The lead-up to Christmas is undoubtedly the busiest time of the year for jewellery retailers – in fact many stores generate more than 50 percent of their annual profit during this one period.
Therefore it makes sense to adopt the boy scouts’ motto and ‘be prepared’ to not only survive the Christmas lead-up but to maximise your sales and profits as well.
And yes, despite the ever increasing competition for the consumer’s limited spending dollars, this is still an achievable goal as jewellery still retains its largely unrivalled position as a highly desirable gift.
Indeed it can be argued that as purveyors of highly desirable luxury items, jewellery retailers are in an enviable position in the Christmas marketplace.
Jewellery retailers do not have to convince consumers that jewellery is a highly desirable gift – they simply have to convince them to buy that special piece from their store rather than the jewellery store down the road, round the corner or across the mall.
Fortunately, according to most retail marketing experts there are numerous marketing strategies that retailers can adopt in the lead-up to Christmas to attract extra customers into their stores and generate those extra sales dollars.
Popular strategies include advertising, window displays, brochures/catalogues, lay-bys/financial services, extra staff, customer competitions, sales incentives and VIP customer events.
It is of course up to the individual store owner/manager to decide what strategies they can afford to implement and which ones are likely to produce the best ROI for their store and customers.
Some retailers choose to adopt the ‘scattergun approach’ and apply a wide variety of promotions to maximise their sales in the Christmas lead-up while others choose to focus on just one or two elements.
A few even choose to largely ignore Christmas and just continue with “business as usual”.
Each approach is fine as there really isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ marketing strategy in the world of retail.
There are nonetheless some key points worth evaluating when considering any of the above-mentioned strategies.
Advertising: There are many many ways to advertise your products to your target audience including websites, newspapers, radio, television, billboards, magazines, local newsletters (eg school and community groups) and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. The key to success is to run your advertisements in the medium that your customers are most likely to see or hear.
Window displays: These can be a very effective and relatively inexpensive way to attract the attention of existing customers as well as new customers – particularly if your store is located in a high foot-traffic area. Ideally, your store windows should ‘stand out” from all the other Christmas windows in your street or mall.
Newsletters/Mailouts: A direct mail campaign to existing customers outlining some of your store’s special pieces is an extremely reliable means of increasing sales as customers already “know and trust” you and are therefore highly likely to respond warmly to your ‘Christmas letter’ and ‘gift suggestions’ within.
Lay-bys/financial services: Many people who like your products will not buy them simply because they think they can’t afford to do to. Therefore if you implement a ‘layby’ service, or any other inhouse financial service, that makes buying your products easier (ie ‘more affordable’) you are bound to increase sales.
Brochures/Catalogues: These have been a mainstay of the jewellery industry for many years as they are an excellent way to reach potential clients in your customer catchment area by ‘advertising’ all the products you sell. However, before creating and sending your brochure/catalogue you should give serious consideration to the image you want to portray – do you want to be seen as a discount jeweller or not?
Extra staff: Sadly many stores miss out on Christmas sales simply because they do not have enough staff to look after all the customers they attract during busy shopping periods (usually the last week or two before Christmas). Ensure that you are not caught out by a staff shortage (customers won’t wait long before heading off to one of your competitors’ stores) by having a pool of trained casuals that can be called in at short-notice.
Customer competitions: Any competition that offers a major jewellery prize is bound to attract the attention of a lot of potential customers. To maximise publicity, most stores choose to run such competitions in conjunction with the local newspaper, TV or radio station stores – the key to success however is to ensure that entrants have to drop the competition ‘coupon’ into your store rather than just mail it in.
VIP customer events: Social events can be highly effective in putting people in a ‘buying mood’ as many people adopt a ‘pack mentality’ in a crowd so when one person buys they buy too – the “I’ll have what she’s having” effect. An added benefit of social events is that they attract a lot of customers who are unable to visit your store (and are therefore unable to buy your products) during normal opening hours due to work and other commitments.
Catherine Pevy from Burleigh Showcase Jewellers on Queensland’s Gold Coast is one retailer who happily adopts a wide variety of promotional strategies to maximise her Christmas sales.
She starts organising her store’s Christmas promotions four months before the big day.
“I normally start talking to suppliers about Christmas at the Sydney jewellery fair and have all have my Christmas buying done by the end of September,” she says.
“I then sit down with all our staff for a pre-Christmas ‘pow-wow’ where we talk about what we did last year and analyse what worked and what didn’t, and try to assess what’s happening in our local area and what our competitors are up to.”
Once the store’s brainstorming session is over, Catherine and her staff begin working on their promotional activities which normally include VIP customer cocktail evenings; Christmas-themed window displays and instore decorations; customer competitions; extra staff; the Showcase Christmas catalogue; and advertising on the store’s website as well as in two local newspapers and newsletters and two radio stations.
“We try to cover all bases,” says Catherine.
“We normally decorate our store around the second or third week of November.
“We try to marry the look of the windows and the instore decorations with the look of our Christmas catalogue so our marketing is all uniform.
“We also try to use one or two of our favourite images from our catalogue in the front window so that when people walk past they think ‘oh that’s the place that sent me the catalogue’ even if they don’t know who we are or what our name is.”
In addition, Pevy says that she makes sure that her store is always well-stocked for the Christmas sale period.
“There is no use getting people to come into your store if you don’t have anything for them to buy.
“We make sure that we have a really good choice of whatever items are ‘top of mind’ for our customers – at all price-points.
“We also try and make it as easy as possible for customers to buy for us.
“We run a ‘layby now and relax for Christmas’ campaign with specific POS in the store from the end of October so that people can afford to buy what we’re promoting.
“Older customers really appreciate the service as they have been laybying for 20, 30 or 40 years so it is a very normal thing for them to do – they plan ahead and buy gifts for their children and grandchildren.”
