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THINKING OF COMBINING an ugly sweater party with a wedding band weekend, a gold-buying extravaganza, and a wish-list ladies’ night?

Better take a step back and reconsider, because retailers with successful events in their repertoire agree that narrowing the focus, rather than taking a scattershot approach, is one important secret to success.

STEP 1. Focus, focus, focus.

“We see retailers making the mistake of sending an 8-by-10-inch mailer with 10 different offers on it to 20,000 people,” says consultant Megan Crabtree. “If they actually dissected that data and made specific marketing toward what people are more likely to purchase, they would get a better return rate.”

Because events, Crabtree argues, no matter how socially oriented or casual, are ultimately about making money. If done right, they could represent 10% of total annual revenues.

The IW Marks team in Houston hosts frequent events and plans parties in a structured way beginning with the end in mind, says Raymond Golden, general manager. They decide what type of event they’re going to have and what the attendance goal is.

“Decide what you want and then take the steps to make that happen,” he says. “If you say we want to have an event and see what happens, then spoiler alert, nothing’s going to happen, or nothing good’s going to happen.”

STEP 2. Once you know what sort of soiree you’re
hosting,fine-tune the marketing message.

“One of the most successful marketing mailers we’ve seen in the industry is a wedding band mailer that’s personalized to the client, and it actually shows them a picture of what their wedding band would be (based on the engagement ring they purchased) rather than just a generic message,” Crabtree says. “That has a three times better return rate than the average mailer.

“Many retailers hope and pray that people are going to show up, and then a week or two before, they run a top hundred customer list and one main generic list that they send to everybody, and they think that that’s going to create a successful event.”

Instead, make the invitations clean and focused with one incentive rather than multiple. Delve into the data on your customer list to see where your customers are coming from and which zip codes you may have an opportunity to grow.

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STEP 3. The preparation prior to the event
is almost more important than the event.

Crabtree recommends that sales staff, monitored by managers, prepare at least three months in advance. “A lot of managers will say, ‘We’re going to do a contest for how many appointments you have.’ And all they go by is that Sally said she has 10 appointments, and John said he has five, but they don’t ever sit down before the show and say, ‘Walk me through these 10 appointments.’”

Preparing for appointments means finding out what the client is looking for and determining whether it’s in stock or needs to be ordered. “All that most retailers care about is appointments and traffic coming in, but they don’t think about efficiency,” she says. “How many salespeople do you have? How many appointments do you have? How are you going to deal with this number of appointments?

“There’s no POS system that tells you, based on the engagement ring they bought, what the matching wedding band is. So, the salesperson needs to go in, find the style number of the engagement ring, look in the system, see if they have the wedding band, search through the cases, call the vendor. It’s a process.”

If the purpose of the event is to sell both wedding bands and engagement rings or other more expensive diamond jewelry, schedule wedding band appointments on a preview day before the main event so that on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the focus can be on larger transactions.

It’s also efficient to match the customer with the right salesperson and have somebody directing traffic at the door. Says Crabtree: “When someone says they want to look at wedding bands, give them to your salesperson who sells the least, rather than your No. 1 person. And move your No. 1 salesperson to the person that’s coming in for a $20,000 ring, because they probably have a better chance of selling them.”

STEP 4. Think about the most effective
way to throw a holiday party.

Separate ladies’ and men’s nights are fraught with potential pitfalls. “I’ve seen so many parties that are just a waste of time,” Crabtree says. “All the women are getting drunk. They’re supposedly making wish lists, but then the men come in and they want to sit and play poker and they don’t even look at the wish lists. The best idea for a holiday party is to combine it with a trunk show and invite top vendors, inform VIP customers about the extra inventory, and invite men and women together.”

Jo Goralski, owner of The Jewelry Mechanic in Oconomowoc, WI, can relate to the pitfalls of an alcohol-fueled, gender-segregated event after hosting a gem show for a group of professional women with an affinity for wine. “Drunk as skunks, with no sales,” she says. “The last one left at 1 a.m. We swore, ‘Never again!’”

Evangeline Ross of Zachary’s Jewelers in Annapolis, MD, found a way to include couples in the wish list tradition when she created a publication filled with photos of clients who were recently engaged or married and called it the Bridal Yearbook. The focus was more on the couples than on their rings.

