Holiday Events Connect With Customers

Christmas Cheerleading. Three years ago Fruchtman Marketing approached Steve Levinson, owner of Monmouth Jewelers, Newport, Ky., to help beef up his seasonal men’s night. The most inspired innovation was hiring members of the Cincinnati Bengals’ cheerleading squad to augment the sales staff.

The store, in the Cincinnati area, sent more than 2,000 direct mailers inviting men to the “Ben-gals, Baubles and Beer” event. In keeping with the football theme, the invitations looked like NFL tickets. The guests, around 110 strong, were in their element, eating pizza, drinking beer, talking football, and chatting up the women who cheer on their favorite team.

The cheerleaders posed for the cameras, signed studio-quality pictures, and walked men through the store. Whether it was the beer, the pizza, the cheerleaders, or a combination of all three, the gents were “definitely in a buying mood,” says Levinson. “The event was a lot of fun for the guys as well as the cheerleaders, who helped men with jewelry buying decisions for their special ladies. It was a win-win for everyone.”

Levinson is considering a ladies’ night tie-in for the week before the gents’ night so men can show up with wish lists in hand.

Bob Zagaros and his partner Cindi Kranz, co-owners of Minneapolis-based Bergstrom Jewelers, held a similar event last year with the help of the Minnesota Vikings’ cheerleaders and arrived at a similar conclusion. “Our first men’s event was well attended, and the guys enjoyed it,” says Zagaros. “But to help make this December guys’ night a bit more successful in terms of making purchases, we’re going to have women attending our November holiday season kickoff party and complete wish lists so their guys know what to buy at the following month men’s event.”

Estate Planning With 40 percent of sales dedicated to estate jewelry, it’s only natural that Nelson Coleman Jewelers, Towson, Md., kicks off its Christmas season with a 10-day estate jewelry open house.

Like hosts planning a dinner party, co-owners Chris and Mark Coleman and sales manager Selden Morgan comb through the store’s 12,000-member data-base in late October to plan the fun. “We are careful to profile the attendees so that they enjoy each others’ company, even if they don’t know each other,” says Chris Coleman. “And the peer-to-peer synergy that occurs influences the mood, selection, and sales for this event.”

Direct-mail invitations with estate jewelry images are sent out, and 75 to 100 people typically show up for the first evening of the open house.

White-gloved staffers greet customers at the door and extend a silver serving tray piled with sealed gift cards in various amounts. Coleman and his staff do their best to curb the natural temptation to sneak a peek at the gift card amount by offering hors d’oeuvres and the store’s signature Bling-Tini cocktails. Customers sip, munch, and mingle while looking over the store’s estate jewelry cases.

The only rule is that all gift cards must be redeemed that evening. “Of course, there are always exceptions to that rule, and on occasion we allow valued customers to use their gift card during the 10-day event,” Coleman says.

On the big kickoff night, there’s a high close rate, says Coleman. “On the average, these estate events bring in $40,000 on up to $100,000 in sales.”

The Gingerbread Woman. Cathy Calhoun’s annual gingerbread house contest has become a huge event in her small town of 4,500. The annual competition has become so popular that Calhoun is considering holding this year’s contest at an ice-cream shop down the street from her store.

The event got its start several years ago when Calhoun was shopping for unique Christmas gifts at Peddler’s Village, in Lahaska, Pa., 30 miles from her store in Royersford, Pa. Calhoun was struck by the overwhelming interest in a gingerbread contest that was on display in the neighboring town of New Hope.

Looking for an addition to her seasonal display, Calhoun borrowed the contest idea and invited four area restaurant owners to compete for a diamond necklace. The contest buzz spread fast as restaurant owners and staffers encouraged patrons, friends, and family members to vote for their gingerbread house. “We even had a priest tell his congregation during a sermon to vote for a certain restaurant’s gingerbread house,” says Calhoun.

Calhoun hosts the event from Black Friday through Christmas Eve, with awards hand-delivered on Christmas Eve. She shakes things up by changing contest themes, which have included historical sites in Pennsylvania as well as this year’s fantasy theme. Calhoun has even changed the type of contestants to help generate interest from restaurant owners and culinary students at a local vocational college to the general public.

The gingerbread house with the most votes earns a diamond necklace for its creator. There’s also a drawing for voters. “Prizes are good incentives for both parties,” says Calhoun. “But part of the success of the event comes when people who come to vote spend a lot of time in the store.”

Besides voters, the contest draws groups of schoolchildren and members of senior centers and garners “huge amounts of press coverage,” says Calhoun.

She attributes many sales directly to the contest, but for her the event’s real success is the buzz it generates each year. “It’s exciting to be part of such a highly anticipated holiday event,” she says. “But the big plus is getting so many people in the store, including kids who become comfortable in a jewelry store at an early age.”

The Giving Tree. The Christmas tree at Gregory Jewelers in Mountain Home, Ark., is more than a holiday decoration. It’s a fund-raiser for a local homeless shelter, a way to attract new customers, and a promotion that generates plenty of publicity.

In exchange for a donation of at least $10, shoppers can take one of more than 200 wrapped mystery gifts from the tree. The gifts, wrapped with the store’s signature black paper and gold satin ribbons, are worth around $10, but co-owner Lori Gregory sprinkles in $50 and $250 gift cards to heighten interest. She hopes to raise $3,000 to $4,000 for the homeless shelter.

The first Giving Tree went up in 2007. Gregory kept overhead to a minimum by getting local radio station KPFM to help promote the event, and the station did a live remote the Saturday after Black Friday.

Gregory maintains a $750 spending cap, in part by wrapping up old inventory. “Jewelers always say you can’t give away old inventory, but I say yes you can,” says Gregory, who also works with vendors to donate or discount jewelry for the Giving Tree.

Held on the first weekend after Black Friday, Gregory’s Giving Tree has become a holiday favorite in her market. “The store traffic on that weekend is just incredible,” she says. “We’ve even had some people like a local doctor call in to reserve Giving Tree boxes at the counter.”

In addition to supporting the homeless shelter, the Giving Tree has brought many new customers into the store. “The Giving Tree event and the seasonal wrapping even reinforce the store’s tagline of ‘Good things come in little black boxes,’” says Gregory. “And the shelter now helps promote the event in their newsletter, and they have forwarded their donor list to me, which has added many new names to my customer database.”

Do you hold great store events, holiday or otherwise? We’d like to hear about them. E-mail paul.holewa@reedbusiness.com.