The In-Store Show: Some Dos and Don’ts

As a jewelry designer, I’ve logged somewhere in the vicinity of 5,000 woman-hours doing jewelry “shows” in stores from Maine to California. From my experiences, I’ve found factors that seem to separate shows that are successful from those that aren’t. If you’re considering a show this year, keep these things in mind:

  • Have enthusiasm;

  • Schedule appointments.

  • believe this is an event

  • Schedule appointments.

  • for the benefit of your

  • Schedule appointments.customers.

  • Have inventory.

  • Advertise.

  • Follow up.

Consider the “show” or “personal appearance” (if the artist is coming in) an extremely special event. This is a special gift to your customers, a rare opportunity to see an entire collection of a manufacturer’s line or even to meet the artist who designed it! It’s important to understand this concept and to have your entire staff’s support. Their enthusiasm will spread to your customers.

Therefore, it’s best to do a show with a collection for which you’ve already established a following. This is not the time to introduce a new line. The familiarity will be helpful.

Choose a generally busy day because it’s probably already convenient for most of your customers. I once did a show scheduled for noon to 5 p.m. Thursday. It seemed a bit odd to me, but people began to flock in at noon and we were busy until 5 p.m. You know what works best for you! Avoid scheduling a show during a major event in town. There may be a lot of people around, but they’re not necessarily “qualified buyers.” The time before the holidays is often considered optimum. However, if the customer you want to attract is the self-purchasing woman, this may not be a good time for her.

Above all, a successful show takes planning. Here’s a countdown calendar to help you coordinate your event.

Begin planning. Assign the organization of the show to a respected member of your staff. Be prepared to follow up on a weekly basis to ensure that she or he is on track, if this is the staff member’s first show.

It’s necessary to get out the word. You should use the type of advertising that has been most successful for you over the years. This is not the time to experiment with expensive advertising with unknown returns.

Schedule advertising insertion dates to begin a month before the show. Smaller, more frequent ads several weeks in advance generally are more successful than one or two large ads just before the event. You want the ad to pique customers’ interest so they’ll come to the store.

When I do a personal appearance, I have the jeweler’s staff schedule meetings with customers in advance for a personal consultation with me. I then give each customer a written evaluation of what styles of jewelry look best on her based on her face shape, coloring, personality and lifestyle. The evaluation is presented in a glossy folder bearing the store’s name and address.

Some stores find a prize drawing gets people’s attention. One store owner told me one of his customers will always remember coming in and entering the drawing at his store. Several weeks later, she received a beautifully gift-wrapped box in the mail and inside, much to her surprise, was the pair of Daunis earrings from the drawing. She became a repeat customer.

A counter handout identical to your mailer and ad is essential. One to two months before the show, hand these out to everyone who comes into the store with a personal invitation to attend. Mail these to only a select number of your best or targeted customers who would be likely to attend. A 3% return on a mailing is considered good – that’s three people if you send 100 invitations, 30 for 1,000 – not much when you think of the worked involved in a mailing. Consider mailings only if they have worked successfully for you in the past. Your best bet is to work the phones and call, call, call.

Schedule appointments for customers to meet with the artist/designer. “Mrs. Jones” may be considering a remount for her diamond or may want to add to a collection. Perhaps she’s looking for a gift for her daughter. This really is a special opportunity for special customers to see select pieces that will be in the store only for a few days!

Understanding the “specialness” of this event will make it possible for your staff to schedule appointments easily. The staff member who organizes the show can oversee this.

Starting as early as one month before the show, each staff member (and you) can begin to call his or her customers. This must be a personal call. It’s not the time to hire a telemarketer.

Associates should give their contacts a personalized variation of this message: “I want to be sure you are aware of the special show our store is sponsoring. Because the exhibit is only in our store for a few days, I want to make sure you have a chance to see it, period. There is no commitment to your attending; I just want to be sure you get in since appointments are going quickly. We expect a large turnout, and I want to offer you the opportunity to see the collection with me.”

People will be annoyed if you don’t contact them. Ask the designer how much time will be needed for each appointment. At one show I did, clients were scheduled every 20 minutes for the entire day. At 2 p.m., a woman came in with three “major” stones for remounting. We were able to reschedule appointments, but it’s best to avoid this by asking ahead of time what the customer plans to do. But remain flexible; something unexpected will always happen.

This also is a good time to send press releases to newspapers and radio and television stations. On the strength of these releases, I’ve had radio stations call me for interviews before coming to town, newspaper reporters show up at the store to cover the event and television crews appear because they need a filler for their noon news show.

Also be sure you have enough product. You’ll want to show customers a “teaser” of what’s coming and to have ample merchandise for after the show when people who forgot the date come in and ask when it will be held.

Two weeks before the show, select a visible and prominent location for the display. A conversation with the designer will help to determine how much showcase space will be needed and what trims and accessories you will need. Schedule the staff who will work during the show.

It’s essential to have a staff person work with the designer at all times. Your staff knows the customers, their likes and dislikes, how they prefer to be handled, store policies and how business is to be transacted in your establishment. Your staff is made up of professional retail salespeople with the ability to close sales on a regular basis. This is not the case with most designers. Even if they’re personable, they don’t work retail on a daily basis and are not in the routine of selling. The salesperson also adds credibility to the show. The artist/designer is a stranger to your customer, and the customer may not feel entirely comfortable working with the designer alone.

Working with the designer is a terrific opportunity for the staff to learn first-hand what the collection is about. After the show is over, they will be better at working with the line.

Plan to be at the store in plenty of time for set-up and staff briefing before the first appointment. Coach personnel to introduce the artist or explain the event to everyone who comes in that day, whether or not they made an appointment in advance (those who find the event is booked solid will make sure to schedule an appointment for your next show!). Have the appointment book out and assign a staff person to keep the appointments on schedule, i.e., “Mrs. Smith will be here in five minutes …” The salesperson working with the customer and the designer can write orders.

Follow-up. Have your salespeople write thank-you notes to customers who attended the show. Also make a card listing specific pieces a customer liked at the show and use the card when a “significant other” comes in looking for the right gift.

The show you are preparing is an exciting opportunity for your staff and customers to become aware of the depth of a collection you carry. Let everyone know – personally. You don’t want any customers to be angry that you failed to notify them. And again, be sure you have enough product on hand after the event for those who show up after the “party” is over.