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Here’s How One Store Owner Turned Lemons to Lemonade When Divorce Threatened to Wreck Her Business

Being honest about reason for liquidation leads to continued success.

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In 2015, Babs Noelle of Alara Jewelry in Bozeman, MT, advertised her clearance event as a divorce liquidation sale, which, in truth, it was. She had decided to liquidate her assets to reach a divorce settlement. Exterior signage included three big yellow banners that announced: “Public Notice Divorce. Everything Goes. Up to 70 Percent Off!”

“In the 11th hour, literally two months before our agreement was to see its final financial conclusion, my future ex threw a curve ball and said, ‘Buy me out of the business.’ I had no choice but to settle on a number,” recalls Noelle. The business itself was now the asset hanging in the balance, and she realized that the only way she could keep the asset would be if she could use it as a cash machine to “pay him off and get him out,” she says.

The next question was how to frame the sale for the public. “I asked, ‘Couldn’t it be called a divorce sale?’” says Noelle. “It was honest. It was simple. People know what a divorce is, and many know what kind of financial havoc it can wreak.”

When her consultant, Marsden Brothers, agreed, Noelle asked that all ads (half-page newspaper ads, TV ads, radio ads, bathroom ads, plus ads in all the media she was already contractually obligated to run) have a sense of humor, just as all of her advertising does. Catchphrases included “help me wash that man right outta my hair!” and “we’re liquidating the assets and splitting the sheets!” She also sent out a mailer to clients explaining the situation.

One of Noelle’s greatest concerns was figuring out where to find enough warm bodies to work the sale. “I sent an email to all of our frequent customers, telling them about our additional labor needs. In no time, we had more volunteers than we could use!”

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Honesty Becomes Best Policy

Noelle found that her honesty forged deeper relationships with clients as she planned to start over with her business. “The support was incredibly meaningful,” she says. “Five different women brought gifts of shampoo!”

After three weeks, she hit her goal to buy her husband out of the business, but she continued the sale four more weeks, restocking in the process. Also important was ensuring there were additional funds to pay for post-sale advertising. “Even though all the ads and signage said ‘Divorce Liquidation,’ people swore up and down that we had held a ‘going out of business’ sale,” Noelle says.

She took every network opportunity to get out the message that Alara was newer, better, and just a happier place to work and shop. She  set aside money for training, rebranding and a mini-remodel. The sale brought the team together more tightly, she says, which was probably the best benefit of all. Post-sale business was so good, Noelle took her entire team to Mexico for nine days.

“Most people thought the concept was brilliant marketing, when it was just simple honesty. What’s better than an honest jeweler?”

Make It Your Own

If you’re having a sale, do whatever you can to make it fit your style, your brand and your business ethos.


PHOTO GALLERY ( 12 IMAGES)

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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Orin Mazzoni, Jr., the owner of Orin Jewelers in Garden City and Northville, Michigan, decided it was time to downsize. With two locations and an eye on the future, Mazzoni asked Wilkerson to take the lead on closing the Garden City store. Mazzoni met Wilkerson’s Rick Hayes some years back, he says, and once he made up his mind to consolidate, he and Hayes “set up a timeline” for the sale. Despite the pandemic, Mazzoni says the everything went smoothly. “Many days, we had lines of people waiting to get in,” he says, adding that Wilkerson’s professionalism made it all worthwhile. “Whenever you do an event like this, you think, ‘I’ve been doing this my whole life. Do I really need to pay someone to do it for me?’ But then I realized, these guys are the pros and we need to move forward with them.”

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