“All of these couples are already in our CRM, but a lot of times we don’t have the bride’s information,” she says. So, they invited 100 couples to come to an event at the store. Using their own phones, they were asked to take a photo of a link to the CRM and invited to take pictures of three things on their wish lists.

The event ensured that Zachary’s had their email addresses, cell phone numbers and wish lists, too. And if they participated in the wish list, they received an extra raffle ticket to a diamond pendant drawing. It also created a memorable experience for clients and created a foundation on which to foster a long-term relationship.

STEP 5. Follow up!

Krystal Shiklanian of Radiant Fine Jewelry in Plymouth, MI, has a degree in marketing. “Clienteling is the way to keep up your sales and events. Layered with direct mail, email blast, social media and follow up! My motto is, ‘There’s fortune in the follow up.’”

John Carter, owner of Jack Lewis Jewelers in Bloomington, IL, has learned through experience that RSVPs and follow-up are essential to a successful, popular event.

“The problem is, your best customers mean to come, but if you don’t collect RSVPs, you can’t follow up to remind them,” Carter says. “It is key to getting people there, and it lets me curate a specific group of people. Just make it personal, especially with a text.”

Stephenie Bjorkman of Sami Fine Jewelry adds urgency to her request for an RSVP, signaling that there’s a limit to how many people can attend. “You’ve got to call and text and remind them, like a doctor’s appointment. I create the event and market it, I feel passionate about it, and so I stay on it and make sure the staff calls the clients.”

Consultant Kathleen Cutler says of those invited to an event, 50 percent will RSVP, and of those, half will attend. Of those who attend, 20 percent will buy, although not necessarily during your event. So for every one sale you hope to make, plan to invite 20 people to your holiday experience. Aside from sharing an invitation to your email and social media audiences, personalized invitations should go out to your guest list along with same-week and same-day reminders.

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PROVEN PARTY PLANS

Retailers share their own experiences with creating and implementing successful events

Know Your Audience

Sami’s Fine Jewelry
Scottsdale, AZ

Stephenie Bjorkman, owner of Sami’s Fine Jewelry, has tried every possible type of event from the silly to the sublime. With “Love in the Hills,” she periodically attempts to break a Guinness World Record for the number of people renewing their wedding vows at the same time, appropriately scheduled for Valentine’s Day.

One of the events she calls silly, dubbed Unicornia, carried a serious message to lighten up. After the pandemic cooled, Bjorkman and her staff wanted to banish all bad vibes in the store, so they hosted Unicornia, during which the staff wore rainbow colors, sprouted unicorn horns, and banned all talk of disease or politics. “It put a smile on people’s faces,” Bjorkman says. “I won’t say I sold a $20,000 ring because of Unicornia, but it makes us memorable. And when you dress in rainbows and wear unicorn horns, it’s hard to be a d—.”

Want a Successful Store Event? Check Out These Party-Worthy Ideas

Everyday is an event at Sami Fine jewelry; clockwise from above, Unicornia, a renovation party and a VIP customer appreciation bash.

Just stepping into Sami Fine Jewelry at any time can turn out to be an event. For example, once a client brought a horse named Fury in to pick up a custom piece of jewelry made for Fury’s tack, creating an impromptu event.

For Cinco de Mayo, Bjorkman hired a taco truck, gave away free tacos and margaritas and played mariachi music on repeat. “Someone isn’t going to get a free taco and walk in and say I want to buy something, but they’re going to remember you,” she says.

After remodeling the whole store, Bjorkman invested close to $50,000 in a VIP customer appreciation party that was a successful sales event, although it wasn’t advertised that way. She rented a twinkle tent for the back parking lot to set the scene, gave away a 10-carat Arizona amethyst in a mini-cake, and invited a wine maker to talk about the wine she was serving. “We just made it fun with live music and fire tables and wine pairings.” Of 20,000 people on her contact list, she invited 1,000; 200 RSVP’d. Guests circulated between the parking lot party, where they felt pampered, to the store, where sales staff helped with purchases. Between the party and subsequent purchases, she had the best holiday sales in the store’s history.

Want a Successful Store Event? Check Out These Party-Worthy Ideas

Other occasions that somehow turned into successful sales events have been birthday parties for staff and family members. Stephenie’s mom, Sami, who founded the business, is one of the honorees, as is Stephenie herself. “This year, I got married,” Bjorkman says, “so we had an after party and it was a really successful selling night. So next, I’m going to have an anniversary party.”

