A Jeweler’s Countdown Calendar

Ah, December! It’s the season when many people grow nostalgic, when family and holiday traditions are most closely observed, and gift giving peaks. It’s also the busiest selling season for jewelers.

The tradition of using a calendar with 24 “doors” or “windows,” one to be opened each day from Dec. 1 to Dec. 24, has roots in European Christmas celebrations. Called Advent calendars, these typically have a small picture, religious motif, or other surprise behind each door. Ours, however, is a holiday selling and business countdown, designed to provide ideas for marketing, promotions, and special events that jewelers can use to celebrate any tradition—or just have fun—throughout the busy December selling season. When appropriate, don’t forget to inform local media about upcoming events, contest winners, etc.

Finally, remember that many people, owing to religion, culture, or personal choice, don’t celebrate Christmas or any December holiday. “Happy New Year” is an appropriate greeting for all, and if you commit a faux pas, simply apologize for the slip and wish them peace and happiness.

  1. Prepare your staff. Hold a pre-holiday staff meeting. Review selling skills, emphasize courtesy and patience, and stress basic product knowledge and store policies (e.g., returns and special orders). Discuss sales goals and incentives and remind associates about policies regarding dress code and grooming.

  2. First Christmas card sent December 1843. Send your holiday greetings now (consider using Jewelers for Children’s holiday cards) along with holiday catalogs and mailers. Categorize mailings by best customers, newlyweds, occasional customers who make large purchases, and frequent ones who make small purchases. Do follow-up promotional mailing midmonth.

  3. International Disabled Persons’ Day. Pay attention to special-needs shoppers, including physically disabled; customers with language difficulties; and any who need shopping assistance, like teens buying for a parent or sibling.

  4. International Hug Day Treat customers and staff with extra care. Provide free chair massages by a local firm and a place to sit for shopped-out customers, especially older ones. Offer holiday treats like hot cider, cookies, or potato latkes. Offer free gift wrap.

  5. Create your own holiday calendar. Design your own Advent calendar. Send to customers, or display a large one and use the “doors” to announce promotions and events. Or, have certain customers—e.g., every fifth customer on Dec. 5 or the 17th customer on Dec. 17—open doors for a prize.

  6. St. Nicholas Day. In Europe, children leave out cookies for the real “Santa Claus” saint, who leaves gifts for them. Have a staffer dressed as Nicholas (red cloak, miter, beard, staff) offer “St. Nick’s cookies” to customers, including some baked with gems not sensitive to baking-temperature heat (e.g., citrine, amethyst, garnet). The winner keeps the gem and chooses a setting. 7

  7. Oh, Tannenbaum!The National Christmas Tree in Washington, D.C., is lit in early December. If you display a tree, have a ceremonial lighting or sponsor the one in your town or mall. Offer a free ornament with each purchase. Hold a contest for schoolchildren to create the best poem in the shape of a Christmas tree.

  8. Make a list! Create a Holiday Gift Registry for your store and Web site, where customers list what they’d like to receive. Make lists of gift suggestions in various price categories for different people (spouse, parent, etc.). Print “Dear Santa” forms (include stamped envelopes with your logo and return address) with boxes for checking desired items and spaces for writing in items that people send to “Santa.”

  9. National Winter Flowers Day Have a local florist or interior decorator provide several different arrangements of winter flowers for the home. Inform local media. Have how-to handouts. Display them in-store. Give as contest prizes or with big purchases.

  10. Charity begins in-store. For purchases of a specified amount, make a donation to Jewelers for Children in the customer’s name. Hold a reception for selected clients with local jewelry designers, and donate a percentage of sales to charity. Invite the Salvation Army to set up outside your store, or be a drop-off point for Toys for Tots, a food bank, or clothing drive.

  11. Cross-promote with non-competing businesses. One jeweler offered a key with purchase for a chance to win a car at a local dealership, which offered the jeweler’s brochures. Another arranged a progressive dinner: champagne and hors d’oeuvres at a dress shop, dinner and a fashion show (with jewelry and a watches) at a restaurant, and dessert and chamber music at the jeweler’s. Discounts and prizes were included.

