November was the busiest month of the year for Nancy Schuring, owner of Devon Fine Jewelry. In addition to all the usual seasonal preparations, she also sends out her yearly Thanksgiving Day customer appreciation letter (instead of Christmas cards) and now her annual Finders Keepers event.
For the second annual event, this year Schuring did things a little differently based much on customer and market input. The Wyckoff, N.J–based jeweler learned much on how to fine-tune what has become a hugely popular holiday store event for jewelry retailers nationwide.
Devon Fine Jewelry staffers with Finders Keepers bags
The big difference between last year’s event and this holiday season’s Finders Keepers event for Schuring is the media coverage. Last year the economy was in worse shape with even more uncertainty. Media outlets suffering from the usual seasonal slow news cycle latched on to Schuring’s feel-good event as outlined in detailed press releases on the event, garnering more than $700,000 of media coverage for $27,000—the retail amount spent distributing gifts in and around her market in 2009.
With the media showing less interest in the event this year, Schuring had to more aggressively market Finders Keepers on her own. Positioning herself as the local gold buying and jewelry expert in her market helped. But as a regular jewelry expert guest on the local Fox Business network for her market, Schuring was able to only plug her November event in June, five months before the event.
Store owner Nancy Schuring poses with Mr. and Mrs. Claus
during a recent Ladies’ Night event.
Increased community visibility and involvement were the promotional vehicles of choice for Schuring, which served to increase her market presence at a crucial time. This was accomplished through raising local awareness of Schuring’s own Devon Foundation, a global scholarship program that provides gemology and lapidary scholarships in gem mining communities around the world with the Institute of Gemology of Madagascar the Foundation’s present focus.
Bringing a Finders Keepers dynamic to the store’s early December Ladies’ Night got people thinking about next year’s Finders Keepers event. And, for every wish list completed on Devon’s Ladies’ Night, $5 was donated to the Foundation. About 100 wish lists were completed that night, bringing in more than $500 to the Foundation.
Altruism is the ultimate goal of Finders Keepers for Schuring and her staff. But the business climate inspired Schuring to creatively leverage what has quickly become one of her most lucrative events in terms of PR value to become another hugely successful promotion. With other independents and chain stores closing their doors, Schuring hoped that a wider distribution of Finders Keepers gifts would help get the word out that Devon Fine Jewelry is more than able to fill the jewelry void in her immediate and neighboring suburbs.
Laura, a mother of four, found the rubellite ring valued at
In 2009 Schuring distributed Finders Keepers jewelry gifts to 10 nearby townships. The retail value of the 21 pieces of jewelry was roughly $27,000 retail. This year Schuring expanded outward in concentric circles from her store distributing Finders Keepers gifts to 22 townships with 31 pieces of jewelry with a retail value of about $37,000. The big prize in this year’s event was an 18k yellow gold and platinum ring set with a rubellite center stone and diamond accents that had a suggested retail price tag of $7,000.
Upping the ante with more Finders Keepers jewelry gifts distributed to more people was the easy part in taking this annual event to the next level. Schuring also wanted to bring more visitors to her website and while drawing attention to new or revamped departments in her store, namely the bridal areas where new finished jewelry choices and bridal jewelry prototypes are now displayed.
First, a two-prong approach to help drive traffic to Schuring’s main website starting with Facebook. Schuring prefers to utilize her personal Facebook profile to promote her store and store events. The first step was inviting customers and the press to the store to preview the actual 31 pieces that would be given away as part of the second annual event. The “Big Reveal” happened on Oct. 26.
Professionally photographed images of actual jewelry being given away as part of Finders Keepers were uploaded to Facebook in the lead up to the five-day jewelry giveaway event scheduled from November 15–19. Other teaser images included a group shot of staffers holding Devon Fine Jewelry bags with orange Finders Keepers tags on them. And as the event was unfolding, images of finders and the jewelry they found were uploaded to Schuring’s Facebook and main website.
But the real drivers to Schuring’s main website were based on suggestions from customers and members of her community during and after last year’s November event.
“This time around we did more to satisfy the many questions from people in our market, such as what items were given away, where they were placed and why we selected certain places,” says Schuring. “But the big pull to our company website were the daily event updates to the homepage and the listings of the 31 products given away, which were listed in detail much like an e-commerce website. We had 1,000 hits to the website a day.”
Although local and regional news outlets didn’t give Schuring’s giveaway event as much media attention as it did last year, with the timely launch of AOL’s local Patch news website, her Finders Keepers event got quite a bit of play.
“Patch is a new division of AOL,” says Schuring. “They’re taking the place of local community papers in their coverage. Given the news organization’s start in our market and the need for news, they gave our store event a lot of play.”
Patch reporters and photographers came to Schuring’s store to tell the story behind the giveaway event. (A reporter even accompanied a store “elf” when she placed the first two Finders Keepers bags in their “hidden in plain sight” locations.) With more media people and customers in her store, Schuring took the opportunity to discuss changes to the store’s inventory and interior, namely new bridal jewelry options and a new bridal section stocked with CZ prototypes.
“We’re really trying to do more with bridal and this was a good opportunity for us to let people know,” says Schuring.
The other benefit of the Finders Keepers event was inventory management. “These are all perfectly lovely pieces of jewelry that for whatever reason aren’t selling,” says Schuring. “With Finders Keepers, it’s an event that generates a lot of goodwill, and buzz in my market with pieces of jewelry that are costing me a lot of money to hold on to. I’d rather give them a new home as part of a Finders Keepers event.”
And, with the event happening the week before Thanksgiving Day weekend, store traffic from Black Friday onward is always up. “People talk about the Finders Keepers event during the holidays and for months afterwards, especially the men,” says Schuring. “It’s a good time of the year to give something back to the community, clean house of non-performing inventory and create a goodwill buzz in our market just in time for the holidays. And, now more than ever people are very selective about where they spend their retail dollars. This is expressed more and more by customers who thank us for organizing this event each year.”
For Schuring, the Finders Keepers event is a keeper she’ll be tweaking and improving on for many years to come, keeping her Novembers busy and eventful, just the way a retail jeweler like it.