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Eileen McClelland

DPA’s E-Learning Platform for Retailers Romances The Diamond

Focus is on origins, rarity and benefits to gem-producing countries.

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“BEHIND THE BRILLIANCE of Diamonds,” the Diamond Producers Association’s new e-learning program, is a hit with retailers and particularly resonates with sales people on the front lines, says Grant Mobley, trade-relations lead for the DPA.

“The more knowledgeable you are about diamonds the more confident you are and the easier it is to sell them,” he says. “It’s igniting more interest and passion for the industry.”

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The idea behind the hour-long training program, split into three 20-minute modules, is that diamond information reaching consumers has become too technical. Research conducted by the DPA has revealed that diamond shoppers just aren’t wowed anymore by sales presentations that are fixated on the 4Cs.

Consumers, Mobley says, are not hearing enough about the romance of the origins of diamonds or how much good the diamond industry is doing in diamond-producing nations, such as Botswana.

“Whether you have been working with diamonds for one day or 20 years, the program relates compelling stories about the history of natural diamonds, easy-to-digest and well-researched facts, and memorable details about the important benefits that the natural diamond industry makes to the world,” he says.

The program was designed to supplement sales professionals’ existing knowledge of diamonds with information that the DPA has learned is most relevant to consumers.

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“We do focus groups with thousands of consumers, and part of that research is finding out what the consumer finds interesting about jewelry and diamonds,” he says. “Consumers find the journey of diamonds fascinating when they hear about it, but a lot of them don’t hear about it. That diamonds are a billion years old, how long it takes a diamond to get to the Earth’s surface, the difficulty in obtaining diamonds. We wanted to share that information and encourage sales people to share that information.”

Mobley says the program is suitable for stores that sell both natural and laboratory-grown diamonds because it provides accurate information about the origins of both.

The education is also designed to help sales staff respond to questions from consumers about past problems in the diamond industry.

“A common misconception is that conflict diamonds are somehow rampant in the industry, which is not true,” Mobley says. “When a consumer is asking questions about things like that, your average sales person behind the counter maybe doesn’t know how to respond. A lot of people don’t realize the good that comes out of the diamond industry and how the diamond industry contributes to the countries in which they operate. We haven’t done a great job in letting consumers know how far the industry has come.”

Future modules will include much more specific information on those topics.

Mobley says the DPA plans to build on its e-learning platform as more research results become available.

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“It is a living thing, for sure,” he says. “We want to be able to add to it as we do new projects. Whenever we can condense research into digestible bits of information, we will be creating new modules for the program.”

Another future module will focus on female self-purchasers, which is currently the topic of the DPA’s third wave of the Real is Rare, Real is a Diamond marketing campaign. It’s called “For Me, From Me.”

Women who buy diamonds for themselves today represent one-third of all diamond jewelry sales in the U.S., a $43 billion diamond market that grew 4 percent in 2017, according to De Beers Group data.

The “For Me, From Me,” marketing campaign will run through fall 2019 across TV, digital and print. As research progresses, the DPA will release a module on that topic and communicate its availability with everyone who participated in the first module.

“It is for sure the most well received campaign we’ve done to date, by consumers as well as the trade,” Mobley says. “Women were so surprised, so pleasantly surprised to see marketing about diamonds that was geared toward them. Part of the reason we created this campaign in the first place was that the industry was already telling us that over the past two years, self-purchase had been so much on the rise. Seven out of 10 retailers reported a rise in self-purchase.

“So we’re getting the increase regardless of the marketing, but the marketing will help take down the barriers that still exist for women who think it is not appropriate to buy diamonds for themselves.”

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The DPA has signed up more than 200 stores to use the related creative materials and TV commercials and to participate in training staff how to sell specifically to women. Available in-store materials include tagged video, print and digital creative, visual-merchandising support and POS materials

The DPA has also partnered with Kate Peterson of Performance Concepts to offer in-store training and webinar-based training on how to sell to the self-purchasing woman. That training will be made available to all of the retailers who sign up as ambassador stores.

“Becoming an ambassador store is totally free, but we want to make it official,” Mobley says. “Not only will the retailer get free training and free assets, but they also will be the first to hear about new campaigns and things that we do in the future. It’s a way for us to keep in touch with stores that are gung-ho about our assets.”

Future modules will likely be shorter and include sub-titles, both suggestions made by retailers who have tested the program.

In addition to the training program being free of charge, there are rewards for retail sales people who complete the program. Points are awarded for each module completed and can be redeemed for up to a $25 gift card at one of several retailers.

“We realize that even an hour out of your day is sometimes difficult,” Mobley says. “That’s why we’re offering this incentive program. It’s a way for us to get people more excited about it, and let them know we’re taking their time into consideration.

