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How Useful Are Trade Shows? Our Brain Squad Sounds Off (And Provides Suggestions)

Most think there are too many shows these days.

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I am a self-proclaimed show hog. I love shows. Peers are there, information on trends and always a good buy is to be had. Seeing new designs and listening to what others are experiencing in their stores. Seminars will also inspire you to take what you learned back to your store. Energizes you and you can share that energy with your staff. — Amber Gustafson, Amber’s Designs Fine Jewelry, Katy, TX

  • The speakers at JCK have really gone downhill. The educational events aren’t what they used to be at all. No Porte, Decker, Huisken, Geller, etc. Just little techy people that mean nothing. — Steve Hawkins, Sanchez Hawkins Fine Jewelers, Lake Havasu City, AZ
  • It seems that you no longer have to be a member of the trade to attend some shows. I find that very frustrating. So when I attend shows, it is for networking and workshops more than purchasing. I will quickly check out the vendors, but usually don’t place any orders while I’m there. — Doreen Vashlishan, Werkheiser Jewelers, Bethlehem, PA
  • I read your magazine, that’s my trade show. I work six and half days a week. — Barry Fixler, Barry’s Estate Jewelry, Bardonia, NY
  • Build shows around the “must-see” brands that are too complex and sizable for a sales manager to bring to a store. Or, big brands can band together and fly clients to them. — Steven B. Goldfarb, Alvin Goldfarb Jeweler, Bellevue, WA
  • It’s not about inventory anymore; we can see that online anytime. It’s about connections and education. Shift the focus of the shows to that. — Robert Mullen, Mullen Bros. Jewelers, Swanswa, MA
  • Trade shows are too expensive not only for vendors, but to attend. Vegas/vacation is the “dope” show for the larger stores. Smaller “group buying shows” are better for smaller stores. — Larry W. Hall, Baker & Baker Jewelers, Marietta, OH
  • Somewhat useful in regards to new merchandise … always beneficial when using the time to re-focus! — Thomas Piotrowski, Delta Diamond Setters & Jewelers, Plymouth, MI
  • The shows (if they are to survive) need more event status. Where is the value? What is the compelling reason to be at your show as a seller or a buyer? Does your show provide a good answer to the question what’s NEW? Or what’s HOT? — Alan Lindsay, Henry’s, Cape May, NJ
  • Shows are useful but expensive and overwhelming. Please treat us well, spoil us a little. And have a show in an interesting place; we don’t like Vegas! — Meg Rankin, J. Rankin Jewellers, Edmonds, WA
  • I attend the JCK Vegas show to see new designers and styles as well as our vendors. It is necessary to attend shows since many vendors do not support salesmen on the road. The “road” is just too dangerous today! — Laura Sipe, JC Sipe, Indianapolis, IN
  • Many years ago, I would attend four trade shows per year. Today, I only attend one per year. There are too many trade shows. If the number of retailers and wholesalers are declining, shouldn’t trade shows? In my opinion, the fewer the trade shows, the better. — Tommy Navarra, Navarra’s, Lake Charles, LA
  • I love trade shows. It gives us a chance to see what new things our suppliers are doing as well as there are usually plenty of educational opportunities. What I find the most valuable with trade shows are the limitless opportunities to network with other jewelers and learn what they are doing to improve their businesses. — Eric Stevens, Stevens Diamond Jewelers, West Springfield, MA
  • There are too many shows. Maybe there are too many jewelry manufacturers, LOL! I’m always amazed at how much all the jewelry looks alike in Vegas. Anyway, 36 years ago when I entered this business, it felt like the shows were “a service to” and “of service to” the retail trade. Now it just feels like show owners are trying to make money off of their exhibitors by running more shows, charging more for booths, etc. and the exhibitors feel compelled to participate. Advice? Ugh. — Valerie Naifeh, Naifeh Fine Jewelry, Oklahoma City, OK
  • Make the shows reasonable to attend. Four dollars for a bottle of water, pay to park at the show and crazy onsite food costs are part of the poor experience. I now attend smaller IJO shows and get more done. In addition, the exhibitors are so stressed that they forget that at the B2B level, it is still about relationships. — David Blitt, Troy Shoppe Jewellers, Calgary, AB
  • Very useful! Could not be in business without them. Besides talking to my vendors and seeing what’s new, I also check out the machines, the new materials, head to the educational sessions, see my friends, and talk to people who have more experience than me in how to try new things and what I should be doing differently. Since I am not on either coast, the shows are my way to stay up on anything and everything in the jewelry business and I would be stagnant without them. — Susan Eisen, Susan Eisen Fine Jewelry & Watches, El Paso, TX
  • Trade shows are great to find new product and make new contacts. The problem with decreased attendance may have more to do with there being so many available now. — Ben Brantley, Ben Brantley & Co., Shelbyville, TN
  • While I believe in trade shows, it is getting more and more costly to both display and attend. Also, not sure if this has anything to do with it, but, I think these shows are too big. As a result, they can be overwhelming. — Joseph Villarreal, Villarreal Fine Jewelers, Austin, TX

