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Best of The Best

Best of the Best: The Jeweler Everyone Loves To Hate



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[h3]Steven Singer Jewelers; Philadelphia, PA[/h3]

Best of the Best Logo[dropcap cap=I]n “The City of Brotherly Love”, Steven Singer Jewelers is getting attention for a promotional campaign that goes about as far away from love as you can possibly get. The subject of the campaign: hate.

Launched in 2003, the million-dollar-plus “I Hate Steven Singer!” promotional campaign from the Philadelphia jeweler takes many forms — including gigantic banners outside the store, billboards, a popular local t-shirt, a weekly online contest, as well as a series of funny radio spots. All hammer home the message that customers hate Steven Singer … because they just can’t stop buying his jewelry.

The campaign has been successful creatively, with Singer’s radio ads earning two Philadelphia Ad Club awards in 2003. But more importantly, it’s been successful in generating sales — with Singer’s revenues increasing 18 percent in 2003, and another nine percent so far this year.

Best of all, the campaign matches perfectly with the spirit of Singer’s store. Says the owner: “We like to have fun selling jewelry. That’s our tagline, ‘Steven Singer Jewelers, the most fun you’ll have buying a diamond.’ ”[/dropcap]


Best of the Best: The Jeweler Everyone Loves to Hate

[h4]For this edition of “Best of the Best”, Instore talked with Singer about his attention-getting promotional campaign:[/h4]

Tell how the campaign got its start.

Twenty years ago, a man bought an engagement ring for his wife. After that, he never bought her another piece of jewelry. As the wife’s 40th birthday drew near, she dropped many hints for more jewelry. So, the husband responded with a beautiful diamond ring from our store and threw her a surprise birthday party. The wife’s response to the birthday gift and party was overwhelming. So overwhelming that nine months later the couple was in the store with word of a new baby! The wife said she very pleased with her jewelry, and said “I love Steven Singer Jewelers!” The husband’s less-than-enthusiastic (but still humorous) response was “I hate Steven Singer! We’re up all hours with midnight feedings and diaper changes”. Keep in mind that the couple is in their 40’s and have two children already that are nearly adults. That’s how the campaign got started.  
How was the campaign received at first?

Actually, we’re quite surprised by the overwhelmingly positive reaction. The initial response has been really amazing — better than previous campaigns we’ve done. We’re a corner store with huge 14’ x 20’ “Hate” campaign banners on the outside. Quite a few people have walked in to the store laughing saying how funny the campaign is. Ironically, it has lead to a ton of sales. The reaction has been very good. When people come in to the store and buy a diamond we say “welcome to the club … now you’re going to hate Steven Singer.”  

Is there a favorite reaction to the campaign?


One response to our weekly gift certificate contest was “My wife spends more time with Steven Singer than she does with me” — that was a good one. And, a girl modified her father’s “I Hate Steven Singer” t-shirt to read “My Dad Hates Steven Singer”. We’ve been in business for nearly three decades and even have customers trying to one-up the other, “I’ve hated Steven Singer for 15 years, …” or “Well I’ve hated Steven Singer for 20 years, …”.  

The campaign is intentionally cryptic — the words “I Hate Steven Singer” and nothing else. No address, no anything. How do people find you? When I was young and IKEA, a Swedish home furnishings company, was entering the US market, their ads made a real impression on me. The billboards showed a picture of an eye, a key and the word “uh”. No one knew what it was all about. As the campaign progressed then we knew — IKEA. That billboard always stuck with me so when the “Hate” campaign got its start I wanted to keep it simple with just a white graffiti-type font on a black background. It just says “I Hate Steven Singer.” No mention of being a jeweler or our products, just the “I Hate” message — that’s it. In the first week [after the promotion was launched], we must have received about 30 to 50 phone calls. People called just to find out what was going on. Some thought it was a smear campaign against me … and were wondering what I’d done. As the campaign caught on, things got so hectic we had to install a voice response system to handle all the incoming calls. Of course, the voice response system message starts with a bit on the “Hate” campaign so callers would know it’s our latest promotion.  

Radio dominates the campaign. Can you give me an idea of a typical radio spot?

What type of stations are you promoting on? Our main spot is a 60-second radio commercial that’s based on the actual couple’s experience that got the whole campaign started. The radio spot voice over starts out with a dull, down monotone voice, kind of like comedian Steven Wright. (The anchor at the radio station does our voice-over and he’s great.) As the commercial goes on, the anchor’s voice picks up as he talks about Steven Singer Jewelers and the goods we sell, then you hear a baby crying in the background. Then he returns to saying “I Hate Steven Singer” in that down voice again.The 10-second spots are just quick ones that mention the “Hate” line and that people can find out why on the corner of 8th and Walnut. We’re one of the biggest single advertisers for [controversial radio disc jockey] Howard Stern’s show. We’re in the process of negotiating him to do a voice over for the “Hate” campaign radio spots.  

Tell us more about the signature t-shirts and buttons.

