Sterling Jewelers program touches hearts, opens wallets
Its a standard formula in public relations: To make a good impression on customers and employees, give something to charity. Preferably a local charity that benefits children.
To supercharge the formula, a local charity that saves childrens lives pushes all the right buttons, says Terry Burman, chairman/CEO of Sterling Jewelers Inc., Akron, OH. This past Christmas, the Sterling chain raised $350,000 for St. Jude Childrens Research Hospital, Memphis, TN. The company has committed to raising $1.5 million over five years for the hospitals Solid Tumor Clinic.
Sterling raised money primarily through November-December sales of a stuffed plush bear named Cubby. The company bought 90,000 of the toys for about $7 each and sold them for $10 to customers who had made a $100 purchase. The $3 difference constituted Sterlings contribution. Employees also raised money through payroll deductions. We didnt keep any of the profits, says Burman, and I think thats one of reasons our employees got behind this.
Burman says the program created good feelings among Sterlings customers, but he doesnt think it drove sales. I dont believe people would buy $100 worth of jewelry just so they can buy a $10 bear, he says. Nor did the company want the effort to seem commercial, so the bear has no markings linking it with Sterling.
Note for jewelers: All members of Jewelers of America have the chance to raise money for childrens causes through a new canister program supporting the work of the Jewelers Charity Fund. Contact JA, New York City, (212) 768-8777.
by Mark E. Dixon