In the run up to the Christmas shopping season, most jewelers scour fashion reads for trends consumers in their market might be asking about. But not the folks at Northeastern Fine Jewelry.
At roughly the start of each fourth quarter, marketing director Valerie Kelly and her father and family business president Ray Bleser pore over the latest tech magazines to determine the hot electronic gadget they want to be part of their annual Black Friday sales incentive event. This holiday season an iPad was the gift-with-purchase item of choice, which turned out to be a huge hit with customers and garnered a lot of news coverage.
For the last five holiday seasons, Northeastern Fine Jewelry has run a gift-with-purchase Black Friday event. And, for the most part, desirable gifts were selected to be given away when customers spent a certain amount of money on jewelry in their stores. Flat-screen televisions, a Nintendo Wii, an iPod, and an iPhone have performed their task well in pulling in customers on the busiest shopping day of the year. But the iPad has been by far the most successful Black Friday gift-with-purchase to date.
“At our Albany store, which is our highest traffic store of our four locations, people were lined up outside the door before we opened up that day,” says Kelly. “We found out later that some people were standing outside as early as 4 a.m. They wanted to make sure they got an iPad with their purchase.”
Prior to the event, Kelly purchased 60 iPads. “We ran out of them in the first two to three hours the morning of Black Friday,” says Kelly. “Rain checks were issued while I purchased another 60 iPads wherever I could get my hands on them.”
The Black Friday event caught the attention of local media outlets with television and radio news crews blanketing the event. “Of the three local networks, at some point during the day [Black Friday], reporters were at one of our four stores. Channel 10, a local cable news network ran the spot repeatedly, all day on Black Friday, and for about a week. The other [affiliate] channels ran it as part of that day’s evening news broadcast and that was it. Overall, the media coverage was phenomenal.”
Of the 120 iPad recipients, 20 were new customers. Some customers lucky enough to get an iPad mentioned this particular gift-with-purchase incentive tipped the scales in making a jewelry purchase this holiday season. And the amount customers needed to spend to get one wasn’t exactly cheap.
“Customers had to spend $1,499 or more to get the iPad,” says Kelly. “Deciding on the amount to be spent to receive this gift-with-purchase was one of the more difficult decisions for this holiday season’s Black Friday event.”
In the past, the spending thresholds to receive a free iPod or iPhone were fairly easy for the average Northeastern Fine Jewelry customer to manage. But Kelly and her father wanted to up the ante with a cool-factor gift that would create the necessary buzz required to get the busiest shopping season of the year off to a roaring start. The only drawback was customers had to spend considerably more to qualify for a gift that retails for about $499.
Factors such as overall improved sales at all four stores, economic indicators showing signs of stabilizing and consumer confidence among Americans and Northeastern Fine Jewelry customers projecting upwards compared to last Christmas gave Kelly and her father the confidence to roll the dice on this decision. And the gamble paid off—handsomely.
“Christmas and December sales were up by 20 percent,” says Kelly. “We were very pleased with the return on investment with this event.”
People responded well to radio and TV commercials aired to promote the iPad event as well as Tweets and uploads on Twitter and Facebook. Digital billboards also got the word out and was in keeping with the tech-related gift-with-purchase theme.
In looking back at the last five years, the recent Black Friday event was by far their most successful. “Many guys left the stores with big smiles on their faces,” says Kelly.
Another review of the last five Black Friday events also taught Kelly and her father some valuable lessons. With the iPhone gift-with-purchase recipients who weren’t already using AT&T as their mobile service provider were forced to change services or terminate contracts to use their new devices. “This proved to be a real pain for people,” says Kelly. “In looking back at the decision process to offer an iPhone, we should have given greater weight to the service provider issues.”
And, one year Kelly and her father decided to break with the tech tradition and offer theatre tickets and a dinner. “This didn’t go over well at all,” says Kelly. “I guess people in our markets like their tech toys more than cultural events and a good meal.”
What’s ahead in 2011? It’s hard to say. If the economy, consumer confidence, and store sales stay at their current levels or trend slightly upward, Kelly and her father may explore spending a little more on cool electronic gadgets to get a little more in jewelry sales at the start of next year’s holiday shopping season.
That’s the main consideration. Plus, it’s too early to tell what the next hot electronic gadget that’ll get Northeastern Fine Jewelry customers to give jewelry in order to receive the latest and greatest tech toy.