Professional Jeweler Archive: Jewelry Retail: It's Showbiz, Folks!

October 2000

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Jewelry Retail: It's Showbiz, Folks!

Here's how one jeweler made the most of a diamond-buying trip


Retail used to be about selling stuff. But with the retail scene saturated, success often goes to the best showman.

One example is Gary Long of Stockton, CA, who this past March turned a little inventory-replenishment trip into a promotional bonanza. Long, owner of Long’s Village Jewelers, an American Gem Society store in an upscale strip center, signed up for a diamond-buying junket to South Africa that a De Beers sightholder organized for its clients.

And did Long keep mum about the trip, worried that business might fall off if customers learned he was unavailable? He did not.

To announce the trip, Long used supplied postcards that illustrated diamond miners at work and ice cube-sized diamonds. Two weeks before departure, he sent them to 1,500 of his best customers, those who had spent $1,000 or more in the previous two years. Long offered customers a chance to order diamonds of the precise size, shape, color and quality they wanted at a discount with no commitment required.

Long also built the theme into his regular radio and TV ads, using an African video and music provided by the trip sponsor, S.A. Gems, Chicago, IL. (Upon his return, he also reworked the ads to announce, “He’s ba-a-a-a-ack!”)

Call it brag inflation. To get consumer attention, announcing a buying trip to Antwerp simply commands less respect than a trip to Africa, says Long. Many customers either don’t associate Antwerp with the diamond business, or they’re savvy enough to know the city is only a distribution hub while South Africa is the source.

Result?

“I went to South Africa with 30 orders, two of them were for more than 2 carats,” says Long. He paid for the trip several times over when 25 of those customers bought the diamonds he brought back for them. “One woman was getting married and wanted to tell people she sent her jeweler to Africa to get the diamond for her engagement ring,” he adds, chuckling.

African Advantage

In fairness, it wasn’t just hype. Long did go to Africa, where he toured a diamond mine, saw kimberlite crushed and then had his pick of several hundred diamonds – all “AGS-certificate 0s and 1s” – to fill requests and his own inventory needs.

“I could have bought diamonds anywhere, but I’d never get that sort of selection anywhere but at the mine,” he says. “Plus, having the ability to buy directly from a De Beers sightholder adds a lot of credibility to a jewelry store.”

To get customers back into the store to buy, Long called each one to announce his return and emphasize he’d hold “his” or “her” diamond as long as possible. (“No commitment for them also meant no commitment for me,” he says.) One woman came in her gardening clothes to get her diamond.

– by Mark E. Dixon

Freebie Remains a Powerful Lure

Coupons with no strings attached yield big dividends

Americans are so used to “fine print” they’re easily confused when there is none. But simplicity is a great image-builder, says Gary Long, who last Christmas offered his best customers a $100 coupon – with no minimum – toward any purchase.

“A lot of them brought in the card and asked what it meant,” says Long, whose Village Jewelers in Stockton, CA, generated $110,000 in sales on a promotion that cost $10,000. (About 100 coupons were cashed.)

The offer was simplicity itself. The coupons read: “Bring this card in and receive $100 toward any purchase. No strings attached! No minimum purchase required.”

From his database, Long culled a list of people who had spent at least $1,500 in the previous five years. These proven jewelry buyers received the coupon early in the Christmas season.

“It went over really well,” he reports. “One guy who says he hadn’t planned to buy jewelry bought an $1,800 bracelet for $1,700 and considered it a great deal.”

Competitors and vendors predicted he would lose his shirt to people looking for $100 freebies. As it turned out, however, there were only two: Two older women came in together and picked out items that cost only $100.

“Jewelers have to try different promotions,” Long says. “We’re all selling the same kind of product and we’ve all got lots of competition.”

– by Mark E. Dixon

Copyright © 2001 by Bond Communications