Scottsdale, AZ—The Internet may be keeping a lot of jewelers up at night, but it will never replace an outstanding customer experience. Even Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, said early on in the web giant’s days that he can’t replicate the experience of going into a bookstore, sitting in a chair, touching a book, smelling its paper, et cetera.
At the Centurion Scottsdale Show’s opening panel discussion on Sunday, Tom Shay of Profits Plus led a panel of elite retailers—Sean Moore of Borsheims in Omaha, NE, Trish Roberson of Robersons Fine Jewelry in Little Rock, AR; and Mark Veiregg of Walters Hogsett in Boulder, CO in a discussion of successful retail events.
The first topic Shay addressed is one every jeweler is familiar with: events that are tied into their local community. Borsheims’ Moore hit on an almost-universal issue for jewelers: too many requests, not enough focus. As a result, Borsheims made a concerted effort to keep the majority (95%) of its philanthropic giving focused on either children’s or health-related organizations and events. There are a few exceptions—such as the zoo, for which they’ve had a benefit with animals in the store—but overall they try to stay within the children/health focus.
Left to right: Sean Moore, Trish Roberson, Mark Veiregg, and Tom Shay.
“We understand the importance of being involved in the community and giving back. We were fragmented, trying to do everything for everybody: churches, schools, charities. Because it was out of control, we developed the Burgundy Benefits program, which is philanthropy program focusing on children’s and health benefit programs,” he said.
One of Borsheims’ biggest events of the year is its December Weekend Of Giving, where $10 gift boxes are put on a tree for people to purchase. Some of the store’s vendors donate prizes and all told, Borsheims’ typically donates between $25,00 and $30,000 to the charity chosen for each year’s Weekend of Giving.
Something else the retailer does is pop-up shops at community events. “With a lot of events we support, some give an opportunity to sell there. We might bring things to sell, but more popular is bringing services. So we’ll bring a steam cleaner and some jewelers and clean people’s rings for four hours while they’re at the [benefit] party. We’ll go to some huge events and have 2000 people who want their rings cleaned while they’re at dinner. So rather than just trying to make money, we’re being good friends.”
At Roberson’s, children, the arts, and the Heart Association are Trish Roberson’s chosen charities. “Each year we pick five and stay consistent with three. There’s a program in Little Rock with the Heart Association where young girls (high school age) go into see heart surgery and other heart health events. When they graduate from the Heart Association program, we give them this little necklace. It’s like a little sorority now; they all have their necklaces. A girl recently said, ‘Miss Trish, I still have my necklace!’”
Roberson’s husband, Steve, is retired from the business but heart disease is an issue in his family, which is how they came to have a passion for the cause. She’s also committed to the arts, and is a supporter of the Thea Foundation, created in memory of a girl killed in a car accident in her senior year of high school. The arts had helped her tremendously in high school.
At Walters and Hogsett, the store’s motto is “curators of the well-made,” so Vieregg wants to ensure that theme is carried through its philanthropy which, not surprisingly, is heavily focused on the arts community in Boulder. A big event was called Canvas To Cuffs.
“We partnered with Evocateur, they’ll make something with flatirons or Colorado University and had a gallery night.” The first year was slow, he said, but the second and third year have each grown significantly, and people were calling from across country ordering Will’s cuffs.
“It’s been very successful in getting other people to trumpet our message.”
The store also has had to focus its charity efforts. They’ve narrowed to four or five [causes], and he admits some of their events were not super successful. One thing they’ve learned is to refocus on bigger auction items to get clients in.
One very successful event for the store has been an annual month-long event called Rocktober. “We found ourselves saying, ‘we love color, nobody else does color the way we do, and we realized we’re not doing anything with it.’”
The jeweler admits borrowing the name from the Colorado Rockies baseball team, and started building a party around colored gemstones. Now in its fourth year, the annual event uses social media, posts a gem of week, and does “gem tricks” for the last week before Halloween. The store also hosts parties and events with gem experts and other celebrities and encourages customers to put it on their own social media.
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