Watches Earn Green Flag At Indy Independent

May is a critical month in Indianapolis. Race car drivers compete against time all month for starting positions in the Indy 500. A few miles away, Dan Moyer also races for time — and generally wins. His store, Moyer & Co. Fine Jewelers, is one of the city’s leading choices for consumers interested in watches.

“With the race, graduations and anniversaries, people here are in a good mood in May — it’s a strong month for watches,” Moyer says. “We make sure we have a full range, though sport watches do particularly well.” To boost the momentum, Moyer increases advertising expenses all month. Weekly ads in local newspapers, business papers and The Wall Street Journal form the foundation of the month’s marketing. So do special events.

“This year we had two major charity events and also had Charles Krypell in here for a trunk show,” he says. For the first event, called Moyer Cabaret, the store invites 150 movers and shakers fromIndianapolis to raise money for the Indiana Children’s Wish Fund. Moyer also gives away a watch to the winner of a local Pro-Am golf tournament that raises money for the cancer research program at a local hospital.

(In the past, when TAG Heuer was official timer for the Indy 500, “Moyer and Heuer” was the message of the month. During those years, Moyer worked closely with the watch company with expanded advertising and his own TAG trade-in month.)

Turquoise to timepieces: Moyer’s affection for watches is far more than a one-month affair. He opened his first store after a successful experience selling turquoise jewelry in college. In 1981 he moved to a 1,200-sq.-ft. leased space, and his reputation as a watch source started to grow. He featured about 11 brands — including some that few other retailers carried — and developed a growing and loyal following.

Three years ago, he built and moved into a store in Carmel, an affluent town north of Indianapolis. The store features 2,000 square feet of selling space on its main floor. Above a dramatic staircase lies a 1,000-sq.-ft. mezzanine with offices, a small kitchen and a private conference area that can be used for employee meetings or for sales purposes. In addition, four to five employees do administrative, repair and inventory work in a large basement below the main floor.

On the main floor, 38 showcases are grouped in distinct bridal, jewelry and watch areas. The jewelry is featured in an encased island in the center.

Six main watch cases line one side. TAG Heuer, Baume & Mercier, Philippe Charriol and Raymond Weil have their own cases; other cases display Chopard, Rado, Seiko and a few Akteo and Swatch models.

Since the move to the new store, Moyer has hired three new full-time employees to help with the 30% increase in annual sales. Last year, watch sales kept pace with a 30% increase of their own. This keeps watch sales at about 20% of total sales, more than double the national average for a jewelry store.

Buying smart: Moyer now carries a greater variety of jewelry than in the previous stores, including exclusive lines such as Charles Krypell and Mikimoto. He cut the number of watch lines, but he carries a full representation of each brand, allowing brand loyalty to flourish. “We buy smarter now,” he says. “If a customer has had his steel watch for a few years and is ready to move up to a gold watch, we have it here to show him.”

Business gets a boost because watch companies spend big money to cultivate an image that attracts buyers. But this doesn’t mean the work of selling watches ends with merely stocking them. Moyer carries through the image with his watch displays, advertising and special events.

He features his major watch brand names in window displays (names only; the watches are kept in the store).

During the year, each of the seven major brands has its turn in the advertising spotlight, whether in a full-page ad that Moyer runs five times a year in Indianapolis magazine or in a trunk show, radio spot or other co-op print ads or direct mail pieces.

Moyer uses direct mail to advertise during peak periods and to invite customers to special events. Last November, for example, he and chief buyer Linda Hill organized a charity cocktail party at a nearby country club with Charles Krypell and representatives of Mikimoto. Just after Thanksgiving, they held an all-day and evening event featuring two watch and four jewelry company representatives. And four watch company representatives joined jewelry suppliers for the store’s annual trunk sale. “Trunk shows may not always create instant sales, but they always generate interest and eventually add to the bottom line,” he says.

Once the displays, advertising and special events do their job and attract customers to the store, it’s time for the sales staff to take over. They are well-equipped to offer expert advice. If a customer requests a brand the store doesn’t carry, for example, the staff is knowledgeable enough to know what to suggest as an equally attractive substitute. The brands offered represent most watch categories, including sport, dress, men’s conservative, women’s high fashion, jeweled, high-tech and classic.

Moyer admits that with a few exceptions, perhaps the only area he doesn’t cater to with a single brand is the “complicated” watch market. “The volume in that market here is not worth the time and money needed to stock them,” he says. “I’d rather do strong sales with seven fully represented brands than spotty sales with a larger number of brands.”