10 Tips From 1925 on How to Sell Giftware

In the September 1999 issue of JCK, an article described giftware as “hot.” However, a JCK poll back then found that most jewelers thought their gift departments would decline in the coming years. Giftware accounted for less than 4 percent of jewelers’ sales, but there were instances of retailers earning as much as 20 percent of their sales from giftware.

I dug even further back in the archives in an attempt to find an era when giftware was as just important to a jeweler’s bottom line as jewelry. I found a Dec. 9, 1925 issue of The Jewelers’ Circular that ran three feature articles on how jewelers could make their gift departments a success.

Here are some do’s and don’ts from those stories (note: all anachronisms have been left as-is):

  • Do not display lamps for sale in a set department in your store. Instead, scatter them throughout the store as if they were part of your lighting system.
  • Do not mix general gift department merchandise with your jewelry stock.
  • Do not carry a large stock of cheap domestic knick-knacks that are by right the stock of the gift shop, and not the class of merchandise for the jewelry store. Spend your money on imported novelties.
  • Don’t have one young man or young woman in charge of the merchandise and none of the other salespeople in your store able to properly sell gift department merchandise in her absence. Every salesman and woman should be able to take a customer into the gift department and sell that merchandise.
  • Do have a woman in charge of giftware. Women are the main customers of that department, and women have an understanding of the ideas of other women.

Silver gift offerings from 1925

  • Do not forget that the gift field is dainty and feminine. See that your department and its merchandise radiate this atmosphere.
  • Window displays are of inestimable value. Change them at least once a week.
  • Change your interior displays around occasionally. Don’t allow pieces of merchandise to remain in a certain place in the gift department until it is sold.
  • Tell everybody to come in and look around whether they want to buy something or not.
  • Offer people something unusual, something they can’t get anywhere else, yet at a reasonable price.

So, is giftware still an important part of a jewelry store today, or were the jewelers we polled in 1999 correct—have giftware sales become marginal or nonexistent? 

For more on reinvigorating your non-jewelry offerings, check out:

Also from that 1925 issue was the fantastic Jeweler’s Circular Cup, which was awarded for “the best jewelry store gift and art merchandise section selling efforts.” Jewelers were able to send in photographs or advertisements showing off their stores to the National Gift and Art Show Spring Show contest that was held during the first week of March 1926. The winner got the cup, second prize received $10, and third place won $5. I, for one, would like to refashion the cup and present it to the winner of JCK’s Jewelers Choice Awards.

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