While it may come as no surprise, it’s an election year, and that has several direct effects on your jewelry business that you need to accept, work around, and take advantage of. Or you can sit on the sidelines moaning about the sorry state of retail and your relative location on the jewelry food chain.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a Republican, a Democrat, or something in between—you cannot complain if you do not vote. So before you vote, check out the various candidates’ positions and voting records on reducing trade tariffs, support for fair-trade practices, reduction of import duties, and the Kimberley Process.
Once you’ve done your homework and formed some preliminary opinions, send an e-mail to your friends in the business and ask their opinion of the candidates based on what you found out. Check with your regional office of Jewelers of America and ask which local candidates support policies that help the jewelry business. (If they don’t have a good answer, ask them to talk with the home office.)
If you find some consensus, share it with others in the industry so you multiply the leverage of your pro-jewelry-business voting block. This is democracy in action and what makes the United States such a great country. (This is not to suggest that you start putting political bumper stickers on your customers’ cars in the parking lot or on the front door of your store. But it is a call to start a trade-focused, viral discussion about who we should support with our votes.)
Once you’ve done your due diligence and duty as pro-business jeweler, consider what the election means for your business. Its single greatest impact will be to drive up your broadcast and outdoor media costs, as every candidate for local dogcatcher wants to see his face on a billboard or hear her name on the radio. If you rely on radio and outdoor media, lock in your space now, ideally at last year’s rates, to leverage your past business. Make it clear you won’t accept any second-rate locations or loss of drive-time slots just because they have heavy demand for their inventory in the third and fourth quarters. (Remind them, nicely, that it’s their problem, not yours, and you have plenty of other options for spending your marketing dollars.)
While working within the media system amid the perfect storm of local, state, and presidential elections, you also need to think about changing some of your media mix this year to avoid the certain clutter that will occur. That will be compounded by all the other retailers that held back advertising in this soft economy for a big holiday push. Unlike electronics and restaurants, which are true commodities and more subject to impulse purchasing in Q4, jewelry is a more considered purchase, since birthdays and anniversaries take place year-round.
A regular flighting of media spending in radio and newspaper, with a regular dollop of outdoor advertising between June and October, will do a better job of increasing your name awareness, promoting the brands you carry, and identifying your locations than a big-broadcast/lush-print advertising push in Q4. Plan now to do more direct marketing and a series of small catalogs, postcards, and folded self-mailing brochures during the holiday period to cut through the others’ noise and clutter, especially if you’ve been advertising on a consistent basis in the time leading up to the holidays.
As you approach the upcoming show season, develop plans for the rest of the year in terms of your ad spending and print needs, and run it by your better vendors and prospective suppliers at the shows. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at their positive response. Few of their other clients will have such carefully considered marketing plans, especially in an election year.