Jewelers Hide Boxes, Find Good Will

Trey Bailey admits that the promotion that has come to define his store grew out of a wacky idea. “I thought how cool it would be if you are walking through the park and find a beautifully wrapped package and it’s a free gift,” says the owner of Bailey’s Fine Jewelry in Rocky Hill, N.C.

Now this simple idea, wacky or not, has grown “way bigger and better than we ever dreamed,” Bailey says. It was supposed to last a few days. But now it’s gone on almost indefinitely as employees of the three-store chain have been planting their trademark “Bailey boxes” all over the local area for the last seven months.

The nicely wrapped boxes contain a piece of jewelry, valued between $25 and $100. An accompanying note (in an unopened envelope, so people don’t feel bad about reading it) tells the finder the jewelry is theirs to keep. “We don’t really hide the boxes,” Bailey says. “We just put them somewhere, so if you’re walking past them, you will do a double take.

“We have put them in park benches and shopping centers, on college campuses. We have put them in restaurants, and the restaurants loved them. They asked us to do it again.”

The only problem came when one was left on a college campus the day after the Unabomber’s brother spoke. Someone called the bomb squad, but the situation eventually was cleared up.

Even without news releases or advertising, the promotion has caused a stir in the community and drawn a lot of news coverage.

“The radio morning shows have been all over it,” Bailey says. “We made the front page of the News and Observer, which isn’t easy to do.”

Most surprising is how the contest has touched people. “I get these long e-mails from people saying that they were in a tough patch and this changed their life,” he says. “I didn’t expect that.”

Bailey notes that, while the idea was conceived before the economy crashed last fall, it’s something people keep referencing in their notes. “Probably the best story is, we had a lady with four kids who said she has always wanted a Bailey’s box,” he says. “But she had come to terms with the fact that she would never get one.”

Even the reporter doing the story for the Raleigh newspaper was moved to tears by the gesture.

The contest has given the staff “a lot of pride,” Bailey says, and he thinks it has had even more tangible benefits. “I definitely think it’s given us a lot more business,” he says. “We had the best February in our history, and we’ve been in business 61 years.”

He continues, “It’s just brought tons of good will in the community and great word of mouth. If you find a pearl necklace when you go out to dinner, you are going to tell everyone at the table.”

Do you have a retail success story you’d like to share with your peers? If so, e-mail Paul Holewa at paul.holewa@reedbusiness.com.