Looking Back For Answers To JIC’s Future

In 1946, jewelry sales were at an all-time high of $1.5 billion, spurred by 2.3 million weddings that had been postponed during the war years and an overall pent-up demand for luxury goods.

It was clear to some in the industry that, in spite of the boom in jewelry, the post-war competitive environment would require a more aggressive marketing strategy than ever before.

Eight industry leaders decided to form a trade association called the Jewelry Industry Council to support the growth of the industry. They were Cecil Kaufmann of Kay Jewelers, Norman Morris of Omega Watch Co., Gus Neimeyer of Handy & Harman, William Walters Schwab of J.R. Wood, Charles Michaels of Michaels Jewelers, Victor Lambert of Lambert Bros., Pete Fahrendorf of Jewelers’ Circular-Keystone and Harry Bromley of National Jeweler. To help set their course of action, they commissioned the Roper polling organization to study consumer attitudes and behavior regarding jewelry purchases.

One important finding: esteem for retail jewelers appeared to be high. Seventy percent of those surveyed said they “count on particular jewelry stores to give them good advice on value.”

The Roper study also identified a real opportunity for the retailer of 1946. Up to that time, consumers had perceived the jewelry store as the logical place for “once-in-a-lifetime” gifts, such as those for weddings, anniversaries and graduations. However, the report showed jewelry stores didn’t rank as high as a place to buy gifts for recurring occasions, such as birthdays.

A recommendation was made for a unified industry effort using publicity, promotion, national advertising and research to improve jewelry sales, especially those of a recurring nature. The JIC founders were almost evangelical in their zeal for this new initiative. Through contributions from more than 3,000 retailers and 350 manufacturers and suppliers, they raised an annual budget of $500,000. (And that was 1946 dollars!)

Since then, the efforts of the Jewelry Industry Council, which became the Jewelry Information Center in 1993, have greatly contributed to the growth of jewelry sales.

What does the JIC do? While much has changed in our industry, JIC’s mission has remained fairly constant: to create a favorable environment for the sale of jewelry through the use of creative and timely promotions and publicity.

Due to budget restraints, efforts are concentrated on publicity and media relations (much of the earlier promotional support is now provided by other organizations, such as the Diamond Promotion Service, Jewelers of America and the World Gold Council). In the past year, with a new staff (of three) and new office space closer to the industry and the press, JIC has increased publicity results by almost 30%.

The strategy has been to focus on national rather than local press, with a special effort to target national TV. Just before Valentine’s Day, for example, more than 11.3 million people learned how to buy a diamond in an information-packed 31/2-minute segment that Bryant Gumbel hosted on NBC’s top-rated “Today” show.

In addition, JIC has been responsible for positive stories about jewelry in far-reaching national consumer magazines such as Good Housekeeping, Town & Country and Ladies Home Journal, among others. JIC staff members are in constant touch with key accessories editors with news about jewelry trends, new designers and other jewelry story ideas.

Before the holidays last year, JIC developed a story on how to shop for a piece of fine jewelry. It was distributed to 10,000 newspapers and more than 6,000 radio stations, in addition to being picked up by The Wall Street Journal syndicated radio network.

JIC’s newspaper stories focus on gift-giving ideas for the bridal party, graduation, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Christmas and design trends (such as the popular “Y” necklace). They are targeted at papers in the top 50 markets where fine jewelry is sold — plus markets with JIC retail members. JIC also stimulated several stories about fine jewelry that the Associated Press distributed to 1,500 dailies before the holidays, and the organization provided information for a “Dear Abby” column on class rings.

Looking ahead, JIC plans several consumer magazine editor forums to better familiarize the press with watches and jewelry in general. Staff members also are talking to publishers about a mass-market book on fine jewelry.

In addition to media activities, JIC handles dozens of calls a week from consumers and industry members. The requests range from buying diamonds to where to sell a Spiro Agnew watch to information on industry statistics. JIC helps everyone it can or refers them to other resources.

Damage control: As an established information bureau for the consumer press, JIC is a logical choice to be an industry voice when the media attack the industry. However, it should be one of several voices, all harmonious and representing the entire industry, not serving special interests.

Working in tandem with other industry associations — namely the World Gold Council, Jewelers of America, the Gemological Institute of America and the Jewelers Vigilance Committee — JIC helped to defuse several potentially damaging news broadcasts about the jewelry industry before the holidays last year. Anticipating that eventuality, JIC convened a series of public relations round tables of key industry associations last fall to address the industry’s image problem. Participants agreed to work more cooperatively to prevent and defuse negative publicity and to decide collectively the best spokesperson for the issue.

