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Star-Studded Breitling Summit Makes Waves in Southern California

All attention was on the new watches. And then Brad Pitt walked by …

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Brad Pitt and Georges Kern

AS HE SLOWLY WALKED past my table, he glanced at my face, catching my eye. Blushing, I quickly lowered my head, wishing desperately he hadn’t looked at me. Never in my life had I seen a man so beautiful that I became almost ill being in his presence. I felt, for a lack of a better term, “unworthy” to have been anywhere near someone so biologically perfect.

No, this is not the beginning of the sixth chapter of a Jackie Collins romance novel (however, I highly recommend 1969’s The Stud). It’s exactly what happened to me last week at the Breitling Summit at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills when Breitling Ambassador Brad Pitt joined retailers and members of the press for an outdoor dinner.

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When I received the email invite from the brand asking if I’d like to attend the summit, I was thrilled. The first part of the event was to be held in the prestigious Four Seasons in Beverly Hills, and as if that wasn’t reason enough to hop a flight across the country, the summit would end with a full day at Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch in Lemoore, a 20-acre property containing a wave machine that creates 6-to-8-foot surfable waves for 2,100 straight feet. Oh, and did I mention there’d be watches to see, too? Yeah. Plenty of those were on hand. Read on.

The Summit started on Tuesday afternoon with Breitling CEO Georges Kern re-introducing the brand’s three “worlds”: air, land and sea. When Kern took Breitling’s helm in 2017, he made clear that the brand’s image was going to change. There would be less focus on some things that, frankly, turned a fair number of people off to the brand (scantily clad women in aviator-themed jumpers, anyone?) and more focus on design, quality and making a positive impact through partnerships.

In an instant, Kern was off and running, talking about the purpose of the summit and the worlds in which the brand lives before being joined on stage by a handful of the brand’s ambassadors. Audience members were treated to a greeting (via video) from astronaut Scott Kelly – the first member of Breitling’s “Aviation Pioneers Squad” – before watching a film featuring Rocío González Torres, a commandant in the Spanish Air Force and the first Spanish woman to log 1,000 hours at the controls of an F­18 fighter jet, as well as world champion drone pilot Luke Bannister, who not only joined Kern in person, but who also gave a drone demonstration, including how to take a group selfie by drone. The presence of these “air” world squad members was the ideal segue to the introduction of Breitling’s Avenger collection of aviation-related timepieces. Also introduced during the “air” segment of the presentation was the brand’s new Aviator 8 Mosquito, a watch inspired by the famed de Havilland Mosquito, a plane constructed almost entirely of wood.

Moving on to the “sea” portion of the opening remarks, attendees were introduced to seven-time world champion surfer Stephanie Gilmore, who talked about her hopes for the upcoming Summer Olympics in 2020, where surfing is a competition for the first time. We were promised a demonstration by the Australian along with surf legend Kelly Slater at his surf ranch the following day (which did not disappoint). Shortly afterward, Breitling introduced both the Superocean Outerknown and the Outerknown ECONYL Yarn NATO Strap Collection.

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Guests were then invited to a “touch and feel” by the brand in the gardens of the Four Seasons. High tables were covered in multiple versions of the new novelties with Breitling representatives available to answer questions. It was here I realized just how different this event was from many of the press events I’d attended in the past. This wasn’t just for press but was for everyone who would have anything to do with Breitling: store owners, watch buyers, managers, sales associates, etc. Across the room I could see Lisa Bridge, president and CEO of Ben Bridge Jeweler, along with the company’s watch buyer. At the same table as Bridge stood Slade Lewis of Lewis Jewelers in Houston, TX. And two tables over was Sara Beth Brown Prendeville, vice president at Brown & Co., which has two locations in Georgia.

When I asked Sara Beth how she felt the new collections would do in her store, she was optimistic.

“I think the new collections are sharp and will do very well in our Atlanta market,” she said. “Breitling holds a special place in my heart. It is nice to see the brand making moves, and the variety of new ambassadors is impressive.” When prompted for feedback about the summit, Prendeville said, “I was impressed with the professionalism of the summit presentation as well as the diversity amongst the brand ambassadors who were in attendance to support the brand. To my knowledge, Breitling is now supporting a unique variety of interests that no other brand has touched on.”

The afternoon quickly became evening and after a press conference and dinner (al fresco) with Brad Pitt, attendees turned in for the night in order to be ready for three-and-a-half-hour trip north to Lemoore in the morning.

Since announcing its departure from Baselworld, Breitling has brought a feeling of true intimacy to its events. Show booths can be cold at times (literally and figuratively) which may not be the best way to make a brand or its products memorable. In Lemoore, we stood – donned in bathing suits, covered in sand, and ever-so-slightly sun burned – taking in our surroundings and talking time. Retailers and press folks mixed with sales reps and marketing heads, which is the way it should be, because we all need to know what is going on in the worlds of the others. In order to keep my finger on the pulse, I make sure to pick the brains of the people at the stores in order to get their takes on how products are selling in their areas of the country. In Lemoore, I wasn’t alone in that thinking, because at any given moment, one could look up from the beautifully prepared gourmet lunch or from a glass of California wine and see the CEO of Breitling moving from group to group, asking questions and telling stories.

Breitling has yet again arrived, and brought with it a big, beautiful squad. But this isn’t just any squad. It’s a squad made up of impassioned people who are at the top of their respective fields. It’s a squad that cares about the planet, and what they can do to play a part in keeping it healthy. And it’s a squad that’s very much on a mission.

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Barbara Palumbo is a watch and jewelry industry writer, journalist and speaker. She manages the blogging websites Adornmentality.com and Whatsonherwrist.com.

