Eleven Proven Ways to Profit from Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is custom-made for jewelers. Long identified as the day dedicated to romance, it’s a natural marketing opportunity for diamond hearts, anniversary rings, engagement sets, and other multifaceted tokens of love. It’s also one of the few occasions that draw men into jewelry stores.

Yet many jewelers ignore it. A new JCK national poll of several hundred jewelers finds that 48% do nothing in the way of advertising, sales, or promotions. Those who do promote the occasion, however, have seen their Valentine’s Day revenues (for the holiday and two weeks preceding it) rise 18%, on average, over the previous year’s figures. “It’s a great springboard to get [people] buying again after Christmas, for engagement rings or even gifts for themselves,” says Joe Pankratz, owner of Avenue Coins & Jewelry in Appleton, Wis.

In our poll, we asked jewelers to name their most effective promotion. Free gifts (candy, dinner for two, flowers) with a qualifying purchase was the most common response, but there were also engagement ring sales and even an essay contest on the theme “How We Met,” with the winners receiving diamond jewelry. We’ve selected some of the best—and least expensive—promotion ideas, which we present below. After all, why should florists, card sellers, and candy makers be the only ones to benefit from jewelers’ ideal holiday?

1. A Rose in Gold

Many jewelers boost business by giving away roses (usually one but sometimes up to a dozen) with a qualifying Valentine purchase, typically $100 or more. It’s a great add-on, limited in cost and easy to promote in regular ads, says one East Coast jeweler.

Some jewelers hold joint promotions with florists. Strapp Jewelers in Billings, Mont., gave anyone spending $300 or more on diamond jewelry a gift certificate for a dozen roses from a local florist, redeemable any time. The florist didn’t charge Strapp for the certificates because he regarded them as a promotional device of his own. It worked. The florist received visits from many new potential customers, and Strapp doubled his Valentine’s business.

The most unusual roses jewelers use are golden. Gary Long’s Village Jewelers, Stockton, Calif., sells 24k roses (electroplated real roses) for $70 each. They’re his best-selling gold items for Valentine’s Day. The store keeps 50 in a large basket on a counter, and customers choose the ones they want.

Gilded roses bring men in, Long says. “Many men won’t enter a jewelry store, because they think they must spend thousands of dollars on a gift,” he notes. “But gold roses are romantic, affordable, and an easy ‘impulse’ purchase.” Men, most of them new customers, buy about 95% of the gold roses he sells for Valentine’s Day. Most buy right before the holiday, says Long, who advertises heavily on radio during the preceding four days.

Result: Valentine’s Day revenues (8% of annual business) are up 30%.

Cost: Five newspaper ads, radio ads, and the wholesale cost ($26) per rose. (Long gets his roses from his own firm, called “Gold & Roses,” which he began a couple of years ago when he saw how well they sold in his store. Gold roses are also available from other companies.)

2. Gambling on Love

Granada Jewelers in Ormond Beach, Fla., uses gambling chips in a promotion in which everyone wins. The store fills a gift-wrapped box with colored poker chips and posts a color-coded chart on the wall. Customers pick a chip and, depending on color, save 10% to 30% on purchases made during the 10-day Valentine promotion. “This is our only annual sale,” says store owner William T. Miller Jr. Purchasers also get a certificate for a free red rose from a local florist, under a mutual promotion with Miller. (Miller mentions the florist in his radio ads.)

Result: Valentine’s Day revenues (7% of annual business) rose 25%.

Cost: Minimal. Miller already advertises on the radio (and mentions his Valentine’s Day event in those ads). The roses and certificates were free. The cost of poker chips (plus cookies and punch for customers) is negligible.

3. Count the Ways

“50 Ways to Please Your Lover,” a twist on the popular song “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” is the theme of the annual Valentine’s Day promotion of Castiglione Jewelers, Gloversville, N.Y. Its newspaper ads list 50 items at affordable prices. Ads on local radio and TV (both network and cable) use Castiglione’s version of the song as background music as an announcer describes jewelry.

