Make Mother’s Day Really Big

Independents’ Advantage

Mother’s Day ranks second only to December in sales at most jewelry stores, but many jewelers earn those sales the hard way, in small transactions of $50 or $100. Here’s how to encourage higher-end purchases for Mom this year:

  1. Remind customers about Mother’s Day. Many jewelers say most Mother’s Day purchases are made during the three days leading up to the event, but Sarah Leonard Fine Jewelers in Los Angeles doesn’t let conventional wisdom become a self-fulfilling prophecy. At Sarah Leonard, mornings in the weeks preceding the May holiday begin with coaching sessions for sales associates, who learn to remind customers that “Mother’s Day is coming up” and to ask: “What are you doing for Mother’s Day? Let me show you some ideas.”
    In addition to those verbal prompts, Mother’s Day signs are placed on the walls and in virtually every case. “Why can’t someone buy a $10,000 ring for Mother’s Day?” says Linda Abell, the firm’s vice president. “Customers shouldn’t be taken to one case only.”
    If you have confidence in your communication and selling skills, consider this ploy: Contact husbands a month before Mother’s Day to suggest a particular item their wives have admired. Abell, who gives selling skills presentations at many jewelry seminars, has executed this strategy with great success. Here’s her formula:
    Call the husband at work and say, “Before you do anything about Mother’s Day, I have a great suggestion for you.” Then tell him what his wife has admired. Ask him not to let her know about the call (so he won’t feel pressured by his wife), and never ask the wife for permission to call the husband (most would say no).
    “It’s a really easy sale,” says Abell. “Most of the time they’ll decide on the telephone and say, ‘fine,’ because they’re relieved of anxiety. It’s like having your own personal shopper.”
    Such an in-your-face approach might make some jewelers uneasy, but Abell says she’s never had a negative reaction. The strategy requires proper planning, though. When the subject of spouses and careers comes up during friendly conversations with customers, Abell asks, “Have I met your husband?” or “What kind of work does he do?” Later, she looks up the husband’s work number and adds it to the customer’s file, along with notes about the pieces she admired.

  2. Bring back emotion. “Customers walk in with an obligation mentality,” says Kate Peterson, a management, training, and operations consultant with Performance Concepts. “They feel that one Mother’s Day is like the next and they’re always expected to give something. We need to take them out of ‘Mother’s Day jail’ by making them feel terrific about being good to their mother.”
    Peterson recommends that salespeople ask customers questions that reveal their feelings about the purchase, such as: “What would you like to say to your mom this Mother’s Day?” or “What’s been special about this year for her?”
    Steer the conversation away from the customer’s price range. “Refocus the discussion instead onto what the gift to their mother means to them,” Peterson says. “That changes their expectations for what they’re going to spend, because all of a sudden they’re buying a message, not a product.” Don’t ask the customer what jewelry his or her mother already owns, Peterson stresses. “When a customer rattles off a list of jewelry she owns, you’ve just boxed yourself right out of a sale.”

  3. Consider a “Message to Mom” promotion. This idea from Peterson builds on the theme of selling the message instead of the merchandise: Any customer who buys a Mother’s Day gift can enter a contest by composing a “message to Mom,” describing what the gift symbolizes about their relationship. Store associates choose the most moving message and give that customer a full refund. This prompts both customers and sales associates to think about the significance of the gift.
    “This is all about how you can make someone feel terrific about being good to their mother,” says Peterson. “When you achieve this, you can make a really big sale, and you can also create a meaningful experience for the buyer.” You can reinforce the message theme by providing customers with preprinted Mother’s Day cards onto which they can photocopy or rewrite their messages.
    This promotion can extend to other marketing media. “Even just hanging signs in the store that say, ‘What’s your message to Mom?’ should increase sales,” says Peterson. “If a chain jeweler’s television ad runs, promoting earrings for $59.99 for Mother’s Day, and my ad came on next saying, ‘What’s your message to Mom this year?’ all of a sudden that $59.99 gift takes on a whole different meaning,” she says.

  4. Add convenience and memorable amenities. James Porte, president of the Jewelry Marketing Institute, suggests that jewelers have on hand a selection of beautiful Mother’s Day cards. “It’s a way to provide convenience as a part of selling,” Porte says. “After all, when someone buys a gift of jewelry, typically they go to a card shop to pick out a card to go with it. Sometimes that takes more time than buying the gift itself, which is seen as incomplete without the card.”
    Porte recommends post-sale gifts to strengthen customer loyalty. He has created a line of such gifts—a card with a silver pin inside—suitable for various occasions. For Mother’s Day, the card reads “World’s greatest mom,” and the pin is a sterling silver double heart. The card and pin together cost the retailer $3 to $5 but have the look of a $20 or $25 gift. Porte says the gift should be presented after the sale, never as an add-on that comes free with a purchase of $100 or more. “It’s like the difference between the glass of wine that comes free with a particular entrée at a restaurant vs. the restaurant’s manager coming to the table and saying, ‘Thank you for dining with us tonight. I’d like to give you a fine glass of wine on the house.’ ”
    The impact of these gifts can be considerable, Porte says. “Everyone thinks they’re competing on price, price, price, but it’s those little things that really separate one jeweler from another,” he notes. “Too many stores convey an attitude that they just can’t get the money fast enough. And the jewelers wonder why there isn’t customer loyalty. The real question should be, ‘What are they doing to inspire customer loyalty?’ ”

  5. Encourage gifts for new moms. Abell of Sarah Leonard Fine Jewelers encourages mothers to give gifts to daughters who are new mothers or mothers-to-be. “As soon as we see there is someone expecting, we tell that person’s mother, ‘Usually what moms do when their first grandchild is coming is give their daughter a gift to celebrate the occasion.’ ” The salesperson then presents the new grandmother with gift ideas.

  6. Reach beyond the traditional. Look at any rack of Mother’s Day cards and you’ll realize that many people honor not only their mothers but also their grandmothers, aunts, sisters, and friends. Sometimes those emotional bonds are as strong as or stronger than the bond with Mom. A promotion based on the theme, “Who’s been most like a mom to you?” might inspire gifts for those special women in customers’ lives, says Peterson. “After all, the world has changed, and so have our thoughts about family.” Just asking customers if there are any other women they’d like to honor for Mother’s Day could motivate some unexpected purchases.

Great Gift Ideas

Mother’s Day jewelry gifts generally fall into two categories. One is the traditional family talisman—charms, birthstones, or other relevant symbols that represent each child or grandchild. “Any kind of jewelry we market with that concept is always popular,” says Nelly Cohen of manufacturer Cherie Dori in Sunrise, Fla. “Jewelers never stop reordering those styles.”

But what happens when Mom has enough symbolic jewelry—or she doesn’t like the colors of her children’s birthstones? The other option: an elegant piece of jewelry that suits her personality and her lifestyle, or perhaps a fine gift like a sterling silver or crystal picture frame to hold treasured photos. Here are a few ideas for stocking up for a big Mother’s Day.—Hedda T. Schupak