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Best of The Best

Best of the Best: Summer Smash

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Designer events turn a sleepy Jersey Shore town into a jewelry hotspot

Best of the Best Logo[h3]Bernie Robbins Fine Jewelry[/h3]
Address: 507 New Road, Somers Point, NJ 02169
Phone: (609) 927-4848
URL: bernierobbins.com

[dropcap cap=S]ummer may be slow for many jewelers, but it means big business for Bernie Robbins Fine Jewelry, a small luxury chain with six stores in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.[/dropcap]

[componentheading]THE IDEA[/componentheading]

Best of the Best: Summer Smash

That’s because, for the past seven years, the chain’s Annual Summer Celebration at the flagship store in Somers Point has attracted crowds of well-heeled customers, drawn from their weekend homes on the Jersey Shore. They come to meet and buy from the top designers that Bernie Robbins brings in for personal appearances — including industry heavyweights such as Michael B., Penny Preville, Stephen Webster and Leslie Greene.  

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“Our customers can’t believe that we get some of these people to come to this little community — they’re very impressed that we bring these superstars of the industry,” says Harvey Rovinsky, who co-owns the Bernie Robbins stores with his wife, Maddy. “They might have seen these designers in Bergdorf’s or Neiman Marcus, or they might have been in Beverly Hills or Manhattan. But now they are in Somers Point, which makes this a major event for this area.”  

When Rovinsky discovered that many of his high-value customers in Philadelphia and Bucks County in Pennsylvania and Cherry Hill in New Jersey migrated to summer homes on the coast, he saw an opportunity. “We decided to capitalize on it by throwing a festive celebration where we do a significant amount of business.”

[componentheading]THE EXECUTION[/componentheading]

Best of the Best: Summer SmashThe Rovinskys spend a considerable amount of time during the year at trade shows, discovering new designers and looking at the top collections, so the summer campaign is also the perfect way to show off their favorite artists. “It offers designers a venue and an opportunity when they’re slow elsewhere,” he says. Finally, the summer campaign is in line with Rovinsky’s belief that shopping should be fun, so the store works hard to make the experience a complete entertainment package, employing music, flowers, decorations and even Mummers — costumed characters that are a Philadelphia institution.  

Held during the 10-week period from July 4 until Labor Day, the Annual Summer Celebration features instore events that run from Friday to Saturday. Ahead of the shows, the staff decorates the store with flowers and fabrics in colors that match the designer’s theme — such as Michael B.’s signature black and yellow, or Penny Preville’s unique shade of blue. “We’ll take out our normal product and give a whole 20-foot section over to the designer,” says Rovinsky. “Basically, it becomes a Roberto Coin store when he’s here.” Banners are hung announcing the designer’s appearance and trunk show, and often reporters from a local television station or area newspaper will come to interview the designer. “These are celebrities in our industry,” Rovinsky explains. And those who have made multiple visits to the store have become personalities in the Jersey Shore area. “Michael B. comes down here and he’s like a rock star!”

To promote the event, colorful, high-quality brochures are sent out before the season starts, offering a list of the designers who will appear as well as a selection of the jewelry that will be available. Rovinsky also does local radio promotions every weekend to announce the upcoming appearances, sends out mailers throughout the season and calls the customers who collect the particular designer’s brand. “Then we pray for cloudy days,” he says. “When someone has to choose between the sun or seeing a designer, we lose out a lot. And in any case, we have to make it special for clients to give up their beach day to come visit us.”  

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The trunk show starts in the evening on Friday and runs all day Saturday until 6 p.m. The designer is on site for the entire event, interacting with customers. “It’s not a formal environment, it’s very relaxed,” says Rovinsky. “Many have been doing our shows for several years and have built relationships and a real base presence in the area.”  

Rovinsky generally puts the designer up in a bed and breakfast near the water, and he picks them up in his boat on Saturday night after the trunk show has wound down. “I bring them back to my home on the water, and we have a catered dinner for the designer, whoever he’s with, my family and very special, invited customers. We’ll often have 25-30 people at my house on a Saturday night after the event.”

[componentheading]THE REWARDS[/componentheading]

Best of the Best: Summer SmashMost of the designers clamor to come back to the Jersey Shore, Rovinsky says, with Michael B. attending each July and Penny Preville also returning every year. “We try to be gracious and make their stay pleasant,” he says. According to Rovinsky, Stephen Webster was thrilled with his stay, and even enjoyed some fishing off of Rovinsky’s deck. But most importantly for all involved, the shows are profitable — with many of the weekend appearances generating gross sales in excess of six figures, as much as a week’s summertime business at other stores.  

The summertime success at Somers Point has also meant year-round benefits for the other Bernie Robbins locations, which are all designed to look as much alike as possible. “One of the other great things is that these people live in the Philly market year-round and after the summer their inclination is to visit one of our other stores, which looks very similar to Somers Point,” says Rovinsky. “They’ll buy the product that they saw the designer present over the summer. Christmas is still our major season and that’s when these customers will come to our stores.”

[span class=note]This story is from the MaY 2006 edition of INSTORE[/span]

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