Ten Tips To Rule Your Bridal Market

One way to dramatically boost your bottom line is to dominate your local bridal jewelry market. Consider the following statistics:

  • Bridal jewelry accounts for 35% (median value) of jewelers’ total business, according to JCK‘s monthly Retail Panel.

  • It accounts for roughly one-fourth—about $10 billion—of total fine jewelry sales in the United States.

  • Each year, some 2.3 million Americans get married.

Plus, the category is “more recession-proof than any other item in a jewelry store,” says Judy Lince, head of the custom catalog division of the National Bridal Service in Richmond, Va. Whereas a slow economy might mean consumers postpone purchases of fashion jewelry, it’s much less likely to affect purchases of bridal jewelry (although it might affect the amount spent on it). “People may get laid off from jobs and tighten their belts in other areas, but they still want to marry the ones they love,” says Diane Case, director of marketing, Robbins Brothers, Glendale, Calif.

To help retailers increase their bridal business, JCK queried jewelers nationwide with footholds in the niche. Here are their best tips:

  1. Offer a vast selection of bridal jewelry. Robbins Brothers touts itself as “The World’s Biggest Engagement Ring Store.” Each of its seven locations has 10,000 square feet of space, showcases 34 designer lines, and features 3,000 ring styles.
    Smaller companies, too, know the value of a wide selection. Donny Thompson, owner of Windsor Jewelers in Augusta, Ga., keeps 2,000 wedding bands and 3,000 semi-mounts in stock at all times in his single-store operation. “This [selection] is the key to selling an engagement ring,” he says. Thompson also says it’s important to work with suppliers that can quickly accommodate reorders.

  2. Experiment with sales of products that complement bridal jewelry. Offering companion products to bridal jewelry, such wedding invitations and limousine rentals, could attract customers who might go elsewhere first. For example, Amrhein’s Jewelers in Salem and Roanoke, Va., sells gowns and rents limousines in addition to carrying bridal jewelry. Amrhein’s even featured an on-site travel agent—until it needed the space for jewelry sales. “These were a natural adjunct because it was the same traffic,” observes Raeford Barnes, a registered jeweler and appraiser.
    On the opposite coast, Robbins Brothers dabbles in invitations and honeymoon packages “to help customers through their entire wedding,” according to Steven Robbins, company chairman and CEO.

  3. Market aggressively. Staying in the spotlight during slow economic times is a challenge, but bold marketing initiatives can help. “It’s tough to keep our position,” says Windsor Jewelers’ Thompson, who spends 8% of his total sales annually on advertising. “But we never stop [advertising], we’re everywhere every single day,” he says of his abundant radio, TV, newspaper, and magazine ads. His rewards are substantial: Thompson claims an estimated 60% market share in his metropolitan area.
    The extra push is important. Nationwide, the median figure of how much jewelers spend on advertising is 4% of total sales, says Jewelers of America’s most recent Cost of Doing Business Survey. The jewelers interviewed for this article, however, spend a median figure of 6% of total sales on advertising.
    Another tip is to advertise in only the right places. For example, Gary Gordon, owner of Samuel Gordon Jewelers, Oklahoma City, Okla., knows that ads on a particular Web site and in a specific “yuppie-type” newspaper bring in young lovers with marriage on their minds.

  4. Consider using appointments. Joe Schubach, owner of Joseph Schubach Jewelers, Scottsdale, Ariz., frequently schedules bridal jewelry showings to make the shopping experience more personal and casual. “Most guys that come in are like deer in the headlights,” he remarks. Schubach has created an environment that helps relax customers, and sales indicate he’s on to something: Most of his bridal sales come from appointments.

  5. Promote your jewelry brands. Brands inspire confidence and denote prestige, traits to which today’s youths—the biggest bridal demographic—are drawn. In the last 10 years, Lince has seen a surge in this trend with regard to bridal jewelry brands.
    Gordon agrees. “Get the best brands you can,” he ad-vises, naming Scott Kay, Jeff Cooper, and Tacori, among others. A related trend he’s noticed is that other jewelry designers, including Steven Lagos, are developing bridal lines. “Jewelers can bank on the wedding business,” he stresses.

  6. Promote your store’s reputation and longevity. Longevity in a community can be a meaningful customer draw. Anne Simmons, owner of 40-year-old Simmons’ Jewelers, Winter Park, Fla., says her store—while young compared with most in the industry—is a revered fixture in the central part of the state.
    Another customer draw is jewelry quality—beyond name brands. Bob Flude, owner of Martin Binder Jewelers, Valparaiso, Ind., says independent jewelers tend to lose the lower end of their business to chain stores and department stores in down times. “So if you keep yourself in quality [merchandise], then that’s where you’ll keep your customers,” he says.

  7. Educate customers. Teaching your customers about quality differences in jewelry can strengthen your bond with them. “If you can show a customer 10 rings vs. three, offer fair prices, and educate them, you’ll win [the sale],” says Gordon. He also suggests creating uniform sales presentations for all associates to use.

  8. Command a niche within your niche. This can mean offering an exclusive diamond cut or brand; a variety of particular stones (for example, loose half-carats); or a service, such as the opportunity to view stones with a BrillianceScope. Philadelphia-based Robbins Diamonds offers shoppers exclusive “Ultimate Ideal Cut” stones. Gordon, too, offers exclusive diamond cuts, and both jewelers have machines that measure diamonds’ brilliance. Gordon, who uses the BrillianceScope, says many couples ask for diamonds “that are great light performers.” Revealing diamonds’ fire has enabled Gordon to “get back to selling the beauty of stones,” he says.

  9. Offer fresh, innovative product. Jewelry styles can evolve surprisingly quickly, so be sure your selection reflects current trends. Amrhein’s “mixes things up,” according to Barnes, by offering Judith Conway, Frank Reubel, and Paul Klecka in addition to simpler items. And inspired by his recent marriage, Schubach created the Joe Jewelry line of youthful, elegant, nontraditional bridal sets.

  10. Celebrate love. While the economy may seemingly dictate how much consumers will spend on rings, remind shoppers that jewelry is the most significant of all wedding purchases because it lasts a lifetime. While this idea is good because it’s romantic, it’s also bad because couples think “they don’t need to buy more than one [ring]!” jokes Lince. Ring styles inevitably change—which may inspire couples to build a bridal jewelry wardrobe. Fortunately, as Case reminds us, “Love never goes out of style.”