Connect with us

Best of The Best

Best of the Best: Creating a Customer Advisory Board

Published

on

Customer advisory board at Von Bargen's Jewelry

Von Bargen’s advisory board is made up of 30 jewelry-loving regulars at each location, who meet every three months. 

Von Bargen’s Jewelry

Five stores in New Hampshire and Vermont

Ever wondered what your customers really want to wear? Or what kind of advertising, exactly, would grab their attention? Philip Bosen, director of Von Bargen’s, wondered all that and more before he decided to start asking key clients what they thought in an organized fashion.

IDEA

Create an Advisory Board

The manager of each of Von Bargen’s five stores in New Hampshire and Vermont oversees a client advisory board made up of 30 savvy female shoppers. Why just women? There are a few reasons: “Women make or influence more than 80 percent of all consumer purchases in the U.S.,” Bosen points out. Although men are important to the business, women are almost always the end user of the jewelry, at least at Von Bargen’s. And Bosen has found that when men are included in a focus group, they tend to dominate the discussion.

Advertisement

EXECUTION

Find Savvy Shoppers

First they had to figure out whom to invite. “We sat down and asked ourselves, ‘What does this woman look like?’”

They decided she doesn’t have to be a top spender, but she should be bright, connected, articulate, fashionable and preferably affluent. She should appreciate quality, be an expert in her field and socially responsible, Bosen decided. As for age, “I would say our sweet spot is 35 to 55, and I’m going to have people on both ends of that range, some in their 20s and some in their 60s.” Location, too, is a factor. “Where does she live? It would be nice to have a map of your area and have these people spread out a little bit.”

They meet quarterly, the first meeting of the year being a party. Perfect attendance isn’t mandatory. “I consider it a success if we have 50 percent,” Bosen says. “We send written invitations and follow up with phone calls or emails.”

Sometimes they’ll include a field trip to a restaurant or a wine shop, but usually they meet at the store, where noise and security can be controlled. Wherever they meet, the store serves food and beverages — cheese, fruit, chocolate or a vegetable tray. Participants receive gift bags, including $100 gift certificates to the store, and sometimes gift certificates donated by other local stores.

The group is very influential in buying decisions. If 15 of 20 women suggest a particular SKU, for example, it will definitely be on the store’s shopping list.
The group also helps the business choose charitable events to participate in and where to focus advertising dollars.

REWARDS

Improved Buying and Turn

“Every time you think you’re going to have an idea of what they are going to say, you’re wrong,” Bosen says. “Or at least I am.”

“We did fundamentally change our buying,” Bosen says. After two years of focus groups, buying and turn were so improved that they could locate just nine pieces from all of the stores for the annual sale.

Advertisement

“You will begin to select the right designers and the right pieces and have more successful trunk shows and private in-home parties,” Bosen says. “Your board members will recruit additional clients of similar type. They interact with other women who don’t shop with you, probably because they think your jewelry is boring. If it’s boring, it’s because it’s jewelry men choose for women; it’s safe jewelry.”

Board members also made it clear that the stores had nothing available for young bridal customers on a budget. In response, Bosen pointed out two rings that were priced at about $5,000. But the board influenced the decision to add a line of smaller, quality rings to meet a popular $3,500 price point. “That part of our business has gone crazy,” Bosen says.

The advisory boards also have created authentic social media buzz.

Von Bargen's Jewelry customer board in action

Also on the menu for customer events, makeovers and lots of trying on of jewelry.

Do It Yourself: Create Your Own Customer Advisory Board

Recruit a blogger for best social media results.

Text, email or FaceTime members when you’re at a trade show and want their advice about new lines or new pieces.

Brag about the store staff during board meetings. It’s a great opportunity to celebrate staff members’ personal and professional accomplishments.

Memorize everyone’s name, or ask them to wear name tags.

If personality conflicts develop, it’s OK to rotate a member or two off the board on occasion; just send them a gift and thank them for their service.

Always have an agenda. For example: How can we get more people on Facebook? How can we improve the store’s appearance?

