Jewelers traditionally scoff at Black Friday – and Cyber Monday for that matter. In the world of jewelry retailing such post-Thanksgiving Day shopping days simply signal the start of the holiday shopping season.
Conventional wisdom dictates that the year’s biggest Main Street and online holiday season shopping days benefit only big box retailers and noted online merchants. Jewelry purchases are made mainly during the two weeks before Christmas, after many consumers have taken home heavily discounted electronics, such as large flat screen TV’s, video games, digital cameras and the like.
But given today’s economic climate, jewelers are demonstrating a willingness to do things a little differently to get customers in the store. This year Jeff Singer, owner of Singer’s Jewelers, held his store’s first-ever early riser Black Friday event. The idea was the brain child of Singer’s wife Linda and their marketing director Kim Schaeffer. The dynamic duo created and managed the event from conception to execution.
The sales event not only marked the biggest retail shopping day of the year, it also kicked off the store’s December Countdown to Christmas sales event. “It’s a very different economy out there than in the past,” says Singer. “We need to do everything possible to generate sales and to create interest in gift-giving with jewelry.”
Similar to the big box stores in his Albany, NY, market Singer’s doors opened at 6:00 AM. The reward for early risers on that day – 50% off any jewelry purchase during the first hour of the Black Friday sales event. “We did have three people lined up outside the door right as the store opened,” says Singer. “The handful of people who waited outside for the doors to open definitely had a certain purchase in mind. I know some of these people were waiting for a sale after ‘visiting’ their desired piece of jewelry on several occasions in the store.”
Unlike the big box retailers Singer didn’t deeply discount certain product categories for the duration of the morning sale. Discounts at Singer’s store started at 50% for those who arrived during the first hour of the sale. As each hour ticked by, the discounts dropped in 10% increments, with the exception of the final hour of the sale when there was only a 5% drop from 30% off to 25% off.
“In all fairness we had to be very strict on cutting off discounts right at the top of each hour,” says Singer. “If you take the first hour of the sale for example, it wouldn’t be fair to give a customer who entered the store at 7:01 AM the same 50% discount as the customer who waited outside and came in at 6:01 AM.”
Throughout the four-hour event there was a steady stream of traffic in Singer’s store. “Compared to Black Friday last year, the store was busier and people were buying,” says Singer. “We did twice as much business as we’ve traditionally done on Black Friday, last year or for the last ten years for that matter. We’ve always viewed Black Friday as a black cloud day with everyone shopping at the malls.”
In his holiday season of firsts, Singer also came up with a Countdown to Christmas event. Much like his Black Friday sale, the earlier you come into the store in December the more a jewelry item is discounted. “For customers who came in on December 1, they received 25% off,” says Singer. “And, for customers who came in the next day, it was 24% off, and so on.”
It’s too early to determine the success of the Countdown to Christmas event, but in looking back at his Black Friday sale Singer has committed to doing the event again next November. In 2010, however, Singer will up the promotional ante.
This year the jeweler only sent out 500 direct mailers specifically for the Black Friday sale. But, 5,000 direct mailers were sent out to promote the Countdown to Christmas event, which included a mention of the Black Friday sale. Next year Singer is looking to increase the number of direct mailers and will double his Black Friday print ad campaign in a local community weekly newspaper.
Cable TV advertising has become a lucrative promotional vehicle for Singer. The demographically-targeted medium will be used next year as well. Phone calls to top customers will also be part of next year’s promotional mix as will getting the word out on Facebook. Singer is also exploring the idea of using radio to promote the Black Friday sale in 2010.
“This year was a test,” says Singer. “Promotionally, we didn’t want to go whole hog in the first year. The cost of the event was about $2,000 and we got a good return on our promotional investment, which was all the incentive needed to try it again.”
Singer isn’t sure if this will become an annual holiday event. But he is confident that his and their marketing director created a pretty good formula for Black Friday sales by serving hot coffee, cream cheese and bagels and other breakfast goodies.
Acknowledging the sleep-deprived element of the year’s busiest shopping day, Singer had his staff wear Christmas-themed pajamas during the Black Friday sale. “Most of the staff who came in at 5:30 AM didn’t leave until 4:00 PM or 5:00 PM,” says Singer. “They wore their pajamas the whole day.”