Lee Krombholz, Owner of Krombholz Jewelers

  1. What one advertisement elicited the most response and why did it work? For over three years we’ve been advertising on CitySearch.com. The Web site has the look and feel of an online entertainment magazine where users can find whatever type of service provider they’re after such as a jeweler. Advertisers are charged by the click, so we began with only $100. More and more people were finding us using CitySearch, so I upped that monthly amount to $300. In addition to the find feature, customers can write recommendations. Our listing has a significant amount of customer recommendations making us CitySearch’s “Best Jeweler in Cincinnati.” And we always have the No. 1 listing when people use CitySearch.com to find a jeweler in Cincinnati. Our presence on CitySearch.com has also helped with the store’s SEO (search engine optimization) on search engines. Eighty percent of our bridal customers find us on the Internet.

  2. How do you differentiate your store from the competition? In 2000 I joined a CEO group called Vistage. One of the first things they have you do is work on your “elevator speech,” which is how you would tell someone what you do in the time it takes to ride an elevator. My elevator speech was a little flat. Jim Collins’s book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t, got me thinking about what’s unique about my store and how that could improve my elevator speech. I hired an ad company to interview my customers to identify my store’s core strengths. Years ago we dropped “designers of fine jewelry” from our tagline. Knowing that our customers like that we design and create fine jewelry, we brought the tagline back. Since then I’ve streamlined the custom process with CAD/CAM capabilities, a CNC mill, and other equipment. The custom portion of our business has brought in more bridal customers who have become very specific about what they want.

  3. What ambitious goal do you have for your store and what do you think it would take to achieve it? I began working with ARMS (Advanced Retail Management software) eight years ago and quickly learned that I had too much inventory, which is costing me money to carry. Since that time I’ve been lowering my inventory level to prepare myself for the first step in a lower-inventory business model that would rely more on custom design. Last year I reduced purchasing of finished jewelry from vendors by 75 percent. This was possible because of the surplus from Christmas 2008. We’ve become less reliant on in-store inventory. It’s an evolution the customer will have to become accustomed to as well, which we think will take a couple years. In 2010 we plan on getting more aggressive with this new business model.

  4. What’s the best idea you’ve come up with for your store? In the past we invited people to the store on Friday afternoons for some socializing. Last year we decided to create an event around these social gatherings and held our first First Friday party. The first Friday of every month we host a trunk show with different vendors. We serve food and drinks, bring in some artwork from local artists, and have live music. These have become selling events for us and are in keeping with our lower inventory policy. It still allows us to show jewelry from Hidalgo, Mattioli, or watches from Alfex without carrying the inventory. Customers see more jewelry and watches than we would normally carry. Customers who are big fans of certain designer lines of jewelry or watch brands enjoy seeing entire collections.

  5. When you walk through your front door, what do you like most about your store? Ten years ago we did a total store redesign. I wanted the store to have a homelike atmosphere. More intimate lighting and warmer colors on the wall helped a lot with our goal of doing more entertaining in the store. We’ve found, especially since starting our First Friday parties, that our customers enjoy coming to the store to get their evening out with a good start. All of our display cases are two-sided, so I can move them around to keep the store looking fresh for people who come in frequently. Now we have a store with ambience that is comfortable and fun to be in. It’s also a homey atmosphere where people feel comfortable.