Result: The store gets 15% of its annual business from the two-week period, three times the average store’s percentage. Valentine’s Day sales have risen annually for several years. Diamond jewelry (especially heart-shaped), solid gold jewelry, engagement sets, and anniversary rings sell well. The hottest Valentine items for Castiglione (and many other jewelers surveyed by JCK) are the sterling silver “candy kisses” of J. & C. Ferrera—“the kiss that lasts forever”—retailing for $19.95.

Cost: 5% of the store’s ad budget.

4. My Baby and Me

Offering a popular collectible as a free gift with purchase boosts Valentine’s Day traffic. Customers who bought a diamond heart pendant (at full fixed price) at Herteen & Stocker, Iowa City, Iowa, got a free Beanie Baby. At Anderson Jewelers, East Hartford, Conn., buyers could choose between a free lamb or teddy bear Beanie Baby with any $250 pair of diamond earrings.

Result: Valentine’s Day revenues rose 20% for Herteen & Stocker and 30% for Anderson.

Cost: Herteen & Stocker spent $1,000, equally divided between advertising and Beanie Babies (bought from a neighboring toy store). Anderson spent $900 ($300 for advertising, $600 for Beanie Babies).

5. No Taxation

Taylor-Raymond Jewelers, an American Gem Society jeweler in Durango, Colo., pays the 7% state sales tax on anything customers buy during its two-week Valentine’s Day promotion. “We pay the tax and save you enough to take your sweetheart to dinner, too!” trumpet its TV and radio ads. “People hate paying taxes,” explains owner Robert Estes Sr. “Being in February, this [promotion] is very effective because they’re already thinking about their federal income taxes.”

Result: Valentine’s Day revenues rose 15%. Diamond jewelry was the best seller.

Cost: The tax payments totaled $2,000. The promotion cost $1,250 ($1,000 in advertising costs, the rest in staff hours).

6. Look Here!

Valencia Jewelry in Santa Ana, Calif., uses a simple but effective Valentine’s Day promotion. “We put banners and a special display for Valentine jewelry in the center of the store,” says owner Medardo Valencia. “It can’t be missed by anyone coming in.” Special discounts average 30%. Gold jewelry sells best.

Result: About 10% to 15% of annual sales are made in the two weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day.

Cost: Less than $1,000 (about $400 for advertising, plus the cost of 40 staff hours for the promotion and sale).

7. Diamond Hunters

Portofino Jewelry in Edwards, Colo., a year-old store near Vail, opened a “diamond mine” for its first Valentine’s Day promotion. Customers were challenged to identify a real diamond from among several lookalike cubic zirconias positioned on a pad of black velvet. Those who succeeded were entered into a drawing to win a pair of diamond earrings, and everyone who played received a 10%-off coupon good for any future purchase. “That let us know how many people responded,” explains store owner Jenny Hetei.

The two-week promotion was a joint effort with a local radio station (at Hetei’s suggestion), which urged listeners to “go diamond hunting at Portofino.”

Result: “The game brought in lots of people,” says Hetei. “It built awareness of us, which is important since I’m the only full-service jeweler in Vail Valley catering to the local population.” Sterling silver jewelry was the hottest seller.

Cost: The wholesale price of the earrings ($400), plus five staff hours to prepare for the event. Advertising cost nothing—the radio station promoted the event as an image- and listener-builder for itself.

8. Touch of Class

Ayres Jewelers, Casper, Wyo., offered this classy service free of charge: A young man dressed in a tuxedo personally delivered all gift purchases, plus a red rose, on Valentine’s Day.

“Men who bought the gifts liked the free delivery and the red rose,” says owner Scott Ayres, who got the idea from an employee. “Recipients were surprised and pleased. Several phoned us to say they were delighted.”

His competition did nothing to promote Valentine’s Day, making Ayres’s idea all the more noticeable and successful. “It set us apart,” he says.

Result: The promotion brought in new business and pushed Valentine sales up 5% to 10%, says Ayres. Gold and sterling silver jewelry sold especially well.

Cost: $250 for newspaper and radio ads, $50 for the college student who made deliveries, and $30 for roses.

