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January 2000

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Dicker & Dicker Bids on Growth

Jeweler grows into an auction house, with lucrative results

How does a small family-owned jewelry store in the Midwest become nationally recognized, regularly filled with crowds of people eager to spend whatever it takes for the perfect piece of jewelry?

For Dicker & Dicker, a jeweler in suburban Cleveland, OH, it was a case of seizing opportunity. A few years before Internet auctions became a craze, brother and sister David and Leah Dicker recognized the potential of auctions in the buying and selling of estate jewelry. They watched the hubbub created by the major auction houses on the coasts, where rare pieces sold for millions. Why not re-create the experience at a more reasonable level?

Since 1994, when Dicker & Dicker held its first auction, the event has enjoyed rampant publicity and added hundreds of followers around the world to its list of clients. The format is dynamic: in addition to in-store auctions, Dicker & Dicker broadcasts its sales live over the Internet and takes bids from participants on-line. This steps up competition for buyers in the room and gives the store an advantage over auction Web sites such as eBay, which use a less intense "silent auction" format.

Tireless Marketing

The auctions draw hundreds to the store and thousands more to the Web site (www.dickeranddicker.com). During a sale in August, for example, more than 21,000 people from five continents visited the Web site, and competition between Internet and live bidders was fierce. "With one piece, we determined the time stamp on an e-mail bid was one minute earlier than the high bid in the room," says David Dicker. "When the people in the room learned that, it caused an uproar. It became a game show."

Live broadcasts using real-time streaming video take the sales into Internet bidders' living rooms. Using the medium to its fullest potential, Dicker turns the auctions into entertainment. He conducts live interviews with industry experts – including Martin Rapaport of Rapaport Diamond Report, designers John Bagley and William Schraft, and Greg Sherman from the European Gemological Lab – and stages fun moments such as "Ask Uncle Louie," a comedic question-and-answer show.
None of it would be possible without the Dickers' endless promotional efforts. Their tabloid newsprint auction catalogs are mailed to customers and the press across the country and internationally, winning mentions in the Chicago Tribune and Cleveland Plain Dealer and on a public TV station in Japan.

At press time, the store was on the verge of signing contracts with EGL and the International Gemmological Institute and planned a liquidation auction for a major department store in late December. It also was gearing up for a charity event, an auction to benefit the National Council of Jewish Women.

Remembering Roots

Despite its growth as an auction house, Dicker & Dicker remains an independent jewelry store. The business was started in the early 1960s by David and Leah's father, Rudolf Dicker, a jeweler who escaped to Israel from Czechoslovakia during World War II and emigrated to the U.S. in 1959.
Today, the store has annual sales volume of well over $2 million, says David Dicker. The auctions raise more than $1 million each. "The auctions have brought us a brand new audience and helped us make higher profit margins," he says. "They've made us better-known and given us greater credibility."

by Stacey King

A crowd awaits the next lot in a recent Dicker & Dicker auction. More than 21,000 people logged on to the store's Web site to see a live broadcast of the auction and bid on pieces via e-mail.



Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.



 

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