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Best of the Best: ‘Sex’ Still Sells in the Big City

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[dropcap cap=R]obyn Fields, proprietor of fine jewelry and clothing boutique Robyn Ross in South Orange, NJ, has a background in fashion but worked in jewelry wholesale for 14 years before deciding to open her own retail store two years ago — just six months before the economy went into a tailspin. Still, the niche she created is working for Fields, whose sales mix has varied but is currently about 30 percent jewelry and 70 percent clothing and accessories. “Nobody has a store like this. Usually, if they sell clothing and also jewelry, the jewelry is costume. Our customers usually start out as either clothing and handbag shoppers, or jewelry shoppers, and then, after a few visits, they cross over and shop for both.” — EILEEN MCCLELLAND[/dropcap]

[componentheading]THE IDEA [/componentheading]

[contentheading]A Movie Tie-up[/contentheading]

Fields is a fan — a big fan — of Sex and the City, both the HBO TV series (1998-2004) and the 2008 movie. Anticipating the release of the SATC sequel, Fields planned a themed event in her store two weeks before the second movie, Sex and the City 2, opened on May 27. The Sex and the City franchise has launched many a fashion and jewelry trend, along with a popular taste for cosmopolitans.

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[componentheading]THE EXECUTION [/componentheading]

[contentheading]Client Profiling[/contentheading]

The centerpiece of the party was a champagne fountain converted to keep the cosmopolitans flowing. The gold, three-tiered fountain was a huge hit, and so little else was needed in the way of refreshment beyond tea sandwiches provided by another local business. Entertainment was in the form of dance music on the sound system.

She invited her guests to play dress-up.

“For the first movie, my girlfriends and I went to the theater. We felt like we had to get all dressed up and when we got there and looked around, everyone else was as dressed up as we were.”

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Based on her own fashion taste (and confirmed by a presumably scientific Facebook quiz) Fields says she is “a Carrie.” In “SATC” speak, that means she’s more like Sarah Jessica Parker’s character, Carrie, and less like the other characters (Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte). Fashion-wise, Carrie is apt to mix quirky vintage finds with high-end labels and is obsessed with designer shoes that carry an average price tag of $400.

For the store event, Fields asked each guest to dress up as her favorite character. Then she arranged jewelry and accessories into groups, best suited to the styles of each of the four main characters in the franchise.

“Two people in particular really put forth an effort,” she recalled.

“One of them is a jeans-and-T-shirt kind of girl, and she wore black and white with matching coat and heels. She said she was Charlotte, but I thought she was more like Samantha, a public-relations professional. Another woman came totally dressed as Charlotte, in a cute little strapless dress with pearls and heels.”

Fields sent out e-mail blasts to her distribution list of about 1,000 customers. She also has a strong presence on Facebook, which she uses to issue invitations. Because her events are held frequently, word-of-mouth has boosted attendance numbers. Each event builds more interest and excitement among her customers.

[componentheading]THE REWARD [/componentheading]

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[contentheading]‘Charlotte’ Days[/contentheading]

Fields has frequent events, as often as once a month, and her revenues always exceed those of ordinary days, even though she offers a 20 percent discount. The discount and the party atmosphere usually lead to multiple sales per customer.

[componentheading]DO IT YOURSELF[/componentheading]

• GIVE THEM A REASON TO COME AND AN INCENTIVE TO BUY. “I just said, ‘Aren’t you going to the movie? You need something to wear.’” Fields says.

• TRY BRAINSTORMING with your (romantic and/or business) partner or your employees.

• EXPERIMENT. Remember that events are a matter of trial and error. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. Make a small investment and see what happens.

• BE SURE TO POST YOUR PARTY PHOTOS ON SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES, even before you update the website. “It’s SO easy to take a picture and throw it up on Facebook,” Fields says.

• TRY TO STAY AHEAD OF THE POP CULTURE CURVE when planning a themed event. Fields intentionally threw her party a couple of weeks before the movie opened in theaters for optimal interest — shoppers are filled with anticipation.

• PARTNER WITH OTHER LOCAL BUSINESSES. Fields hooked up with a local party planner, who helped her organize the event, and a local restaurant, which provided tea sandwiches. The businesses cooperate to network and expand their own contact lists.

• TIE JEWELRY TO THE THEME. For example, Dogeared has partnered with HBO to create a line of SATC brand necklaces that feature charms including diamonds, stilettos and the Eiffel Tower. Prices range from $55 to $200 retail.

• START WITH YOUR OWN INVENTORY: Consider what each character would wear jewelry-wise, and highlight a selection in special displays.

[span class=note]This story is from the July 2010 edition of INSTORE[/span]

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