Retail sales associates who complete the program will also be entered to win a grand prize for an all- expenses paid trip for two to New York City. Valued at $4,000, the trip will offer exclusive behind-the-scenes access to the New York diamond industry, including a personal tour of a diamond cutting facility. The drawing will take place in the fall.

Visit www.diamondproducers.com/tradeportal to access the e-learning platform.

Eileen McClelland is the Managing Editor of INSTORE. She believes that every jewelry store has the power of cool within them.

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Eileen McClelland

Could ‘Another Piece of Your Story’ Be the Next ‘Got Milk?’

Jewelers of America raises $300,000 to test a consumer-facing marketing campaign for the jewelry industry.

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JEWELERS OF AMERICA has met an initial fund-raising goal of $300,000 with support from industry associates, including INSTORE, to test a jewelry-marketing campaign that organizers hope will become as widely recognized by consumers as the ubiquitous “Got Milk?” campaign.

The announcement was made during the JA National Convention in New York this week by JA’s Amanda Gizzi, director of public relations and special events, and Molly Fallon, director of marketing and communications, along with Mark Smelzer, industry consultant and JCK magazine publisher.

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The goal is to promote the national jewelry industry as a whole and focuses on the potential of the female self-purchase market. Testing will begin on a targeted group of women in Los Angeles in mid-September. The five zip codes in the test market were selected based on their volume of JA member stores as well as the number of women who fit the demographic.

The tagline for the initiative is “Another Piece of Your Story,” developed by ad firm Cramer-Krasselt based on the idea that there’s an emotional connection with jewelry that’s far different from how consumers relate to any other luxury product. So much so that each piece of jewelry a woman chooses to wear becomes another piece of her identity. “No one ever cried when they got their Grandma’s cell phone,” Smelzer says.

The campaign will be tested on 30-something, married-with-children jewelry enthusiasts, who represent 8 percent of the population and have a combined income of over $100,000, as well as on 20-something women, who are single, make less than $100,000 and have been indifferent to jewelry. They represent 11 percent of the population.

Companies that have supported the effort thus far were recognized as being a part of the Pioneer Program. “The purpose of the campaign aligns with INSTORE’s core mission to support independent fine jewelers,” says INSTORE Publisher Matthijs Braakman. “Collaborative initiatives assure that our industry evolves and grows to meet new consumer demands. We encourage all stakeholders to learn more about the campaign and contribute where possible. INSTORE is proud to be a pioneer sponsor.”

Pioneer Sponsors also include independent retailers H. Watson Jewelry Inc. and Krombholz Jewelers as well as Jewelers of America, The Plumb Club, American Gem Society, Ashi Diamonds, Artistry, Ltd., Emerald Expositions, Forevermark, Gemological Institute of America, Gumuchian, Jewelers Mutual Insurance Group, JCK Industry Fund, Midas Chain, Rahaminov Diamonds, Royal Chain Group, Shy Creation, Silver Promotion Service, Synchrony, Chow Tai Fook North America, Hearts on Fire, Memoire, Gabriel New York and Greenland Ruby.

The next step is to work toward creating a large-scale industry campaign for early 2020, for which more funding will be required.

For more information about the initiative, contact agizzi@jewelers.org or mfallon@jewelers.org.

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Eileen McClelland

7 Quick Tips From the Stuller Bridge Conference

It took place July 21-23.

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EVERY YEAR HUNDREDS of Stuller’s retail customers make the trip to Lafayette, LA, to attend one of Stuller’s interactive Bridge conferences. Classes include deep dives into issues such as repair pricing, bridal merchandising, inventory management, and new directions in customization technology.

Attendees pick up tips and tricks from Stuller experts as well as fellow jewelers.

Here are just a few of many I picked up from this week’s session:

WELCOME TO MY STORE. Include a photo of your storefront on your website, along with text-based directions. It makes it easier for shoppers to find your store and eases threshold resistance.

MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR TIME. If you’re taking photos of jewelry for social media, zoom out. That will give you the ability to use one photo across all platforms and crop it to optimize the size and shape for Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram.

BUILD YOUR BRAND VOCABULARY. Begin to craft a brand identity by choosing three words that best describe your company. Imaginative? Resourceful? Purposeful? Adventurous? For example. Involve your staff in that exercise.

GOOGLE YOURSELF. A first impression online is critical. Take control of your content and the ability to interact with reviewers by verifying your Google business listing at Google.com/MyBusiness. Check your name, address and local phone number, URL, store hours and photos. Fill out every single field on this form with as much detail as you can. Verify location with a phone number or postcard verification.

REFRESH YOUR EXPERIENCE. Design intentional experiences that delight your customers. Don’t be afraid to draw on inspiration from other types of businesses. Sephora for example allows customers to interact with products. Saks Fifth Avenue emphasizes the importance of an open feeling and unobstructed, uncluttered sight lines. Starbucks has changed the vocabulary of ordering coffee from small, medium and large to tall, grande and venti! Take a fresh look at your store and rethink the status quo.

