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A mother of a day

Fire up those cash registers - it's time to make some serious Mother's Day sales. GRETEL HUNNERUP finds out how.

In 2004, just a scratch after Easter, David Jones rolled out a high-profile promotional campaign designed to win the Mother's Day dollar.

The deal was simple: customers who bought more than $100 of full-priced clothing, footwear or accessories were given a watch valued at around $110.

It was a huge hit, with daughters, sons and dads flocking to their respective department stores to purchase apparel for themselves and score a nifty gift for mum (or partner/wife) in the process.

The trouble was that the offer was so successful that many David Jones outlets ran clean out of watches six days before Mother's Day.

Aside from the fact that David Jones was grossly under-prepared, what's interesting about this scenario is that a large slice of the general public deemed the watch as an appealing Mother's Day offering.

If a watch works for Mother's Day, then it's safe for retailers to imagine that jewellery in general will work too.

Certainly, the available research into Mother's Day spending finds this to be the case. In 2006, an online Australian study by research company AC Neilsen discovered that of the 1,477 consumers surveyed, 118 of them selected jewellery as a gift for Mother's Day, while in the same year, a US-based shopping survey revealed that 26 per cent of mothers had put jewellery on their Mother's Day wish-list.

Findings like these tell of a significant demand for jewellery by both buyers and recipients in the lead-up to the yearly celebration.

The second point to glean from the David Jones experience is that Mother's Day campaigns, if enticing enough, have the potential to lift sales extraordinarily well. And this, believes Steve Odgen-Barnes of the Australian Centre of Retail Studies at Monash University, is where the real challenge lies.

"Every year, retailers put Mother's Day posters in the window accompanied by the usual sale," he says, "but the problem with advertising price points over products is that it doesn't resonate with the main Mother's Day spender: dad.

"Men never walk past a jewellery store and think: 'Great, 70 per cent off!' They are motivated by occasion, not promotion. Generally speaking, they don't like shopping, they leave it until the last minute and they have no confidence in buying the right thing. So when they enter your store in a distressed frame of mind, there's no point beating them to death with a discount catalogue - your selling point should be that you can solve their problem."

Creating storyboards for different types of mothers is a great way to attract a male Mother's Day spender, according to Ogden-Barnes.

"Men aren't big browsers - they like to see a focused range - and retailers can help them by grouping jewellery into separate ranges for the traditional mother, the contemporary mother, the 65+ mother, the mother interested in environmentalism, and so forth," he says.

"Another way to present a focused range is to find out what category of jewellery he's interested in buying, like watches, for example, then bring him the top-ten sellers so it's not too overwhelming and he can get an idea of popularity."

Above all, Ogden-Barnes sees it as vital that jewellery retailers put extra time and effort into providing 'expert consultation'

with male shoppers.

"Let's talk about your wife - does she like gold? Do you know what's already in her jewellery box? Does she like coloured stones? Have some of these questions, show some pictures, and get to a point of understanding to ensure the piece is actually suitable for her. I'm sure that mums the world over have a drawer full of crappy earrings. If she ends up with something she actually likes she'll seek out your store."

Teenage sons and daughters are another group retailers need to woo for Mother's Day sales, and Ogden-Barnes believes having an in-store 'generation specialist' will do the trick.

"Teenagers are a very novice category when it comes to buying for mum - they won't know the difference between various kinds of metals, for example - so ask them the same questions, become an adviser for the youth generation, or utilise a salesperson who is representative of their age group."

Sound advice, but to get to the selling stage retailers need to entice dads, sons and daughters into their store in the first place.

This is where Marcus Hancock comes in. Hancock is the director of marking consulting firm MJH Group in Melbourne. Crafting plans for jewellery retailers is a big part of his business.

"The main things to remember are to advertise early, promote jewellery at 'good, better, best' price points to capture all budgets, and whatever you put in an advert, make sure you have plenty of that exact item. Consumers aren't necessarily imaginative enough to transfer a desire to a different product - they'll want exactly what they've seen."

When it comes to advertising methods, Hancock believes the old-fashioned letterbox drop is still a good one.

"Delivering printed catalogues is a very cost-effective way of reaching a highly targeted market-base. It costs perhaps a couple of thousand to do the production and distribution but you get to plaster the area with your message."

Hancock continues: "If you're doing a letterbox drop you need to tie it back to your store by putting the same signage in the window.

People may not read your catalogue, but they'll often flick through it and form an impression of what your store is about, so when they're out shopping and see your signage, it feels familiar and safe. If you feature kids in your catalogue, make sure they look like the majority of your customers. It's not hard to do a separate print run for an area with a large Asian population, for example."

Hancock makes a final point on printed material: "Make sure you have a hero-shot - a nice eye-catching image of a necklace - with smaller images of a matching ring and a matching bracelet around it to plant the idea that people can buy the whole set. All of this is anecdotal, but it gives you an advantage over the next jewellery store".

SMS and email advertising is another highly effective way to reach consumers because it's cheap, immediate and easy to execute.

"If you've got a customer database, send a general Mother's Day message out to everyone, or better still, look at each customer's purchasing history and let them know there's some new jewellery in a similar style or price range that would make a great gift for mum," Hancock says. "Just keep it short and simple and you can't go wrong."

Let's suppose you've come up with a clever advertising plan - now it's time to make your store stand-out for the Mother's Day rush.

Sam Reynolds has been doing the visual merchandising for Westfield and the Myer Centre in Adelaide for several years, and she has some solid advice on sprucing-up jewellery store windows for the occasion.

