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IJO Still Strong in Antwerp

The group recently wrapped up its Fall Buying Trips.

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(PRESS RELEASE) SOUTHPORT, CT — The Independent Jewelers Organization (IJO) recently wrapped up its Fall Buying Trips after more than 44 years of offering escorted excursions twice yearly for its members, and the program shows no signs of slowing down. According to IJO President and CEO Jeff Roberts, “I remember we started out by booking a week in the spring and another in the fall and now we offer two weeks of trips in April and five in October. Our members have found this to be an invaluable marketing tool.”

About 90 IJO stores – more than 180 people – traveled to the diamond capital of the world in October 2019 alone and 14 stores were first-timers while others were veterans of 18, 38, 42 and even 57 trips. “Because we know our Antwerp marketing program is a tried and true winner, we offer an incentive for first-time attendees of one free land package,” stated Penny Palmer, IJO’s director of member services. “This covers five nights at the Mercure City Centre hotel, transfers from and to Brussels airport, all breakfasts, plus our generous diamond suppliers cover our beverages at 3 dinners. Then after their return all travelers receive a check for an additional $300 to cover various expenses.”

Becky Beck Ryan from Becky Beck’s Jewelry in DeKalb, IL, made her 38th voyage. “When I made the decision to take advantage of this remarkable marketing tool IJO presented, I committed to it completely, going twice a year beginning in the Spring of 2000. IJO’s mantra was, ‘If you go to Antwerp twice a year, in the minds of your customers, you’ll always be going to Antwerp’. This is what I’ve done and I think going twice a year is key to this program. Some will argue pricing advantage and I say ‘Bah’ – I establish a comfortable budget, based on acceptable delivery expectation, and sell the selection and pick process. That budget and those expectations will be exceeded, in some way, when I deliver their diamonds.”

“I’ve been going to Antwerp with IJO for more than 30 years,” reported Todd Murray, Murray’s Jewelers, Muncie, IN, “and it’s always been good every year. And it’s still getting better. My best year to date was 25-28 pre-sold diamonds, but this fall I was able to top that with 37 pre-sales for $164,000. To be honest, it was a little overwhelming, but by working really efficiently I was able to fill all the calls. This program has had such a positive effect on my image in my community.”

Connie Thurmond from Connie & V. Cross Jewelers in Bossier City, LA offered, “We’ve enjoyed 18 years of diamond buying from some of the top suppliers in the world. We have traveled half away around the globe to make many of our customers so proud that they received a beautiful diamond from the enchanted lands of Antwerp! IJO makes this adventure such a success for all that take part in this magical journey.”

IJO Still Strong in Antwerp

Shown here are Connie Thurmond and Verlon Cross from Connie & V. Cross Jewelers in Bossier City, LA.

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Brian & Theresa McLean from Simone’s Jewelry in Shrewsbury, NJ, were first-timers last month. According to Brian, “We really enjoyed it — the comradery is something I really relish. As for the business end, the selection of diamonds is something I wasn’t prepared for. After 29 years in business I feel like I have found an excellent new source for my customers and an added shot of adrenaline for my business. Thanks for helping us make the decision to go!”

Dave Spalding from Timmreck & McNicol Jewelers in McMinnville, OR, recently returned from his 57th trip. “It’s pretty simple,” Dave said. “My first trip was Spring of ’91. I skipped the next one in Fall, but thereafter went each season for a total of 57. We have had a low of $16,000 in pre-sales and a high of $157,000 in the spring of ’96. We have averaged approximately $35,000 in spring and $55,000 in fall and believe we have had about $3 million in presales over that period. This program has jump-started our Diamond business to such an extent that it is integral to what our store does.”

IJO Still Strong in Antwerp

Dave Spaulding with his daughter Jean on his 56th Antwerp trip.

IJO’s program instructs members on how to pre-sell diamonds before they leave home. People are skeptical – at first – but soon learn the program works. “We give members the tools to be successful,” Roberts added. “There’s a romance to traveling so far to hand-select the perfect diamond from a mountain of inventory — and inventory was strong this fall – no one had trouble filling their needs! I and some of my staff have been there countless times but we never tire of it. We love sharing the excitement!”

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