Jeff Dennis loves holidays.
Not just Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Christmas—the marquee holidays on the jewelry retailer’s annual calendar—but specifically those oft-overlooked, even “unofficial” holidays he can leverage to bolster his namesake jewelry store in Gardendale, Ala.
Over the past dozen years, Dennis has used second-tier holidays to drive business to his 3,700-square-foot operation, unleashing strategic promotions that have showered his store in notoriety and revenue.
In November 2012, for instance, Dennis offered a full refund if either the University of Alabama or Auburn University posted a shutout in the Iron Bowl, a treasured annual “holiday” in Dennis’ football-crazed state. When the Crimson Tide shellacked the Tigers 49–0, Dennis refunded some $55,000 to more than 300 customers who purchased jewelry the week before the big game, a payout he backed with an insurance policy.
The following fall, Dennis embraced Labor Day. If more than an inch of rain fell at Birmingham–Shuttlesworth International Airport, he pledged to refund any purchases made Aug. 1–26. When 1.42 inches fell that Sept. 2, nearly 600 customers became eligible for refunds approaching $90,000.
Less than six months later, in February 2014, Dennis targeted the Super Bowl, a de facto U.S. holiday that seizes the nation’s attention. When the Seattle Seahawks notched a safety on the Denver Broncos’ first offensive possession, about 400 shoppers corralled refunds totaling more than $70,000.
“By halftime, I had news teams at my store and the phone kept ringing for days,” Dennis says.
The annual Auburn-Alabama game (aka the Iron Bowl) is something of a local holiday for football die-hards.
Dennis lists these three “holiday” promotions as his most successful marketing initiatives, referring to them as “life- and business-altering events” that catapulted brand awareness and boosted sales. In fact, he hosted “refund parties” following all three insurance-backed promotions and found that 70 percent of the cash he refunded was later spent on store merchandise. “Not bad,” he quips.
While Dennis could run similar promotions on the calendar’s premier jewelry-buying holidays, he’s favored these secondary holidays and singular occasions that allow him to capitalize on more affordable media buys and less competition for the consumer’s attention.
“I can attract business during slower periods and get jewelry on customers’ radar so they buy now rather than putting it off,” he says. “Plus, the fish are biting on those big holidays. Why should I use my best bait then?”
Stephanie Diaz of BlueTreeDigital, a marketing firm based in Northern Virginia, says jewelry retailers hitting these secondary holidays have an opportunity to capture mind share and plant jewelry-buying seeds. “Marketing is a year-round effort, and retailers can use these lesser-known holidays to get—and stay—top of mind.”
Better yet, retailers can leverage these holidays to showcase the culture, character, and values of their stores in a way that elevates the brand and fosters genuine connections.
“A lot in marketing these days is not about the immediate sale, but about making emotional connections and creating interesting, fun content that connects with people,” Diaz says. “These holidays can be an avenue to accomplish that.”
The Go Red for Women campaign promotes awareness of heart disease.
Capture the Spirit
On St. Patrick’s Day, John Wallick Jewelers in Sun City, Ariz., captured the spirit of the Irish-themed holiday by discounting all green jewelry 40 percent, touting offerings such as a $3,700 emerald ring, $3,000 emerald earrings, and a 3.25 ct. pear-shape peridot pendant.
A sale is an obvious attention-grabbing tool, Diaz confirms, but retailers can think beyond discounting items. The practice, though generally appealing to consumers, may not resonate outside of the traditional headline-grabbing holidays.
Instead, Diaz says, retailers might use their social media channels or blogs to illuminate novel holidays, sharing personal stories or information to fuel engagement. Stambaugh Jewelers in Defiance, Ohio, for example, penned a blog post on National Trivia Day in January educating customers on the varied colors of diamonds, and then asked readers their favorite diamond colors.
On Earth Day in April, meanwhile, retailers might spotlight environmentally friendly products, an increasingly prominent issue among consumers. Retailers can showcase handmade pieces featuring recycled metals, ethically sourced gemstones, or conflict-free diamonds.
