One of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make as a retailer was to close one of our three stores. University Avenue was our oldest location, just down the street from the spot where my grandfather opened for business 78 years ago. The store had a declining sales trend exacerbated by the economic downturn and a major fire next door with the subsequent loss of traffic during reconstruction. With our largest store just five minutes away, it no longer made sense for us to carry a duplicate inventory and the extra store expense. Making the decision was hard, but planning how we were going to make the store closing event a financial success was even more difficult.
We knew, if well executed, the event had tremendous potential—we could turn over excess and dated inventory and raise cash to improve our balance sheet. However, when we took an honest look at our past sale events, we had to admit that those results had been disappointing. Other jewelers told me that, in order to get the best results, we’d be wise to bring in professionals.
So who do you call? There are any number of companies that specialize in running promotional events for jewelers. I’d heard some horror stories from other jewelers about problems—inappropriate promotional-style merchandise and distasteful marketing methods so out of step with the store’s existing image that it made me cringe. I canvassed other jewelers with similar stores and received some strong recommendations for consultants with successful track records working with independent jewelers.
I decided to go with The Gordon Company. They are an AGS affiliate member and the president, Phil Holden, spent many years in management of an AGS operation. He was interested in our company’s history and image and assured me that it would be an essential part of any promotional strategy developed for our event.
A well-executed sale requires a tremendous amount of time and energy to generate a volume of business many times what’s normally sold. And during the sale we had to continue managing our two other stores. To me the key to navigating these waters was The Gordon Company’s on-site project manager. Our manager arrived well before the sale began; immediately suggested in-store organizational details; consulted on our existing inventory; developed our pricing strategy; completely re-merchandised the store; and was essential in training the staff, explaining how the sale worked and keeping them on top of the frequent changes in the promotional message. He went out of his way to win over and motivate our staff.
The Gordon Company also provided behind-the-scenes staff to design and implement the promotional program. They quickly provided a host of materials customized for our specific strategy. I admit I dreaded having the generic day-glo orange and lime green signs so typical of store closing events. Thankfully, this was never the case. The ads were promotional, but tasteful. The opening ads even included a picture of our original store and a short history. The promotional team took care of ads, media planning, multiple mailings, store signage, and press releases. Their ability to negotiate rates allowed us to do more advertising. Our initial results were so good we quickly added a television program with multiple custom-produced commercials.
We started with a sales plan that was many times more than the store has ever done in the same period—a number that really seemed unattainable until the sale got underway. We began with a successful private customer event and by the time the sale was over, we had nearly doubled our seemingly impossible goal!