What’s the Brain Squad?

If you’re the owner or top manager of a U.S. jewelry store, you’re invited to join the INSTORE Brain Squad. By taking one five-minute quiz a month, you can get a free t-shirt, be featured prominently in this magazine, and make your voice heard on key issues affecting the jewelry industry. Good deal, right? Sign up here.

Over the years, INSTORE has won 80 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INSTORE's editors at editor@instoremag.com.

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Buzz Session

The Thing About Trunk Shows That Nobody Ever Told You

Our Brain Squad weighs in on what they wish they had known.

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  • You will be surprised at what people will buy … — Roger Pauling, Lapidary Arts Custom Jewelry, Plano, TX
  • Sometimes having the sales rep in the store can hurt. Especially when they are not familiar with your business style and clients. I once had a client who was not clicking with the sales rep that was assisting ask my salesperson, “Am I dealing with you or him?” Reps need to be told the barriers in your store. They can be too pushy and turn retail clients off, especially if they do not have a retail background. Now, I make sure a sales rep is the right fit for our culture before they can work with my clients. — Eric Stevens, Stevens Diamond Jewelers, West Springfield, MA
  • Like everything else in life, you get out of them what you put into them. A strong, coordinated team effort will yield positive results. If the effort is not there, the success will not be there either. Additionally, you can’t always count on the designer’s attendance to make a difference. It is you, the inviting salesperson, that they are truly coming to see. — Jon Walp, Long Jewelers, Virginia Beach, VA
  • I have found that many companies’ salespeople are far less driven than me. I have had 76 trunk shows in 31 years and have found a select few that always show up, stay the entire day and help rather than demand concessions. — Corrie Brown, Parkhill Jewelry, Ephrata, PA
  • That you are wise to get groups involved because people are more likely to show when they know others are going. — Cathy Miller, Caleesi Designs Jewelers, Austin, TX
  • Sometimes the vendor will send us their crap unless we specify. — Meg Rankin, J. Rankin Jewellers, Edmonds, WA
  • Don’t let the husbands have too many cocktails, otherwise a 10-carat yellow diamond tennis bracelet can wind up in said cocktail. LOL. — Mary Jo Chanski, Hannoush Jewelers, Rutland, VT
  • That if the designer is not a great salesperson, it really becomes a painful experience. We do better with brands that send us a trunk for an event than having a wishy-washy presence on our sales floor. There are certain designer brands who send a rep and that almost never works. We plan events, not just “trunk shows,” because our clientele does not appreciate being hard-sold. — Andrea Riso, Talisman Collection, El Dorado Hills, CA
  • Unless you advertise it months in advance, no one shows up. — Chris Wattsson, Wattsson & Wattsson Jewelers, Marquette, MI
  • They are a lot of work and the payoff is good, but it often comes after the actual trunk show in the form of increased business for the brand. — Dorothy Vodicka, The Gem Collection, Tallahassee, FL
  • How complicated they can get. — Allan Uyesugi, AA Jewel Box, Tustin, CA
  • Find something new and different. Exciting. Invite only a few exclusive clients. Make it special. We used our conference room, served a light lunch, mimosas, etc. Do not do the same show over and over again year after year. It’s boring for the staff and the customers. — Georgena Kincaid, Gold Casters Fine Jewelry, Bloomington, IN
  • Lots of pre-marketing and calling clients … very time-consuming. — Michael Freed, Palmer’s Jewelry, Kokomo, IN
  • The vendor is very disappointed if you do not sell a lot of items. Customers are not as interested as you would like. But we still do them. — Linda Brown, Heritage Jewelers, Shelbyville, TN
  • I love trunk shows if you are partnered with the right vendor. They have to do their part to promote their product, too. If you and the vendor work together to promote the show, it will be a success. — Annette Evans, RD Allen Freeport Jewelers, Freeport, ME
  • The most effective way to get customers there is the old-fashioned telephone invitation, not just advertising. — Georgie Gleim, Gleim The Jeweler, Palo Alto, CA
  • Don’t let the designer or the company tell you how to run your show or display your merchandise. You know your clientele and your layout. Help them fit into your mix. Advertise, then call, then email and let your customers know what you’re doing for their benefit! — Denise Oros, Linnea Jewelers, La Grange, IL
  • You gain a ton of new customers! Trunk shows attract people that have never considered your store. Also, the new customers tend to become your most loyal customers. — Erica Lorenz, Michael & Sons, Reno, NV
  • I stopped doing them a long time ago as the salesmen were not knowledgeable, were unprepared, and often brought product they wanted to get rid of and not what our clientele was looking for. Nobody told me to prepare for those contingencies. — David Blitt, Troy Shoppe Jewellers, Calgary, AB

