Hometown Stories

There are all sorts of high-profile local and regional events that can provide excellent marketing possibilities for jewelers-as many already realize. A recent JCK national poll found that one in five jewelers is involved in some kind of local or regional award event. These range from local beauty contests to pro football awards to civic fundraisers, but all generate community awareness, foot traffic, and sales for the jewelers. According to jewelers interviewed by JCK, such community involvement is even better than advertising in terms of the goodwill it generates.

The value of beauty. One “hometown” event to which many jewelers contribute is the local or regional beauty pageant. For some, this means donating the tiaras that are awarded to winners and runners-up. For example, Garrick Jewelers in Hanover, Pa., donates a Swarovski crystal tiara to the annual Miss Hanover pageant, and Star Jewelers in Broken Arrow, Okla., donates tiaras to all local schools through a program run by Jewelers of America.

Sissy and Bill Jones of Sissy’s Log Cabin in Pine Bluff, Ark., regularly buy tiaras with imitation gems (worth $200 to $300 each) which they donate to local and regional beauty pageants.

“We do it because we believe in what these pageants are about, and the hard work the girls put into it,” says Bill Jones. “But it is also a very positive PR thing. There are 300 to 500 people at any one of these events [who hear about the donation]; also, a lot of parents appreciate the gesture.” The Joneses also design and custom-make a ring for the winner of the annual Mrs. Arkansas state pageant. Together, these endeavors are raising community awareness of their business and bringing more potential customers into the store.

One source of tiaras is the Jewelers of America “Tiara Program.” According to Rosanna Aguilar, JA director of membership, it is one of JA’s most popular programs, providing about 50,000 tiaras annually to JA members who request them. The tiaras are made of metal with a gold finish and set with rhinestones. Each member is entitled to three free tiaras per year; additional pieces can be purchased for $12 (small, for children), $25 (medium), or $31 (large) each. “It’s a great program,” says Aguilar. “It helps a jeweler’s local public relations and generates good publicity and recognition.”

Tiaras aren’t the only item that jewelers donate to pageants. J. Morgan Ltd. in Grand Haven, Mich., contributes items to the Coast Guard Pageant Queen award package; Marks Jewelers in Lawrence, Kan., provides silverplate trays; and Eichhorn Jewelry in Decatur, Ind., loans estate jewelry for contestants to wear in pageants.

Closer identification. A number of jewelers are even more closely identified with their regional beauty pageants. For example, I.W. Marks Jewelers in Houston, Texas, is the “official jeweler” for the Miss Texas USA and Miss Teen Texas USA pageants. The company creates a diamond pendant and diamond ring for each of the winners, as well as donating a watch.

Hoover’s Jewelry in North Platte, Neb., a farming and railroad hub, has been involved with the Miss Nebraska and Miss Rodeo Nebraska Pageants for years, says owner Mike Jurado. “We donate very elegant jewelry-usually a diamond pendant-which makes a statement about the position [the winner] holds,” he tells JCK.

“We don’t do this just for the business, but you can’t underestimate the amount of community awareness and goodwill this generates,” Jurado says. “Many women who work in these pageants are now our clients, too.” In addition, he notes, events like this need-and get-across-the-board support from the town’s business community. “People who come to North Platte-some from the far corners of the state-to see their daughters in these contests also see how retailers work together to support a positive community project, and that is beneficial to all of us.”

Tim Branscomb of Sierra West Jewelers in the university town of Orem, Utah, involves his business “in every pageant I can get.” For 20 years, his four-store operation has been the “sponsoring jeweler” for such events as Mrs. Utah, Miss Utah, and Junior Miss Utah, as well as local pageants. The business donates gift certificates worth $100 to $200 to all the participants, presents scholarships and jewelry gifts to the winners, and even conducts a popular pre-pageant course on “how to shop for and buy anything.” The end result, says Branscomb, is that “we get both the young ladies and their parents” as well as relatives and friends in the audiences.

Branscomb also is an active participant-through product donations, ads, and personal support-in charity auctions (“in which many millionaires and celebrities are involved,” he notes), local film festivals, and similar events. “The number-one reason we do it is for ‘good works,'” he says, but there is a marketing benefit, too. Branscomb estimates that the store’s involvement in such events adds at least 7% to 10% annually to his business.

Other opportunities. Hometown marketing and promotional opportunities aren’t limited to beauty pageants. Each year, Jack Seibert, Goldsmith & Jeweler, in Columbus, Ohio, helps out with the local Chamber of Commerce’s annual fundraiser, “Golden Gala,” which honors an outstanding citizen. Seibert’s store got involved when one of his staff joined a program that created the annual event, and the store became a sponsor. To provide more support, he and his staff also decided to create and donate an innovative gold necklace-worth about $2,000 retail-to be used in the fundraising efforts. “We’re known for our aesthetic, contemporary designs,” Seibert says.

The store’s active support of the event has been well received by the community. “We get a lot of publicity from this each year, including free pictures [of the staff] in the local paper.” And because the gala is held every April, he adds, “We also benefit just in time for Mother’s Day.”

The store’s sponsorship of the gala and donation of the necklace also generates “comments and kudos from customers who see it in the paper, and positive comments at the Rotary.” And that brings more foot traffic into the store.

In St. Louis, Mo., Michael Genovese, owner of M. Genovese Jeweler, has been involved with dozens of awards and charitable events for 22 years. Some are sports related. For example, his business donates $500 to charity each time the St. Louis Rams sack an opposing quarterback during a home game-and each donation is announced over the stadium loudspeakers. Genovese has participated in Super Bowl and Most Valuable Player presentations to the Rams and is friends with members of the Rams organization. He’s also friends with members of the hometown baseball (Cardinals) and hockey (Blues) teams.

Genovese is active in at least 30 different charities, from “Special Olympics” to golf events for the Irish community, and donates watches or jewelry for many. According to the jeweler, it keeps both him and his business in close contact with the area’s movers and shakers.

“When you become friends with these icons who are active in your community, or participate and make donations, it eventually comes back [to your store] in terms of additional business,” he says. “I know of several recent big-ticket items [that] we sold after doing charity auctions. People came to our store because of our participation, and bought a five-carat diamond ring or a diamond Rolex.”

Indeed, he says, this type of marketing and promotion “is better than newspapers, TV, or magazine advertising. There, yours is one jewelry ad among many. But when you take your advertising dollars and give them back to the community, your business has a higher profile among the community’s leaders, and that brings back many more rewards,” both personal and business.