2013 Holiday Survival Guide: Month-by-Month Tips for Retail Sales Success



If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, we’ve got three months’ worth of ways for you to flatter your fellow retailers. Here’s how they get through the most wonderful (and stressful!) time of the year. Plus: gift-box–ready rings, earrings, pendan

We know how tough it is to come up with original ideas for the holidays. At home, you can hang some twinkle lights, bake a few batches of sugar cookies, crank up the Bing Crosby, and voilà! Instant holiday amibience. Alas, your customers aren’t as easily entertained as your family.

That’s why we asked retailers all across the country to tell us what they do to prepare for—and to get through—the busiest selling season of the year. They happily shared the creative marketing initiatives, advertising campaigns, displays, and inventory and sales tips that have worked for them—which, we suspect, will work for you as well. And if you’re still stocking up on sparkle, they’ll tell you what’s trending in their stores. (One word: diamonds.)

Once you’ve taken in all of their tips and tricks, turn to our packed product pages, where we’ve collected 29 rings, bracelets, pendants, and dangly earrings that practically scream “wrap me up!” If, after all of this, your customers aren’t sufficiently entertained, may we suggest some spiked eggnog?

OCTOBER

“We expect inside-out diamond hoops and diamond studs to sell well, and the Dancing Diamond earrings are being highly advertised too. We just bought into the ­Ostbye line that makes a version of them.”
Susie Molenaar Butterfield, owner,
Molenaar Jewelers,
Boise, Idaho

MARKETING
“We have customers make their holiday wish list in late October. We photograph them [wearing] the jewelry and send the pictures to their husbands or loved ones saying, ‘Doesn’t Judy or Susan look great in these earrings?’ We have a big-screen TV playing in our store, and we feature the pictures there. We’re in a smaller community and women will come in and say, ‘Oh, that’s Susan in her earrings!’ We’ll put the ­pictures on Facebook too.”
Sid Potts, owner, Sid Potts Inc., Shreveport, La.

Earrings in 18k gold with 23.75 cts. t.w. aquamarine and 5.35 cts. t.w. brown diamond baguettes; $22,000; Suzanne Kalan at Fragments, NYC; 212-226-8878; fragments.com

VISUAL MERCHANDISING
“We are in town on street level, and we have wonderful window displays. We create great scenes that are Charles Dickens– and Tiffany–inspired—Tiffany is our model (though our windows are as good as or better than Tiffany’s!). We have a miniature jewelers’ bench with tiny tools, and place a diamond ring on it to suggest that it’s Santa’s workshop. We also use ­Bearington teddy bears. Our displays take you back to your childhood.”
Andrea Kosko, partner, Fellin’s Jewelers, Hazleton, Pa.

EVENTS
“We host a rising star event from the first week of October through Christmas, letting kids that are up to 16 years old design a bracelet or ring. They draw it on paper and we select some of the pieces and make them, presenting them in the front window. Everyone gets a letter to say they’re a runner-up. Every parent buys their kids’ creation.”
Ila Manner-Schulman, owner, Golddiggers Jewelers, Block Island, R.I.

VISUAL MERCHANDISING
“We have a monthly theme that we decorate around. In September, the theme is football; we decorate in the blue and orange of Boise State, and display my husband’s collection of 13 bowl rings—every time they win, they give him a ring. In October, we do a fall theme in orange and brown. In ­November, the theme is Thanksgiving so we bring pine cones into the store, burn pumpkin spice scent candles, and offer coffee drinks. In December, we have a Christmas theme, choosing two colors to decorate with throughout the store.”
Susie Molenaar Butterfield, owner, Molenaar Jewelers, Boise, Idaho

SOCIAL
“We have a marketing campaign and contest, Put a Ring on the Finger, that goes through November—we announce the awards mid-November through December. We invite people to upload creative content around the theme. We partner with local radio stations that are running a sub-contest. It’s all promoted on Facebook and Twitter.”
Mark Clodius, president, Clodius & Co. Jewelers, Rockford, Ill.

VISUAL MERCHANDISING
“I got married on May 1, and my wife is from Thailand, so we are going to incorporate some of her culture’s flair into our holiday efforts. We will display more yellow gold instead of white as well as bonsai trees and put red accents in cases. We’ll also give hand-painted teacups to customers who make purchases of $1,000 and up; we hand-picked them in Thailand and imported them. Plus, we’re offering customers tea and matoom fruit—from Thailand.”
Dave Colaprete, owner, James Jewelers, Clarion, Pa.

NOVEMBER

“As popular as white gold is, yellow gold is selling. High-end customers don’t like the idea that everybody thinks their jewelry is silver. Halos are also crazy sellers. Right now we’ve got halos in 18 karat yellow gold that are tremendous.”
—Patti Schrag, gemologist–sales associate,
Gemstone Jewelers,
Derby, Kan.

