In the early 1980s, Nancy Schuring built Devon Fine Jewelry in Wyckoff, N.J., by expanding her colored stone inventory in a diamond-heavy market. By educating her customers with entertaining events, Schuring was able to make colored stones a vital part of her successful business model. In 2009, she launched her hugely successful Finders Keepers series, in which clues on Facebook lead lucky scavenger hunters to jewelry stashed in spots around town—beneath the steps of a church or in a local park. The events, combined with Schuring's commitment to a progressive marketing strategy, have helped her claim a lucky streak all her own.
Why are colored stones such an important part of your business?
I started buying more color at the Tucson GemFair in 1990, when colored stones were 10 percent of our inventory, to better compete in a diamond-dominated market. Today we carry more than 100 colored gemstone varieties that make up about 30 to 35 percent of our inventory. It has taken us a while to educate our customers on color, but now we're known in our market for the best quality and best variety of colored stones. Our most successful educational events have been "Geminars," gemstone roundtables, and our Passport nights when people learn about colored stones and their origin.
What are some creative vendor events you've held?
When we got a market exclusive with Royal Asscher last year, we wanted to do something fun and creative to get the word out. Way back in the company's history, Joseph Asscher cleaved the Cullinan diamond—a 3,106 ct. stone. We reenacted that event using a large crystal. With the royal wedding last year, we partnered with one of our colored stone vendors dealing in top-end sapphires to do a high tea in April. The event went over very well, and people learned more about sapphires.
How are your events different from other retailers?
This year marked our third annual Finders Keepers event, which we do just before the holidays, like most jewelry store owners. But what we do differently is give away pieces of jewelry that are fairly substantial, starting with an average retail value of $900 in 2009, to around $1,313 in 2011. Each year we increase the number and value of the pieces given away. We've found that when nicer pieces of jewelry of greater value are given away, the events create incredible excitement.
How extensive has media coverage been for your three Finders Keepers events?
In 2009, it was our first such event, so we were aggressive sending out press releases to news organizations in New Jersey and New York City through PRNewswire.com. I took out a small ad in a local paper. The economy was still reeling, so a pre-holiday jewelry giveaway was a pretty big deal. According to Critical Mention, which produces studies on media coverage of businesses, our $27,000 investment in the first Finders Keepers event produced more than $700,000 worth of media coverage in New Jersey and New York.
In 2011, what was the key to creating the desired media and market buzz?
Videos were a crucial part of the marketing mix. We were able to get edited versions up almost immediately. It's as if every smart jewelry store now has its own TV station. But all of this was part of a mix. Although 11,000 daily page views is a good number, what was really stratospheric were our Facebook impressions; we had more than 117,000 over the course of Finders Keepers. It was a compelling game for people. And the fact that we were able to quickly put up videos that told an exciting story helped take us to levels big-box retailers could only dream of.
How do the events help your website?
It's very important to keep your website current, especially now with symbiotic links between a company's social media websites and main site. But it's also about giving people a reason to visit your website. Each year we do a lot of events. Not all of them are winners in terms of attendance, but they are creative approaches. Uploading this content to our website gets people talking about what we're doing. Many people come in and ask about an event that they didn't go to. Still, they saw the content on our site and mentioned it weeks, even months, later when they came to the store.