Jewelers increase ads, patriotic jewelry to boost sales after Sept. 11

Many American jewelers are increasing their advertising and marketing campaigns and are stocking up with patriotic jewelry to offset decreases in all major areas of their business in the weeks following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, finds a JCK national survey.

Overall, sales for items retailing $1,000 or more had the biggest decline (40% of jewelers reported decreases) of any sales category — but also the most gain (19%).

Three out of four jewelers (77%) say customer traffic has dropped. Seven out of 10 jewelers report drops in watch and jewelry sales. Almost six out of 10 jewelers say their customized jewelry, and engagement and bridal sales decreased.

Similar information about engagement ring sales is reported in a new survey of jewelers by the Diamond Promotion Service, Jewelry Information Center and Jewelers of America. It found 70% of jewelers who responded didn’t increase engagement ring sales for September and October, compared to the previous year.

The one category with the least decline in business say jewelers (44%) and the most gain (16.8%), according to JCK’s survey, was repair services.

Business changes. Interestingly, most jewelers (67.5%) surveyed by JCK won’t make any changes in their business operations in response to the effects of Sept. 11, since, as one Iowa jeweler put it, “things are returning to normal.”

Those who are, however, are doing a number of things. A few have reduced staff, dropped overtime, cancelled orders or bought less for Christmas (though some said they had already planned, prior to Sept. 11, for a slower Christmas).

But most are trying to boost year-end business. There is an increase in advertising and marketing. That includes more special events (i.e., a first-time sidewalk sale, an October `Sterling Flatware Month’ sale); more patriotic-themed ads; stronger ad budgets (a few boosted as much as 50% to 300%) for the rest of the year, especially for TV, and more direct mail.

In terms of inventory, most jewelers tell JCK they are stocking more flag and patriotic jewelry (i.e. red, white and blue/rubies, sapphires, diamonds), with many donating a percentage of sales to the Red Cross.

Many say they are focusing less on fashion, designer, large diamonds, and high end jewelry, and more on 14k, sterling, items with lower price points (under $1,000), “fast-sellers only” (as a North Carolina jeweler puts it) and what one Pennsylvania jeweler calls “more basics.”

Service & security. Some are stocking more service-oriented products (i.e., batteries, replacement parts, watch bands, fine jewelry repairs) in keeping with the increased in demand for repair services.

Others are bucking the `lower-ticket’ trend and say they will concentrate more on higher ticket items (expecting affluent customers to stay home and spend more) more diamonds, and more bridal sales.

Other aspects of their business have also changed this fall for many jewelers. Some are personalizing their contacts with customers with phone calls more often (“to keep in touch,” as one jeweler put it) and letters instead of Christmas cards.

And, of course, security is more important than usual for jewelers. Since Sept. 11. “We’re even more aware of it,” says an Ohio jeweler. Some are paying more attention to whom they let in -or not. “We always keep our front door locked now, and don’t let anyone in who looks dangerous,” says a Florida jeweler. Others are opening their mail more carefully.

The JCK Retail Panel is a monthly national survey, which goes to 673 jewelers, selected according to size, volume and location. The survey reported here has a 26.3% response.

The DPS/JIC/JA survey was faxed to more than 5,000 jewelers and had a 4% response, according to JA.