A Kiss Before Buying
On one summer day each year, Andy Koehn becomes a veritable kissing bandit. Of course, the owner of Koehn & Koehn Jewelers in West Bend, Wis., has some standards: He puckers up only for good clients, and the smooches get more robust depending on the frequency of their purchases. The occasion for the lovefest? The 80-year-old store’s annual August Kiss & Tell event.
“I call them ‘kisses,’ but it’s a discount,” says Koehn. “It’s the only day all year where we mark down jewelry.” And the markdowns are as unique as the customers—all strictly invited guests with scheduled appointments. (The sale isn’t advertised.)
“It’s not just a percentage off,” explains Koehn. “It’s a very individual thing based on volume that day and how old a piece is. The heavier the traffic and the older the jewelry, the steeper the discount.” Of course, it’s also a way to thank longtime shoppers. “If you’ve been my customer for years, I want to reward you,” he says. Five percent is the smallest discount Koehn has granted (on a pair of half-carat diamond studs) and 70 percent is the largest (“it was a bigger piece, a diamond tennis bracelet, and I just wanted to get rid of it”).
Bargains can also spring from other, less concrete reasons. “Maybe it’s a line I just don’t want anymore, from a vendor whose piece is in on memo,” says Koehn. “Or maybe the sun is shining and it just feels right. The discount is very dependent on the moment and the day.” While the idea of the sliding-scale sale prices may be frustrating—customers inevitably ask about the discounts for weeks leading up to the sale—Koehn says Kiss & Tell ultimately works because the community knows it’s the only sale he’ll host all year.
The 2010 event brought 250 shoppers—all scheduled for 15-minute appointments between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.—into the 1,800-square-foot shop. “You can’t just walk in and start shopping,” says Koehn, who’s planning for 300–400 appointments at this year’s sale. “It’s literally that busy.”
Clients are encouraged to pre-shop, considering that every single piece—save Hearts On Fire and most Pandora beads—is included in the sale. Last year, Koehn even brought in $150,000 of extra Simon G merchandise. “I’m a diamond store, but I brought in a bunch of his color fashion,” he says, adding that the move garnered an extra $25,000 in revenue.
One lesson the store owner has learned from a decade of Kissing & Telling is the importance of creating a client-appropriate “celebratory atmosphere.” So over the years, the themes have evolved from in-store affairs with waiters passing trays of fancy wedding fare—coconut shrimp, tenderloin on skewers, crab cakes, and champagne with raspberries—to tailgate-like outdoor tent parties featuring traditional Wisconsin grub such as bratwurst and Miller beer. “The low-key approach is good for my town,” says Koehn. “This is what they do on a Saturday afternoon for fun.”
Setting the Stage
Semi-mounts in black, rose, and rhodium-free white 18k gold; $8,700; Lucifer vir Honestus, Milan; 39-22-900-4270; lucifer-vir-honestus.com
Luna Scamuzzi of Milan-based Lucifer vir Honestus recently unveiled a bridal collection that mirrors the earthy looks found in her fine jewelry line. Says Scamuzzi, who debuted six styles at Couture 2011 (more are on the way): “Engagement rings are generally focused on the stone, but I would like to give more importance to the setting so that the whole ring becomes important. It’s a piece of jewelry, not only a stone.” In 18k rose, white, black, and rhodium-free white gold, semi-mounts start at $8,700 and can accommodate center stones up to 5 cts.