Retailer Spotlight: Jeweler Uses Humor to Address Traffic Woes

Change is difficult for a reason: the adjustments that come
with the quest for progress are never easy.
That’s what store owner Tom Hoyt and
his staff at Siebke Hoyt Jewelers have learned since a two-year, $50 million
construction project near their store started 18 months ago.

This week’s Retailer Spotlight shines on Hoyt and his staff
for creating large, humorous exterior store banners making light of the
construction noise and street traffic that has brought some much-needed
foot traffic to the store.

Siebke Hoyt Jewelers resides on the northeast corner of
Highway 100 and Interstate 151. Also known as the Collins Road N.E. and 1st
Avenue S.E. crossroads, the intersection is used by 50,000 motorists each day,
making it the busiest intersection in Cedar Rapids—if not all of eastern
Iowa, according to city planners. This makes it an ideal, high-traffic location
for a jewelry store…when there’s no major construction going on. 

Phase one of the construction project is happening right
outside Siebke Hoyt’s door. The facelift to the intersection of Highway 100 and
Interstate 151 involves putting in extra turning lanes, repaving road surfaces,
taking out and putting in new sidewalks, and burying the once unsightly and
dangerous above-ground power lines. All this is coming at a price of $7
million. The massive project will be completed in about six months. So the
store owner and his staff hope.

“As with most public works projects, they tend to go over
budget and over on their estimated completion date,” says Sarah Penney,
Siebke Hoyt’s marketing and advertising director. “For now, we’re
hoping the construction crew meets or beats its deadline.”

Two months into the construction work Hoyt noticed store
foot traffic was starting to wane. The store had an extremely good Christmas 2009
and wanted to maintain that momentum for Valentine’s Day and the gift-giving
occasions ahead.

With the Moms-Dads-Grads-and-Brides season coming up, Penney
came up with the idea of using humorous banners to get people’s attention. The
first 7-foot x 10-foot banner was installed in mid-March 2010. The sign’s humor line:
“Look!! We’re a jewelry store disguised as a construction site.” 

The sign had the desired impact. “People started coming back
in to the store laughing instead of angrily complaining about the
construction,” says Penney. “We even had one gentleman buy a pair of diamond
earrings just because of our banner. He said: ‘Any jeweler with that kind
of sense of humor is my jeweler.’” 

Commuters weren’t the only ones taking notice of the large
banners making light of the construction project and the snarled traffic. Local media outlets jumped on the story. “Since
the first banner went up, Tom [Hoyt] has been interviewed a few times by local
TV news stations,” says Penney.

Penney had the banner company put up a second sign in
February this year, combining humor with a little product endorsement: A large
sparkling diamond denotes that the store’s inventory has its own traffic-stopping