Retail Jewelry Innovators

Make It Convenient

Ronda Daily, owner of Bremer Jewelry, with stores in Bloomington and Peoria, Ill., wants to make jewelry shopping convenient for “guests.” (Daily doesn’t use the “C” word—customer). In 2008 she opened her Peoria store on Sundays from noon to 4:00 p.m., but later discontinued the Sunday hours for six months. “That’s what we call our stupid phase,” says Daily. “We noticed a 5 percent drop-off in our business during those six months.”

The home page of the Bremer Web site promotes the Sunday hours, and a large banner outside the store also gets the word out. Other conveniences include providing progress reports for repair customers via their medium of choice, including e-mail, cell phone call, or text message.

Keep Them Informed

Thirteen months ago Mark Motes, chief operating officer of Smyth Jewelers, Timonium, Md., gave each sales staffer a BlackBerry. At one time customers were reluctant to give cell numbers to merchants. “But when we specify that our staff can contact them by e-mail or text to let customers know when a repair is done or a ring is finished, people more freely give out their cell phone numbers,” says Motes.

The BlackBerries also give management control over the content of e-mails exchanged between staff and customers. “This information is downloaded daily to a central computer system that allows us to track such e-mail correspondences so we know how sales staff are assisting customers,” says Motes.

Texting is also popular. “About 90 percent of my staff text with customers several times a day,” says Motes. “We’ve found it’s the most direct way to contact customers, who respond quickly no matter what they’re doing, be it in a meeting or during dinner. Texting is a very discreet, informal, and fast way to communicate.”

Motes has received hundreds of compliments from customers regarding the speed and efficiency of BlackBerry communications—even when a staff member is off.

Bridal Savings

Bridal engagement customers who spend $5,000 or more at Montica Jewelry, Coral Gables, Fla., receive a savings package valued at $1,000. It includes a $200 gift certificate for a wedding band, the first year’s insurance, annual in-house appraisal, annual ring sizing (up or down one ring size), annual refurbishment, in-house safety checks, engraving service, and unlimited cleanings. “Conservatively speaking, about seven out of 10 engagement customers come back for their wedding bands with us mainly because of the perceived value of this savings package,” says owner John O’Rourke.

The gift card provides incentive for couples to purchase bands sooner rather than later. “Many couples put the wedding bands purchases off by a year, but we’re finding with the gift card people don’t wait as long to buy their wedding jewelry,” O’Rourke says.

Redesign Kit

For the last three years, Stuart Benjamin and his staff have handed out 200 to 300 redesign kits. “Since we started the program we’ve had about a 50 percent return rate,” says the owner of Stuart Benjamin & Co. Jewelry Designs, San Diego.

The kit contains a custom design information card, a $50 gift card, and a polishing cloth with the store’s logo. When a customer returns the kit, it typically includes the item to be made into a new piece of jewelry, pictures from magazines or catalogs that best match the desired design, and any specific instructions. Customers may also see their custom jewelry rendered in 3-D before it’s made.

Clients also can choose a finished piece of jewelry based on the value of the precious metals and gemstones exchanged.

Winning Endorsements

Jimmy Pesis and his wife, Helain, co-owners of Continental Diamond, St. Louis Park, Minn., have a testimonial Web page featuring local celebrities that has helped brand the store as the hometown jeweler. Sports legends such as former Minnesota Twins Tony Oliva and Paul Molitor endorse the store as does Brad Childress, head coach of the Minnesota Vikings, and Flip Saunders, the former Timberwolves coach who was part of the University of Minnesota’s famed basketball lineup in the 1980s. Local TV personality Tawnja Zahradka interviews the sports figures for the online testimonials.

“It means a lot to customers to know that local celebrities know us and trust us and that they buy from the same jeweler,” says Pesis. Local sports celebrities are also part of Pesis’s new ad campaigns, further cementing the hometown branding component. Twins first baseman Justin Morneau has been the store’s spokesman for the last two years, and KFAN’s Paul Allen, “the voice of the Vikings,” is part of a new ad campaign that gives blow-by-blow calls behind a sofa while a young man proposes to his fiancée with a ring from Continental Diamond.