How 5 Jewelers Are Spending Their Summer

After buying up a storm during market week in the desert, you’re home and staring down the barrel of a long, hot summer. Now what? Five jewelers outline their top projects for the season.

Look at that. It’s June already. Maybe you’re at the JCK show in Las Vegas, on your way home, or already back in the store. In any case, it’s time to move on to the next phase in the annual business cycle.

If you’re located in a tourist mecca, the next few months may bring an annually anticipated rush of ­bustling selling activity. But for most ­jewelers—who aren’t in vacation hot spots—there are choices to be made. Are you looking at a prolonged down period, best spent wine-tasting in southern France or yachting around the Mediterranean? Or will you spend the summer executing plans to build and strengthen your business for the fall and holiday seasons and beyond?

JCK spoke to five independent jewelers about how they intend to carry out their summertime agendas.

Michael Littman, copresident
Gary Michaels Fine Jewelry
Location: Manalapan, N.J.
Project: Summer sales event

Cousins Michael Littman and Gary Littman come from a family thick in jewelry retailing heritage. Their last name is still known in the mid-Atlantic, where the Littman Jewelers chain is operated by now-owner Fred Meyer Jewelers. Today, the Littmans manage Gary Michaels Fine ­Jewelry, an upscale single-store business located near the Jersey Shore (but not quite close enough to be a true summer tourist hub). June remains busy for them, but July and August see the standard exodus of customers heading off for family vacations.

This TW Steel men’s Grandeur tech watch was one of Gary Michaels’ 2013 sale items.

The Littmans counter the slowdown with an all-out five-day markdown sale, typically held during the final week of July and first week of August. Marketed as the “Half-Off Event,” the sale entices shoppers just as you would imagine—everything on the sales floor goes for 50 percent off its regular ticket price.

“We’re trying to get rid of inventory and get cash flow,” Michael says. “But we’re not normally a promotional store. So our customers know it’s a great sale.”

The beginning of July is all about preparation: remerchandising, repricing, reorganizing displays, and developing and executing marketing, including billboards, direct mail, social media, and radio.

The Littmans work with their designer vendors to isolate and present pieces that have been slow movers or that the brands wish to clear out. “We ask them to give us a package of goods that is their clearance stuff,” Michael explains. “They memo to us at a substantial discount. We make money, they get rid of stuff, and our customers love it. It’s a win-win all around.”

The sale also includes Gary Michaels’ own merchandise, with prices as high as six figures. “We have bracelets that list for $100,000, and you get [them for] $50,000,” Michael says. “Even if you’re saving in reality 10 grand or 15 grand, you’re getting a great deal.”

John Hayes, president
Goodman’s Jewelers
Location: Madison, Wis.
Project: Customer database management

Goodman’s Jewelers is fortunate to be a freestanding store smack between two high-traffic areas: Madison’s downtown business district and the University of Wisconsin. Summer remains relatively strong, says president John Hayes, who explains that sales volumes for all months of the year—except December—consistently tally within 3 percentage points of each other.

Students taking summer classes, businesses holding training seminars, tourists, and regular customers all contribute to steady summer traffic. But the ­company’s use of the summer months to continually develop and upgrade its digital customer outreach deserves much of the credit for the store’s year-round success.

Goodman’s focuses on staff training to emphasize the importance of collecting data, especially email addresses. “This is what we need to do to reach out and communicate with our customers better,” Hayes says.

He estimates the database now harbors roughly 30 percent of his full clientele. Last year, Goodman’s switched its store operations software to WinJewel, and Hayes says he’s been very pleased with the program’s ability to extract data for marketing purposes (it connects directly to the ­jeweler’s email system). Goodman’s has also begun using Constant Contact, which provides a good fix on open and rejection rates, among similarly critical metrics. Bounce rate with the new system has fallen below 1 percent, he says.

“We now have 1,368 total customers in there,” Hayes says. “We’re trying to refine our system and find out what works and what doesn’t work.”

Over the summer, Goodman’s will focus on developing its broad email blasts as well as one-on-one contact. General emails typically highlight a specific product. Ultimately, Hayes says, the objective is to maintain an appropriate ongoing dialogue with the company’s best customers: “We’re talking to them about their birthdays and anniversaries, and they seem to like that. We want to work harder on getting that information…and using it to be not pushy but proactive.”

Michael Wilson, owner
Wilson & Son Jewelers
Location: Scarsdale, N.Y.
Project: Charitable event sponsorship

Scarsdale transforms into a sleepy hamlet when June winds down, as affluent residents flock to summer homes in the Hamptons and Martha’s Vineyard after shuffling their kids off to sleep-away camp. Michael Wilson, owner of 109-year-old Wilson & Son, explains that his company exploits this opportunity to prepare for upcoming promotional events, a mainstay in the store’s marketing arsenal.

