Making an important jewelry purchase should be a celebratory, not painful, process. In 1956, husband and wife team Harry and Jerry Ritchie formed Harry Ritchie’s Jewelers with that idea in mind. More than 50 years later, the second and third generations of the Ritchie family continue to live by their parents’ and grandparents’ vision, constantly looking for new ways to make a visit to any of the company’s 31 stores a pleasant one.
“My grandfather saw an opportunity to be a credit jeweler, giving people the opportunity to buy jewelry with credit if they couldn’t afford it that day,” said Tobey Ritchie, director of marketing and spokeswoman for Harry Ritchie’s. “He loved to see a customer leave with a smile on his or her face.”
There is a philosophical triangle of sorts guiding the folks at Harry Ritchie’s. On one side: credit. Unlike most jewelers, Harry Ritchie’s offers three financing options and guarantees one will fit both the budget and quality expectations of its customers.
The first option is the company’s inhouse financing, with credit offered through a Harry Ritchie’s account. The company has 10 credit options under the inhouse financing umbrella and grants loans out of a central credit office. From credit-building accounts to 12-month-interest-free options, the company’s five credit granters are on standby to help customers make a smart purchase.
For larger purchases and customers with solid credit ratings, the company offers third-party credit through GE Money. Another option is the Progressive credit plan, which Harry Ritchie’s uses to offer customers a kind of rent-to-own option for their jewelry. But although such a perse credit offering opens the door to a wider range of customers, Ritchie said it also presents a branding challenge to the company to better highlight the second side of the triangle: romance.
“Financing isn’t very romantic,” she said. “One of our challenges is establishing ourselves as a romantic place to come buy jewelry that’s affordable.”
For the last two to three years, the company’s focused on more niche marketing, telling the Harry Ritchie’s story of value with the feeling and emotion inherent to the celebration of buying fine jewelry. In Harry Ritchie’s media broadcasting on TV, photo images create a series of 15-second movie-style bookends showing couples in love and the romance of getting engaged, celebrating their relationship.
“In our spots, we focus on the love, but there are some voice overs that highlight the value,” said Ritchie. “We’re trying to merge our three-pronged approach. We have the tradition of our family background, the credit options, and the romance of buying jewelry. Trying to bring those elements together is challenging, yet our biggest opportunity.”
The company’s marketing focus has resulted in a change in philosophy for its approach to advertising, an expansion of its bridal line, and a redesign of its retail stores. Research has shown Harry Ritchie’s market is largely 18- to 35-year-old women, most of whom direct the purchases. Additionally, the average age for getting engaged is 26 and continues to get older.
But just as with its credit options, Harry Ritchie’s doesn’t overlook the younger demographic needing to build credit. The company started running its TV ads during prime time, in shows such as “American Idol” and “America’s Top Model.”
“In the past, we weren’t running at the best times to hit our market,” said Ritchie. “What we’ve been doing recently is focusing on her and what shows she’s watching.”
Harry Ritchie’s has also started looking at the lifecycle of a buyer. For most, the jeweler you purchase your wedding jewelry from becomes your jeweler for life. The company’s buying team’s biggest challenge is investing in the company’s bridal lines, as it’s the most expensive, but attracting lifelong customers is a must.
As a member of Leading Jewelers, a jewelry co-op where Ritchie serves on the marketing committee, Harry Ritchie’s is able to carry two signature bridal lines: the Love Story brand and the Two Hearts collection. “We’ve focused on making sure each of our 31 stores carries both lines,” Ritchie said. “The bridal customer is the customer we know is still buying jewelry. The everyday purchaser or sole purchaser might be saving his or her money right now. If you want to survive a challenging time and an uncertain economy like today, expanding your bridal line is a smart choice.”
One element that guides Harry Ritchie’s as a family business is the importance of welcoming customers and creating a friendly environment. To push this idea beyond its commercials, the company developed a store concept focused on the customer experience, the flow of the store, and relieving some of the pressure of making a major purchase.
“We’re not Tiffany’s, and we’re not Walmart; we’re in the middle,” said Ritchie. “We know who we are, and we know who our customer is. We want them to come in and feel good. We want them to come in and sit down at the diamond counter and spend time. Our wonderful managers and team members are the biggest part of making this feeling a reality.”
Although a simple premise, the company started by putting more color into its display cases. Rather than white or cream, jewelry is displayed on case boards covered in bright pinks, greens, blues, and purples. Stores also have two predominant credit booths located in a central cash wrap island shaped like an oval, with two fabric-covered pillars on each side adorned with photographs of images representing credit, love, and family.
Each of the company’s newest stores also has a love wall, which Ritchie said exemplifies the experience the company wants its customers to have in the store. “It’s about love and family and romance,” she said. “It’s not about making our customers uncomfortable. We want them to remember this experience as a perfect beginning.”