Valentine’s Day 2002: Not for Lovers Only

Valentine’s Day isn’t just hearts and flowers. While traditionally associated with romance, it is also a time when people can show family, friends, colleagues, co-workers, and others that they care for them. According to a 2001 National Retail Federation (NRF) survey, “a substantial percentage” of consumers (42.2%) already see Feb. 14 as an opportunity to give a gift to someone for reasons other than romantic interest.

Such impulses are even more understandable in the wake of recent tragic events in the United States. “Certainly, jewelers can make this Valentine’s Day more meaningful by stressing the eternal bond we have with each other, from which we draw strength,” says designer Deborah Armstrong, who is known for her patterned sterling silver jewelry. “Reaching out to those who mean something to us with a gesture this Valentine’s Day is more important than ever.”

Here are 14 tips that can help give a special meaning to this year’s Feb. 14 marketing:

  1. Get personal. Promote symbolic, patriotic, and “personal” jewelry for Valentine’s Day. Examples of the latter include rings, pendants, charms, lockets, and timepieces that can be engraved with a loving message or allow the user to insert a photo of friends or loved ones, suggests Elizabeth Florence, executive director of the Jewelry Information Center. A variation, notes retail consultant Janice Mack, is “the increased use of laser inscription to memorialize diamond gifts, with short messages engraved on the girdles of diamonds. It’s reasonably inexpensive and widely available. A new twist on a mother’s ring, for example, is a band of diamonds with each child’s name engraved on a diamond.”
    Symbolic jewelry includes cameos, religious jewelry, “infinity” jewelry (which incorporates the circle), Celtic claddagh rings (with symbols of love, loyalty, and friendship), and Celtic “knots” (with no beginning or end, symbolizing eternity).

  2. Be patriotic. Patriotic jewelry incorporating the American flag’s colors of red, white, and blue also should do well. Many such pieces were created after the Sept. 11 attacks. “It is our way to help the economy and give the jeweler something patriotic to sell,” says New York designer Myriam Gumuchian of her red, white, and blue “Stars and Stripes” collection in enameled gold and silver with diamonds. “I think people feel stronger and better when they wear these colors. I also feel that the stars-and-stripes theme is here to stay, [and will] become as important as religious ornaments.”
    Gumuchian is donating 10% of sales of the jewelry to the Sept. 11 fund set up by the United Way of New York City and The New York Community Trust. Other designers have made similar commitments. Philadelphia designer Steven Lagos, for example, is donating a portion of sales of his “Heart of Freedom” pendants and pins to the Red Cross. The jewelry line—in sterling silver and 18k gold with diamonds, rubies, and sapphires—”embodies the strength of the American spirit.”
    Have a patriotic “American Lovers” display or promotion, featuring pictures of and copies of letters by famous American couples, such as George and Martha Washington, John and Abigail Adams, Abe and Mary Lincoln, Ike and Mamie Eisenhower, Jack and Jackie Kennedy, and Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter. This can be a month-long marketing event since February is the birth month of Washington and Lincoln and includes Presidents’ Day.
    A variation of this is an “Our Community’s Heroes” display, with framed wedding pictures of local police officers, firefighters, clergy, medical rescue teams, and teachers. Offer a percentage discount to members of those groups, or make a contribution from your store’s proceeds to a scholarship fund for children of deceased police officers or firefighters.

  3. Promote early. Valentine’s Day shopping peaks about a week before Feb. 14, according to various surveys, so begin marketing and promotions in mid-January. Put promotional flyers in bags with customers’ purchases. Use special Valentine’s Day packaging (i.e., bags, wrapping paper) during the promotional period. Send reminders to your customers by e-mail, fax, and postcards.
    And be sure your list is up-to-date, says Steve Kretser, president of the Vista Group, an Albany, N.Y., management and sales training consultant for retail jewelers. “Most jewelers lose 25% of their client base in a five-year span without realizing it, due to deaths, move-aways, competition, or conflicts over service. So, a good mailing list should be purchased, merged with store lists, and used throughout the period.”

  4. Be sensitive. Don’t be “overt and aggressive” in your Valentine’s Day marketing this year, suggest some marketers. Following recent events, they say, consumers are more sensitive to ad images and tone.
    Jewelers’ Valentine’s Day marketing should be part of a 10-week plan—starting during the previous Christmas holiday—with emphasis on humor and the positive, suggests Kretser. “Jewelers shouldn’t wait for Valentine’s Day to broadcast a feel-good message in light of past tragic events, but use Valentine’s Day as a culmination of such a campaign,” he says. “Put the emphasis on warm colors, durability, strength, and beauty, as represented by such colored stones as citrines, tourmalines, zircons [for durability], the array of garnets, and of course, amethyst. As for diamonds, heart shapes might do better than expected” this year, he says.
    Wherever possible, jewelers should use gentle humor for Valentine’s Day marketing, advises Kretser, with such themes as “United You Stand” or “A Strong Love Is Always Under Construction.” He also advises promoting “the quality of mountings and prongs [which can be] advertised as supporting a ‘something to rely on’ theme.”