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

Advertisement

VIDEO HIGHLIGHT

Wilkerson Testimonials

New York Jeweler Picks Wilkerson for Their GOB Sale

Jan Rose of Rose Jewelers, located in Long Island's famous Hamptons beach district, explains how she chose Wilkerson for her closing sale. Jan's suggestions: reach out to jewelers who have been in similar situations to find out what worked for them, and look for a company with experience in going-out-of-business sales. Once you've done that, the final step is to move ahead and trust the process.

Promoted Headlines

Want more INSTORE? Subscribe to our newsletter.

Comment

Best of The Best

Tiny Jewel Box and Harry Kotlar Celebrate Partnership with Film and Featured Jewelry Masterpieces

November trunk show highlighted Kotlar’s 70th anniversary.

Published

on

WHEN A RELATIONSHIP between a high-profile independent jewelry retailer and an esteemed brand blossoms, it’s only natural to throw a big party.

When Tiny Jewel Box of Washington D.C. and luxury jewelry brand Harry Kotlar first partnered about 10 years ago, they started with a small selection of merchandise. Last November, Tiny Jewel Box debuted the first Harry Kotlar in-store boutique on the East Coast, which includes a full collection of rings, earrings, bracelets and pendants, all handmade and hand-forged.

Podcast: Holiday Sales These Jewelers Will Never Forget
Over the Counter

Podcast: Holiday Sales These Jewelers Will Never Forget

Podcast: Get Your Employees to Act Like They Own the Damn Place
JimmyCast

Podcast: Get Your Employees to Act Like They Own the Damn Place

Podcast: A Classic Holiday Poem is Reimagined in a Jewelry Store
Over the Counter

Podcast: A Classic Holiday Poem is Reimagined in a Jewelry Store

The ensuing celebration also marked the 70th anniversary of Harry Kotlar. “The opening of the Harry Kotlar boutique inside Tiny Jewel Box represents a confluence of those two histories. It’s also tangible proof of our shared commitment to excellence and luxury,” says David Wiener, Harry Kotlar’s president and head designer.

Matthew Rosenheim, president of Tiny Jewel Box, says the event celebrated the union of the two family-run companies. The guest list included Kotlar collectors, jewelry enthusiasts, influencers and editors.

The focus was on the anniversary collection of seven curated jewelry masterpieces. Each piece references popular design hallmarks that are nonetheless timeless. “We picked out seven pieces — some vintage, some re-created, representing seven decades of our brand’s existence,” says Czarah Cabrera, Harry Kotlar’s marketing director.

Advertisement

Each piece was featured within the pages of a coffee table book as well as in a short film, which also made their debut at the boutique opening. The book and two-minute film gave the audience a first-hand look into the evolution of Harry Kotlar’s design philosophy and dedication to the craft.

Cabrera says curating the seven pieces to be included was no easy feat. “As far as research goes, I was banging my head, looking at all of our mood boards and vision boards of every decade, including the mod ‘60s, psychedelic ‘70s and punk-style ‘80s, but we couldn’t be too literal because Harry Kotlar is more on the classic and sophisticated side.” She tied together the themes by using models wearing the little black dress, which changes in structure but is always classic and sophisticated. The staff wore little black dresses as well for the event, and influencers in jewelry, fashion and style in DC and New York were also invited to wear the LBD.

Each piece was displayed in a museum-like vignette with an audio guide. Eighteen of Harry Kotlar’s collections were also displayed in a museum-like environment. Guests had the opportunity, too, to sit down with a Harry Kotlar illustrator to create their own Harry

Kotlar pieces, making the event even more personal.

Rosenheim says great relationships between special brands and retail jewelers are built on clear communication, defining and aligning goals and expectations, collaborating on which merchandise will sell best in the specific market, and providing education and training on the brand and products so that the sales team can be passionate brand ambassadors and storytellers. Events support the sales team in their efforts to forge great personal relationships with their customers as well.