Atlantico Diamond Studs in 14k yellow gold with 1 ct. t.w. diamonds; $5,250; Hearts On Fire, Boston; 877-PERFECT; heartsonfire.com

VISUAL MERCHANDISING
“We let each item in our displays and windows stand out on their own. We treat each item like it’s special and not just one of many, to show it the respect it deserves, and to show the customer that it’s something special. And in our print ads, we show just one piece of jewelry—a style that pops.”
Christopher Strader, gemologist appraiser, Hood River Jewelers, Hood River, Ore.

PUBLICITY
“We use ads from Mike Buley of ­Jewelry Ads That Work; his marketing genius has definitely helped me! I consider advertising to be a form of entertainment, so I use his funny radio, Facebook, and billboard ads. One asks if your daughter’s diamond is larger than your wife’s stone? I’ve had a lot of humorous harassment from the guys on that one, like, ‘What you trying to do to me?’?”
Scott Coyle, president, Scott & Co. Fine Jewelers, New Oxford and Gettysburg, Pa.

MARKETING
“We put together an eight- to 10-page holiday magazine. We normally [feature] a coupon inside the magazine for 25 percent off the current sale price on merchandise. It’s probably our biggest holiday advertising. People wait for it every year—it just works.”
Ira Castellano, operations ­manager, Steve Pronko, Dickson City, Pa.

EVENTS
“Our private-only invite party is our kickoff for the holidays. We do it mid-November so we can get everyone ready for holiday shopping. Direct-mail invitations are sent to existing clients. Around 300 to 400 come in for it.”
Jonathan Farnsworth, manager, Lewis Jewelers, Ann Arbor, Mich.

SALES
“A lot of men have never shopped for a gift. We always talk about the reaction of the woman when she gets the gift. We say: ‘Think of her face when she opens this.’ A lot of men just say to the woman, ‘Go buy yourself something and I’ll pay for it.’ If a man actually takes the time to pick something out it means a lot more.”
Richard Kern, owner, Churchill ­Jewelers, Santa Barbara, Calif.

EVENTS/SOCIAL
“We always have a holiday open house that runs from right before Thanksgiving through the Black Friday weekend. It boosts sales tremendously because customers are not forced to come in for just the one day. That’s too much pressure! We promote the open house through printed ads, billboards, on our website, and on our Facebook page.”
Patti Schrag, gemologist–sales associate, Gemstone Jewelers, Derby, Kan.

PUBLICITY
“We’re doing something new this year to attract customers ages 19 to 35. For Black Friday…with purchases of $2,500 or more, we’re giving away iPods; for purchases of $1,000 or more, we’re giving away PlayStation 4 units; for $799 or more, buyers get a Kindle Fire; and for $199 or more, buyers get the new Call of Duty: Ghosts game.”
Richard Holmes, owner, Duke’s Jewelers, Springville, Utah

DECEMBER

“Male shoppers have a fear of being wrong. The best way to remove that fear is letting them know I have a loose return policy. I tell them if the woman doesn’t like it, they can bring it back.… It’s harder for a big-box, ­by-the-numbers type of store to do that.”
—Tom Wright, owner,
Wright’s Jewelers,
Lincoln, Neb.

EVENTS
“We have a large two-day event the first week of December. We get quite a few partners and vendors to donate products that we give away in a raffle or split the costs with us. Last year we had a huge dragon ice sculpture because it was the Year of the Dragon. We also have a red carpet where people can have pictures taken. We send hand-written initiations. We do an email blast for a save-the-date, but invitations, they are printed with a picture of the owner and his wife. It’s more personal to hand-write each address.”
Jim Alati, sales manager, Simmons Fine Jewelry, Meridian, Idaho

EVENTS
“In December, we put on a trunk show and a Christmas party. We promote it a bit by Facebook and on our blog. We also mail out invitations, although clients have gotten so used to it, they know it’s coming up in December.”
Kimberly Gibson, manager, Redfern Jewelers, St. Simons Island, Ga.

Flower Ring with 2.35 cts. t.w. round diamonds and 1.26 cts. t.w. melee in 18k white gold; price on request; Rahaminov for Forevermark, Los Angeles; 213-622-9866; rahaminov.com

INVENTORY
“The closer you get to the holiday, the more you need the merchandise in store. Stores that deal in memo and pieces they don’t own are at a severe disadvantage, because the closer you get to Christmas, the harder it is to get pieces. The last week in particular, you have thousands of stores nationwide that are all hustling for the same merchandise.”
Craig Underwood, president, ­Underwood’s Fine Jewelers, Fayetteville, Ark.

VISUAL MERCHANDISING
“We have aired a 30-second TV ad for the past 10 years that shows our staff greeting people, different parts of the store, and people who work in our store. It doesn’t feature our jewelry so much as our staff; while Christmas is the most important holiday selling season, it’s the way that people are treated more than the gift they got that is memorable.”
Michael Haines, president, The Diamond Shop, Lewiston, Idaho

PUBLICITY
“Our town does not allow billboards, so for the first time this Christmas, we will have a truck with big store signs on it—like the ones in Vegas that drive up and down the Strip. I rented it for December, January, and February, because our population doubles in the winter thanks to snowbirds. It will be parked on our town’s main street and then driven out to big events in town.”
Dean Agius, president, Edgardo Jewelers, Lake Havasu City, Ariz.