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Best of the Best: Extreme Makeovers

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Companies who are doing things right: Calhoun Jewelers

[h3]Calhoun Jewelers; Royerford, PA[/h3]Best of the Best Logo[dropcap cap=R]eality TV is everywhere. Now it’s even reached Royersford, PA, where a reality TV-themed event has quickly become the biggest attraction, and the most lucrative promotion in the history of Cathy Calhoun’s store, Calhoun Jewelers.[/dropcap]

[componentheading]THE IDEA[/componentheading]

Calhoun’s “Ladies’ Night” is the ideal promotion. Little planning, minimal costs, and big returns. Direct mailers are produced six weeks before the event and mailed two weeks before the big night. Her insurance is bumped up a notch to cover the extra inventory, two “plain clothes” security people are hired to cover the event and finger foods and wine are laid out on a self-service table.  

With big sales numbers rung up at each event, a significant increase in her customer base, and widespread word-of-mouth from mostly professional women, Calhoun has a winning concept she doesn’t intend to tamper with. Well, with the possible exception of starting to hold more such events.

Best of the Best: Extreme Makeovers

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[componentheading]THE EXECUTION[/componentheading]

To keep crowds to a manageable level, Ladies’ Nights are never advertised to the public. News of the event gets out through word-of-mouth alone. “We have some ladies who never miss an event,” Calhoun says. “They always bring friends and they all talk about it in the weeks before the event and long after it.”

Calhoun Jewelers’ first Ladies’ Night was in 2002. The idea came from the Diamond Promotion Service (DPS), who wanted to promote such an event with a retailer. “My DPS rep shared his idea and then got the whole thing going with the DPS,” says Calhoun. “The DPS paid for the direct mailing and postal costs for the first event. Since then I’ve been doing it on my own.”

Ladies’ Nights at Calhoun Jewelers is an evening in which female customers can indulge themselves in beauty and fashion, not to mention a few glasses of wine. Calhoun invites her top 1,000 women self-purchase customers to her store for an “extreme makeover” and a professional portrait. Two make-up artists and two hair stylists are hired for the event plus a professional photographer.  

“The main event for ladies is the makeover and portrait, but the real fun for them is picking out any jewelry they want to wear [for the picture], along with whatever clothes and accessories we have available for the Glamour Shot, like a fur,” says Calhoun. “We have the digital image shot, printed and a 5″ x 7″ picture framed by the time they leave the store.” 

Not surprisingly, Ladies’ Night visitors tend to make a beeline for the diamonds — the bigger, the better. “At these events they typically go for the larger, more expensive diamond suites,” Calhoun says. “We carry a lot of estate jewelry, so they have tried on large cocktail rings and things, but no jewelry display case in the store is ever missed during these events.”

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Attendees show up around 3 pm to 4 pm and wait their turn for a makeover and portrait. “A lot of the time, ladies will get their makeover done and picture taken then wait around to see how other ladies turn out. Some will stay here well in to the evening, perhaps 10:00 or 11:00 at night,” Calhoun says. “There’s a lot of camaraderie in picking out and suggesting jewelry. Many friendships have been formed as well as many new customers at these events.”

Calhoun sends invitations to a substantial portion of her female self-purchase customers for the event. Invitees are allowed to bring friends, but anyone who shows up alone and without an invitation will be turned away.  

Calhoun can afford to be picky. The extreme popularity of the event is possibly its only negative factor. In the future, Calhoun is considering cutting down of the number of invitations sent. “Perhaps 750 would be better,” says the jeweler. “There are simply too many women to serve. I doubt it will mean a drop in sales as [a smaller crowd] lets us tend to a smaller number of customers more attentively.”

Best of the Best: Extreme Makeovers

At the events, many women make self-purchases of $1,200 or less. Of the four Ladies’ Nights, sales directly attributed to the actual event have averaged around $100,000, according to Calhoun. These numbers are boosted by Calhoun’s savvy use of “Hint, Hint” cards during the event.

While customers are waiting for their makeovers, Calhoun makes sure that the store’s special pink “Hint, Hint” cards are filled out. “When guys come in with those little pink ‘Hint, Hint’ cards we know it’s a sale we can link to the Ladies’ Night events,” Calhoun says. “We always double-check the wish list item against our computer records from that Ladies’ Night.”

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Calhoun emphasizes more than just the sales that’s going on at these events. When selecting jewelry for their Glamour Shot, women gravitate towards dream pieces. “At first they’re a little shy about handling a $100,000 diamond suite, but they quickly become more confident,” Calhoun says. “They try on jewelry, handle expensive pieces, ask questions and learn more about jewelry. Suddenly, entering a jewelry store isn’t so intimidating and, if they’ve attended a Ladies’ Night here, they always come in here and have something to talk about.”

[componentheading]THE REWARDS[/componentheading]

Of the four events, Calhoun has many photos, but only two pictures are hanging on a wall in her large 5,000 square-foot store. One picture features the first person to undergo an extreme makeover at Calhoun’s inaugural Ladies’ Night event, a 60-year-old woman Calhoun met while getting a manicure at a local salon. “She was a little old lady who had never worn makeup ever in her life — not even lipstick, ever,” Calhoun says. “At the event, she got her makeover and hair styled. And she still wears her hair the way it was styled that night. [That night], she fell in love with a baguette diamond and platinum bracelet. The next morning, her husband was waiting in the parking lot before the store opened to buy her that $30,000 bracelet.”

That same old woman and her husband were never much into jewelry. “Now, they’re one of my top five customers,” Calhoun says. “She was in recently to buy one-carat diamond stud earrings to go with that bracelet.”

Other memorable Ladies’ Night visitors for Calhoun were a mother and daughter who attended one event. At the event, which was scheduled in the weeks before prom, the daughter changed into her formal dress and let the makeup artist and hair stylist go to work. “The mother was really impressed with the total makeover, and the event itself, and ended up buying a $3,500 white gold sapphire and diamond necklace for her daughter’s birthday, which she wore to the prom a few weeks later.”

Scheduling events is straightforward for Calhoun who will stick to the late-September, “after back to school” time slot she chose for the inaugural event. She’s also considering adding another Mother’s Day spring event and a Valentine’s Day Ladies’ Night for winter. To help build excitement for the events, Calhoun is also considering in-store signage such as a countdown calendar.  

And she’s even tinkering with the idea of doing something for the guys. “Perhaps I could get guys in the store to have a professional portrait taken with a Playboy bunny,” Calhoun says. “Gold chains, watches, Hugh Hefner-like silk robes and all.”

[span class=note]This story is from the May 2005 edition of INSTORE[/span]

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