10 Ways to Boost Giftware Sales

Why does giftware play a relatively minor role in the merchandise mix of the typical jeweler? Giftware consistently accounts for less than 4% of jewelers’ sales, according to the annual Jewelers of America Cost of Doing Business survey. A recent JCK poll found that many jewelers expect their already-small giftware business to decline further in the coming years.

That would be unfortunate, because giftware is hot. Collectibles and silver giftware have become multimillion-dollar markets, and their popularity is growing. Traditional favorites like crystal remain strong sellers, while less conventional gift items—such as humidors, music boxes, and wine accessories—are finding new customers.

Not all jewelers are missing out. Behmer’s Jewelers in Kerrville, Texas, for example, does more than 20% of its business in giftware, much of it bridal-related. Giftware accounts for 10% of sales at Olson’s Jewelry in Fort Dodge, Iowa. That’s up from 2% in 1992, as the store has used giftware to offset competition from department stores and mass merchants in diamond sales. Albert Solomon of Solomon’s Jewelers in Plainview, N.Y, considers giftware so important he opened a separate gift shop next to his jewelry store. “We need giftware and accessories [to be] a one-stop store for all occasions,” says Solomon.

Several factors account for why more jewelers don’t do well with giftware. Attitude is one reason. Some look down their noses at the giftware they carry (often well under $100 retail), contending it doesn’t turn often enough to justify its costs or even the effort to promote it. Yet, notes Michael Jurado, owner of Hoover’s Jewelers in North Platte, Neb., the problem may be with the retailer, not the product. Jurado dropped giftware a few years ago but brought it back last year, this time with upscale items, after many customers asked specifically for fine gifts.

“It depends on what you carry,” Jurado says. “Consumers come into jewelry stores looking for fine, name-quality gifts, something more special than what ‘the place down the block’ has. Carrying quality giftware enhances your image and gives people another reason to come into your store.”

Vision is another factor. Most jewelers’ gift business is bridal-related. But there’s a whole world of gift-selling opportunities out there, including special family events, holidays, religious celebrations, self-purchase, and home decorating. All it takes is some creative thinking and initiative to identify and cultivate these opportunities.

You also need to be committed to the product. If you stock giftware, take the time to learn about it and romance it in your sales, say jewelers.

Following are 10 tips on how to boost giftware sales in your store.

  1. Know your customer. Keep electronic files on your giftware customers—what they buy (collectibles, crystal eggs, miniature cats, bar accessories), their brand preferences (Lladró figures, Waterford crystal, Montblanc pens), and how much they spend. Make a note of special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries. Keep them informed—by mail, e-mail or, for big-ticket customers, phone or personal note—of new items, additions to a series, in-store special promotions, and sales.

  2. Remember add-ons. Use your jewelry to sell your giftware. If a customer buys a piece of diamond jewelry, for example, ask if he would like a nice porcelain box or a crystal ring holder to go with it. If a customer buys jewelry for a birthday or an anniversary, suggest adding a silver picture frame. (Tossing in free engraving helps.)
    Crystal giftware is a natural add-on for those who come in looking for special gifts for bridal couples and attendants. In addition, says Shari Bright, sales manager of Incolay Studios, which produces the classic Incolay jewelry boxes found in many gift departments, “many buyers browsing for jewelry see something lovely in the gift area which they buy right away,” even if they don’t buy the jewelry at the time.

  3. Promote it! It won’t sell if people don’t know you have it. Use ads provided by your giftware vendors and include your giftware in your catalogs, direct mail, and print ads. Hold in-store events and trunk shows for specific giftware vendors. Have an invitation-only reception to promote a particular brand, category of giftware, or gift theme. For example, Christmas plates are a collectible category that lends itself ideally to holiday in-store presentations by the vendor, while sterling silver giftware can be promoted for Mother’s Day, anniversaries, or Valentine’s Day.
    Advertise in-store events in the local media, including TV and local cable stations. Use e-mail, local Internet services, and your Web site (if you have one) to promote your giftware. Donate giftware, with public acknowledgment, to local charity events and telethons.
    Don’t forget how useful subtlety can be. Hoover Jewelers’ Jurado finds that simply putting Waterford crystal bowls with candy in them for customers throughout the store or shining a halogen light at night on a display of sparkling Waterford crystal in the front window is an effective way to promote the brand and draw consumer interest.

  4. Use the Web. If you have a Web site, add a page for giftware. If not, create one. Many jewelry trade groups offer members free Web sites, while online services like Polygon or America Online help members create sites.
    Focus on a specific type of giftware, such as silver collectibles, luxury pens, miniature clocks, or crystalware. This will bring e-consumers who search the Web for specific items directly to your site. Pomeroy Jewelers in Traverse City, Mich., for example, promotes more than 4,000 unique hand-painted Christmas ornaments and decorative magnets on its “Evergreen Classics” Web site (www.pomeroys.com) and promises customers “FedEx delivery to your door.” The store is “located in an out-of-the-way area, and this gives us access to many more customers,” notes Jaclin Dunne, who runs the store with her husband, Jac.