If this cooperative spirit prevails, it will lead to the kind of thinking that occurred 50 years ago when eight jewelry visionaries focused on the needs of the whole rather than those of the individual.

Over the years, JIC’s membership has fallen to fewer than 800 despite valiant efforts by its staff and prestigious board, currently headed by Laurence Grunstein of Citizen Watch Co. of America. Where are those 3,350 members of 1946 who helped to build a unified effort to maintain a presence for jewelry in the consumer press? Actually, 77 of them are still members (see adjacent list), and we applaud them for their generosity, their vision and their willingness to stay the course, even during shaky times for the industry and for JIC.

The industry is poised for growth today, just as it was in 1946. If JIC had those initial 1946 members, its budget could double. If JIC’s membership were a true representation of the industry, it could do magic. Look at what the Milk Board and Cotton Inc. do for their respective industries.

People ask often, “What’s the JIC doing?” Hopefully, I’ve answered that question and shown what we can do on a limited budget. However, the more meaningful question is, “What’s the industry going to do about the JIC?” It’s up to you.

1946 JIC HONOR ROLL 1996

Fifty years ago, these companies recognized the wisdom and need for a unified effort to promote jewelry. They became part of the first JIC Honor Roll and have maintained their membership ever since. We applaud their vision, generosity and steadfast support of the JIC since 1946.

— Lynn Ramsey

MANUFACTURERS/SUPPLIERS

Michael Aminoff Armbrust Chain Co. Arrow Mfg. Co. E.M. Ashley & Co. H.F. Barrows Co. The Bergman Co. Bojar Co. Byard F. Brogan Bulova Watch Co. Wm. Chalson & Co. Christie Leys & Co. W.R. Cobb Co. A.T. Cross Co. Engel Bros. M. Fabrikant & Sons Hubert A. Fischer Freudenheim Bros. Inc. Glines & Rhodes Martin Gluck and Sons Inc. N. Gogolick & Son Goodman & Co. The Hadley Co. Hamilton Watch Co. Oscar Heyman & Bros. Inc. Hoover & Strong Inc. Imperial Pearl Co. Jabel Ring Mfg. Co. Jewelers’ Circular-Keystone Kaspar & Esh Inc. Krementz & Co. Larter & Sons C. Frederick Loch Longines Wittnauer Watch Co. (now Wittnauer International and Longines SMH) M.S. Co. Marathon Co. Marvella Pearls Meyer Jewelry Co. Miller & Veit National Jeweler Plainville Stock Co. M.A. Reich Leon Rudberg R.F. Simmons Co. Simon Golub Co. Speidel Corp. Star Ring VanDell Corp.

RETAILERS

Alabama Bromberg & Co. Julius Goldstein & Son Arkansas Lauray’s Inc. California Dell Williams Jeweler Felt’s Jewelry Harwin Jewelry Co. Connecticut David Schpero Delaware Carl A. Doubet Florida Mayor Jewelry Moon Jewelry Co. Georgia Maier & Berkele Inc. Illinois Harry W. Yaseen Indiana Kruckemeyer & Cohn Inc. Iowa H. C. Kirkberg Jewelers Kentucky Seng Jewelers Michigan Davis Jewelry & Souvenirs Kiess Jewelry Winans Jewelry Store New Jersey Arthur E. Fliegauf New York William Barthman Cartier Inc. M.J. Engelbert & Bros. Maurice B. Graubart Syracuse-Henry Jewelry Corp. Tiffany & Co. Van Cott Jeweler Wilson & Son of Scarsdale Wiltshire-Biffar Co. William Wise & Son H. Winston & Son Otto F. Zimmer North Dakota Royal Jewelers Inc. Ohio Argo & Lehne Jewelers The Frank Herschede Co. Oklahoma B.C. Clark Inc. Oregon Carl Greve Jeweler Inc. Jackson Jewelers Dan Marx & Co. Skeie’s Jewelry Pennsylvania J. Ralph Shuler Inc. South Carolina Cochran Jewelry Co. South Dakota Horwitz Jewelers Tennessee Roberts Jewelry Co. Texas Tett’s Jewelry Co. Virginia Frank L. Moose Jeweler Washington Ben Bridge Jeweler Mandell’s Jewelers Wisconsin Clyde’s Jewelers Lasker Jewelers

West Virginia Caplan’s Jewelry Store

AT FIRST THEY FAILED BUT THEY TRIED AND TRIED AGAIN

Formation of the Jewelry Industry Council in 1946 was the culmination of a long-felt desire by the industry. For decades jewelers had cried openly and repeatedly for some organized effort to publicize their products and their businesses.

