Retailer of the Week: Blue Water Jewelers

This week’s “Retailer of the Week” honor goes to Blue Water
Jewelers. The St. Augustine, Fla., store came to my attention while surfing for
Viral Spiral videos on YouTube. After viewing their “How to Eat a Carat
Cupcake” video, further due diligence proved store owners Robert and Nicole
Nettles were more than just producers of funny, homespun videos.

Robert and Nicole Nettles

The Nettles are a dynamic couple. Robert is a
second-generation jeweler with a degree in horology who did watch repair work
in a number of retail jewelry stores. After years of watching and learning how
jewelry stores operate, Robert decided to open his own store. He sold his fishing
boat and opened a small 1950s style boutique jewelry store in 2006.

Three years later, the couple began to outgrow their
boutique and decided to purchase an old bank building, making it the new Blue
Water Jewelers. The renovations and build-out were completed in late spring
this year with a grand opening sales event currently under way.

September has been an active month for the Nettles, with the
third annual Carat Cupcake event a central focus. Robert got the idea several
years ago from a fellow jeweler during an Independent Jewelers Organization event’s
breakout session where members shared retailing ideas, tips, and tricks. Customers
purchase Carat Cupcakes for $5 each for a chance to win a free half-carat
diamond.

The diamond is hidden in the frosting of a cupcake. When
customers purchase a cupcake, proceeds go to Young Life, a nondenominational Christian ministry that reaches out to
adolescents. In its first year, the Nettles sold 250 cupcakes, last year
350, and this month they sold 960, nearly hitting the thousand-cupcake goal.

But the couple’s marketing prowess goes beyond producing
online videos and selling cupcakes. The company car is a Cooper Mini with a
very cool vinyl wrap that has, as one might gather from the store’s name and
Florida location, a blue-water-and-diamonds theme. The eye-catching car is the
main promotional vehicle in an ongoing store contest called “Find the Mini.”
During the first week of every month, the Nettles park the Mini in the lots of
various local merchants as part of the jeweler’s cross-promotional campaign.

People who send in pictures of themselves with the Mini
receive a gift card from the merchant and the jeweler. The contest is
generating a lot of traffic on the store’s Facebook profile page and their main
website, which was redesigned and launched two weeks ago. The Mini has its own
parking spot in front of the store and the mobile banner is used on everything
from store errands to picking up lunch for the staff at local restaurants.
“People honk at us all the time,” says Robert. “It gets a lot of notice in
town.”

The Mini also promotes the store’s diamond-buying trips to
Antwerp, Belgium, a dominant theme of the car’s artwork. The overseas buying
junkets are another IJO member perk the Nettles have learned to leverage well
in their market. Facebook videos of Robert promoting the “personal shopper”
event and the couple’s homepage featuring an “Antwerp Countdown Clock” get
responses.

“It causes some pressure and a sense of urgency,” says
Robert. “But we’re getting lots of calls about it, especially with the
departure date coming up soon. We’ve been doing it for so long now, people
always ask about the next personal diamond shopping trip to Antwerp.”

The couple is also very active on social media websites. The
Nettles and their staff aim to produce at least two store videos each month to
create rich content for their Facebook profile page and unique views on YouTube.
The couple is still new to social media platforms, but they’ve been incredibly
active on Facebook and Twitter in the five months since the accounts were
opened. Frequent ticket giveaways for concerts at a local amphitheater have
increased the number of fans and friends as well as tweets and re-tweets.

In addition to all of these elements of good retailing, the
Nettles and their staff do a tremendous amount of community outreach, such as a
recent Labor Day 5K Run. And low-key customer-appreciation events are frequent
and fun, such as a Facebook-only invitation for customers to stop in for a free
hotdog lunch as a way of thanking locals for voting Blue Water their favorite
jeweler in St. Augustine.

The Nettles are among the many jewelers who
have rolled the dice with a web address that brands the store’s location and product
over the store’s name with a www.StAugustineDiamonds.com URL on the back
of the Mini and other brand-friendly surfaces.