When the campaign started, we ordered a gross of t-shirts [144 units]. We thought they would last a long time, perhaps a few months. The first gross was gone in less than a week. At first we were only handing them out to paying customers. But the response was so overwhelming that people were coming in all the time asking for one. Or, getting one and asking for a larger size. I kind of grumbled at first about the per unit cost of letting so many t-shirts go for free, but when I thought of it in terms of the overall $1 million budget for the campaign the per unit cost was easier to take. To date we’ve ordered about 15 gross of t-shirts. My son plays in the Township League. At one of his basketball games I saw three people wearing my t-shirts.We ordered about five to seven gross of the buttons and they’re moving well. Now we pin a “Hate” button on the ribbon of each gift-wrapped item of jewelry sold in our store.  


Do family members ever wear the “Hate” t-shirts to show you, not so subtly, that you’ve been a bad dad or husband?

No family member is allowed to wear a “Hate” t-shirt. But my wife is the original member of the “I Hate Steven Singer” club.

[span class=note]This story is from the June 2003 edition of INSTORE[/span]



Wilkerson Testimonials

When It’s Time for Something New, Call Wilkerson

Fifty-four years is a long time to stay in one place. So, when Cindy Skatell-Dacus, owner of Skatell’s Custom Jewelers in Greenville, SC decided to move on to life’s next adventure, she called Wilkerson. “I’d seen their ads in the trade magazines for years,’ she says, before hiring them to run her store’s GOB sale. It was such a great experience, Skatell-Dacus says it didn’t even seem like a sale was taking place. Does she have some advice for others thinking of a liquidation or GOB sale? Three words, she says: “Wilkerson. Wilkerson. Wilkerson.”

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Best of The Best

Borsheims Shareholders Weekend Demands All Hands on Deck

Hospitality crucial, no matter the size of your trunk show.



PLANNING A TRUNK show this fall? What if your trunk show involved 100 vendors, as many as 35,000 customers and 25,000 catered meatballs?

Borsheims in Omaha, NE, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, meets that challenge annually with an all-hands-on-deck approach when it opens its doors each May to all of the company’s shareholders who want to come.

The jewelry store plays host to a cocktail party on Friday night and a shareholder shopping day on Sunday. Both events spill into the mall, which is closed to the public, and into the parking lot. “We really look at this from a hospitality approach,” says Adrienne Fay, director of marketing and business sales. “We want to thank the shareholders for their loyalty and patronage.”

This year there were 100 jewelry, watch and gift vendors, some of whom brought in products for their trunk shows that wouldn’t be seen anywhere else in the U.S., Fay says. “You’ve never seen jewelry cases as packed as they are during Berkshire weekend. We call it our Christmas in May. We do a transaction every 11 seconds during the weekend.”


For weeks leading up to the event, job descriptions blur as every employee plays a role from helping with catering to managing vendors. They hire additional staff for the weekend, ask corporate staff to work the sales floor and bring in runners and cashiers.

“The last thing we would want to have is someone standing around and no one able to help them,” says Jaci Stuifbergen, who guides Borsheims’ experiential marketing. “Everyone involved is a representative of Borsheims, from those setting up a large tent to those providing food and beverages. We want every caterer to represent Borsheims well and have the same customer-focused mindset that we do the whole time they are here.”


Even though it’s a private event, shareholders are under no obligation to buy jewelry. So creating the right customer experience is vital in this, as in any, event situation. “Whether it’s a regular trunk show or during this event, the thing we want to provide is a really great experience,” Stuifbergen says. “We know they could buy this jewelry from other stores or on the Internet, but what we have to offer are customer service and knowledgeable staff. Complimentary alcohol never hurts!” she says.

It might be the only chance to convert shoppers. “It’s such a destination store that for a lot of people, this is the only time in the year, or maybe in a decade, that they come here,” Stuifbergen says. They set up two bars and two buffet lines in the parking lot under the biggest tent they can rent. Sunday’s party often features Bershire Hathaway CEO and Chairman Warren Buffett playing bridge or table tennis with Bill Gates, Microsoft founder. There’s also a live band and a magician. On Friday night, the caterer serves more than 25,000 meatballs.


The shareholders, who are Warren Buffett groupies, want to buy anything that’s affiliated with him, from pearl strands with his signature on the clasp and diamonds with his signature laser-inscribed inside to affordable gift products stamped with his face or the company logo. Last year, they used a custom etching machine to inscribe personal messages inside the diamonds while customers waited.


Almost immediately after the event, everyone in the company is asked for input and feedback, which is compiled into a seven or eight page document and carefully analyzed. Feedback has led to changes like improved security and gift bags for vendors as a token of appreciation.

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Best of The Best

This Retailer Combined Diamonds with Donuts for a Sweet Event

Social media played a big role in drawing 50 new customers.



DIAMONDS AND DONUTS are each desirable in their own right, but put them together and the combination proves irresistible. At least it did in April for customers of Bernie Robbins Jewelers, whose purchases hit seven figures in four locations over two days.