What’s the Brain Squad?

If you’re the owner or top manager of a U.S. jewelry store, you’re invited to join the INSTORE Brain Squad. By taking one five-minute quiz a month, you can get a free t-shirt, be featured prominently in this magazine, and make your voice heard on key issues affecting the jewelry industry. Good deal, right? Sign up here.

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Buzz Session

Here’s What Retailers Are Doing to Drive More Traffic This Holiday Season

Our Brain Squad shares their plans for fourth quarter.

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THIS MONTH’S QUESTION: Do you have anything on tap to help spur holiday sales this year?
  • We have seen that social media is branding, but our traditional marketing stays true through all the years. — Kenny Gordon, Kenny G & Company Fine Jewelers, Citrus Heights, CA
  • Trying to add less expensive lines for add-ons. They also make conversation easier so we can connect to the customer. — Christine Matlack, E.G. Landis Jewelers, Boyertown, PA
  • Yes — a couple of new lines as well as a series of in-store events in October and November. We should also have our new and much-improved website up and running by November 1st! — Jane Johnson, RM Johnson & Sons, Salem, VA
  • Lab-grown diamonds. We are going to hit the social media market hard with that. — Michael Kanoff, Michael’s Jewelers, Yardley, PA
  • We are really embracing internally flawless solitaires. Giving the customer the best because they deserve the BEST. — Brenda Hefner, Oz’s Jewelers, Hickory, NC
  • Email ads to existing customers are working well. — Varsenne Massoyan, Massoyan Jewelers, Old Tappan, NJ
  • We are thinking about doing a silicone men’s band giveaway (with our logo on them) with an engagement ring purchase. It will include a coupon to take a percentage off a wedding band(s) if they come back and shop with us again. — Jen Hollywood, J Hollywood Designs, Chester Springs, PA
  • We are expanding from 1,200 square-feet into 4,000 with a luxurious remodel. We are adding three new designers to our showcases, hosting a huge celebration event, and increasing our sales floor technology to make our entire team mobile with our clients. — Jennifer Farnes, Revolution Jewelry Works, Colorado Springs, CO
  • We are opening a new location in a new market 45 minutes down the road! — Nicole Shannon, Keir Fine Jewelry, Whistler, BC
  • Doing a big five-digit restock with one company to refresh most of my case inventory in gold and some silver. — Craig C. Curtis, Belfast Jewelry, Belfast, ME
  • I’m working on bundling/stacking options to attract more multiple-item sales. — Janne Etz, Contemporary Concepts, Cocoa, FL
  • We host an annual Christmas event for our entire shopping center that is free to the public. This always spurs on locals to shop with us when they experience the live music, yummy treats and their kids get to meet Santa. We also have over $20,000 of giveaways, so the turnout is always large. This brings about customer loyalty in a way that is inspiring. — Morgan Bartel, Susann’s Custom Jewelers, Corpus Christi, TX
  • Our gemstone roundtables are always great events in the spring and the fall. This year we are adding one in December. — Dianna Rae High, Dianna Rae Jewelry, Lafayette, LA
  • We do, but if I told you, I’d have to kill you. — Jon Walp, Long Jewelers, Virginia Beach, VA
  • We will do a catalog again this year, continue billboard promotions, and we are adding two new lines for Christmas — one in an entry level and one in a fine jewelry level. — Allison Leitzel-Williams, Leitzel’s Jewelry, Myerstown, PA
  • We’re planning to invite our local high school to do an online auction/phone-a-thon with us to raise funds for their choral group’s trip to Carnegie Hall. — Jill Keith, Enchanted Jewelry, Danielson, CT
  • This year we will do fewer “events.” We found ourselves exhausted and burnt out ten days before Christmas. — Steven B. Goldfarb, Alvin Goldfarb Jeweler, Bellevue, WA
  • We will do our Black Friday Flash Sale and send out $250 coupons to our top 100, our newly engaged/married couples and to our Linnea Custom customers. That always brings them in. — Denise Oros, Linnea Jewelers, La Grange, IL
  • We are moving our location later this fall. Moving from an older part of town to a booming part of town. New look, new store, same values. Moving just in time for the holiday season! — Christine Osborne, Christopher’s Fine Jewelry And Rare Coins, Des Moines, IA
  • Really trying to focus our social media. Targeting and fencing. This is so difficult for me to judge effectiveness. — Gene Poole, Hudson-Poole Jewelers, Tuscaloosa, AL
  • We’re doing a custom mailer featuring Gemsone product with custom, bridal and lab-grown pages added in. Featuring a digital version of the mailer as well on our site. — Robert Mullen, Mullen Bros. Jewelers, Swanswa, MA
  • I think I’m going to try a guys’ night and do it off-site. I’m going to do it on a Thursday night so there will be football, I’ll offer nice cocktails, light bites, bring in some of my watch reps and pair up with a custom clothier. Who knows if it will work, but worth a shot. — Marc Majors, Sam L. Majors, Midland, TX
  • Using Jewelex’s Gift-with-Purchase campaign in early November … should hit well before big box and a great way to gauge enthusiam/interest. Hoping for great results … this is completely new to us. Will follow up with Jewelex’s digitial marketing campaign. It was a success last year and easy to use … thanks to Jewelex and Collected Concepts. — Erika Godfrey, Hawthorne Jewelry, Kearney, NE
  • We’ll run more social media promotions and specials this year based on price point. — Beth Cevasco, Scott’s Custom Jewelers, Fairlawn, OH