  5. Be creative. Provide extra-special customer service. Vincent’s Jewelers in St. Louis has its own limousine, which it lends (with driver) free to customers who earn a certain number of points for purchases (one point for each dollar spent in the store) or who refer new customers to the store. It’s a year-round service that’s adaptable to Valentine’s Day and other holidays.
    In Wyoming, another jeweler offered customers a unique free service as a Valentine’s Day promotion—a young man dressed in a tuxedo who personally delivered gift purchases, plus a red rose, on Valentine’s Day. Recipients were surprised and pleased, and men who bought the gifts appreciated the free delivery and especially liked the red rose with the gift.

  6. Give flowers. Buy a large supply of fresh roses, tie each rose with a red, white, and blue ribbon, and give one to every customer as they leave whether they buy something or not. If there are many left over, donate them to a local senior citizen’s home, women’s group at a local house of worship, or the spouses of local police officers or firefighters.
    Some jewelers give roses (usually one but sometimes a dozen) as a free gift with a Valentine purchase of a certain amount (e.g., $100 or more). Other jewelers and florists sponsor joint promotions for mutual benefit. One Montana jeweler gave a gift certificate for a dozen free roses from a local florist. The jeweler didn’t have to pay for the roses, while the florist got many potential customers. In another instance, a Florida jeweler’s customers received a certificate for a free specially wrapped red rose from a local florist, in exchange for special mention of the florist’s participation in the jeweler’s radio ads.

  7. Think of others. Encourage customers to think about Valentine’s Day gifts for others besides spouses. Have displays set up with suggested gifts for friends, family, co-workers, secretaries, teachers, or bosses. For men looking for something for female co-workers, clients, or assistants, for example, a bracelet is always a safe bet, says designer Deborah Armstrong: “It acknowledges her sense of style and importance but isn’t intimate.”

  8. Be ready for the last minute. For last-minute shoppers, offer a selection of reasonably priced pre-wrapped gifts—with the price and contents described on a removable note or tag—to make shopping faster. Be sure to mention this service in your Web, print, and electronic advertising.
    Include a discount coupon in Feb. 13 newspaper ads for use on Feb. 13 and 14. Offer a 10% discount on any purchase and a 20% discount on specific Valentine’s Day merchandise—for example, gold hearts.

  9. Remember the kids. Promote a kids-only afternoon or a Saturday when they can come in and buy gifts (for example, inexpensive jewelry or frames for family pictures) for their parents, grandparents, or friends. For very young children, provide a Valentine’s Day-themed picture they can color and exchange for a “prize” such as candy or a toy. A variation for teenagers: an afternoon or Saturday promotion—advertised in the local high school paper—featuring gifts for girlfriends or boyfriends.

  10. Focus on love. Hold a “How We Met” essay contest. The top finalists can be published in local newspaper advertising or read at an in-store event. The winners might receive a piece of jewelry, a bottle of champagne, or a dinner at a local nightspot.
    Display books of poetry or famous “love” quotes, with cards customers can fill out to include with their gifts.
    Have a pre-Valentine’s Day evening “Love Karaoke” event at which local couples can read their own love poems or letters or excerpts from famous authors’ writings. This could be held in-store or at a local café or bistro and promoted as a tie-in with a local TV or radio station, sponsored by your jewelry store.

  11. Be charitable. Donate some of the proceeds of Valentine’s Day sales to your community’s own local heroes—the fire or police department, or to charities supporting them. Encourage your customers to contribute by offering a coupon (good for later use in your store) equal to the amount they donate.
    Here’s another idea: in exchange for contributing $5 to a charity, let customers pick a foiled-wrapped candy kiss from a tray by the register to get a discount. The candies are color-coded, each one having a different colored dot equaling a discount (which only your employees know) on their purchase.

  12. Be heartfelt. February is American Heart Month. Have your store sponsor or participate in an American Heart Walk (as a demonstration of community spirit and teamwork), or donate a percentage of sales to the American Heart Association. Or, have the American Heart Association—which has a number of Feb. 14 promotional tie-ins—set up a display in your store the week of Valentine’s Day to provide free information to customers. Contact your local AHA affiliate or go to www.americanheart.org. Look for your “Local AHA” under “Show Your Support” and information about the “American Heart Walk.”

  13. Use your Web site. Vincent’s Jewelers posts “Romantic Stories” and letters from happy, engaged customers on its site, serving up both romance and promotion of its store for engagement and wedding jewelry.
    Use your Web site in the weeks before Feb. 14 to promote and order specific Valentine’s Day items. Gnat Original Designs in Denver, for example, maintains a Web page just for its custom-designed Valentine’s Day jewelry.

  14. Use freebies. Free gifts with qualifying purchases are a common Valentine’s Day marketing tool used by jewelers to boost traffic. Examples include a free dinner for two, flowers, a collectible or toy (such as teddy bears), a heart-shaped box of chocolate (which the jewelry purchaser could use as another gift), and even—in the case of one New England jeweler—a complimentary tin of caviar with the Valentine’s Day purchase of a 1-ct. or larger engagement ring.