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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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Best of The Best

Florida-Based Mayors Jewelers Seeks Connection With Young Luxury Shoppers

The Watches of Switzerland invests in well-respected brand.

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WHEN WATCHES OF Switzerland Group bought Mayors Jewelers group in 2017, it was already well-run and well-established, but out of date, thought Brian Duffy, CEO of Watches of Switzerland, the biggest retailer of luxury watches in the UK.

“Mayors has been around since 1907 in Florida and it’s very well-regarded in the local community. Everybody loved it, but we got some comments like, ‘It’s where my parents bought their engagement rings.’ It had aged as a brand. The whole plan has been to update the brand to appeal to younger customers. We updated the logo, changed the façade and introduced a new store format.”

One of the most important decisions they made, according to group executive VP David Hurley, was to keep the Mayors name. The brand was good, but could get much better with investment in digital, brick-and-mortar, and especially, support for the strong teams of employees already in place, who received in-depth brand education under new management.

June debut: The first new Mayors flagship store is scheduled to open in June at the Merrick Park Mall in Coral Gables, FL. The 5,657 square foot open-concept space, designed by MNA, will feature luxury watches.

Mayors operates in Florida and Georgia with a portfolio of 17 stores. A retailer of luxury products and service, the group features brands such as Rolex, Cartier, Omega, TAG Heuer, Mikimoto, Bulgari, Messika and Roberto Coin, as well as its own collections of bridal, diamond and gold jewelry. In addition to the Mayors acquisition, Watches of Switzerland also launched flagship branded stores in New York City and Las Vegas as part of their entry into the U.S. market.

Their market research indicated that millennials are as interested as any other generation in luxury watches and jewelry if conditions are right. But outdated store decor and inadequate digital presentation were holding Mayors back from its potential to offer the kind of experience that would hook younger shoppers. The reinvented Mayors is particularly interested in consumers in their mid-30s. “The important age is 35; it’s always been that way and still is,” Duffy says.

To update the buying experience, WOS launched an interactive website, as well as two magazines with free digital circulation, one of which focuses on watches.

Redesigned websites and marketing reflect sleek store design.

Online concierges are available to help shoppers through text chat or video chat on the redesigned website. “But obviously, we’re trying to make the whole website as self-navigational as possible,” Duffy says. “We’re having the easiest form of dropdowns and product selections and using the most advanced systems, so as you navigate around the website, the information it gives back is interactive and intelligent.”

The in-store experience also needed a modern edge, a project expected to be completed by the fall across all storefronts. “Having stores that are appealing and non-intimidating, that welcome people in with a big emphasis on hospitality, is the goal,” Duffy says. “Staff members don’t have to stand behind counters. The emphasis is on self-help and engagement with salespeople when they’re ready. “

The redesigned store facades have a distinctive monochromatic look with white banding and a black background. The store design meshes with both the style of the advertising and the brand’s sleek new packaging, rendered in black and silver. “We haven’t held back at all on the quality of the materials or the lighting,” Duffy says.

The look, feel and function of the store must be evaluated every few years. Says Hurley: “We believe in constantly investing in our stores. As soon as you stop doing that, the stores start to look tired, sales go down and you get into a vicious cycle.”

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Best of The Best

This Store’s Murder Mystery Killed at the Party

Events coordinator enlists customers to stage murder mystery she wrote herself.

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LYNNETTE SOLOMON HAD never thought of herself as a playwright, but as special events coordinator at MJ Miller & Co. in Barrington, IL, she isn’t afraid to try new things.

“When we do an event, we always try to do something the customer can participate in — toga parties, pirate parties; those tend to work out the best for us. It’s a great way to get people engaged and wearing the jewelry.”

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But when it came to trunk shows, she realized they needed something to spice them up for her clients who craved the kind of interactive, in-store experience that really could be described as an experience.

So Solomon spent a whole year writing a murder mystery and pitched it to owner Michael J. Miller as a way to create drama around designer Victor Velyan’s two-day visit. Velyan’s dramatic jewelry designs seemed perfect for such an

event, especially because they’re less traditional and very different in style from anything else in the store, Solomon says. She debuted both the concept and the play itself over two days in October.

A dozen customers were invited to be characters. Another small group came just to watch.

Of course, each character was wearing jewels from Velyan’s collection, and each was teamed up with a staff member so they received personal attention.

“A lot of the characters had a back story with Victor, so they had to pay a lot of attention to Victor,” Solomon says.

Velyan, known for his global exploration, was one of the central characters. “

The scenario? Velyan, returning from his latest adventure in Africa, brought his whole new couture line to the store and thieves lay in wait to steal his new collection.

Sales associates invited clients based on whether they thought they’d enjoy it; many also had a history of purchasing Velyan’s pieces.

Sandy and Greg Kern of Arlington Heights were invited — and thrilled — to participate. “People were given a dossier on their character and told to dress in costume. My character was a teacher, and so I was supposed to dress in a pretty plain way — in a tweed skirt,” says Sandy. Greg’s character was a chemist.