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"I think the mistake many jewellery retailers make is they fill their windows with too much product," she explains. "If it's too crammed, shoppers won't be able to focus on anything and they won't stop to look at your store. I usually pick a colour scheme that fits in with the Mother's Day theme such as pinks and pastels, and then I might put a huge bunch of chrysanthemums in the centre of the window display and place just a few pieces of jewellery in eye-catching gift boxes around it."

In a nutshell, Reynolds follows these basic golden rules: "Keep it colourful, feature your best pieces and make sure there's lots of negative space. It doesn't necessarily have to be expensive."

Value-add promotions are also a great way to entice Mother's Day sales - provided they're worth-while.

"Bonuses (giveaways) certainly have their place, but from a jewellery point of view, the quality of jewellery gift you give once they spend X amount is likely to be rubbish," Hancock says. "It's better to offer lifetime cleaning of the jewellery instead because it's a quality gift that ensures the customer returns to your store more often. The idea is that every time they come in for a re-polish they'll buy something else."

Another method is to reward Mother's Day spending behaviour by distributing gift vouchers to other stores.

"You might want to form an alliance with the massage business around the corner, for example," says Hancock, "but you need to get those vouchers at a good price and you need to know that when your customers go for a massage they'll be well looked-after. It can definitely work, but you need the right partner."

The third and best option in Hancock's book is the classic competition in which customers who spend a certain amount go into the draw to win a pricey piece of jewellery.

"This is a scorcher because Australians love to dream about what they can win.Think of all the people who buy Tattslotto tickets and spend the millions in their heads as they drive home. So if your average sale is, say, $200, give them the incentive to spend $100 more by showing them what they can win if they spend $300 or more - they'll picture themselves wearing it and many will go for it."

All the advertising and promotion in the world won't win a customer over, of course, if they don't like the stock that's in front of them. Stocking shelves with suitable jewellery is the single-most important step a retailer can take as Mother's Day approaches, and a variety of suppliers are on hand to deliver ranges fitting for all kinds of mums.

Some have created products that have clear and specific links to the occasion.

Alija International, for example, has just released a series of three small pendants in 9-carat gold featuring a mother holding her baby.

Oblo Jewellery has launched a collection of little heart pendants inscribed with the word "Mum". These hearts are constructed from different materials - some 9-carat gold, others in 18-carat and diamonds - to suit the wallets of a range of family members.

For the more novel mum, there's the Happi Frog Collection by giftware supplier Jasnor: 10 chrome-plated frog statues featuring the captions "Best Mum" and "A Mother's Love" and painted with an enamel finish.

Other suppliers are offering ranges in which daughters and sons can pick pieces that reflect their own mother's character.

Duraflex is the Australian distributor of Thomas Sabo, a charm company with a whole host of sterling silver and Swarovski crystal motifs for bracelets, necklaces, earrings and mobile phones. Ranging from $37 to $390, the charms relate to hobbies, family and emotions.

"With around 400 charms in the range, it's very easy for someone to find charms that they can associate with their mum," says Phil Edwards of Duraflex. "Everything's in there, from a shoe box to a little mobile phone, initials, a star and a classic heart that says 'I love you'."

"People can start a story about mum by selecting a simple bracelet with one charm, then mum can start coming into the store to keep adding to it. The beauty of it is customers feel they don't have to shell out a huge amount of money - they can start small."

Of course, there are currently plenty of ranges on the market that are apt for the classic mum. Duraflex's collection of shell-based pearl jewellery, Sashimi, sold extremely well over the Christmas period and Edwards expects similar results for Mother's Day.

"The pearls aren't real - they're sculpted out of shell and lacquered 15 times - but they look very much like South Sea pearls because they're big, bold and classic," he says. "They suit the Mother's Day market because they're inexpensive: customers can pick up a bracelet strand for under $100 and a necklace strand for just under $200."

Susan Pender of Deep Sea Moonlight Pearls is working on a series of dragonflies carved from imitation ivory, designed to enliven dated pearl necklaces: "There are a lot of women out there who received pearls for their 21st birthday and are longing to wear them, but they don't because they look lacklustre or insignificant," she explains. "Clipping a dragonfly with wings spread out to the centre of a necklace instantly updates the look."

Pender has also been busy fashioning unusually shaped bits of turquoise, coral, citrine and dark agate into rather abstract necklaces to suit the more adventurous mum.

Watch-wise, Freelook has some big-faced masculine watches with metallic bands for the young mum, wide-cuffed pieces with crystals for those who like a bit of sparkle and vintage styles with delicate chains for the traditional, ladylike woman.

For mums who have too much jewellery and timepieces already (if this is even possible), Cara Mia has devised a classy watch box with room for three timepieces in solid wood and stainless steel. The boxes come in two finishes: a matte veneer and a high-polish gloss.

Cara Mia also has a collection of heavy jewellery boxes in the same finishes, plus a continuing range of intricate and ornate jewellery stands in the shape of a woman's body for hanging chunky pieces.

These products are just a few examples to whet the palate for Mother's Day re-stocking. Retailers keen on making a coin over the Mother's Day buy-up will find a colossal array of goods suitable for every conceivable mum. The key is to pick stock that sits well with your store and your customers. That, combined with a well-crafted promotional plan, truly helpful service and a bit of luck is your best recipe for success this May.

Gretel Hunnerup
Contributor •

Gretel Hunnerup is a criminology graduate turned freelance journalist writing about lifestyle, crime and justice. She also enjoys covering the arts, fashion and fascinating folk from her base in Melbourne. Her work has appeared in The Age Melbourne Magazine, Herald Sun – Sunday Magazine, Harpers Bazaar and The Vine. She also teaches features writing to Monash University journalism students. In her spare time, Gretel loves bushwalking and trawling op-shops for vintage treasures.
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