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Should You Be Edgy With Your Advertising … or Play It Safe?

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Lessons from a controversial billboard.

Eva-Michelle Spicer of Spicer Greene Jewelers in Asheville, NC, wasn’t trying to cause a stir when she put up her now-famous billboard featuring the words “Sometimes, it’s OK to throw rocks at girls” surrounded by gems.

“It never even crossed my mind,” she told INSTORE this week. “I don’t think like that. I don’t look for things to be offended by.”

But some found Spicer Greene’s ad offensive, saying it made light of violence against women. The store ended up apologizing on Facebook, and last week it changed out the billboard. The new one says “Asheville Rocks!” with a diamond serving as the “o.” Spicer said it’s a “thank you” to local supporters.

The controversy raises an important question for jewelers: Is the attention that an edgy advertisement might bring worth the potential backlash?

We asked several owners and managers of stores that have been honored in our America’s Coolest Stores program — and their opinions were across the board.

Kathi Main of Kevin Main Jewelry in San Luis Obispo, CA, clearly believes that you can’t live in fear of offending people.

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“I think it’s awesome, clever and NOT safe!” Main said of the Spicer Greene billboard. “Hopefully, people will chuckle and they’ll remember your business name and that you have a sense of humor!”

Britten Wolf of BVW Jewelers in Reno, NV, agreed and might even try the same message.

“Sad that people don’t see the play on words and feel a business would publicly promote violence when trying to get their business,” he said. “Will be putting this on my board in front of my store just to see if responses are the same here in the West.”

Laura Kitsos of Gem Jewelry Boutique, Oak Park, IL, noted that Spicer Greene has been updating its atmosphere and products to appeal to younger generations.

“The billboard shows they have humor and an innovative approach to rebranding themselves,” she said. “Perhaps the people they offend are those they no longer really want to serve anyway? I’m sure that wasn’t their intention but sometimes the most controversial marketing is the most succcesful.”

Debbie Fox of Fox Fine Jewelry in Ventura, CA, said it’s important to tailor your approach to your business.

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“Controversial marketing can effectively draw immense attention,” Fox said. “If your digital presence is robust, then you can benefit, but it’s a short lived burst that can hurt your local image. The decision depends on your marketing strategy. We depend upon our local market and reputation, but I tip my hat to them!”

And Jennifer Farnes of Revolution Jewelry Works in Colorado Springs, CO, doesn’t feel it’s helpful to go too far out on a limb.  

“It’s important to be memorable but purposeful,” she said. “Edgy may get a chuckle or tick people off, but that doesn’t really give people a reason to walk through your doors.”

Spicer said she plans to have fun with future advertisements but won’t use this particular one again.

Still, the controversy doesn’t seem to have hurt her business. Sales are up 28 percent this month.

In many cases, the people who complained already had negative feelings for the jewelry industry, she said.

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“They’re not our customer,” she said. “I’m not going to tailor my advertising to people who don’t like jewelry anyway.”INSTORE Spicer 878

This article is an online extra for INSTORE Online.

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135 US Jewelry Retailers Closed in the Second Quarter

The pace of closures has slowed recently.

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The Jewelers Board of Trade reported that 135 U.S. jewelry retailers closed their doors in the second quarter of 2019.

That number represented a decrease from 195 closings in the second quarter of 2018.

The total included 105 retailers in the category of “ceased operations” as well as 24 “consolidations (sale/merger)” and six bankruptcies.

The total number of U.S. jewelry businesses that closed, including retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers, was 185. That was a decrease from 234 in the second quarter of 2018.

Meanwhile, JBT reported that 56 new retailers opened their doors in the U.S., down from 63 in the second quarter of 2018.

The total number of new jewelry businesses, including retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers, was 68. That was down from 71 new businesses in the year-ago quarter.

JBT listed a total of 18,893 jewelry retailers in the U.S. as of the second quarter of 2019, down from 19,357 in the same quarter a year ago.

The group listed 24,966 jewelry businesses in all, including retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers. That was down from 25,607 in the second quarter of 2018.

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Jewelry Industry Writer Dies at Age 63

Robyn Hawk suffered a stroke.

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Robyn Hawk, a writer and social media specialist focused on the jewelry industry, has died at age 63.

She passed away on July 16 from a stroke, according to a post made on her Facebook page by relatives.

“Robyn fell hard in love with the gemstone and jewelry world – and with all of you,” wrote her mother, Maureen, and younger sister, Dawn.

“She was always excited to learn more and then to share and promote this world on her many blogs. Robyn was truly wowed by all the creative people she met, those in mining, gemstone cutters, jewelers, collectors and more. She was a social media guru and a wonderful writer, and her enthusiasm was infectious.”

Working under the moniker “A Fly on the Wall,” the Fullerton, CA, resident was a social content curator, serial blogger and website copy writer.

Her blogs included the Daily Jewel, Celebrity Jewel, Editorial Jewel and Historic Gems & Jewels.

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Jeweler, Coin Dealer Charged With Precious-Metal Violations

They allegedly failed to meet reporting requirements.

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YORK, PA – A jeweler and a coin dealer have been accused in Pennsylvania with violating reporting requirements for precious-metal sales.

The York County district attorney filed charges against James Zimmerman of Zimmerman Jewelers and Dennis Steinmetz of Steinmetz Coins and Currency.

A Pennsylvania statute mandates, “A copy of every record of transaction shall be delivered or mailed to the district attorney of the county in which a purchase of precious metals is made by the close of the next working day after the day on which the metal is purchased.”

Both owners were contacted on Jan. 15 advising them that they were to return to compliance, according to a press release from the district attorney’s office. From Feb. 1 to present, Zimmerman Jewelers has had a 37% compliance rate, and Steinmetz Coins and Currency had a compliance rate of 17%, according to the release.

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The York County District Attorney’s Office stated that it “has invested significant time and money in an effort to make submissions easier on precious metals dealers by creating a web-based reporting system.” Over the past two years, the program has grown to include Lebanon County and is in the process of expanding to Cumberland County. There are currently over 50 precious metal dealers using the website, who maintain an average 94% compliance rate.

District Attorney Dave Sunday said, “It is the legal obligation of every precious metal dealer in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to provide this information to their jurisdiction’s District Attorney. Data from this website has proven to be an invaluable tool, aiding municipal law enforcement officers in solving drug and property crimes, and helping to reunite stolen items with their rightful owners.”

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