  5. Be different. Offering unique giftware or items difficult to find elsewhere will bring new business. There are several ways to do that:

  6. Become an exclusive distributor of a high-profile brand. It may take persistence to convince the vendor to select you, but it can be worthwhile. It surely is for Hoover’s Jewelers, which became an exclusive Waterford distributor last year. The move not only boosted sales with regular customers but also brought in new customers. “I was shocked to see how many people there were in our town who collect Waterford products who used to drive 140 miles to Grand Island to the region’s only other Waterford distributor before we became one,” says Jurado. “Now they come here.”
    Offer a “special interest” product, such as items evoking the Victorian era or Americana, like Goebel’s DeGrazia figurines of Southwestern Indian children. Other active categories are sports-themed items, snow globes, animals (such as crystal cats or silver teddy bears), and religious items. Sterling silver Christmas ornaments and Judaica (menorahs, candlestick holders, mezuzot, and even Star-of-David paperweights) are sold in a growing number of jewelry and retail stores.
    Create a niche in your market for unique quality giftware. Fine music boxes that can cost from hundreds to thousands of dollars, for example, are being offered by more jewelers. Regue Music, a 134-year-old Swiss leader in the field, has seen its business with jewelers grow in recent years to 30% of its sales. “There is growing potential for us because jewelers really understand how to sell fine handmade products, and customers expect to see products like ours in jewelry stores,” says Allison Black, vice president of marketing and sales for Regue. Elsewhere, more jewelers are adding luxury pen sets, ornate jewelry boxes with inlaid designs from Incolay Studios, and even humidors and wine accessories.
    Where do you find giftware that’s unique? Good sources are jewelry trade shows, such as The JCK Shows in Orlando, Fla., and Las Vegas, Nev.; the international jewelry and watch show in Basel, Switzerland; and giftware trade shows. To find the latter, visit www.worldcollectorsnet.com, www.tsnn.com, or http://giftwarenews.net/Shows.htm.6. Create a boutique area. Set aside a section of your store—a well-lit corner, a wall, a showcase, even an alcove or a separate room—to display your giftware and collectibles. Olson’s Jewelers, for example, has a table in a corner near the front with Waterford crystal vases and eggs, bookended by shelves on the walls with other giftware. Concentrate on two or three high-quality name brands that will make your store a destination point for consumers who seek these products.

  7. Go corporate. Most jewelers sell an occasional item to a local business or organization for incentive awards or presentations. Turn those occasional sales into a specific service with formalized procedures for soliciting and serving local business clients.
    You don’t have to be a major player like Tiffany’s to do this. Most giftware and jewelry vendors have corporate gift divisions that work with smaller retailers on large or customized orders. Some vendors and jewelers think that hometown jewelers have an edge because they know the people who run the companies in their market. Also, they can service local firms whose gift orders may not be big enough for national chains or suppliers.
    Get a list of businesses in your market from the your local Chamber of Commerce. Advertise your corporate gift business online (contact local Internet services) and in the Yellow Pages. Send direct mail to the purchasing agents, human resources directors, or executive assistants to the presidents of local firms. A personal note describing the service and giftware also can be effective.

  8. Stress silver. Sterling silver giftware is a hot category. Some of the business comes from first-time bridal couples. But most “real growth,” says Linda Meehan, director of the Silver Trust Institute, is from non-bridal business, especially decorative home accessories and items used in home entertaining, such as bar and hors d’oeuvre accessories.
    Affluent consumers are spending more lavishly on the home, either upgrading existing items or buying “wish list” extravagances. There are a host of upscale silver gift items from which to choose. Frames, desk accessories, baby gifts, and candlestick holders are strong sellers. So, too, are gifts for men, including pens, letter openers, bookmarks, and bar accessories such as corkscrews and cocktail picks. Also hot is anything collectible, such as silver boxes, pill boxes, sterling animals, and home décor items like silver bowls, napkin rings, and vases.

  9. Think big ticket. Set your sights on high-end giftware in the $500-plus range. These items have heftier margins and won’t be found in mass merchants or department stores. They enhance your store’s image and—especially if you’re the exclusive distributor in your market—bring affluent consumers into your store.
    The key to successful sales of high-end giftware is the same as for jewelry—product knowledge and customer service. An affluent customer won’t buy a $1,000 luxury pen or a $2,500 music box if the salesperson doesn’t know how to show it to best advantage or is unfamiliar with its features. For example, a salesperson should know that a left-handed person buying a luxury pen needs one with quick-drying ink and a fine point to avoid smudging. Most gift and collectibles vendors hold periodic training seminars for their customers, and may provide in-store training if requested.

  10. Cultivate collectibles. This is a $10 billion business by conservative estimates. Both the Internet and TV (especially the popular “Antiques Road Show” on public television) have increased public awareness of, and interest in, collectibles, says Jim Tucker, executive director of the National Association of Collectors.

Jewelry stores, he says, are popular sources of “newer collectibles,” such as limited-edition plates, figurines, crystal, and glassware. “Collectibles is still a touchy-feely market. People go to the Internet for information but go to the [retail] dealers like jewelers” to buy the items.

Just about anything can qualify as a collectible, he notes. Collectibles keep people coming back for more, especially when they come in series, such as Lladró figurines or Incolay’s various colored boxes. But hard-core collectors aren’t the only buyers, says Tucker. “Collectibles make great gifts for family events, and men are just as avid about buying these as are women.”