Why “I’m Scared—Here’s a Sale” Isn’t a Great Retail Strategy



The “I’m scared—here’s a sale” is understandably a knee-jerk reaction in uncertain times, as required by the COVID-19 crisis, and while discounting product may feel like a logical step—one retailers have relied on in the past—it might be like a shot of whiskey to ease the pain. Or using a pinky-size bandage to staunch the flow of a gushing wound.

Some jewelers, especially those with e-boutiques, are actually reporting an increase in sales, including New York jeweler Ashley Zhang.

“Like any other business, small business owners and jewelry companies are not used to stopping production with no restart date in sight,” she says. “While the idea of an impromptu sale seems appealing to get some sales during this trying time, it doesn’t really solve the issue.

“I decided to think differently. Since I typically sell both my designs and vintage jewelry, it makes sense to only focus on vintage during this time. I have many pieces that I have collected, and I am offering them through Instagram Stories. I want to be sensitive to the fact that others are not working and may not have large sums of money to spend on jewelry, so I am mostly listing items that are $2,000 and below.”

Sounds like it’s time to break open that estate case and get in the game.

And there are other retail strategies to put in place as well. For this, we turned to some of our industry’s most visible and savvy jewelry marketing and sales consultants.

Below, they put out the fire with some calming words of advice, action items you may not have considered, and more tips that don’t involve slashing prices in a panic.

Jackie LeBental and Melissa Spalten
Jackie LeBental (right) with her jewelry client Melissa Spalten

Connect on a Personal Level
“Now is not the time to go deep into heavy discounting, unless it was old inventory that has had a long shelf life,” says Jackie LeBental of Barri Luxury Consulting. “Retailers, just like jewelry designers, have a brand image they should be trying preserve. People still have birthdays, anniversaries, and Mother’s Day is approaching. I recommend retailers personally touch base with their customers. People are looking for personal interactions, especially with most of our country in home isolation.”

 

Liz Kantner portrait
Liz Kantner, who also has a tattoo studio/jewelry retail store in Asheville, N.C.

Increase Your Social Media Presence
“This is your opportunity: People are looking for entertainment, they are captive, so talk to them [on your social channels],” says Liz Kantner. Realize that everyone is feeling many different things right now as you’re planning your content, but use this time to speak directly to your followers. Add context to your brand. Share your story. Show your face. Encourage people to message you. Go live. This, although maybe not directly, will lead to sales both now and in the future.”

Nan Palmer portrait
Nan Palmer of Facets Jewelry Consulting also recommends partnering with a a charity accepting coronavirus relief donations.

Focus on Ready to Ship. Nix the “Sale” Tab 
“It’s tough to make anything new and/or custom with factories/workshops closing,” says Nan Palmer, of Facets Jewelry Consulting. “So designers and smaller companies who are looking to get rid of stale inventory while everything is shut down should make use of Instagram, posting pretty things to look at, with a focus on spring. And maybe offer some items with price points that are attainable to inspire those quick add-to-basket/feel-good purchases.”

And instead of a having generic “sale” tab on your website, “retailers can maximize their online presence by creating a ‘Brighten Up Your Day’ tab for these specially priced items—I’d say $300 and under,” notes Palmer.

Amalia Keramitsis
Amalia Keramitsis, whose clients include Katey Walker, Edward Avedis, and Katerina Marmagioli, in front of Rockefeller Center

Incentivize With a Positive Message
Amalia Keramitsis thinks sales or promotions are okay if they don’t feel blatant and desperate but, rather, purposeful and tied to something positive. Charity partnerships can work well to that end, she says, or offering one best seller or a highly coveted higher-priced item at a limited-time-only sale price. “Spin the deal as something incredible, a rare event you can take advantage of now and enjoy wearing at all your summer RSVPs. Remind people that they have something to look forward to down the road—the massive parties everyone’s going to want to have this summer when the crisis is finally over.”

 

Top: While production of made-to-order has halted for the time being, New York–based jeweler Ashley Zhang is focusing her sales efforts on her ready-to-ship vintage inventory, including items such as these rings. She posts the jewels on Instagram—and it’s working.

 

Be sure to follow JCK’s own #JCKRetailRelief Instagram series for more COVID-19 retail tips, advice, solidarity, comfort, and inspiration.

 

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All That Glitters writer