Wilson and his staff will be occupied planning for Scarsdale’s second annual SoWe (Southern Westchester) Food & Wine Festival, which draws thousands of high-end shoppers to the area. “This brings life into the village unlike any other event the downtown does,” Wilson says.

SoWe 2014 is scheduled for Sept. 19–21 and is expected to attract more than 10,000 people, up from 7,500 for its launch last year. Created to enliven major public areas within Westchester County and benefit local charities, the event draws those interested in sampling the region’s finest food and wines. In Scarsdale alone, more than 100 restaurants will participate.

The action at last year’s SoWe Food & Wine Festival, scheduled this year for Sept. 19–21

This year, Wilson plans to step up to become name sponsor of the event’s Wine Village. The jeweler will also host its own in-store event, serving special ­high-end wines for consumers who purchase an additional endorsement to their tickets.

The involvement provides an excellent addition to a legacy of community participation and patronage of local charities. But there are direct business results too. “I couldn’t tell you quantitatively what sales come from it,” Wilson says. “But I can tell you customers do come in after to buy. There’s absolutely been residual.”

Bill Longnecker, owner and president
Longnecker Jewelry

Location: McCook, Neb.
Project: Inventory realignment

Bill Longnecker describes himself as a jeweler who doesn’t like to “just sit around and wait for things to happen.” Over the summer, this translates into a concentrated effort to realign his store’s merchandise to better match his customers’ demands and desires.

There are two sides to this coin: clearing out older, less attractive inventory and, more important, he says, determining what will pique shopper interest—both over the summer and through fall to the holidays.

Once he gets his legs back under him after returning from JCK Las Vegas, Longnecker begins an intensive analysis of what he saw, heard, and learned there. “I consider whether a trend has hit the small rural areas or whether it’s not big anywhere other than a large urban area,” he says. “Is it a product that’s available to us? Will it be attractive to our clientele?”

If the store is going to add a new vendor, this is when Longnecker will make the decision. He bolsters what he learned at the show by reading trade magazines and, most important of all, participating in online jewelry-specific social media groups.

Longnecker has found LinkedIn to be an especially rich source of collaborative discussions. He’s active in about a dozen digital jewelry groups, regularly soliciting insight and advice on trends and products.

Jewelers seeking digital groups focused on specific subjects, he explains, can simply type in search keywords on LinkedIn’s groups tab to generate hundreds of options. He recommends joining groups with large memberships (1,000 and up), adding that the Jewelers of America group is especially active and helpful.

“I’ll go on and ask if anyone has had trouble with, say, glass beads,” he says. “It’s a great resource to see what other jewelers are thinking about. And they’re willing to share their experience.”

David Stone, co-owner
Nancy and David Fine Jewels
Location: Millburn, N.J.
Project: Refurbishing the store

Nancy and David Fine Jewels caters to one of the most affluent (and jewel-loving) bedroom communities for Manhattan’s commuting elite, the Short Hills section of Millburn, N.J.—definitely not a tourist destination. So when the client base floats off with the summer breeze, the store closes for 10 days in early July and for a similar period leading up to Labor Day.

So co-owners Nancy and David Stone seize the opportunity for improvement. A ­jeweler that regularly sells pieces with six-figure price tags simply can’t afford to be less than visually stellar. Summer is the perfect chance to make the small updates and refurbishments that sum up to a weighty upgrade in store appeal.

Nancy and David Fine Jewels will be getting a makeover this summer.

“We’re already discussing what our summer is going to be and what we’re going to do,” David says. “We’re going to make modest changes and repairs on the inside and start doing work on the exterior.”

This year, the focus will likely be on the latter. Stone has already hired a company to pressure-wash and repaint the full store exterior. “It’s all about curb appeal,” he says. “If you have the curb appeal, it will bring people in the door that haven’t been here before.”

In addition to the structure, Stone has planned an overhaul of his landscaping. He’s having all the shrubs replaced, installing a sprinkler system, and planting flowers that can be changed seasonally. “We really want to beautify all that area,” he says.

While not due for a complete transformation, the store interior will get new displays and forms to replace those that have grown ratty. Staff will repair showcase doors and perform similar odd jobs that get overlooked during the busy season.

A larger change will be transitioning the store lounge, currently used for kids and husbands to watch TV, into a bridal lounge. “It will be another private selling room,” David says. “Bridal has remained very strong, and this will help us expand in that area.”

While retailers may not notice the normal ­degradation of their store’s condition, customers will, Stone says. “We’re jewelers. And that means we have a responsibility to provide our customers with a rich environment worthy of their patronage.”

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