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After Terrifying Robbery, Brave Store Owners Host Amazing Red Carpet Event

Interactive trend event fits with Arkansas store’s strategy to appeal to women.

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Trish Roberson’s vision for her business is to build a fashion-forward, brand-conscious jewelry store known for service. She differentiates her brand — Roberson’s Fine Jewelry in Little Rock, AR — by carrying the work of designers who have beautiful and quality lines, but who tend to fly under the radar of her competitors. “I liken myself to Barney’s in how they try to find unique things, different but not so far out there that people can’t relate,” she says. And in the past two years, she has cut out three-quarters of her traditional advertising budget, focusing instead on events that appeal to her core customer: self-purchasing women.

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Idea: Divide and Conquer the Trends

Inspired by posh trade-show events she had attended, Roberson decided to focus on a fall trend event for her customers, dividing the store into areas set up to showcase four trends: technology, light and airy, travel and darkly romantic. She also decided to try to replicate the polished treatment she receives when attending high-end industry events and pass along both knowledge and hospitality to her clients.

Execution: Clients Get Red Carpet Treatment

Danielle Miele of GemGossip with Trish Roberson.

The private event, held on a Thursday and Friday with the store closed to the public, featured trend forecast discussions with two special guest luxury experts, The Robey Partnership’s Nancy Robey and Luxury Brand Group’s Jen Cullen Williams. Jewelry blogger Danielle Miele of Gem Gossip also attended, publicized the event and took photos.

The special guests were already en route to Little Rock from New York and LA the Tuesday before the event when Roberson’s was invaded by armed robbers who terrorized the staff and shattered the store’s showcases. “We were all so emotionally damaged,” Roberson says. But rather than call it all off, Roberson and staff worked day and night to get the store ready and the showcases repaired, working around investigators and police, who were still on site when the red carpet rolled out on Thursday.

Clients were invited to ask questions about the trends, try on jewelry and, ultimately, purchase. They arrived at scheduled times and walked the red carpet outside the store, posed for photos, and later took photos of their jewelryadorned hands on the “JewelCam” — a mani-cam like the one seen on “E! Entertainment” during award shows.

Roberson divided her guest list and hosted eight groups of 25 to 35 women over two days. The groups were generally divided by age, and one group was offered for mothers and daughters.

Everyone who was invited was asked to call to make reservations and to bring guests. “We saw it as an opportunity to reach out to people who were not our customers,” Roberson says. “We pinpointed those customers that we know are really out there in the community and told them if you’d like to bring three, four or five people, just let us know.”

She hired a caterer, who planned the food around the themes (robot cookies, for example, in the technology trend area).

The “Jewel-Cam” took photos of clients wearing their favorite jewelry.

Results: Event Marketing Proves Valuable

Roberson’s focus on creative events has worked for her business, which is doing better than it ever has, even though she has cut back drastically on advertising.

Planning unusual events has her customers and her city talking about her store. Word of mouth accolades have multiplied.

Another hugely popular event was flying half a dozen clients to New York to meet designer Gurhan on his home turf and explore the city in a whirlwind weekend. “It has really created a stir for us,” she says.

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Although Roberson has streamlined print advertising from three regional magazines to one, the magazine she chose to work with now sweetens the deal by sending a photographer to her events and posting photos on Facebook and Instagram.

Do It Yourself: Go Beyond Trunk Shows

  • Think out of the trunk. If you plan a trunk show, add a twist, like a fashion show, a style expert, a Q&A with the designer, a photo booth, a fortune teller, upbeat music. Make it fun and unexpected. The goal is to make everyone in town want to be added to your party guest list.
  • Refocus your attitude about events away from making immediate sales. Focus on fun and sales will come organically. “If you’re not always selling, an event will endear people to you.”
  • Cater to self-purchasing women. It could be a market much richer than you might imagine. “Our biggest purchasers are self-purchasing women,” says Roberson. “And they spend a lot of money with no one else approving it. Last year, in January, we had one lady spend $1.5 million on a ring that her husband never saw.”
  • Don’t stretch yourself too thin. “If we did it again, I would narrow the groups down to one in the morning, one in the afternoon and an evening group. We did four or five groups each day. By the end, we were running on empty,” Roberson says.
  • Recognize that the world is much smaller than it used to be. Trends that used to take forever to reach the Midwest or the Southeast make the trip a lot faster now, either virtually or via globe hoppers. “Our customers travel the world, they shop, they see things that they want in other places.”

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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