She’s proactive about getting the word out with a strong social media presence, direct mail and direct contact via phone.

And while she wishes every client made an appointment, that hasn’t worked out for parties. “Appointments are not my clients’ style. They do what they want when they want to do it. Wealthy people, especially, when they’re ready to buy, you service them. They’re late and busy and don’t show up or don’t text. When they do show up, it’s six at once and they all want YOU.”

Want a Successful Store Event? Check Out These Party-Worthy Ideas

Stephenie Bjorkman gets into the spirit of a Barbie-themed takeover in the store.

Most recently, she had a “Barbie takeover” in the store, backed up by social media highlighting jewelry Barbie might like. The staff dressed in pink, obviously.

“We do silly, stupid stuff, but it’s not for everyone,” Bjorkman says. “I can’t see some jewelry stores doing this. Our store is fun.”

The Designer Event

Greenwich St. Jewelers
New York, NY

Greenwich St. Jewelers hosts two events in the store every month, most of them trunk shows, with a guest designer. For added interest, they turn many of them into experiential events they call activations.

For example, in June 2022, they hosted an aura photography experience to launch the ASTRA collection of zodiac constellation charms, designed by owner Jennifer Gandia. They partnered with an astrologer who gave readings. And an aura photographer took guests’ photographs and explained what the colors in the photo indicated about their personality, the energy the color represented and the best way to harness that energy. In addition, a “color witch” conducted a specialized tarot card reading focused on color, and the staff helped each guest choose Jamie Joseph power rings with colors that complemented the reading.

Want a Successful Store Event? Check Out These Party-Worthy Ideas

Designer events at Greenwich St. Jewelers often include interactive activities to create the ultimate experience. The team hosts two events nearly every month.

Designer events at Greenwich St. Jewelers often include interactive activities to create the ultimate experience. The team hosts two events nearly every month.

Grace Barretti, senior marketing manager, says the team sets a goal before every event. Not all of the goals are strictly focused on sales. For example, for a chic moms’ group, there was a charity element, with the goal to build awareness in their new neighborhood and support the charity, whether or not they made any money.

“If you focus on one KPI, it’s more successful,” Barretti says. “For that event, the awareness element was the key factor. How many people came who hadn’t been there? Did they post on social media? Are we getting more site visits? Sales will come later, now that all this awareness has been built.”

For any Jamie Joseph designer event, the Greenwich St. team knows there is a dedicated group of fans who want to see new pieces immediately. “The goal is definitely sales” in that case.

The marketing effort is never limited to one strategy. The sales team contacts their clients by text and email, marketing emails are sent to the newsletter list, it’s boosted on Instagram and it’s listed in the Tribeca Citizen, a neighborhood newsletter. The marketing team develops a calendar for how often and when team members will post about it. They also collaborate with the designer to ensure their team is promoting the event to their own dedicated followers. “We really encourage booking an appointment for an event so somebody is dedicated to that person when they come in, especially if there is a designer present. We want to make sure they can meet with the designer they’re hoping to see.”

They also hosted a private debut event for Muzo Emerald Colombia’s Here We Are capsule collections during New York City Jewelry Week. They’ve sponsored the Here We Are program, an initiative designed to address inequity and lack of representation of minority designers in the jewelry industry, since its inception.

Greenwich St. schedules events throughout the year, into early December. But the second half of December is focused on sales and being available for last-minute shoppers.

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The Book of Fun People

K. Hollis Jewelers
Batavia, IL

When Karen Hollis dreams up a new event, she turns to her “Book of Fun People” and can always find a crowd ready to party. She invited shoppers to sign up in a notebook and volunteer their contact information in exchange for a steady stream of party invitations.

They’re all flattered to be called “fun people.”

“We already know they are going to show up and bring their friends and that they would love to get a phone call,” Hollis says. “Which means you already have 100 people excited about your events.”

The general goal is to get people into the store. So, she has periodic fashion shows, drawing on merchandise from her jewelry collection as well as the clothing boutique side of her business. She runs an Edge report for those events and identifies everyone who’s made a purchase from the boutique inventory. She invites customers to be models and offers them a discount in exchange. “They bring their family to watch them model,” she says.

She makes note of how many new people show up for each event to judge her success. “I’m still meeting three to five new customers a day, so that’s exciting.”

