CIRCA Buying Events in Time for the Holidays

It’s been just over two years since CIRCA started its Authorized Purchasing Agent Program. Since August 2009, the world’s largest buyer of jewelry and watches from the public has recruited 23 purchasing agent retail jewelers operating in 38 stores. In 2012, CIRCA is looking to bring that number of retailer agents up to roughly 40–50, the maximum number of retailers it wants to work with as part of this program.

In a recent interview with Retail Details, CIRCA CEO Chris Del Gatto talked about the program. Retailer purchasing agents also discussed their partnership with CIRCA, in-store buying events, and how scheduling sales events in the fourth quarter—and, more specifically, during the holiday season—has been beneficial to their business. 

The purchasing agent plan got its start more than two years ago as part of CIRCA’s market penetration strategy to reach smaller cities beyond their 12 to 15 buying offices based in major cities such as Los Angeles, New York City, and Las Vegas.

“Bringing on roughly 40 to 50 purchasing agent retail jeweler partners will allow CIRCA to have a presence in smaller territories,” says Del Gatto. “We continue to actively and selectively recruit purchasing agents, and should reach our ideal number of purchasing agents by the end of 2012.”

CIRCA CEO Chris Del Gatto

CIRCA CEO Chris Del Gatto

Matthew Wilson, co-owner of Wilson & Son Jewelers in upstate New York, has been with CIRCA for 10 years. In the past, Wilson and his staff have used CIRCA as needed to buy estate jewelry. But over the last four years, they have hosted six buying events. The sales events in their Scarsdale and Kisco stores were well attended, brought new customers, and an overwhelming majority of customers took the CIRCA offers.

This year, Wilson specifically held a CIRCA buying event as part of its series of Christmas events. A welcome break from the staple trunk shows and anticipated seasonal parties, the CIRCA buying event proved to be a holiday success with two one-day events held each of their stores. Schedules for the buying event were triple-booked well in advance of the November 4-5 buying events.

“A number of people appreciated the quick turnaround, we brought in a lot of new customers, and converted many of our jewelry selling customers in to jewelry buying customers with our offer of 20 percent more in a Wilson & Son’s gift card over a check from CIRCA,” says Wilson. “We’ll definitely do it again next holiday season.”

Clayton Bromberg, owner of Underwood Jewelers, was one of the first purchasing agents brought on when the CIRCA program began in 2009. The Jacksonville, Fla.–based jeweler knows of the problems other store owners have had with estate jewelry and cash flow.

“Store owners can typically buy estate jewelry and get a very good deal on it, but the estate jewelry market is known to be very inconsistent,” says Clayton. “The benefit of getting that good deal disappears when they are forced to hold on to an estate piece over a long period of time, waiting for the market to bounce back.”

Another reason for becoming a purchasing agent with CIRCA, in addition to providing a market-differentiating service, is the ability to give customers a good value when selling their jewelry, especially in recessionary times. “Even in a down economy, we still have an obligation to give [estate jewelry customers] top dollar for their pieces,” says Clayton. “Working with CIRCA as a purchasing agent allows us to do just that.”

Clayton is another store owner who held a CIRCA buying event in mid-November as part of his store’s holiday season events, one of seven such buying events since becoming a purchasing agent. Bromberg was able to convert about 10 to 12 percent of customers by taking his offer of 25 percent in store credit over CIRCA’s cash offer. Although that number is down from its high conversion rate of 30 to 35 percent, Bromberg estimates that around 60 percent of buying event customers were new ones. 

“In the run-up to the holiday season, that’s big for us,” says Clayton. 

Clayton Bromberg, owner of Underwood Jewelers

Clayton Bromberg, owner of Underwood Jewelers

Clayton’s brother Ricky, owner of Bromberg’s Fine Jewelry in Birmingham, Alabama, become a CIRCA purchasing agent about two years ago, after learning more about it from his brother. Ricky has held two buying events, and prefers to hold them in the fall. (In 2012 he’ll try his first spring event.)

Ricky shoots for late September and early October as his CIRCA buying event time frame. The trick is to schedule the event when there are no home football games at University of Alabama or Auburn University. “People down here are huge college football fans,” says Ricky.

When that scheduling challenge is overcome, Ricky views the buying events as a good start to his store’s fourth-quarter sales. “We work carefully to schedule the fall buying events to one, work around the college football schedules, and to get people thinking about Bromberg’s at the start of the fourth quarter,” says Ricky. “Plus, we don’t want this event too close to Christmas as it’s a busy time of the year with our regular events.”