This article originally appeared in the July issue of JCK, in the Luxury insert.
“What is your best tip or strategy for bringing customers into the store during a tough economy?”
We have found that the personal touch goes a long way. For instance, when a new customer walks in, we chit chat with them, enter information [into the computer] based on what they looked at and told us during their visit, and create a personalized letter for them in Letter-Matics (www.lettermatics.com), an inexpensive software system we developed to quickly create really personalized mail. We send out a letter within two days of their visit. We developed Letter-Matics for use with our customer service because no one likes to hand-write customer notes, though they work! Since we’re not in an industry where thousands of customers come through the doors every day, whoever does come in is very important, and we want to cultivate that relationship as much as possible.
DON AND DOROTHY VODICKA
The Gem Collection
We keep advertising, advertising, advertising! And we call our customers every chance we get. We had our second-best May in 30 years this year because we started a new clienteling program, and our staff was on the phone all the time. We’ve targeted our top customers and contact them four to six times a year. We call them a week ahead of their birthdays and anniversaries just to wish them a happy day. If there is a wish list [for that customer], we ask if we can pass along any hints to a spouse or significant other. We also call customers just to let them know what’s new in store. You shouldn’t be bugging [customers] nonstop, but four times a year seems to be a good amount, and it’s working.
Lyle Husar Designs
We are hosting more events and trunk shows for brands like Rebecca, Hearts On Fire, and Tacori, this year more than ever before. Traditional advertising like radio and television is not working. I have found that staying regularly in touch with customers through personal phone calls, direct mail postcards, and e-mail marketing and networking through Facebook and Linked-in, and sending handwritten notes and invitations have been the most successful for us. Our goal is to create little groups of clients that get to know one another; getting people to come together and shop as a group has also been very successful. We have been inviting groups of women from different social groups—a group of golfers or moms—for private shopping nights. We find [these groups] by talking to customers, listening very closely to them, and asking if there is something we can do for their group. We are also grateful that we got into the silver [jewelry] a few years ago, because now we are slightly ahead of our record 40-year-high [sales] from last year. Through tremendous hard work and having the right combination of advertising and product—by promoting some of the price points of $1,000 and less—we have brought fresh faces into the store.
Jack Lewis Fine Jewelry
For us this year, the key is that we made a commitment early on that we would have a special event once a month for the entire year, whereas we might have had just two or three a year in the past. Now we host several smaller events, such as a Pandora party this Friday. It will have a wine theme, and a local pastry chef will make items that go well with after-dinner wines. [Events] could be as grandiose as a couple hundred people in the store for a black tie event—which we did in April. The secret is to get your name out there in front of [customers]. In July, we are having a guy’s night and are setting up tents in the parking lot and having a Jimmy Buffet-type band and cigars. It’s not really a buying event but will help keep the store top of mind. We’re hosting it with our Carl F. Buecher watch line, and the vice president of the company will be there to meet customers, and then we’ll put up photos of the event on Facebook. We also post one image of a piece of jewelry for sale on Facebook each week, and call it Jack’s Pick of the Week.
It’s the whole recipe of smiles, laughter, and excitement, because you can’t call customers and not have all that in your voice if you want them to come in. Everybody calls customers about new product, but most salespeople don’t have true excitement in their voice. Customers want to [shop] where [staff] makes it feel like a vacation, and [Darakjian Jewelers] wants people to feel that way when they walk into the store. [Jewelry is] still an emotional business based on romance, so enthusiasm and excitement in your voice is something that is needed.
Jewelry By Design
Buying gold. We’re averaging about 25 percent ahead every month because we’re adaptive and realize that if the economy changes, you have to change. We’re doing regular promoting of buying gold because that brings people in. We pay almost double if [customers] trade it in for jewelry. Plus, we’ve kept our turn in our cases; our Hearts On Fire is up and it’s all based on gold buying and trading. Now we’re feeding off of our [gold customer] referrals. We give just 10 percent below what we get from the refiner. In May, we did $30,000 each in buying and trading [gold]. Plus, we carry Pandora, and picked up Sarah’s Hope Jewelry and Kameleon at [JCK Las Vegas]. This jewelry fits the temperament of the people right now. You’ve got to be flexible and change, and the people who are stuck in their old ways will run into trouble. A year ago I was a 3 [Jewelers Board of Trade credit] rating and had over $700,000 in debt and no idea how to pay my bills. Now, I’ve got a 1 rating, I’m current with my bills, and I’ve got cash flow.