What’s the Brain Squad?

If you’re the owner or top manager of a U.S. jewelry store, you’re invited to join the INSTORE Brain Squad. By taking one five-minute quiz a month, you can get a free t-shirt, be featured prominently in this magazine, and make your voice heard on key issues affecting the jewelry industry. Good deal, right? Sign up here.

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Buzz Session

Are Well-Researched Customers a Hindrance or an Opportunity? The Brain Squad Sounds Off

Depending on the information, it can be a bit of both.

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  • I welcome my customers to educate themselves! I want them to research, shop other stores, see who they feel gives them the best information, the best customer service and best price. Also, what comes with the purchase? We are a full service jeweler and we do repairs, sizing, etc. Other stores send everything out. People like the idea that we are full service to them and that we don’t charge you for a warranty. — Mary Jo Chanski, Hannoush Jewelers, Rutland, VT
  • We have a higher closing rate on the shoppers that have done the research and have shopped around already. It works out as a better opportunity to close the sale. — Frank Salinardi, Linardi’s Jewelers, Plantation, FL
  • Huge help. It used to take 9-10 hours over a six-week period to sell an engagement ring. I can do it in 20 minutes now. I rarely get to give my 10-minute “4 Cs” spiel. — Steven B. Goldfarb, Alvin Goldfarb Jeweler, Bellevue, WA
  • I think it is great. It gives us a good idea of what is popular in the market. — Amanda Lanteigne, Gold-n-Memories, Steinbach, MB
  • Depends. If they are a “know it all” customer, it’s definitely a hindrance. — Alison Sophy, Sophy Jewelers, St. Clair, PA
  • Opportunity to close. When a customer knows what they want, at that point, it is easy to show them how you can meet their needs. — Joel Wiland, J. David’s Jewelry, Broken Arrow, OK
  • I believe that this is both. Hindrance when they have flawed info — not understanding the colors especially. An opportunity to show them in person what they think they have been looking at online. Again, using color as a reference and that some stones may have a body color but face up look better or worse than a stone of same color. — Shari Lewis, Cravens & Lewis Jewelers, Georgetown, KY
  • You have the task of either having the easiest sale or the impossible sale because they are totally confused and truly need help, or they know it all and you are just there to satisfy their decision. The buyer who comes in with all the facts are the greatest danger to themselves because they have set themselves up to be targets of the best storytellers/sellers and seldom are capable of knowing what is the best option for their purchase. — Ed Menk, E.L. Menk Jewelers, Brainerd, MN
  • Love when they think they know… we can play on it for exact design concepts that they already have decided they love and show similar instead of contrasting and then re-educate as needed. But it helps us skip over the confusion of blasting too many ideas at once. — Erika Godfrey, Hawthorne Jewelry, Kearney, NE
  • It can be an opportunity. It is a hindrance, however, if they have a photo of some offshore disposable jewelry piece of poo that they want to know if you can custom-build one for them just like it for less money. They you have to explain that it is illegal to copy a design, and number two, to make one piece is going to be way more expensive than something that has been made in quantities of thousands. — Murphy McMahon, Murphy McMahon & Co., Kalispell, MT