  12. National Poinsettia Day. Give a red poinsettia with each sale of red gem jewelry, a white one with each white metal or diamond sale, or one with any sale totaling $50 or more. Arrange several dozen or more in your store as a holiday display.

  13. St. Lucia Day. It’s a major holiday in Scandinavia, especially Sweden. Girls dress in white, wear head wreaths with (usually imitation) candles, and bring breakfast to their parents or morning coffee and sweet rolls to teachers. Display traditional Swedish holiday elements, play Swedish holiday music, and offer sweet rolls to customers.

  14. Boomers and seniors. Target anniversary or “new grandparent” promotions to the 55–64 age group. Have weekly Seniors’ Days for shoppers 65 or older. Offer incremental discounts (i.e., 10 percent for ages 55 to 65, 20 percent for ages up to 75, etc.), and suggested gifts in various price ranges. Publicize it in retirement centers, direct mail, and local media. Provide shopping help, transportation, and free gift-wrapping.

  15. Women are watching! Have a ladies’ night fashion show of jewelry, fine watches, and accessories—both for themselves and the men in their lives. Women are increasingly purchasing fine watches to wear or give as gifts, so use this opportunity to showcase upscale timepieces for them.

  16. Los Posada. Jewelers with Mexican customers might want to embrace this nine-night Mexican tradition, ending Dec. 24, that marks Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem. It’s traditionally celebrated with a nightly family party at a different home. Display farolitos (lanterns that look like accordions) and piñatas. Offer Rosca de Reyes (oval egg bread with dried fruit decorations). Feature Mexican holiday songs.

  17. National Cookie Cutter Day. Make it multicultural with a decorated table offering international holiday treats for customers, such as spiced cider or eggnog, German lebkuchen (gingerbread), or Italian cucciddati (cookies stuffed with dates and figs).

  18. 1892, the first performance of The Nutcracker Display nutcrackers, interspersed with picture-book versions of the story. Play the music in-store or run a video or DVD of the ballet. Offer free tickets to local performances for purchases of $100 or more. Hold an invitation-only event for select customers with the local ballet company and orchestra. Focus on teen jewelry.

  19. Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol published, 1843. Sponsor readings performed by an actor playing Dickens or Scrooge in-store or at your mall’s center court. Have staffers dress as Carol characters, or hold a “Dickens of a Christmas” contest, where customers dress as a character. Give a DVD of one of the movie versions with a $50 purchase.

  20. For the guys. Holiday shopping is stressful for men, they do it later than women, and spend much more than usual on gifts (up to 70 percent). Have a men-only shopping night, with experts to explain about gems and women’s jewelry and provide gift suggestions. Offer a men’s guide to buying jewelry. Provide gift-wrapping and other extras.

  21. Winter solstice. Many of the traditions we now associate with Christmas—like trees and wreaths—are rooted in ancient cultures’ observances of the first day of winter and shortest day of the year. Invite customers to bring in wreaths they’ve made or decorated, and give a prize for the most unusual. Keep the top five winning wreaths on view in your store.

  22. Hanukkah is coming (starting the night of Dec. 25). Display a menorah, the traditional candelabra celebrating the eight-day Jewish Festival of Lights, and light it accordingly (one additional light each night). Let children play dreidel, a game played with a top, for small prizes of gold-foil-covered chocolate coins (called gelt). Have an $18 gift table. (Hebrew alphabet letters equal numbers; those for “life” equal 18.)

  23. Color the holidays! Promote red (ruby, spinel, red tourmaline, pyrope garnet) and green (emerald, tsavorite, demantoid, chrome tourmaline, chrome diopside) for Christmas. For Hanukkah (Dec. 26–Jan. 2) emphasize blue (sapphire, topaz, blue zircon, aquamarine, tanzanite, lapis) and white (diamonds). Colors for Kwanzaa (Dec. 26–Jan. 1) are black (onyx, black diamond), red, and green. December’s birthstones are turquoise, zircon, and tanzanite.

  24. The busiest day. The last Saturday before Christmas—this year, also the day before Christmas—is the year’s busiest shopping day. Stock up for last-minute shoppers. Repolish, retag, and rebox slow-moving merchandise. Push holiday giftware. Start holiday clearances early—and prepare for Orthodox customers’ celebration of Christmas in early January.

  25. Happy holidays!