In addition, Diaz says stores can deepen ties with their communities by celebrating notable local milestones, such as a town’s founding, or aligning themselves with good causes. February, for instance, marks the American Heart Association’s National Wear Red Day as well as World Cancer Day. On these days, retailers can support their store with benevolent movements and recognize local nonprofits, staff members, or loyal customers connected to specific causes.
“In the digital marketing age, in particular, it’s these personal stories that build connections,” says Diaz.
To wit, Bill Selig Jewelers, a two-store operation in Connecticut, introduced a Veterans Day photo contest on Facebook last November inviting locals to share pictures and stories of beloved veterans. Participants then encouraged others to vote for their entry, creating a ripple effect of social media attention. The winner received a $150 gift card to the 38-year-old business.
Robin James, who handles the store’s social media outreach, says the Facebook contest drove awareness and attention to the business and believes the effort created a valuable halo around the store as well. “People are not necessarily thinking about Bill Selig Jewelers on Veterans Day, but this put our name out there, got us some great visibility, and shows that we support veterans, which is a cause many rally behind.”
For the past three years, NightRider Jewelry has hosted a 9/11 run commemorating Patriot Day in its hometown of Chandler, Ariz., partnering with Team Red, White, and Blue, a nonprofit organization that supports veterans. “It’s a great way to get customers excited about our work and a good cause,” NightRider marketing project manager Jenna Crawford says.
NightRider publicized the free event at its Scottsdale, Ariz., store and linked specific collections to the event. In 2013, the event’s first year, for example, NightRider highlighted its Aquila collection, displaying pieces from the collection at the Patriot Day run and even printing T-shirts picturing the jewelry, and donated 10 percent of Aquila sales that month to Team RWB. “It’s an incentive for people interested in getting a piece, but also supporting a noble cause in the process,” Crawford says.
As NightRider does not discount its handmade products, Crawford says the management team consistently investigates creative ways to drive excitement and engagement among current and prospective customers. They make sure, however, that any marketing effort matches the store’s values. “We’re all about being American made, so the event tied to Patriot Day really fits our company profile,” Crawford says.
Diaz says that’s an important message for all retailers to heed. A sophisticated store peddling luxury goods would be unlikely to tout National Ice Cream Day on July 17, whereas a Main Street business with a casual vibe might find that date a compelling opportunity to invite families into the shop to enjoy a complimentary treat and strengthen community bonds.
“You have to know who you are, your audience, and their expectations,” Diaz says. “These offbeat holidays offer opportunity, but there has to be a purpose and strategy behind any initiative.”
Top: Photograph by Ted Morrison
Ring in 18k gold with black rhodium, diamonds, and Gemfields emeralds, $21,275, Yossi Harari at Muse, NYC, 866-301-MUSE, yossiharari.com; inset: emerald-themed jewelry for St. Patrick’s Day (Leticia Linton earrings, $69,000; Andreoli ring, price on request)
Every month is full of unusual celebrations that never make it onto your typical desk calendar. Concocted by associations and entrepreneurs, creative thinkers and, yes, a few opportunistic marketers, these occasions afford retailers an opportunity to build community, capture attention, and attach a sense of fun to their respective brands, says Stephanie Diaz of marketing agency BlueTreeDigital. —DPS
Here are five one-of-a-kind days in the second half of 2016 that retailers might leverage to spark spirited marketing initiatives:
July 7: Tell the Truth Day
Aug. 5: 2016 Summer Olympics begin in Rio de Janeiro.
Sept. 11: National Grandparents’ Day
Oct. 15: 65th anniversary of I Love Lucy TV premiere (pictured)
Nov. 21: World Hello Day
For more ideas, consult Chase’s Calendar of Events, available at many community libraries.
(Auburn-Alabama game: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images; I Love Lucy: Everett Collection)