Bethesda Jeweler Amy Hugo Rewards Special Customers With a Private Party

Amy Hugo enjoys clinking glasses with Amethyst’s best customers

For Amy Hugo, owner of Amethyst Contemporary Designer Jewelry, cultivating strong customer relationships is paramount to doing good business. The Bethesda, Md.–based retailer—who opened a second location in Fairfax, Va., last year—is so committed to her clientele that she regularly throws private parties to fete them. She hosts bimonthly cocktail soirees for specific customers, who invite 10 to 15 of their closest friends to coo over Hugo’s stellar mix of contemporary fine jewelry, including pieces from the shop’s private label collection and looks from such outside brands as Anne Sportun, August Nine, Kelim, and Lauren Harper. “It’s kind of a spinoff on the old home jewelry parties,” says Hugo, a former senior executive at Fannie Mae who opened Amethyst five years ago to enable her to spend more time with her kids. “And because everyone is friends, it’s a fun evening all around.”

What goes into hosting a party for a special client?

We do cocktails or wine and some kind of theme, typically. I have three designers who work out of my store, so at least two of them will be there. And I sometimes invite the stonecutter we use. We’ll have an appraiser there to do free spot appraisals and my goldsmith to do any quick repairs. We do one Thursday night a month at both stores. We’re normally open until 8 p.m. or 9 p.m., but we’ll close the store early and make it really nice—with candles, food, and cocktails.

How do you tailor the parties to your guest host?

I let the host tell me what she or he would like to focus on. If she’s interested in custom pieces, I invite my gem cutter. At a recent party, we specifically focused on learning about gemstone and jewelry care.

Do you pair promotions with these events?

For all private events, we will do a discount. For the customer who’s brought in all these great new clients—she’ll get a credit of 10 percent of what all her friends bought that evening. And typically we’ll do 20 percent off everything in the store during the party.

What’s the payoff for throwing these parties?

It’s a new thing we’ve been doing this year and already we’ve added new customers. It also gives us a little [sales] bump on a Thursday night. We’ve had people really getting into the fun of redesigning old pieces, which is something we do quite a bit at the store anyway. People just bring in their jewelry boxes. At the parties everyone is looking at everyone’s things and people will chime in with “You’re never going to wear that—melt it!” We buy back gold and a lot of times what people end up doing is trading it in for a custom piece. We open our safe up to show all the gemstone goodies that people don’t usually get to see. We can get on the computer and do CAD drawings and my designer can do sketches on the spot.

How do you spread the word about events at your store?

We’re in a small neighborhood of shops in both locations, so we try to promote each other’s stores. In Virginia, we’re in a new development so we’re really vested in one another’s successes. In March, I’m doing swag bags for guests filled with samples from the neighboring olive oil store and coupons to the local restaurant and beauty stores. 

How have you promoted the new store?

I’ve been relying on proven customers. When we opened the new store, we gave out little cards to each of our regular customers. It’s really a referral card with their name and email on it and if they gave it to a friend in Virginia, the friend got 10 percent off a purchase. And the person who gave the card away got a 20 percent off credit to the store. So my existing customers had an incentive to give the card to people they really felt would use it.

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