Hight & Randall Ltd. Personal Jeweler

Hight & Randall Ltd. Personal Jeweler is a full-service, American Gem Society store based in Rochester, Minn. Established in 1995, the store caters to the upscale, professional, high-tech community associated with the world-renowned Mayo Clinic, focusing on exceptional diamonds and colored stones, designer jewelry, custom design, and appraisals. Barbara Hight-Randall, president and co-owner (with her husband, Randy), is a former instructor for the Gemological Institute of America and a former marketing director for Diamond Promotion Service. She also has training as a certified gemologist. In an exclusive interview with JCK, she discusses marketing and selling aged inventory, successful sales initiatives and store events, and her focus for the future.

  1. How did you come up with Baba’s Attic to deal with aged inventory? We watched Antiques Roadshow and we asked ourselves “what is the fascination with this show?” It’s finding treasure—the journey and experience. We looked for a way to take that “treasure hunt” concept into the store. So we came up with the store-within-a-store concept and called it Baba’s Attic Boutique—WhereMillionaires Shop for Extra Value. It’s a separate area of the store where we place our older items in gift cabinets and sell them for 30 percent to 70 percent from their original price. We are constantly adding to it, so customers never know what they’ll find. We advertise it in our window and through direct mail. Since we launched it in May, we’ve been moving a lot of aged merchandise. It has definitely revitalized interest in our store. I think it also has lowered the barrier and drawn in more passerby traffic and customers that aren’t as high-end as our regular customers. We’ve found that it’s also an ideal add-on whenever we sell a new piece. The attic is a way for us to have a promotion in the store every day, without using language that devalues the store. It also gives us a point of differentiation from our competitors. Baba is also a figure we’re using in our newsletter, and she will have a blog as well. They know it’s me, but it’s a figure they can identify with, and it helps us build a relationship with them.

  2. How else do you set yourself apart from competitors? It’s very important to us to be philanthropic in the community. We do the Hearts & Diamonds Spectacular with the Ronald McDonald House. It’s a black-tie event in our community to support the Ronald McDonald House in Rochester. We provide various pieces of diamond jewelry that are raffled at the event. At the last one, we donated items worth $20,000. We also work with the Salvation Army and the Gift of Life Transplant House [in Rochester]. To us, it’s very gratifying to reach out to the community to give something back and help those less fortunate than ourselves. And we don’t just give something old away. We are happy to donate a gift as long as the charity can raise at least as much as its value, or more.

  3. What has been your most successful promotional event? About 10 years ago, we had gem expert Gary Bowersox bring gems into our store from Afghanistan. We had him arrive at the store on a camel and in traditional garb. It wasn’t easy to find a camel in Rochester, but we did. We cleared out our showcases and delegated the store to him for three days, and he brought in more than 50,000 gemstones. It got us great press and a huge reception. We had a street fair going on in front of our store that the city put on, and we incorporated our event into the fair. There were wall-to-wall people in the store, and people remembered it for years. We did a lot of sales, and groomed a lot of new customers.

  4. What has been your best sales initiative? We send out a letter to existing clients who have purchased jewelry with us. We give them one $100 gift certificate just for them, and two additional ones to gift to someone else. The minute one of their giveaways comes back to us (via a referral customer), we send the existing client another $100 gift certificate. We don’t put restrictions on them—there’s no legalese, no hoops they have to jump through. The only limitation is that the gift certificates can be used on in-stock items only. We started doing this initiative in February 2006. In the first month it generated an additional $30,000 in business. We’re not in a mall environment with built-in traffic. The gift certificates give people a reason to come in and give us a chance; it’s a per-sonal invitation to see us. It also gives us an advocate out there, a third-party endorser. That’s why the closing rate on these walk-in customers is much higher than usual. We have regular clients out there that give out the giveaways, save their certificates, and walk in with 10 of them. They end up walking away with a really nice piece of jewelry.

  5. Where do you see your greatest growth opportunity? The estate business is a real growth area for us. We see so many people who have inherited pieces but don’t know what to do with them, or they have these old pieces sitting in a jewelry box. We’ll resell the pieces for them. We’ve done Yellow Pages ads, radio ads, and promoted our estate business on our Web site. Also, maintaining an online presence is absolutely critical for us. We are in such a high-tech area.