However she acknowledges that the layby promotion is largely ineffective on the “younger ones” who “don’t even think about Christmas until about two weeks ahead and then just throw their purchases on the credit card”.
She surmises that adopting numerous strong promotional strategies in the Christmas lead-up ensures that almost all existing customers and potential new customers in her store’s customer catchment area are all aware of what her store has to offer and are therefore “more likely to buy from us too”.
Like Pevy, Alison and Paul Harangozo from Coronet Jewellers in Albury, NSW also adopt a multiple pronged marketing approach in the lead-up to Christmas with advertising on the local TV station, a Christmas newsletter and a Christmas-themed window as well as instore decorations.
“We send out a newsletter to all the customers on our database,” says Harangozo.
“The newsletter lets our customers know what we’ve got in stock for Christmas and gives them the chance to win a ½ carat diamond that Paul has sourced on one of his overseas’ buying trips.
“The response to the competition is amazing. Customers just have to fill in a coupon and drop into the store. It seems that almost everyone comes into the store to drop off their coupons and while they’re here they look around, and sometimes buy something else.
Harangozo says she is not “100 percent certain” which of the store’s Christmas marketing strategies has the biggest impact on Christmas sales.
“Christmas is of course the busiest time of the year for us but it is difficult to know exactly what brings the customers in, I mean no one ever come in and says ‘I came in because of your window display’.
“Customers who have got to know and trust us over the year(s) will always come in just before Christmas to buy from us –they would probably even come if we didn’t do any promotions.”
Window dressing only
In contrast to most retailers,Nicholas Pike of Nicholas Pike Jewellers in Adelaide’s Burnside Village Shopping Centre is a less than enthusiastic adopter of Christmas promotional strategies other than “window dressing”.
“I don’t do any of the usual Christmas promotions like advertising, catalogues and competitions,” says Pike, “as I believe that my front window displays attract the attention of all the people walking by.”
“My motto when creating my window displays is to ‘stop, attract and motivate’ customers into entering my store,” he explains.
Does it always work? “Absolutely. Why else would I be so well known?”
Pike’s Christmas windows may attract the attention of Christmas shoppers but they are anything but Christmassy in the traditional sense – Pike never uses common Christmas decorations like Christmas trees and tinsel in his window displays.
For example Pike’s Christmas window last year was filled with three handmade raw metal pyramids covered with strands of black and white beads and one “genuine strand of onyx, agate and diamond roundels”.
“The black and white theme went through the whole store right through to the nth degree of the packaging as to me the presentation of a Christmas gift (whether it’s a $25 charm or a $20,000 necklace) has to be exceptional”.
A year earlier, Pike chose to decorate his front window with “three rose gold copper bowls tipped on their sides with copper and glass balls spilling out from them.”
“In amongst all the balls was a miniature box (covered in copper fabric) containing a
diamond ball necklace.”
Again, Pike continued the window display theme inside the store with strategically placed balls on showcases and coordinating gift boxes.
Other innovative Christmas windows by Pike in recent years have included a “huge silver fish standing on its tail wrapped in mistletoe with a big diamond ring sitting it its hollowed out eye” and a female mannequin wrapped in “100 metres of acid pink and black fabric”.
Pike admits that some of his Christmas displays may “sound over the top” but stresses “they are not”.
“I often pull back my display ideas,” he says. “I could do 10 things in the window but I restrict myself to just one or two as the end result has to be simple.
“However I think the fact that my Christmas windows are so different to other jewellers’ Christmas windows really works in my favour.
“The success of my windows means that I don’t have to go on sale, send out brochures or hold VIP nights etc.”
Although obviously proud of his window’s success in attracting customers’ attention, Pike is adamant that good windows alone will not ensure sales success – at Christmas or any other time of the year.
“We look after the people once they come inside our store,” he says.
“You can spend millions on the front window but if you don’t have good products and services inside what’s the point?”
Pike is also adamant that Christmas windows should only be on display from December 1 to Christmas Eve.
“I think it is really bad manners to put up Christmas windows and instore decorations before December.
“I don’t care what commercial people say.”
Perhaps more controversial in his view of Christmas promotions is Ron Smales from Smales Jewellers in WA’s Subiaco.
Smales is a “non-believer” in the power of Christmas promotions although he readily admits that he has tried a number of strategies including television and radio advertising, window dressing, customer VIP parties and mail outs over the last 45 years.
“We decorate the windows and store with Christmas decorations but I don’t really think it makes much difference to our sales. It’s just part and parcel of Christmas trading in Australia.
“I think Christmas just sells itself. If you are consistent with your products and service all year round people will come and buy from you at Christmas too.
“Advertising and promotional spend is straight off the top (of profits).
“I mean will spending $400 on a window display or on instore decorations guarantee an increase your sales? No. Will spending money on a glossy catalogue necessarily increase your profits? No…
Undoubtedly Smales’ views are contrary to the prevailing “market, market, market” sentiment in today’s retail world but his business is testament to the fact that there is no one right way to maximise Christmas profits.
In most cases it is probably a case of experimenting to see what works for you and your customers so that you all have a happy Christmas.
The only question that remains is what then to do after the big day.
Pevy maintains the goodwill of her customers by keeping post-Chrismas sales to a minimum.
“We don’t want our customers to buy something for Christmas and then see it on sale on a few days later!”
Harangozo also avoids “going on sale” post-Christmas.
“I hate buying something and then it’s on sale and believe my customers do too.”
Pike installs a new window display in time for the New Year.
“I keep my Christmas window on display until we finish trade on Christmas Eve and then change it straight away as I don’t want it to look like an old tired Christmas display when we open again.”
As for Smales, it’s straight back to “business as usual”.