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The Best Way to Change the Trajectory of Your Holiday Season … and More of Your October Questions Answered

And do people just throw out old-fashiond paper catalogs?




The Best Way to Change the Trajectory of Your Holiday Season … and More of Your October Questions Answered

The last holiday season was a nail-biter. Two great days changed it from being dismal to successful. How can I avoid that happening again?

By starting a little earlier, say in April. We jest not. Denise Oros, owner of Linnea Jewelers in LaGrange, IL, does that with her first big ladies night of the year, an event that features a layaway plan geared toward holiday-season redemption. “We also do personal shopping at the shows all year long, identifying and emailing new items for customers for pre-Christmas shopping,” she says. The point is not so much to be thinking holly and blinking lights in the first half of the year as it is to view retailing as a proactive activity that lasts all year. “Stores that implement a well-orchestrated client management program, and that require sales staff to make service calls, chase referrals and cultivate clients are much less vulnerable to the whims of the market,” says store consultant Kate Peterson. There is much you can do to expose people to your brand and get customers in the door as momentum builds towards the end of the year — events, wishlists, promotions, and let’s not forget those trusty old gift cards (Oros handed out 3,000 last year offering $100 off. The return was $40,000, resulting in her best Christmas ever). But even with these marketing initiatives it again comes back to follow-up, usually best done on the phone and by recommending specific items either as gifts or self-purchases or to set appointments to meet people in the store. Through such yearlong efforts and smart management you can be well ahead of the profit curve come Dec. 21. As Cathy Graves of Ellis Jewelers in Frankfort, IN, puts it, “Going into the season I know I have done all I can to prepare. By December all there is to do is sell and pray and reorder.”

I’m thinking of doing a good old-fashioned catalog for the holidays. Are people just going to throw it out?

Not at all. If it’s done well. According to the Direct Marketing Association, shoppers will typically spend up to 20 minutes with a catalog compared to just eight seconds with a promotional email, and if you can build up a rapport with your customers similar to the one Tiffany & Co. has established with subscribers of its Blue Book, they’ll keep the thing on their coffee table all year. There’s also solid evidence that shoppers spend more after browsing through lavish print spreads. Note, however, that what constitutes a good catalog has changed. No longer should you consider it an index of your goods. The best ones seek to inspire with rich, generously displayed photography and highly polished and personal text (we know one jeweler who includes stories about favorite customers in their holiday catalog). Laurie Langdon-Gerber, the owner of Elisa Ilana Jewelry in Omaha, NE, sends out 40,000 catalogs a year along with a gift certificate or similar offer, and calls them one of the best marketing tools in her store’s arsenal. “People keep the catalog for several months, so we are seeing new faces well into the summer months,” she says, adding that her main goal with her look books is to get people in the door and to build a relationship, as opposed to generating immediate sales. Keep in mind that because planning needs to be done months in advance — meaning June probably not October — you’ll be locked into highlighting certain trends and merchandise and you need to be sure you’ll have that product in stock come December. As for shipping, Langdon-Gerber has found targeting part of her town with an “every door direct” campaign with the USPS combined with a mailing to her own customer list, works best, along with encouraging sign-ups on her website throughout the year.

How do you handle an engagement-ring customer who brings in his own diamond bought online? It happens more and more now.

Start by adjusting your attitude. A nice business opportunity just came walking in the door and you’re moaning about it. The engagement sale is no longer primarily a diamond transaction — the margins on the mountings are better (especially for those G-H color, VS clarity stones you can get anywhere), and you have the opportunity to make up any lost sales dollars in add-ons. (Bands aside, the average spent on bridesmaids’ jewelry gifts is now about $500 per wedding, while 40 percent of grooms are buying additional jewelry for the ceremony, spending an average of $443 on cufflinks, watches and tie clips, according to The Knot). Then there is the really big pay-off: the lifetime value of a satisfied customer (you know: anniversaries, birthdays, engagement ring upgrades … ). So, treat him well — put his diamond under a scope, offer to appraise the final product, show the same interest in his nuptials as you would any other customer, and he’ll likely tell all his friends about the great experience he got. Business evolves. That’s the fun thing about it.

I’m planning to buy an engraver. What are the legal issues if I or an employee screws up and ruins someone’s cherished ring?

Today’s computer-programmed laser engravers mean that it’s harder than ever to slip or misspell a word while doing the job. And with proper procedures in place (the wording in writing, confirmation of the placement, fair warnings to the customer on what can go wrong) this should be a business area you can confidently enter. Of course, there’s no under-estimating the American consumer’s propensity to sue or for the possibility of something going wrong in the shop. (Just ask the jeweler in Braintree, MA, whose benchie took the instructions from his boss to “be careful” with an engraving a little too literally and carved those words into a wedding band, resulting in demands for a new ring.) In most cases your liability insurance should cover you for such mishaps. If you’re still worried, talk to your insurer about getting a special rider.

Is there any point having a testimonial page on my website given the rise of Yelp and other review sites? Does anyone believe them?

It’s true, the game has changed, and today’s consumer is unlikely to click on a “Testimonials” link to read a collection of predictably positive comments. That said, testimonials still have a role to play as “support tools” throughout your website, says Shane O’Neill, vice president, of Fruchtman Marketing. “For example, if you do custom design, pull a quote into your custom design page that reinforces the message on the page. That way the quote becomes more relevant and connects the consumer to the page in a more personal way,” he says. At the same time, don’t overlook the importance of a proactive approach to review sites. “We always encourage our clients to cultivate preferred review sites as they have become a reliable (endorsement) of quality of service and can show up in search results,” O’Neill says. “Also, stores can integrate many review sites right into their website. Combine the two effectively and the client has easy access to both!”



She Wanted to Spend More Time with Her Kids. She Called Wilkerson.

Your children are precious. More precious than gold? Absolutely! Just ask Lesley Ann Davis, owner of Lesley Ann Jewels, an independent jewelry store that — until the end of 2023 — had quite a following in Houston, Texas. To spend more time with her four sons, all in high school, she decided to close her store. Luckily, she was familiar with Wilkerson and called them as soon as she knew she wanted to move on to bigger, better and more family-focused things. Was she happy with her decision? Yes, she was. Says Davis, “Any owner looking to make that life change, looking to retire, looking to close, looking for a pause in their career, I would recommend Wilkerson. Hands down!”

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