The Next Best Thing

Retail jewelers are always looking for new and interesting events to host in their stores. Kate Peterson, president and CEO of Performance Concepts, and Patti Geolat, founder and CEO of Geolat Companies, recently introduced two Midwestern jewelers to what Peterson calls: “a hybrid two-part event that creates both selling and buying opportunities for the client.”

Peterson uses the qualifying word “hybrid” to distinguish the event she and Geolat created from other “buy from the public” events where retail jewelers actually pay out cash for a client’s jewelry. The beauty of these “hybrid” events is they don’t require a jeweler to have the necessary cash flow to buy from the public, nor do they put the jeweler in the position of potentially offending a client who has unrealistic expectations regarding the real value of their pieces. 

In addition, instead of assuming that the client is selling out of need, they operate on the premise that the client can simply use the money she gets for the jewelry she has toward buying a piece she wants. The “buying” opportunity involves estate and fashion jewelry collections specially assembled for each event, giving clients a range of high-value options from which to choose. 

Here’s how it works. Clients are invited to bring in jewelry they no longer care to own for consultation with Geolat. She discusses both the actual resale value of the jewelry and the client’s objectives and interests in selling. After careful inspection and evaluation, Geolat presents the client with a range of options which include both selling the items for cash and using the items as trade toward that piece she’s always wanted.

In either case, if the client decides to sell, a check is written at that time. If her objectives in selling included finding a special piece that better reflects her taste or current status in life, the sales team takes over, guiding her through both the show collection and the store’s own inventory, and her check can easily be signed over to the store toward the new purchase.

Kate Peterson

Kate Peterson, president and CEO of Performance Concepts

“What we like to emphasize to clients participating in these events is they have purchasing options when disposing of their jewelry,” says Peterson. “It’s not a strict

sell-for-cash or trade-for-store-credit
scenario. It’s more of an exchange: their old, unwanted jewelry becomes the currency they use to buy new jewelry that excites them and that better reflects their current lifestyle.”

The event idea got its start earlier this year when Peterson and Geolat noticed that both public buy events and straightforward estate sales were falling short of what the clients want and what  jewelers need. “Public buy events tend to exclude the store’s upper-tier clients, and other consumers in the community who already own significant jewelry items that are no longer in fashion or are no longer worn, who don’t need to sell their jewelry for quick cash, who are more sophisticated and knowledgeable with regard to resale value and who see their pieces as having value deserving of a ‘new home’ rather than of break up and scrap,” says Peterson. “Traditional estate jewelry trunk shows limit involvement by clients who equate all estate jewelry with ‘vintage’ styling. In either case, the retailer sacrifices a significant portion of the potential profit available to them.”

Peterson and Geolat also noticed that gold buying and jewelry sale events in general have changed over the last 18 months. With signs of the economy stabilizing, fewer clients are parting with their jewelry out of necessity. Sellers today are more likely to be operating out of boredom with pieces that are simply taking up space in their jewelry boxes. 

Clients who purchased finer fashion and designer jewelry many years ago that is rarely if ever worn today are the perfect fit for this collaborative event developed by Peterson and Geolat. “We carefully hand-picked the first group of stores to host this event based on their more sophisticated clientele,” says Peterson. “This type of event is ideal for higher-end clients who have more jewelry than they can possibly wear and who resist buying the new pieces they love for that reason.”

But for Peterson and Geolat, the right type of retailer is just as or more important than the right clientele. Choosing jewelers who run store events well, and who understand how combining a jewelry sale event with a high-value buying opportunity will meet their needs and those of their clients, is another big factor in the success of these new events. 

The event is as malleable as 24k yellow gold. Retailers can create a theme that best matches their market objectives and invite the right number or category of clients as they wish. Vicki Cunningham, owner of Cunningham Fine Jewelry in Tulsa, Okla., put a cheeky twist on the environmental mantra “Renew, Refresh and Recycle” with invitations sent out to 1,000 clients.

Laurie Kottke, owner of Laurie Kottke Fine Jewelers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, took a different approach with her “‘Re-fashion Jewelry’ Personal Style” event. Invitations were sent to a considerably smaller number of her better clients with 500 invites mailed. A third client, a Louisiana retailer hosting the event in November, has chosen an estate jewelry-driven event with a “Timeless Treasures” theme. Similar to Kottke, this jeweler will reach out to top tier clients, targeting those with a penchant for estate jewelry, while similar to Cunningham’s, that outreach will be extensive.

Peterson and Geolat help to create promotional pieces for the retailer’s use in marketing the event. Most retailers prefer larger 5.5” x 8.5” invitations on sturdy paper stock in colored envelopes to make a bigger impact and a greater perceived value than standard direct mailers.

As the event organizers, they also provide press releases, assist with e-mail blasts, post information on social media websites (such as Facebook and Twitter) and create designs for printed postcards as part of a full-court press approach to promoting the event.

Client profiles from the store’s database serve to create a short list of invites for the preview reception at the store the night before the two-day buying/selling event takes place. During these events there are three product categories to sell starting with estate collections handpicked by Geolat. She essentially creates an estate jewelry trunk show typically valued at $1,000,000-plus.

Patti Geolat

Pattii Geolat, founder and CEO of Geolat Companies

“I try to come up with a variety of price points, periods and signature pieces that will appeal to a variety of clients,” says Geolat. “What’s just as important as bringing saleable pieces is also bringing jewelry people don’t usually have the chance to see every day. The more they learn about unique jewelry items, the greater their interest and the more they talk about what they see and/or buy with their friends.”

Two other categories of jewelry for sale include collections of pieces of jewelry sourced from Peterson’s clients on the manufacturing and design side of the industry with natural fancy colored diamond-set jewelry as well as closeouts of designer collections. “Given the product selection, event clients get an incredible value,” says Geolat. “And, the experience enables them to  renew their look with new accessories while renewing the customers’ enthusiasm for jewelry.”  

One the eve of the fourth quarter of 2010, Peterson and Geolat are hoping to host five to six such hybrid buy/sell jewelry events this year. In looking ahead at 2011, the duo has already scheduled several events for early spring next year.

“There’s very little cost to the retailer,” says Peterson. “And, given the inherent flexibility of the event concept, any number of themes can appeal to any number of client demographics in any given market.”

Patti Geolat, Laurie Kottke and Kate Peterson

Patti Geolat, Laurie Kottke and Kate Peterson

Minneapolis-based Kottke was very pleased with the event. The preview reception brought in nearly 100 people in one night to her 1,100-square-foot store, a number of whom came in with pieces and parcels full of  jewelry to sell. An anecdotal review of two large parcels indicated that much of the jewelry being traded in were better quality pieces.

In addition to bringing in the crowds and entertaining them with finger foods and fine wines, Kottke likes the idea of having Geolat and Peterson taking charge of the event. “It takes me out of the equation and puts the client in front of two people who know how to evaluate estate jewelry and sell the jewelry they bring in for the event,” says Kottke.

As a retailer, Kottke sees many benefits in hosting the event, leading with the idea that scrapping out jewelry has a negative appeal. “I think giving clients buying options when selling their jewelry tends to go over better and translates easily when conveying what the combination of offerings is about,” says Kottke. “And, it’s a fresh, new event. In this economy a retailer not only has to do events that are new and interesting, but visible and inviting so people know you’re not just still in business, but doing well.”