9. Good Sports

Valentine’s Day is a guy’s holiday, at least on the giving end. Either-Ore Jewelers, a Virginia Beach, Va., jewelry store, designed a guys-only promotion. Owner Susan Johnson arranged for a local radio station to broadcast its popular afternoon sports call-in show from her store shortly before Valentine’s Day. She also made a radio ad on which she chats with the sportscaster about what men can buy for Valentine’s Day. It ran 150 times during the two weeks before the event. The sportscaster plugged the promotion for free on his daily four-hour show.

The call-in show took place at the store two days before Valentine’s Day. Johnson explains that the event was scheduled as close as possible to the holiday because “guys are last-minute shoppers.” The sportscaster was posted at the front of store, and his chats with customers were broadcast live. Free pizza and soft drinks were available, and there was a drawing for diamond earrings. Many items were specially priced, with discounts averaging 20%.

Result: It was the store’s most successful promotion. “Lots of men came,” says Johnson. “The store was so packed, our salespeople [all women] were dressed in red to be seen in the crowd. There was lots of impulse buying, most of it diamond jewelry in the $100 to $200 range. One man bought an $18,000 ring as an anniversary gift. Several bought engagement rings. We got lots of names for our mailing list from the drawing.”

Cost: $1,000 for the radio spots plus a $100 fee for the sportscaster’s appearance. The station paid for the earrings that were given away and sprung for 30 pizzas.

10. “Kiss” Me Quick

Kisses are a natural part of Valentine’s Day, so Avenue Coins & Jewelry in Appleton, Wis., has a weeklong “Kiss Sale.” After choosing their jewelry, customers pick a Hershey’s candy kiss from a sterling tray by the register. The candies have a colored dot on the bottom, and each color corresponds to a particular discount, as shown by a chart on the counter. Discounts range from 20% to 35% and average 27%.

The promotion is popular, says owner Joe Pankratz, because of “its timing with the holiday, the fact no customer gets less than a 20% discount, and because the risk/reward factor makes it fun.”

Result: Valentine’s Day revenues rose 15%.

Cost: $1,200 for a postcard mailing to 4,000 customers, plus mention in his newspaper ads.

11. It’s in the Mail

“Direct mailers to our customers are most successful for us,” says owner Richard Armstrong of Jewelers Workshop, Madison, Wis. He sends four-page quarterly newsletters to 5,000 customers. “Although they go out in late January and weren’t totally about Valentine’s Day, they create a lot of interest and visits to the store, resulting in sales,” he says.

This year’s winter issue had an article about Valentine’s Day, one on the store’s custom jeweler, and an offer to “clean and check” jewelry for free. Anyone buying a Valentine gift of $300 or more got a free heart-shaped box of chocolate. (The box itself was also chocolate.)

Result: “We were mobbed, mainly by men,” says Armstrong. “They liked the idea of getting a box of chocolates with gifts they bought.” Diamond jewelry sold best. (There were no discounts.) Valentine’s Day revenues rose 15%.

Cost: $2,000 for printing and mailing the fliers, plus $500 for the chocolates.

Valentine’s Data

Valentine’s Day is the first big sales opportunity after the December holidays and the January doldrums. Consider these facts:

  • Jewelry is a hot seller for Valentine’s Day. For the 1998 holiday, $1.6 billion worth of jewelry was sold, compared with $1 billion for cards, $900 million for candy, and $700 million for flowers.

  • About 12% of marriage proposals take place on Valentine’s Day, according to the Los Angeles Times.

  • Valentine’s Day is second only to Christmas in sales of candy, flowers, and cards, say researchers at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., and second only to Mother’s Day for dining out, according to the National Restaurant Association.

  • Valentine’s Day specials are now a major feature on the Internet. For example: Warner Bros. Online has a Valentine Shopper area, Disney Online has Cupid’s Corner, and America Online offers Cupid’s Gift Finder (a shopping service with links to retailers of flowers, gifts, fragrances, chocolate, and jewelry). Internet orders of Valentine’s Day flowers alone grew 200% between 1998 and 1999, according to Florist Transworld Delivery (FTD).