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Best of The Best

Best of the Best: Photo Op

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Jewelry store party with Minions and Olaf

Susann’s Custom Jewelers, Corpus Christi, TX

COLTON AND MORGAN BARTEL attended an event at a bookstore last summer with London, their 1-year-old son, that was touted as a “Meet & Greet with Olaf,” the beloved snowman from the hit movie Frozen. They waited an hour only to discover the Olaf in question was a 2-foot-tall cardboard cutout. When they left, the line extended around the store.

IDEA

A Costume Conjures Up An Event

That night, they went home, immediately ordered up an Olaf costume online and began planning a two-day “Meet Olaf” event at their family jewelry store, Susann’s Custom Jewelers in Corpus Christi, TX, owned by Colton’s parents, Audie and Karla Bartel. Colton bravely agreed to don the costume, ensuring Olaf would be qualified to work in a jewelry store, with his graduate gemologist credentials.

Morgan says the store staff researched trademark restrictions and learned they could do a meet and greet as long as they did not use the name Disney in their promotions, and they did not directly profit by charging for photos with Disney characters, for example. “We do our meet and greets free of charge and typically provide free photos for all who come,” Morgan says.

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Kids were “flabbergasted”
to meet a “Minion” in “real life,” says organizer Morgan Bartel.

EXECUTION

Drawing A Crowd With A $345 Investment

Obviously, they had proof that Olaf was a celebrity worth waiting for. And the Bartels knew a life-size, living, breathing Olaf would beat out a cardboard cutout any day. Yes, they wanted to draw a crowd, but they wanted that crowd to be excited and entertained — not disappointed.

Advertising through social media and networking with dozens of local groups, the family welcomed more than 250 people to the in-store event, most of whom had never visited the store before.

They spent $245 on the costume itself and $100 for extra decorations. They also used their arsenal of Christmas decor and made all the fliers, posters and invitations in the store.

“Honestly, we lucked out that we have a massive stock of decor and craft supplies,” Morgan says.

Because it was a two-day event, all 250 people did not arrive at the same time, so the Bartels were able to maintain their preferred level of customer service without being overwhelmed by an onslaught of Olaf fans. “It was a big deal to us to make each individual family feel special,” Morgan says. “We wanted it to be a magical experience for the kids.”

In addition to the costumed Olaf, they had five employees working during the event. The staff did everything possible to enhance the experience.

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“We did have some scared and shy kiddos so we used a crown we dubbed the bravery crown and those kids became confident and ended up loving it,” Morgan says.

“One little girl dressed up like Olaf and another brought in two stuffed Olafs to include in her picture. Some people even drove all the way from Houston to come meet their favorite snowman, since their kids were obsessed with the movie.

“One girl saw Olaf and ran and jumped into his arms. Another girl licked him thinking he was real snow. Our favorite was a little 1-year-old boy who kept blinking and squinting trying to make sense of seeing a 6-foot snowman.”

Even the adults had a blast, Morgan says. “One lady came in with her “ugly” Christmas sweater to take her Christmas card photo. We even had a biker group come in, take pics, then invite Olaf outside to take pictures by their bikes so they could show their friends.

“The Selfie Station we had with props was also a blast. The kids couldn’t get enough of trying on funky sunglasses, tiaras and crowns; neither could the parents.”

Staff hung 180 balloons for the store’s second family event, which involved meeting a Minion, a character from Despicable Me.

REWARDS

Happy Kids Lead To New Customers

The store garnered huge publicity and exposure at a total investment of $345. And encouraging families to come to a jewelry store broke down threshold resistance and banished any notion of stuffiness.
“It means a lot that so many families cultivated such sweet memories in our store,” Morgan says. “Some of those people were converted to new customers while there and we are just thrilled. Happy kids make for happy parents!”
“Our sales were crazy in comparison with how they had been during this slow summer season. All in all this was one of our most successful events hands down! Now that the event has come to a close we are going to be taking Olaf to Driscoll Children’s Hospital to visit cancer patients.”
The next character meet and greet event, held around Halloween time, involved a Minion (Colton, again) from “Despicable Me,” and was even more successful, sales wise.
“The fact that we are doing this with genuine passion and adoration for our community is becoming more transparent to the community and it is so great that they are able to see us for who we really are — a Ma and Pa shop that would do anything to make our customers happy,” Morgan adds.

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DO IT YOURSELF

  • Consider how a family friendly event could bring in a new demographic of potential customers.
  • Encourage people to have fun in your store.
  • Plan ways to expose your business to a large crowd without a big investment.
  • No matter what event you host, include a “selfie station.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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Best of The Best

Retailers Team with Roger Dery to Help Educate East Africans

The program is called Gemstone Adventure Travel.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Commercial shoot for Smyth Jewelers becomes mini-reality show.

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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.

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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.”
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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.

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