  • It is definitely an opportunity to showcase the benefits of shopping in a “Mom and Pop” store and to remind them that trust is key when making one of the most important decisions you will ever make. — Andrew Russakoff, Russakoff Jewelers, Skowhegan, ME
  • It makes our job much easier when a customer walks in with his phone and says, “This is the ring my fiancée wants.” Nine out of 10 times, we will have the ring to show him, and from there we can move on to showing him loose diamonds. We will then ask a customer if they have done any research about diamonds. If they say yes, we will then go into order of importance of the 4 Cs. The more they know, the better. Sometimes if they come in cold, they will have to think and do research. — Michael’s Jewelers, Yardley, PA
  • Opportunity. Most people now know that everything you read online is not totally true. We have enough examples now of online purchases that were not what they were advertised to be that we can throw some doubt into the minds of the potential online purchaser. If they come into your store, they are obviously not completely sold on the Internet anyway. We embrace it and close a lot of those sales. — Rick Sanders, Sanders Jewelers, Gainesville, FL
  • I have found both sides of the coin. The problem isn’t one of having the research, it is more of getting misinformation and just bad information. That is where it seems the Internet is the source of truth and brick-and-mortar stores are just liars. Just this week, I had to explain to a young guy why the information he received on moissanite was wrong when he was told to look for excellent cut. — David Blitt, Troy Shoppe Jewellers, Calgary, AB
  • The information they know is fine, and sometimes makes the presentations easier. It’s the margins that kill us! — Debbie Fox, Fox Fine Jewelry, Ventura, CA
  • I love it! Informed clients make my job easier! Once I know they are shopping around to other stores, I know exactly what tools to arm them with and educate them. I teach them things like how to use a loupe (if the sales associate at other stores use a loupe wrong, then my client totally knows they don’t know what they are doing). I show them the difference with the loupe of a VS-I1 stone. I take them in all different lights in the store; we even talk about Internet pricing. I believe buying a diamond is just like buying a truck: everyone has that same truck in similar prices, so why not pick the dealership you like and trust? — Stephenie Bjorkman, Sami Fine Jewelry, Fountain Hills, AZ
  • Hindrance. The more research they’ve done, the more difficult to close the sale. They are shopping around, pitting local jewelers against each other. — Jill Hornik, Jae’s Jewelers, Coral Gables, FL
  • It is both. A good deal of the time, the “information” gathered is mostly true or even mostly false. I try to be gentle when correcting misinformation gained online. There have been a couple of instances where I have bowed out of a potential sale because of the “expertise” gained online, but that is the exception. The Internet provides a lot of inspiration for design ideas, which I welcome. When a guy comes in with his phone set to her Pinterest page, it makes finding the right ring pretty dang easy. — Cliff Yankovich, Chimera Design, Lowell, MI

What’s the Brain Squad?

If you’re the owner or top manager of a U.S. jewelry store, you’re invited to join the INSTORE Brain Squad. By taking one five-minute quiz a month, you can get a free t-shirt, be featured prominently in this magazine, and make your voice heard on key issues affecting the jewelry industry. Good deal, right? Sign up here.

Continue Reading

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