Owner Harvey Rovinsky said he had noticed “donut roll” events in other types of retail-store promotions and thought donuts would be a great draw to add to the Bernie Robbins promotional repertoire, which has included a Yoga Fest, a Chic at the Shore series of summer events and trunk shows, a student design contest and a high-profile Super Bowl ticket giveaway, along with a recent emphasis on social media, digital advertising and geo-fencing.

“We always want to do something that is different, unique, that people will talk about,” Rovinsky says. “In my mind, donuts go with everything, and they certainly go with diamonds. Because of what the marketing team put together, there was a story to tell besides this jewelry store and their diamonds. It was a way to make a jewelry store visit more fun.”

As it happens, the shape of donuts is even suggestive of a ring.

Integral to promoting the event was a “donut wall” for customer selfies, created entirely by the staff, who invited customers to decorate the donuts with bridal toppers.

Says Peter Salerno, digital-marketing manager: “The idea came in the form of having a part of the store that is more photogenic, something new and fun. Our sales staff used their own Instagram accounts to reach out to customers, and we also advertised on traditional digital platforms. It was a cool space, a departure from a typical jewelry store. It had interaction and on-site activation.”

Customers were invited to decorate donuts with bridal-themed toppers, adding to the in-store experience, during Bernie Robbins’ Diamonds and Donuts event.

The store also borrowed wedding gowns for display that the staff accessorized with diamond jewelry.

“We had champagne, flowers, and it smelled like a bakery,” says Cristin Cipa, director of marketing.

The sales event represented true value for customers, who shopped at up to 50 percent off for mountings, engagement rings and wedding bands, and saved up to 40 percent on a large selection of GIA-graded loose diamonds. Instant credit and interest-free financing added to the appeal of instant gratification.

While salespeople set up appointments in advance to ensure their best clients would visit, the promotion also lured 50 new customers over two days.

“We had cooperation from all of our staff — marketing, selling, support staff,” Rovinsky says. “We checked all of the boxes when it came to marketing and we did an enormous amount of clienteling. Sightholders sent us hundreds of thousands of dollars in diamonds for two days at great prices. It was a win-win-win — a win for our clients, for our salespeople and for Bernie Robbins.” The entire staff was given a bonus as a result.

As for timing, April is diamond month, Rovinsky says. “Is it a popular time for engagements? Who knows? But we made it into one.”

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Best of The Best

These Ocean City Jewelers Bury Treasure in the Sand

Promotional event benefits children’s charity.



JUST IMAGINE HOW cool it would be to associate your business with the most popular activity in your community.

In Ocean City, MD, the beach, of course, is the focal point. And Park Place Jewelers’ Atlantic Avenue store commands its own share of attention in its prime spot on the boardwalk.

Along with diamonds, bridal and high-end branded jewelry, owners Todd and Jill Ferrante offer a wide variety of sea-life and nautical jewelry, particularly in their beach location — everything from sterling silver souvenirs to an exquisite, one-of-a-kind diamond mermaid piece. “We have to appeal to everyone,” Jill says, since everyone walks past on the boardwalk, even kids looking for souvenir charms.

They support myriad charities, from Coastal Hospice and the American Cancer Society to the Worchester County Society. And they have immersed themselves in the community by supporting local charities, hosting an annual Treasure Hunt at the Beach, and setting up pop-up shops during renowned fishing tournaments. The Treasure Hunt at the Beach has raised $25,000 over seven years for a children’s charity.

Here’s how it works. Participants donate $20 for the chance to dig in the sand for buried treasure, and everyone is let into the fenced-off area at the same time. Treasure ranges from loose gemstones and finished jewelry to the grand prize of diamond earrings. The treasure itself is not on the beach — little black treasure bags containing a tag describing the prize are buried about 4 to 6 inches under the sand. Odds are good; a maximum of 100 participants dig for 50 prizes, some of which are donated by their vendors or sold to them at a discount.

Treasure hunters can use only their hands to dig; no shovels or rakes. “We don’t want to make it too hard for them,” Jill says. “But they tell us in some cases it’s the hardest workout they’ve ever had, moving sand around for 15 minutes or half an hour!”

“Participants love it,” Todd says. “Once you find one prize, you take your prize up to the store, give the tag to the sales associates and they give you the prize.”

If all the prizes aren’t located within about 30 minutes, Todd launches into a trivia contest for the few remaining prizes.

This is the kind of contest that promotes itself. It’s listed as one of the weekend events on the city’s website. “A lot of people check that website when they’re coming into town,” Todd says. “We’re usually sold out before Saturday even gets here.” The hunt takes place once on Saturday and once on Sunday. Participants must register in person and make the donation in advance. It’s covered by the local newspaper and TV stations. People can watch the hunt from their balconies.

The event initially had to be approved by the mayor and city council.

After five years, though, it was considered established and only an annual permit renewal is required. Local sponsors sell refreshments along the boardwalk. “People have fun doing it and a one out of two chance of winning, all to benefit a charity that is close to everyone’s heart,” Todd says. “Being in business means giving back to the community.”

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