Cabrera says an event like this is all about experience and theatrics. And it does drive sales. Some guests bought pieces or put in special orders. “We also were able to prime our customers with gift ideas for the upcoming holidays,” Rosenheim says. “We had a great turnout of our top customers and media partners. The event had a positive and energetic vibe.”

Advertisement

Tiny Jewel Box must walk a fine line between having too many and two few events as part of its marketing program, Rosenheim says. “In Washington DC, just like in other major metropolitan areas, people are time-deprived,” Rosenheim says. “Fortunately, our customers are loyal and they love coming to our events because they know it will be something special.”

PHOTO GALLERY (4 IMAGES)

{{gallery_holder}}

Continue Reading

Best of The Best

Retailers Team with Roger Dery to Help Educate East Africans

The program is called Gemstone Adventure Travel.

Published

on

SINCE 2010, GEM CUTTER Roger Dery has led jewelry retailers on dozens of trips to East Africa to visit mines, lapidary schools and orphanages through a program called Gemstone Adventure Travel.

Video: Gene the Jeweler Thought He’d Heard It All … Until This Tardy Employee Told His Story
Gene the Jeweler

Video: Gene the Jeweler Thought He’d Heard It All … Until This Tardy Employee Told His Story

Video: Take Advantage of These Tools to Improve Your Digital Marketing
Jim Ackerman

Video: Take Advantage of These Tools to Improve Your Digital Marketing

Video: Gene the Jeweler Sells a Diamond — and Gets Back a CZ
Gene the Jeweler

Video: Gene the Jeweler Sells a Diamond — and Gets Back a CZ

Amid the adventures, education and elephant spotting, retailers couldn’t help but notice that Dery, president of Roger Dery Gem Design, tried to help everyone he encountered, whether by delivering food or water, tipping drivers or bringing resources and education to gem-cutting areas. Says David McConnell of the King’s Jewelers in Walnut Creek, CA: “One of the things that struck me the most was that he always strove to leave almost every individual that he interacted with better than when he started. He really cares.”

Alumni of Gemstone Adventure Travel say going to the source has benefited their businesses by adding transparency to their gemstone sales and by demonstrating a social consciousness that is valued by today’s consumers.

Dery was featured in Sharing the Rough, a 2014 documentary about the journey of gems from mine to market, directed by filmmaker and jeweler Orin Mazzoni. Dery’s myriad retail fans have hosted viewings of the film to educate their customers while enhancing their colored-stone business.

McConnell says his experience in East Africa adds to his credibility and confidence when he’s selling gemstones in his store. He has a positive first-person story to tell about where gems come from — mine to market — and how they can change people’s lives. His store’s most popular event is a gemstone roundtable with Dery.

“How many jewelers can say they’ve been to the mines in East Africa and bought gems from the miners?” McConnell says. “The good I saw being done with schools built for miners’ kids is phenomenal and encouraging. It helps me address concerns when people come into the stores with questions about child miners. Governments are beginning to step in to make sure mines are built correctly so they are safe. Having photos and videos in the store from my trips gives me a level of transparency that most stores can never have.”

Christina Clover-Field of Field’s Jewelers in Redding, CA, says her experience in East Africa motivated her, deepened her understanding of gemstones and made her work more meaningful than she had imagined it could be when she left her position as a hospice nurse to join the family jewelry business. And Chrysa Cohen of Continental Jewelers in Wilmington, DE, donates a percentage of gem sales to Esther, a miner’s widow who took over the business to support her family.

Advertisement

In August 2018, encouraged by a group led by Clover-Field, the Derys launched Gem Legacy, a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to education, vocational training and local economies in East African mining communities. A Gem Legacy breakfast and panel discussion is scheduled 8:30 to 10 a.m., Feb. 8, at the J.W. Marriott Starr Pass Resort in Tucson, AZ, during the JCK Tucson show.

Roger says he is humbled by the support he has received for what had been an informal, personal project. “Only in retrospect can we say that we were showing them how a small amount of money can make a big difference in people’s lives. We have met thousands of people in East Africa’s remote villages and bush mines where gems have had a remarkable influence on their lives.”

