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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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Wilkerson Testimonials

Having a Moving Sale? Let Wilkerson Do the Heavy Lifting

For Jim Woodard, owner of Woodard’s Diamonds & Design in Tullahoma, Tenn., when it was time for a moving sale, there was only one company to help with the event: Wilkerson. “They brought in the right team for us,” he says, remarking about the sale’s extraordinary results, including a nearly 500% monthly sales increase compared to the previous year. “I wanted to have the best in the industry. And that’s the main reason why I contacted Wilkerson.”

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Cover Stories

The Big Survey 2019: Buying & Selling

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11. What are the three best performing brand-name jewelry lines that you carry?

COMMENT: Gabriel and Stuller made it a three-peat, claiming the top two spots in our rankings for the third year in a row.
2019 RANK / BRAND2018 RANKCHANGE IN RANK
1. Gabriel & Co. (64)1
2. Stuller (41)2
3. Allison-Kaufman (29)4up 1
4. Hearts On Fire (18)3down 1
5. Simon G. (15)20up 15
6 tie. Pandora (14)6
6 tie. Ostbye (14)10up 4
8 tie. John Hardy (13)9up 1
8 tie. Lashbrook (13)15up 7
10 tie. Benchmark (12)8down 2
10 tie. Frederic Duclos (12)11up 1
12 tie. Roberto Coin (11)23up 11
12 tie. Sylvie Collection (11)22up 10
12 tie. ASHI Diamonds (11)23up 11
15 tie. Berco (10)23up 8
15 tie. Tacori (10)outside top 25
17 tie. ArtCarved (9)7down 10
17 tie. Le Vian (9)outside top 25
17 tie. Officina Bernardi (9)outside top 25
17 tie. SDC Creations (9)15down 2
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12. What are the three best performing watch brands that you carry?

2019 RANK / WATCH BRAND2018 RANKCHANGE IN RANK
1. Citizen1
2. Seiko2
3. Rolex4up 1
4. Bulova3down 1
5. Belair5
6. Beringoutside top 25
7.Tag Heuer8up 1
8. Shinola 17up 9
9. Tissot7down 2
10. Breitling12up 2
11. Obaku 9down 2
12. Reactor 12
13. Omega 12down 1
14. Movado 10down 4
15 tie. Fossil17up 2
15 tie. Michele12down 3
15 tie. Oris15
15 tie. Victorinox Swiss Army10down 5
15 tie. Tudor 15
20 tie. Caravelle20
20 tie. G-Shock20
20 tie. Nomos 20
20 tie. Pulsar 6down 14

13. Excluding sapphires, what is your best­selling colored gemstone in terms of total sales value?

2019 RANK / WATCH BRAND2018 RANKCHANGE IN RANK
1. Ruby1
2. Emerald4up 2
3. Topaz3
4. Opal5up 1
5. Amethyst2down 3
6. Tanzanite7up 1
7.Tourmaline 6down 1
8. Aquamarine 8
9. Garnetoutside top 25outside top 25
10. Morganite9down 1
COMMENT: Just out of the top 10 in descending order were peridot, blue zircon, and pearls, all at just under 1%; “Others” accounted for about 3%
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14. As a store owner, what did you earn (salary + share of profit) last year?

COMMENT: Jewelers in the Southwest reported the highest income levels with 35% making $150,000 or more a year. Those in the Mid-Atlantic reported the lowest incomes with 37% making less than $40,000.

15. What were your total sales last year?

Less than $100,000
5%
$100,000-$249,999
9%
$250,000 to $499,999
20%
$500,000 to $999,999
26%
$1 million to $1,499,999
15%
$1.5 million to $2,999,999
13%
$3 million to $5 million
6%
More than $5 million
5%

16. What jewelry or watch brand would you most like to add to your cases?

The king lives: Rolex was the runaway choice for the most wished-for brand. Overall, watch brands were more desired by retailers, likely because those brands are more recognized by consumers due to massive marketing budgets. The most wanted jewelry brands were Gabriel & Co., David Yurman and Cartier, in that order, followed closely by designer Alex Sepkus.

  1. Rolex
  2. Tag Heuer
  3. Omega
  4. Patek Philippe
  5. Gabriel & Co.
  6. David Yurman
  7. Cartier, Citizen, Fossil, Tudor
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17. What do you think will be the next breakout category in jewelry?

Top 10 responses:

  1. Lab-created diamonds and finished jewelry. (“I think we are already seeing it and it is anything with laboratory-created diamonds.”)
  2. Yellow gold (“Yellow gold has been hot, but with the current prices I am not sure.”)
  3. Color (Also described as rare, exotic and bold. Spinel was mentioned more than once.)
  4. Silver (including silver fashion with lab-grown diamonds)
  5. Custom and custom bridal
  6. Stackable rings and bracelets
  7. Men’s jewelry (Fashion, engagement rings and precious metal wedding bands were mentioned.)
  8. Pearls
  9. Avant-garde or alternative bridal, including anything asymmetrical
  10. Pre-owned jewelry, including vintage jewelry, updated estate jewelry, repurposing old jewelry and restoration of a customer’s jewelry

Other ideas mentioned by more than one respondent:

  • Ania Haie jewelry
  • Basics (including solitaire studs, line bracelets and diamond hoops)
  • Tiara bands
  • Sturdier designs, such as heavy, weighted rings
  • Minimalist jewelry, especially earrings
  • Smart jewelry
  • Hand-made, artistically designed jewelry

General responses:

  • “Hell, I don’t know but I always sell a crap load of diamond studs and diamond wedding bands every Christmas, year after year.”
  • “Who cares? We are in the Midwest where trends come in slow. But everyone needs repairs and loves custom.”
  • “Please God, anything but another bracelet line. LOL.”