Consider the voluminous and ambitious plan for a national jewelry publicity campaign outlined in the July 1, 1915, issue of The Keystone magazine (a JCK antecedent) by the president of Keystone Publishing Co., Bartley J. Doyle. At a meeting of the National Wholesale Jewelers’ Association in Atlantic City, N.J., Doyle said the goal was to “increase public interest in jewelry, to exploit its importance as a dress accessory and to create a desire for possession — an effective remedy for the present public apathy towards jewelry and consequent depression in jewelry trade.”

Doyle had a clear vision of what needed to be done. “The most effective and economic means [to implement the campaign] would seem to be a form of press agency on behalf of jewelry, operative through instructive articles and forceful illustrations furnished free to various publications; these articles to be compiled with shrewd discrimination to appeal with greatest possibility of acceptance to the various classes of publications. The contributions, too, must be varied in character, with a limitless versatility of subject and treatment, assuring perusal. They will take the form sometimes of fashion articles purely, sometimes of stories, sometimes of interviews, sometimes of humorous incidents — the all-pervading purpose being the exploitation of jewelry in one or other of its many forms.”

Alas, the plan and the rhetoric were to no avail. In spite of industry applause, there was little tangible industry support.

Fast forward to October 1925: The Keystone now reported on “the jewelry industry’s $2,000,000 publicity campaign and how it will be handled.” P.J. Coffey, then chairman of the executive committee of the National Jewelers’ Publicity Association, talked about a four-year, $2 million ad and publicity campaign to be launched Jan. 1, 1926. The project had major support from Fred Millis, an ad adviser to the Society of American Florists who was credited with the “Say it with flowers” campaign and with raising half a million for that fund.

Millis, when he spoke before the September 1925 convention of the American National Retail Jewelers’ Association in Richmond, Va., used dramatic figures to persuade jewelers what a competitive battle they faced for consumer dollars. “Before paying for rent or for a home, the average American family must spend seventy cents out of each dollar of income for the bare necessities of life — food, clothing and furniture,” he said. “These necessities they buy. The other things that make life more worth living are sold to them. It is evident that no one can purchase everything that he wants unless he has unlimited means.

“I refer not only to non-essential merchandise for gift purposes, but for personal use. If a woman spends all her extra money for perfume, cosmetics, amusement, travel, books or phonographs, how can she buy rings or jewels for herself, silverware or clocks for her home or bracelets to give to a friend?…The general public is not as ‘jewelry conscious’ as they were a decade ago. They have forgotten the way to the jewelry store. They must be sold.”

Millis wanted to sell in a big way.

“Now is the time for action,” he said. “Cannons, not pop guns, are what you need. The jewelry industry must work along large lines if it is to hold its place. Small programs might be a waste of investment. This $2 million dollar enlarged program is necessary. The trade is ready for it. The public is waiting to be sold.”

The cash wasn’t raised, the campaign bombed and the public wasn’t sold.

Fast forward to 1935: The president of the American National Retail Jewelers’ Association, William D. McNeil (whose son, Donald S. McNeil, two years earlier had started what would be a distinguished editorial career at JCK) issued a statement saying the association was sponsoring a campaign for jewelry. The goal was “to reestablish the desire to possess fine jewelry and to restore the jeweler to his former economic position.”

This campaign, unlike the one promoted by Fred Millis, would rely entirely on promotional publicity or “propaganda” and eschew costly advertising. “It is believed,” said McNeil, “that a publicity campaign can be conducted for $30,000 a year, but it is the opinion of the association that $50,000 a year should be raised for two years in order to give the movement momentum, to allow for expansion and give jewelers the best return.”

In its June 1935 issue, JCK reported the committee chosen to run the campaign included such illustrious jewelry names as Shreve, Thurber, Van Cott, Maier, Jaccard, Linz and McNeil.

But that wasn’t enough. Yet another great idea bit the dust, smothered in industry apathy.

Fast forward to 1946: Where Bartley Doyle, Fred Millis and William McNeil failed, the Group of Eight (identified in the accompanying story by Lynn Ramsey) succeeded. The Jewelry Industry Council was formed and went to work. It says much for its founders that today, while working under the different title of the Jewelry Information Center, this organization still thrives after 50 years and has vibrant plans and a new leader as it heads for the next century and its own centenary.