For more information, email info@gemlegacy.org or visit gemlegacy.org.

PHOTO GALLERY (4 IMAGES)

{{gallery_holder}}

Continue Reading

Best of The Best

This Bride-to-Be’s Surprise Proposal Goes Viral

Commercial shoot for Smyth Jewelers becomes mini-reality show.

Published

on

KORI KLINE, A FORMER BALTIMORE Ravens cheerleader, had appeared in two commercials for Baltimore’s Smyth Jewelers, in character as a wedding guest and a maid of honor.

When she got a call from the ad agency working with Smyth and learned she would next be cast as a bride-to-be, she was excited, but had no reason to believe that the third experience would be much, if any, different from the first two.

Podcast: Holiday Sales These Jewelers Will Never Forget
Over the Counter

Podcast: Holiday Sales These Jewelers Will Never Forget

Podcast: Get Your Employees to Act Like They Own the Damn Place
JimmyCast

Podcast: Get Your Employees to Act Like They Own the Damn Place

Podcast: A Classic Holiday Poem is Reimagined in a Jewelry Store
Over the Counter

Podcast: A Classic Holiday Poem is Reimagined in a Jewelry Store

When she arrived for the shoot, the director told her that the actor who would play her boyfriend was stuck in traffic and they’d be ready to shoot as soon as he arrived.

So when — instead of a harried actor — her real-life boyfriend, Zach Sullivan, appeared on the set bearing a ring box, she was stunned.

“I had zero idea,” she says. “When I actually saw Zach on set, I was very confused, but very excited at the same time. It took a second for it to click for me.”

Sullivan had approached Smyth’s marketing director with the idea of making the commercial into a mini-reality show and proposing then and there.

“I’ve never been more sure of anything than wanting to marry you and grow old together. Will you marry me?” Sullivan asked Kline. She said yes!

Luckily, he was confident what the answer would be from his girlfriend of four years. “She would give me subtle hints every once in a while, saying ‘I want a ring on this finger,’ pointing at her ring finger. So I was nervous. I didn’t want to mess up, but I wasn’t nervous whether she’d say yes or not.”

Adds Kline, “I might have been sending him pictures of rings multiple times per week.”

Tom Smyth

When Tom Smyth, CEO of Smyth, first heard about the idea, he thought it was pretty cool, but a lot to pull off. Luckily, ad agency TB&C was more than up to the challenge, he says. The video quickly racked up more than 17,000 views within a few weeks in a market where Kline’s connection to the Ravens makes her a local celebrity.

Smyth plans to use the commercial on TV as well.

“Zach also used the ring cam, which records the fiancée’s response from a camera that’s in the ring box,” Smyth notes. “For us, it’s been great to share in this special moment. Zach clearly raised the bar here. I hope the community sees it and comes up with more ideas for raising the bar. This generation loves to make an event out of a proposal.”

While Tom Smyth and a veteran marketing director are in charge of the marketing effort, Smyth credits the agency TB&C for keeping the approach modern, hip and smart. “That’s why you hire people who are better at it than you are. I think we give them more latitude than most clients.”
Advertisement

Smyth has overseen the marketing effort since the ‘80s.

“I have always liked thinking outside of the box and making it fun and tongue-in-cheek, trying to get the customers to smile. If you make it fun, it’s more memorable.”

And of course, Smyth and company were happy to help Sullivan narrow down the 200 photos of ring ideas on his phone that Kori had sent him.

The perfect ring was discovered within 90 minutes.

“It is absolutely stunning,” Kline says of the ring. “It’s everything I asked for. I told Zach I liked the twisted bands and a halo cushion cut. He went above and beyond. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”

Kori Kline is surprised by a proposal from her boyfriend, Zach Sullivan, on the set of a commercial for Smyth Jewelers. While Kline thought it was an acting job, Smyth arranged with Sullivan to make it the real thing, and the video went viral.

Continue Reading

Most Popular