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2019 Big Survey: 10 Times When Jewelry Store Employees Left the Job in Dramatic Fashion

Results of the 2019 Big Survey have been rolling in. Here’s a sample.

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WE ASKED SURVEY respondents to share the most epic ways they’d seen someone quit or be fired. Dealing with employees on their way out can be touchy. Sometimes these unfortunate encounters even culminate in award-winning dramatic performances. Read on for the most memorable ways employees have parted ways with jewelry stores:

Top 10 Countdown

The award for best dramatic performance goes to the employees who:

10. Screamed at the top of their lungs, “I QUIT”

9. Showed up in pajamas, had a breakdown, then quit and walked out.

8. Threw rings at the boss while asking for a raise, then quit.

7. Threw a crystal piece through a showcase shelf.

6. Hit the jeweler in the head with a bag of bananas.

5. Threw his key at me.

4. Came in wielding a pipe wrench screaming that we were liars.

3. Ran out of the shop, arms raised in the air, saying “he’s trying to kill me.”

2. Got drunk at a charity event we were sponsoring, hit on one of the ladies and pulled her skirt up. Police were called.

And the No. 1 best dramatic performance goes to:

1. The employee who hired a marching band to quit.

The 2019 Big Survey was conducted in September and October and attracted responses from more than 800 North American jewelers. Look out for all the results in the November issue of INSTORE.

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Wow Your Customers with This Video Messaging App

Jewelers can make online experiences feel a lot more like in-person experiences.

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DO YOU REMEMBER the last time a business did something unexpected for you? Something you truly appreciated? Of course, you do. Those are the moments that imprint themselves on our memories. For me, it was with a video messaging app called Bonjoro.

My Wow Moment

When I signed up for their free trial, I expected to get a video message from them. That’s what they do. And they told me I would. What I didn’t expect was to get a video answer about a tech issue I was having minutes after I emailed them about it. That blew me away.

In the jewelry industry, we pride ourselves on our in-store service and fret about our online marketing. Gone are the glory days with greater foot traffic. Now everyone wants to kick the tires online before they commit to coming in. But what if you could bring your amazing customer service to customers before they ever stepped foot in the store?

Bonjoro to the Rescue

That’s exactly what Bonjoro allows you to do. Bonjoro is an easy to use video to email messaging app for businesses. They make recording and emailing a personalized video to customers almost effortless. And you can even send these videos when they’ll have the biggest impact, like right after they fill out a contact form on your site.

Imagine a prospective customer visits your site. They fill out a contact form with some details about the type of engagement ring they’re looking for. After they press submit, someone on your sales team gets a notification. Once they have a free minute, they pull out their phone and record and send a video in less time than it would take them to respond to the email.

“Hi, Jim! I know exactly the style that you’re looking for, and we have some great options for you. You can see a few of them in the case behind me, but I have a few more that I’d like to pull out and show you. You mentioned that you have a lunch break at noon. Why don’t you stop by tomorrow, and I’ll have them all ready for you? In the meantime, there’s a link to our website’s engagement ring gallery in this window. If you see anything else you like, you can write me a quick message, and I’ll be sure to add it. See you soon!”

An Experience Like No Other

This is an experience most jewelers aren’t going to offer. The enthusiasm and confidence communicated in a video are hard to match in an email response. And the customer has likely never received a response like this from a jewelry store. Just the thought that someone took the time to personally address them with a video will make them more likely to stop in. Plus, they already feel like they know you.

Almost Face-to-Face

Bonjoro is a way to send quick, personalized videos to customers. They’re meant to be mixed into the daily routine and workflow of your sales team. This isn’t the time for high-quality video production or perfect angles. This is much more personal and organic than that.

People online aren’t used to being addressed personally by video. It gives them a personal touch that usually only happens in the store. When you use Bonjoro, the most important thing is to press the record button and talk to the customer like they’re right there in front of you. What a wonderful way to wow your customers!

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Commentary: The Business

Customer Fired for Cause

Her phone manners left something to be desired.

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Laurelle Giesbrecht of French’s Jewellery says her daughter Heidi, now 15, is not afraid to answer the phone despite what happened and calls it “a learning experience.”

WHILE VISITING A great friend and store owner, Laurelle Giesbrecht of French’s Jewellery in Alberta, Canada, we were commiserating over coffee. I have always loved hearing her stories about community involvement or win/win sales interactions. This time, she had a real doozy.

A customer had recently purchased a $300 ring for her daughter and had sent her back to the store for a free sizing. The young girl had decided it was not going to be on her third finger but the much larger first. That meant the ring needed to be sized from 5 to 10. For this, there would be a charge. The girl left the ring.

Laurelle’s daughter, Heidi, was answering phones as her mom finished closing the store. It was the last call before locking up. Heidi asked how she could re-direct the caller and then, holding the phone to her chest, asked her mom if she wanted to take the call. Mom assured her she was doing fine. It brought a smile to her face when she heard her daughter tell the caller that she would pass the message along to their HR manager.

But later at home, the true story emerged. The call had been from the original purchaser of the size 5 ring, and using a long string of vulgarities, she had demanded a full refund. The next day, typically affable Laurelle left a message requesting a return call. When the return call came, Laurelle informed the customer that the swearing she had done over the phone had been directed at her 13-year-old daughter. She added that she would not allow that treatment of any of her staff. After informing the customer that she would process a full refund, she asked for her mailing address so she could mail it. Laurelle calmly informed the customer that she was not to come back to her store.

But the story was not over. The customer ignored the request to not return to the store and instead brought a beautiful bouquet of flowers with a neatly written card. She wanted to personally deliver them to the 13-year-old child who had listened so intently to her vulgar language. This customer knew that the depth of her apology could only be appreciated by a face-to-face meeting between an embarrassed adult and precocious child!

If there are lessons here, they are written between the lines.

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