Being known as a fun place to be has its rewards; nearly 100 percent of engagement ring shoppers return for their wedding bands without any monetary incentives.

She’s planning a cross-promotion with a distillery owner called Bourbon and Beer, which is likely to sell out and which will widen her email list. “Partnering with like-minded businesspeople is important,” she says.

She also hosts micro-parties for individuals. “It doesn’t have to be large,” she says. “It could just be a guy coming in for his anniversary, and I’ll say, ‘Why don’t we create a shopping experience? That will be the surprise. And you can bring your family in.’ We do a lot of that. Fifteen people coming into the store for a special occasion shopping experience.”

The Customer Appreciation Event

Continental Diamond
Minneapolis, MN

At Continental Diamond, it’s a tradition to host as many as a dozen Minnesota Vikings players at an annual Christmas party, where they sign autographs.

“It’s a party that cannot be duplicated because getting 12 or 15 professional football players to come to a party at one time is unheard of,” says owner Jimmy Pesis. “We do it year after year after year. We have had some of the biggest stars of the team come to these parties.”

Prior to COVID shutdowns, the event attracted between 500 and 600 people. “Everybody bleeds purple in Minnesota,” Pesis says. “It’s by far the biggest sports attraction in Minnesota. And when people think of Continental Diamonds, they think of the Minnesota Vikings. It’s not uncommon to walk in here and see a player shopping or getting a repair.”

Minnesota Vikings players and giveaways attract a crowd to the annual Continental Diamond customer appreciation event.

Minnesota Vikings players and giveaways attract a crowd to the annual Continental Diamond customer appreciation event.

Their appreciation for their customers extends to three open bars, plenty of food, raffles of Viking memorabilia and jerseys, and gift-card giveaways to the store as well as to restaurants. The crowd spills out of the showroom and fills up the building’s spacious atrium.

“We’re not trying to sell anyone anything,” says salesperson/buyer Andy Furman. “It’s more of a thank you, and it’s fun. We’re building goodwill and solidifying relationships with our clients.” Adds Pesis, “But if they want to buy jewelry, we won’t tell them to come back tomorrow.”

Staff members who embrace the store’s core value of hospitality are the underlying reason for its success. “What Jimmy said to me was we want to treat every customer that comes in here like my mother,” says manager Beth Kato. “I still say that when I’m looking to hire. It’s about building relationships and empowering our team to make decisions based on what is best for the customer. You can have one negative vibe, and it permeates the whole store.”

In the spring and fall, they also host more traditional ring selling events and invite eight to 12 vendors to join them. For those events, they book 100 to 150 appointments.

Community Ladies’ Night

Blue River Diamonds
Peabody, MA

At Blue River Diamonds, manager Becky Bettencourt and her team have found a way to stand out during an annual December ladies’ night that involves the whole downtown community. During the event, all the Main Street stores in Gloucester, MA, are open, serving food and beverages and making sales.

“We see hundreds of people walk through the door, and for the past few years we’ve been giving away LED crowns to everyone who walks in, and they are massively popular,” Bettencourt says. “Customers wait yearly for our new crowns, and the line is out the door as soon as Ladies Night starts.

“People love to feel like a kid again with their blinking crowns. Last year, our crowns were yellow and blue to raise awareness for Ukraine, and we even set up a donation booth that raised $2,000 for a Ukranian charity.”

Everyone in town seems to anticipate the release of Blue River’s annual LED crowns.

Everyone in town seems to anticipate the release of Blue River’s annual LED crowns.

Owner Neal Van Dam says sales are decent during the evening, but the point is making an impression: “I thought it would be a fun thing for the town we’re in.” Gloucester, an old-fashioned fishing village, isn’t known for its bling, so giving out 146 lighted, blinking crowns makes a big impact when dozens of kids are dancing in the streets wearing them, and every woman and girl in the corner drugstore has one on, too. “We get people who do shop, but a lot of people are there for the first time and ask us questions.”

More sales happen later.

“It reminds people that we’re there, and the week or two after the event, we will have a lot of men come in and say, ‘When my wife was here, she saw this ring or this pendant,’” Bettencourt says.

A community Christmas tree adds to the magic of downtown Gloucester’s holiday ladies night event.

A community Christmas tree adds to the magic of downtown Gloucester’s holiday ladies night event.