18. Jewelers remember sales for a wide variety of reasons. Sure, sometimes it’s a big sale, but more often, it’s the occasion or the circumstances of the purchase or the inspiration behind a custom piece that ensures the sale will always have a place in your memory.

special delivery. A black opal of exceptional quality showed up in my mail with the note to make a “large custom ring” in 18K gold. A regular customer just sent it and said, “Make me something beautiful.”

a meaningful gift. A farm couple celebrating their 50th anniversary bought a $150 10K gold and sapphire ring. The emotion of the couple was more rewarding than anything else. It was not much, but it was what they could afford. It was what it meant to them that was so special.

a son closes the sale. A 1-carat diamond for a 50th-wedding anniversary. The husband did not want to spend that much, and the son told him his mother was worth more per year than the cost of the ring. He paid cash on the spot.

a last wish. A first-time customer came into our store and told us that a friend had recommended us. She asked if we made jewelry on the premises and we told her that we did. She then showed us several pieces of gents’ jewelry that she had brought with her and asked if we could use both the stones and the gold to make new pieces. She needed several ladies and several gents’ pieces. If memory serves me correctly, 13 in total. We came up with the designs and she gave us the OK to proceed, provided we could finish all items in five days. She explained that she had just come from the hospital where she had been visiting her dying father and that he had given her the task of taking his jewelry and converting it into multiple pieces so that he could give each of his loved ones a piece to remember him by. Needless to say, this project took center stage and was completed on time. He died three days after he got to give his gifts. She has become not only a fantastic customer, but also a friend.

it’s personal. Both of my daughters’ engagement rings.

a sentimental favorite. The ones I sold to my wife before we started dating.

a wild request. A custom pendant to hold an elephant eyelash.

a bonus. A 5-carat diamond sold to a client to put into his ring. I took what I made from the sale and bought my dream car, a 1966 GTO trig power convertible.

a turning point. For three years running, a middle-aged couple, not married, came in during a local festival. They looked at stones and talked about a custom “not-wedding, not-engagement ring”. By the third year it had become a joke because they thought it was as unlikely that they would buy a ring as it was that they would get married. I got them very excited about a trilliant purple sapphire and made a custom ring. After they came to pick it up, he proposed on the steps outside the store. This is the only experience I have had where the process of shopping for jewelry was the turning point toward actual marriage.

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is this a practical joke? A dealer who bought six pieces I thought would be buried with me and who paid full price.

the best revenge. My best customer walks in and requests the most expensive item available to walk out with. When asked for what occasion she was buying this item, she says, “To teach my husband a lesson; he bought us a new tractor as our anniversary gift. Then he told me I wasn’t allowed to drive the new tractor. So, he will learn not to get me a gift I can’t use.”

a lasting lesson. I had just started in the business and an older gentleman walked in the store, not well dressed and not particularly well groomed, and wanted to look at something for his 25th anniversary. He was carrying a cigar box under his arm. Not being well trained but remembering the 25th was silver, I showed him several sterling pieces. I could tell we weren’t connecting, and he finally indicated he wanted something nicer. He picked out a beautiful white gold and diamond pendant worth 10 times what I was initially showing him. As he came to the counter to pay, he opened his cigar box. It was full of cash, from $1 bills to $100 bills. He had been saving money for years to pay for this piece. It is still one of the best sales lessons I’ve ever had!

a layaway legend. A gentleman put two rings on layaway ($79 and $89) for his wife and daughter for Christmas gifts. He paid $4 every week. They came in on the 26th to have them sized. They were so thrilled, you would have thought he had spent thousands.

the last gift. I recently had the opportunity to sell a custom designed ring to a gentleman who was about to celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary. His wife had been battling cancer off and on for the last five years. She wasn’t doing too well. His 50th wedding anniversary was on the 29th of August. It was supposed to be done on the 22nd, so no concerns. I received a text asking me if we could bump up the due date to the 17th because his wife had taken a turn for the worse. I said we would have the ring ready. It wasn’t easy, and required some sacrifice from our team, but we made it happen. I delivered it to him on the 17th of August. He was happy to be able to give it to her at the big celebration that evening with family and friends. I just got word this morning (August 24th) that his dear wife passed away in her sleep last night. I am happy he got to give her this last gift with so much meaning and that we were able to be a part of it.

a beautiful gesture. A bracelet given to the widow of a suicide victim, engraved inside with the names of 20 friends and the phrase “may you always be surrounded by a circle of friends.”

a dream piece. A necklace I saw in a dream. I woke up, drew it, created the piece, called a customer in another state and told him his wife had to have it. He bought it and she loved it.

more for her money. A little girl about 5 years old with her piggy bank in hand, wanting to get her mom a diamond heart for Mother’s Day. She had just under $10 in coins. The project was completed just in time for Mother’s Day. Best sale ever!

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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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Cover Stories

12 Imaginative Ways to Reach Today’s Fickle Holiday Customer

Ideas to make sure stressed out shoppers find your store … and what they’re looking for.

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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.

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.

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

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.”

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