Social Media and Open Wallets Rule at JCK

You may say jewelers are slow to innovate, but they’re quick to respond when it comes to strategies to keep their businesses afloat. At this year’s JCK Las Vegas, social media and new products were the two most important topics on retailers’ minds.  

Ellen Fruchtman, president of Fruchtman Marketing, calls this past year the “smack in the head” retailers needed to get back in the game. “They are now willing to venture into their ‘un-comfort’ zone, demonstrating a willingness to change,” she explains.  

Fruchtman and her staff, who checked in with many retailers at JCK, learned that online marketing strategies were at the top of most people’s lists. While last year store owners may have been talking about friending and tweeting, this year there was a much louder buzz—there was even a live Twitter board at the fair, a demonstration of how social-media friendly the biz has become.

Beginners are finally ready to take the first step—realizing social media is not initially about doing business, but about showing customers the personalities behind the business. The more tech-savvy are taking it to new levels—from linking their Facebook status updates to their Twitter feeds to throwing fan-appreciation parties.

One hotly debated topic: Assign social-media marketing to an em-ployee or outsource it to a local expert? Many jewelers are handling it internally, but that may change as retailers come to appreciate the importance of an “integrated approach to online marketing,” says Fruchtman. “From their corporate websites to their profile pages on Facebook and even e-newsletters and e-mail blasts, retailers are getting it.”  

Yet the new media frontier is only one piece of the puzzle.

“A number of retailers came up to me asking what the next ‘magic pill’ is that will get them through the hard times,” says Kate Peterson, president and CEO of Performance Concepts. “Some of them don’t even have a clue as to what form that ‘magic pill’ might take; they’re simply looking for the answer.”

And they were also looking for product. Retailers are opening their wallets again. “For the last two years, [they] have been in weathering-the-storm mode,” says Matthew ­Rosenheim, president of Washington, D.C.’s Tiny Jewel Box. “This year, a lot of jewelers were once again talking about new product, new designers, and seriously looking to inject some freshness back into their inventory.”  

Michael O’Connor of Style & Substance concurs: “This year, retailers went to the Vegas show with a fresh eye and were ready to buy.”

Given the ready-willing-and-able attitude, “vendors were optimistic,” says A.J. Sales, CEO of A.J. Sales & Associates, an industry strategic planning company. “I was encouraged by the traffic on the show floor and the attitude at the show. It was time for retailers to get back in touch with the market again.”