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'tis the Season for Jewelry Stores to Shine and Build Business for next Year

The December holiday shopping blitz is just about in full gear.

December is the month when jewelry retailers can be expected to make some 20% of annual sales

, about as much as they make during the entire first (21%), second (23%) or third quarter (20%), according to 2016 data in the U.S. Census Monthly Retail Trade Survey. For jewelers December is your do-or-die month.

Jewelry is top on many peoples holiday gift list. Both the


and NRF gifting surveys find that about one-fourth of holiday gifters plan to give or want to receive jewelry in Santas stockings this year. And women are even more eager to receive jewelry as gift, with one-third of women hoping for jewelry, according to

NRFs Holiday Gift Consumer Survey.

Over the next month, it is a jewelry stores time to shine and make the most of the increased traffic that the holiday season will bring to your door. But while jewelers have immediate, short-term goals to make that 20% of annual sales they need to put into place long term strategies as well. They need to prime the pump to grow sales next year.

This is the time to make connections with the customers that will bring them back next year and next holiday season too. Heres some ideas:

Main Street jewelers have a special relationship with customers

Specialty jewelers have a unique competitive edge against the onslaught of internet jewelry companies and national jewelry chains: their personal touch that inspires consumer confidence and trust. Admittedly, many self-purchasing jewelry customers are just looking for a fashionable jewelry piece. Such a costume jewelry purchase doesnt carry a lot of weight or meaning.

But when it comes to buying fine jewelry, the stakes are much higher, both for the self purchaser and the gift giver. Fine jewelry is defined as jewelry made out of precious metals, such as gold or platinum, and may contain precious or semi-precious gemstones. Its price is higher than that for costume and its purchase tends to carry more emotional weight as well.

A recent survey of fine jewelry buyers from

Jewelers of America

conducted by Provoke Insights found that 43% of some 2,000 consumers, evenly split between male/female, ages 22-59 years, with higher-levels of household income ($50k for 22-29 years; $80k for 30-59 years) purchased or received fine jewelry in the past year and of those 22% were self-purchasers.

Driving those purchases is the sentimental value embodied in the piece as well as how that piece symbolizes or marks a special occasion or holiday. Fine jewelry connects back to special moments and memories unlike anything else, says Amanda Gizzi, spokesperson for Jewelers of America.

Make shopping in your store extra special

With the fine jewelry piece being an emotion-laden object, the purchasing experience for the customer related to that item becomes emotionally rich as well. This is where the personal touch given by a specialty jeweler that is an established, trusted member of the local community can make a real impact. Visiting a real jewelry store (64%) and talking with a real jeweler (45%), as opposed to talking with a sales representative (26%) or researching e-commerce jewelry sites (25%) are the primary ways that fine jewelry customers say they begin their search for a fine jewelry piece.

Jewelry is not an impulse purchase, Gizzi says. You simply cant see the full beauty or distinct characteristics of diamonds, gold, pearls and gemstones online. Seeing and touching it has a dramatic impact.

To make the most of these special customer-jewelry shopping experiences, specialty jewelers need to make sure trained jewelers, not just sales personnel, are on the floor at all times throughout December to answer questions and provide guidance with authority.

The physical environment of the store is so critical to the customers shopping experience, its scent, its lighting, its windows on the outside and displays on the inside. Maybe its too late in the season to do a complete redesign of the store, but its not too late to light a few scented candles or buy some spotlights to make special jewelry displays shine.

The power of lighting to make a real difference in the jewelry shopping environment can be seen at the King of Prussia Mall, outside Philadelphia. Right across the way from the Tiffany & Co. boutique with its standard mall lighting is the

Hearts on Fire

boutique with impactful spotlights aimed on the jewelry cases with the rest of the store darkened and black gauze curtains adding mystery and blocking outside light. Those Hearts on Fire diamonds shine so much brighter than the Tiffany ones do, all thanks to the carefully crafted store lighting.

And think about ways to make store guests feel even more comfortable shopping in your store. Treat them like you would guests in your home. Offer to take their coats and store their packages. Serve them something to drink, coffee, tea, water or for the festive holiday season, something a little more bracing. Michigan-based


jewelers has added Tappers Tap Room to its new Somerset Collection store by teaming up with the local Shorts Brewing Company.

Get those names

Every direct-to-consumer brand knows the true value in their businesses is found in their lists both prospects and customers. Too few Main Street retailers, I have found, overlook building a vibrant contact and customer list, relying instead on passive efforts to collect names like sign up forms at the register.

As easy as technology makes it through credit card processing apps to collect the email addresses for customers who make purchases, many retailers arent so empowered to automatically email receipts. That

s an easy fix. And if you aren't doing it now, jewelers need to make it standard practice to ask for customers street and email addresses when writing up sales.

For lookers, not buyers, collecting their email addresses takes more finesse. First, you have to ask, so training staff to invite every guest in the store to share their email is as important as training them on the guest welcome and service procedures.

In order to capture those emails, jewelers must offer incentives for them to share, preferably more than just the offer of specials and sales notices. Things like an offer to receive a special gift by email for stopping by, like a coupon for free jewelry polishing service; talking up receiving invites to special events like an upcoming Valentines Day gifting celebration for the next big jewelry shopping holiday or designer shows and open-houses; invite guests to join a birthday club for special b-day discounts; and for engaged couples, offer to email them a bridal resource list of businesses in your area that offer wedding/bridal services, such as florists, reception venues, and bridal fashions.

Then once you have those names, use those connections. For prospects, not buyers, you should limit emailing them to once a month; for established customers, you can reach out more often, say twice a month, especially in advance of jewelry buying holidays like Valentines Day, Mothers Day, etc. And when you send out an email to your customer and prospect lists, be sure to resend emails to those who didnt open the first email blast.

And email isnt the only way to maintain customer connections. Good old-fashioned direct mail is still a viable way for local jewelers to reach out to their contacts and invite them to the store.

Omni-channel is how to attract the next generation customers

The Jewelers of America study also included a look at the jewelers perspective of their businesses. Some 40% of local jewelers view e-commerce websites as their number one competitive threat, yet only 34% of them have any e-commerce capability on their own websites. Jewelry stores dont necessarily need to sell online to compete online, says Gizzi. But they need a strong digital presence. That means local jewelers have to be positioned effectively online to be top of mind in customers pre-purchase research which often starts there.

To compete in todays world, Gizzi reflects, Jewelers have to give their physical stores regular facelifts, carefully consider their jewelry mix and add digital components such as interactive websites, social media platforms, apps and customer service components.

This December is the season for jewelry stores to shine, making customer connections that can carry them through the New Year and help them grow.

More customers will be crossing your threshold this season. Make the most of every personal contact. Have a game plan not just to get though the month, but to build your business for next year too.

'tis the Season for Jewelry Stores to Shine and Build Business for next Year 1

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