Bettencourt also planned a gemstone and design event to increase awareness of the store’s collection of colored gemstones and custom work. It was the first direct selling event she’d tried; usually, the store partners with the town. The success of the gemstone event gave her confidence that she can build an annual event and create excitement around it. “One of our biggest sales was from a couple who were tourists who happened to stop in, buy a couple of gemstones and design a piece of jewelry, a spur of the moment thing.”

She always posts photos and blogs about the blinking crowns for ladies’ night. For the gemstone event, she posted each completed design to create excitement about the next gemstone event.

The Grand Opening

IW Marks
Houston, TX

“Hosting events has always been part of who we are,” says Raymond Golden, general manager of IW Marks. “We like to connect with the community.”

A recent major renovation was designed with hosting in mind, and the first event was a grand opening bash that drew several hundred people. They set up a tent in the parking lot, partnering with a local brewery and hiring a popular barbecue company to cater. Country singer Clay Walker performed. “We try not to do the same thing every party,” Golden says. “Depending on the tone of the party and time of day, they each have their own identity.”

IW Marks works with PR Boutique to get the word out about events and also sends press releases to the Associated Press, the Houston Chronicle and Modern Luxury magazine, backed by a significant social media campaign about three weeks prior to the event. Traditional digital advertising and local newspaper email blasts also reach a lot of people.

Brad and Joanna Marks, at right, hosted an I W Marks’ 45th anniversary party in May in the store’s recently renovated space, which they christened with an earlier grand opening bash.

Brad and Joanna Marks, at right, hosted an I W Marks’ 45th anniversary party in May in the store’s recently renovated space, which they christened with an earlier grand opening bash.

“We like to have some type of live entertainment, whether it’s local bands, a local trio, violinists, pianists,” he says. The entertainment isn’t limited to music, however. They’ve also brought in magicians, tarot card readers, face painters and caricature artists.

Communicate with all teams involved, Golden says. The sales team is responsible to reach out to clients, the target audience. “But we also communicate with the marketing team, making sure they understand the message, as well as our event planning team. We have biweekly meetings with the heads of each of those teams.

“In December we do two events: a small private event for our best customers, partnering with a designer who will have exclusive offerings, and then a larger event for several vendor partners who come for two or three days. We pick a charity to partner with, and a portion of proceeds go to that. That is part of who we are, we’re philanthropic in everything we do.

“And we always do a big party for the staff and our business partners, 50 or 60 people, not even in the store, but in a separate venue. It’s just as important that the staff is appreciated and that our partners are truly our partners, whether they are vendors, designers, the marketing company, and their teams.”

Want a Successful Store Event? Check Out These Party-Worthy Ideas

The Brain Squad Shares Ideas For Successful Events

  • “Gemstone roundtables continue to be our best event. We sign people up through the year as we meet new and see old friends who have a particular love of color gemstones.” — Terry Gibson, Studio D Jewelers, Woodstock, IL
  • “The one that is always a hit is our pre-holiday sale. We do it the Thursday before Thanksgiving. We give 40% of all in store merchandise (with some exclusions) from 6 to 8 p.m. with food trucks outside.” — Michael Kanoff, Michaels Jewelers, Yardley, PA
  • “I am the chair for our local Chamber’s women-in-business group, SHE (See Her Empowered). We had a ladies night at our store for the SHE group, where we gave styling tips, talked about how to create an ensemble, and let the ladies make wish lists while enjoying light hors d’oeuvres, chocolate, and wine.” — Kim Hatchell, Galloway & Moseley, Sumter, SC
  • “I have done a Gem Legacy charity component for our last several wedding band trunk shows and our clients love it! We make a $25 donation for every ring sold then have our customers choose from two initiatives they want the money to go. It has led to some really great discussions and lets our customers know that we are involved with a fantastic charity.” — Melissa Quick, Steve Quick Jeweler, Chicago
  • “Our parties are epic! It’s a blend of old customers and new along with friends of Malka Diamonds. The vibe is always hopping. We highlight a designer and a local restaurant for our catering. There is always a few signature cocktails and mock tails in the mix as well.” — Ronnie Malka, Malka Diamonds, Portland, OR
  • “We always do well with a piercing event party; also we do a summer solstice party in late June to celebrate the longest day of sunshine.” — Laura Kitts’s, Gem Jewelry Boutique, Oak Park, IL.

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