in the cart, too, so we’re working on ways to up-sell in the cart by showing related products,” Brabec says. “In addition, we are going to evaluate pages to make them faster and more effective.”

The year 2020 represents Borsheims 150th anniversary. “And you don’t survive that long if you don’t evolve and grow and roll with the punches,” Fay says. “We used to say we at Borsheims are going to tell you as customers what you need to buy. Now we respond to what they are looking for with content and expertise and education.”


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Ringcrush

Growing Fast on Etsy

Bailey Lehrer founded Ringcrush, a start-up online jewelry store, selling $30 to $60 jewelry items on Etsy. She started the business with $700 and turned a profit immediately.
“We were able to grow in two years really quickly,” Lehrer says. “I did a little under $1 million on Etsy and another $300,000 on Amazon. It made sense for me to start up online. Etsy is really friendly to people who want to experiment.”

Lehrer says that while high-end diamond solitaires aren’t the norm on Etsy, moissanite rings are moving fast, as are other non-traditional types of diamond engagement rings, usually with an artisan design or a unique setting. “Etsy is primarily for 25- to 35-year-old women,” she says. “A lot of them still want that look and they can swap out the stone later. One of the most popular rings looks like a hand-carved band with a diamond solitaire in the center.”

Bailey Lehrer, founder of Ringcrush

The process of opening a shop on Etsy is easy, Lehrer says, because they hold your hand through the whole process. Still, there’s more to it than just opening. “You have to understand your competition and price point. It can be cutthroat with common items, and there are people from other countries selling items with razor-thin margins. You need something unique. That way you can raise your price.”

Her point of differentiation is pieces of raw gemstones. “So I still focus on precious stones like emerald and sapphire, but I’m able to sell them at $60 because I get them uncut. They’re still blue if it’s a sapphire; still green if it’s emerald. It’s kind of a unique aesthetic, so it’s easy to stand out.”

Another thing to keep in mind, Lehrer says, is that there is clear evidence shoppers will convert to making a purchase if the product is photographed on a white background. “Know how to take great pictures,” she says.


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Mullen Bros.

They Want to Be Your Local Jeweler, No Matter Where You Are

Bob Mullen is owner and founder of Digital Jewelers Academy, as well as an owner of the family business, Mullen Bros. Jewelers in Swansea, MA.

For several years, Mullen and his family pondered the “what ifs” and the concerns they imagined would come with e-commerce while they experimented with product catalogs on their website. “What about stock? What about if we sell things that are sold out? What about fraud? But it’s like having children: If you wait till you’re ready, you’re never going to do it.” In 2014, they began selling online through Shopify and realized $100,000 in revenue the first year.

“In terms of problems, the same things that I thought in my mind would be problems DID happen, but it was not that big of a deal to overcome them. In terms of inventory, it was about keeping things on the site that would be accessible and in stock, unless it’s something like bridal. We only work with designers who have products available that we can get quickly.
“Like anything else, there is no one thing that made it happen. It’s like Jim Collins wrote in the book Good To Great. You build momentum, and it gets easier and easier. It’s the trial and error of learning our audience, learning what they respond to, and looking at Google Analytics.”

Now Mullen, a marketing major in college, is working with other retailers on e-commerce goals. Digital Jewelers Academy, in partnership with Gemsone, administers a private Facebook group with instructional videos and an online posting service. “It’s about e-commerce, creating engaging content, Facebook ads, email strategy, website conversion.”

How much time does e-commerce take? “If you’re budgeting 10 to 15 hours a week of someone’s time, you can make a lot of progress if you know what you’re doing. You can be much more efficient in three hours knowing what you’re doing than 10 hours wandering around.”

Bob Mullen, owner and founder of Digital Jewelers Academy

“The No. 1 question I’m asked is regarding differences in inventory and pricing between the website and physical store. A lot of jewelers feel like they should treat the website like a separate store with lower prices to attract business. But unless you’re trying to build a nine-figure company, you should target a customer most like your own.

Mullen’s average ticket online is around $600, which is higher than in his store. “Our biggest sale was $17,000 and it goes down to $99 here and there. The sweet spot, like anything in jewelry sales, is $200 or $300. But the idea that people are just going online and plunking down 10 grand is a myth.”

The key to success is to provide the same level of service you do in your store. “In my opinion, I can service people a lot better than whoever is manning the call center at Blue Nile,” says Mullen. “You can sell an engagement ring in 10 minutes or have multiple visits over four hours in the store; online, it might take three to six emails. It’s about being proactive and being prompt about responding when people email.”

Local limits mean little when it comes to e-commerce, Mullen contends. “People respond nationally to the same things people respond to locally. Our industry loses 1,000 stores a year. When their jeweler closes, people have to go online or find another local store. More and more people are going online as a result, and are happy to work with a local jeweler, wherever you are. Meet them where they are.”


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SAMI’S FINE JEWELRY

“We Are Definitely on Our Way to Our Goal”

Last year, Stephenie Bjorkman of Sami’s Fine Jewelry decided that her website and online sales needed to be a priority. But she also knew it was tough, if not impossible, to find time to own the store, work with vendors, manage employees, pay bills, oversee marketing and launch e-commerce.
So she hired one person and then a second person to make it happen.

Stephenie Bjorkman of Sami’s Fine Jewelry

“The only way I could do this was to have a dedicated person to take pics, write descriptions, update events, blogs, social media and more. What is really scary is that I see such an importance in this job, I have already hired her an assistant.”

It hasn’t necessarily “worked” just yet, says Bjorkman. But it is working. “Since I hired devoted staff members, I have seen a 30 percent increase in online sales, along with tons of daily mentions in the store. All of this proves that in the end, having a marketing person is well worth it.”

Online, Bjorkman sells branded items, including her own Animal Rockz line, a custom sterling-silver line of jewelry available in 38 different pet breed varieties. “My store is full of animal lovers, so this is easy for us to be passionate about. We seem to sell at least one of these a day. Prices range from $35-$60 plus shipping. The magic numbers seem to be in the $250-$500 average range. But, with that said, I sold a $30,000 diamond off my website and a $25,000 estate diamond from my e-blast.”

Sales are considered and tracked as “online sales” if everything is done online.

“If you do sell it 100 percent online, you need to handle them like any other client. Answer quickly, make them feel special. We do chat by phone, by social media messengers, text them, and even send them videos. It is a lot of work, but the good news is that it works.

“Our e-commerce actual sales do not currently represent a large amount of my overall business. A two-year goal for me is to sell as much as having a second store. E-commerce also represents the best type of marketing you can do for your business. Long before you advertise in a newspaper, magazine, etc., you should take time to do your online marketing, social media, e-blasts and blogs.”

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