ELEVATE THE STANDING OF GROOMS. Bring men’s wedding bands out into the light. Don’t treat them as an afterthought to languish in a drawer or a corner. Men want to be included in the romantic symbolism of commitment.

OFFER ALTERNATIVES. Think stacking is just for fashion? That’s no longer true. The stacking trend has become very popular in bridal, too. Some brides are even opting for a stack of diamond bands instead of a traditional engagement ring.

Bridge is a three-day conference offering business insights, networking opportunities and more held at Stuller’s headquarters in Lafayette, LA. Bridge is free for qualifying customers of Stuller. Upcoming Bridge dates in 2019 are Sept. 22-24 and Oct. 20-22. For more information visit: stuller.com/bridge

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Eileen McClelland

GOB Sale Is This Jeweler’s First Discounting Event in 46 Years

At 74, Buddy Bear says it’s time to retire his long-running, one-man show.

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Buddy Bear

THROUGHOUT 46 YEARS in business, Buddy Bear never had a sale. He just didn’t like the idea of discounting.

But he knew when he decided to retire this year, he’d have to have his very first, a retirement sale that wrapped up June 29 in his Merion, PA, store, Buddy Bear Jewelers.

One practical reason he’s calling it quits now, at age 74, is because the building was being sold and he didn’t want to commit to a long-term lease.

Another reason is that tastes have changed, and he has had a tough time selling his statement designer pieces to millennials.

“Millennials who do come in are not customers who understand me,” he says. “I’m a dinosaur. They don’t want my one of a kind, large pieces.”

Bear’s given name was Harry Bear, which hadn’t gone over well in elementary school. Instead, he began using his nickname, Buddy. He had initially planned to name his store, Harry Alan Jewelers, a combination of his first and middle name because he thought it sounded more sophisticated for a jewelry store. But after his family and friends protested that idea, he relented and stuck with Buddy Bear Jewelers.

Bear, a longtime member of INSTORE’s Brain Squad, specialized in designing what he calls “transformers,” jewelry that can be taken apart and combined with other pieces to create an entirely different piece. Bar pins can come apart to become earrings, jackets, or pendants for pearl necklaces. Bracelets can become rings. He also spent years engineering and perfecting hinges that allowed pendants to lie beautifully on the neck.

“Up until three years ago I did my own manufacturing,” he says. “I cut my teeth on making one-of-a-kind pieces. You have to be creative. I didn’t copy stuff. I made my own models. I didn’t want to be influenced.”

Now millennials tell him they want to design their engagement rings themselves, but what that means, Bear says, is simply a CAD/CAM project. “I didn’t want to have to reinvest and learn that. And the mark-up in diamonds is so darn little now that you make your money on the mounting. All I can do is show them 35 styles of halos from a catalog. But it becomes too much work for so very little money.”

Being a one-man show got old, too, and he had fought some health issues in recent years.

“Had they not sold the building, I was struggling any way and I was killing myself,” he says.

“It used to take me two and a half hours to set up and one and an hour and a half to break down every day. I’d get here at 6:30 or 7 in the morning just to get ready to open at 10. In the last three or four years, I could sit here for a week and only see the mailman.”

Before decided to retire, he had cut back his work days to four.

A low point in his career was the 1999 robbery that wiped out half a million dollars in inventory, including customer repairs. “They caught the guys and I went through the trial he says.

Still, he says, despite the challenges and tribulations, he has loved his long tenure in the business, which he first learned from his father-in-law in Miami. He’s particularly proud of the jewelry industry design awards he piled up throughout the 1990s, including honors from the AGTA’s Spectrum Awards, the American Pearl Design Competition and the Pennsylvania Jewelers Association.

“I got a great deal of satisfaction out of winning awards within the industry,” he says. “It meant that fellow jewelers have respect for me. I’ve made a lot of good friends.” He’d also been a member of the American Gem Society for 22 years and is an alumni of the GIA.

Another highlight was working with customers to design special pieces he knew they would cherish as heirlooms.

“I’ve had people get engaged in the store. I’ve had couples break up in the store. If you’re in the business long enough, you have that happen.”

When it came to the retirement sale, he knew he couldn’t go it alone. He was referred to sale-event expert Chuck Frey of Charles Frey & Company, who came to the store to meet Bear and prepare for the sale. It turned out to be the perfect fit for Bear. “We had a connection from the beginning and it’s the best thing I ever did,” he says. “The supervisor they sent me was like sending me a brother. Joseph White has been in the industry for decades. So charming. So many sales he made I never could have.”

Bear’s best advice for fellow jewelers?

“It doesn’t matter what decision you make,” he says. “The most important thing is to make a decision. Then put all of your energy behind it. Too many people make a decision and then are unable to put the work behind it to make that succeed.”

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