“Everybody had a fabulous character, and some people did an amazing job of dressing like their characters,” Sandy says. “It was a lot of fun.”

Characters were invited, of course, to try to figure out who the murderer was.

“In our group, no one got who the murderer was,” Sandy says. “It was so clever, it was wonderful. It involved people in the store and with the fabulous jewelry, we had a great time.”
Diversions were built into the plot.

“The twist was that I had a police officer (an actor) come in and tell Mr. Miller there had been an incident at his home and he had to leave,” Solomon says. “Then someone ran out from the back and announced that a character was killed in the back of the store.”

Solomon was the narrator as well as the playwright and experienced opening-night jitters.

“I was very nervous, but everybody really had a great time,” she says.

Even the store’s signature drink, the Gold Rush, played a pivotal part in the action.

There were appetizers, sweets and bourbon-spiked punch. The soundtrack featured Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” and Hall and Oates’ “Man Eater.”

Props in the showcases doubled as clues.

At the end of the day, the drama had the best possible ending: there were a number of pending sales.

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Best of The Best

Cleveland Jewelry Store Wins Makeover from Jewelers for Children

Charitable giving yields rewards on many levels.

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ON A BUSY DAY THE week before Christmas, Howard’s Jewelry Center in an eastern suburb of Cleveland, is abuzz with activity. Customers come in waves all day, tracking down giant hoop earrings, a charm for a young granddaughter, or a seasonal splurge for themselves.

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Owner Howard Hurwitz hurries in for an appointment, stopping to exchange pleasantries with a customer he’s known for years, who congratulates him on the success of his business.

It’s a typical pre-Christmas week in many ways. Something’s different this year, though. Howard and Leslie Hurwitz have seen their store in a new light this season. So have their customers.

The couple won a $100,000 store makeover in a Jewelers for Children charitable giving contest, for which they raised $50,000. The renovation — the first significant change to the store in 30 years — was complete in December. “Customers are all pleasantly surprised,” Howard says. “We are very pleased and happy for everything that everyone did for us.”

One of the biggest changes is how drastically brighter everything is with fresh paint, new in-case displays and LED lighting.

Howard and Leslie own four stores in the Cleveland metropolitan area, and had been passionate supporters of Jewelers for Children ever since their first Facets of Hope dinner in Las Vegas touched their hearts 20 years ago.

There, they heard children talk about their struggles with catastrophic diseases and how they were helped by St. Jude’s Research Hospital, one of the charities JFC supports. “I’d like to get more people involved in it,” says

Howard, now a board member. “And I think if they could get to one of these dinners and hear the kids’ stories, they’d be a donor for life.”

JFC is woven into the fabric of their business. In all, they’ve raised $200,000 for the organization with collection canisters on their counters. The couple promotes JFC in their advertising and suggests their customers make a donation for watch batteries and other small repairs they offer for free.

For the redo, the Hurwitzes chose their Maple Heights flagship location, a busy place in a high-traffic area that sells jewelry and also makes loans on jewelry. Although they’ve occupied the space for 30 years, there have been few changes in that time.

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The design team carefully considered which updates would bring the biggest bang for the buck.

Eric Zuckerman of sponsor Pac Team America says the goal was to make the buying experience comfortable, special and intimate. “You can take an old store that hasn’t been touched for 30 years and do some things to make it very fresh and inviting. Environment creates confidence. If the environment is not at the same level of the product and the training of the salesperson, that inconsistency will be felt. Simple and clean and presentable doesn’t have to be a major renovation.”

Zuckerman and Ruth Mellergaard of GRID/3 International agree that the improvements with the biggest impact were replacing the ceiling tiles and upgrading the overhead track lighting to LED bulbs.

“The ceiling tiles were in pretty bad shape and set the tone for the entire environment,” Zuckerman says. “Something as simple as their replacement alone made a big improvement. Same thing with adding case lighting and replacing their bridal in-case presentation. What was there was very dark and worn, which contributed to the entire store appearing worn out. New case pads and displays gave a fresh look that was visually impactful.”

A metal security gate near the threshold was an inhospitable eyesore by day, but a necessity by night. Now, thanks to a design by GRID/3 International, the gate is enclosed in new drywall partitions with flush detailed doors that completely conceal it when the store is open for business.

“When you walk into a retail environment, being greeted by what is essentially a metal fence is not ideal for establishing a warm shopping experience,” Zuckerman says. “Having them hidden while the store is open allowed them to serve their purpose without detracting from the store’s presentation.”

Ruth Mellergaard of GRID/3, who donated her time to the project, says the question she asked before beginning to outline an overall plan was, “How does the business work and how can we make it easier for them to deal with their customers, to make their customers feel wonderful?”

Heavy wooden chairs were replaced by modern chairs with a lighter profile to bring the diamond engagement area into the 21st century, and designated spots for a children’s corner and a custom refreshment station for coffee are designed to put customers at ease.

The interior and exterior have been freshly painted.

Many of the showcases were in good shape, but some didn’t match, so their fronts as well as the front of the service counter were updated with panels covered with 3M Di-Noc film, which changed their appearance completely.

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