By Kyle Cheromcha
Montreal, Canada – Although the financial crisis changed the way Americans spend their money, one online jewelry retailer has weathered the storm thanks to a little help from the holidays.
In 2009, as unemployment in the United States reached 10% for the first time in decades, Ice.com still managed to pull in $54 million in sales, due in large part to holidays like Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Mother’s Day, according to co-founder and Chief Motivational Officer Pinny Gniwisch.
“The top sellers are hearts, keys, lockets, tennis bracelets, and three stone rings” he said. “Our sales should be up from last year.”
Gniwisch projects that the company will earn about 15% of its annual revenue from this Valentine’s Day alone. The romantic holiday has traditionally been a boon for jewelry retailers; in 2007, Ice.com sold a single diamond for $95,000 to a love-struck man.
But times have not always been easy for this family business. Founded by four brothers in the heady times of the late 1990s dot-com bubble with help from business incubator Idealab, Ice.com faced an uncertain future when the market crashed. The Gniwisch family bought the company back for one dollar and returned to Montreal.
“It was just the four of us left,” he said.
In the years since then, Ice.com has taken measures to ensure they stay ahead of the competition. They introduced a deferred payment plan, where customers can pay for an expensive item in monthly installments, a decision that Gniwisch believes was key in grabbing their share of the market.
Additionally, extensive social media campaigns on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and blogs have allowed the company to expand its customer base at a minimal cost.
“Using social media allows the customer to see the human side of a business,” said Gniwisch. “It’s transparency and honesty in action.”
Of course, no company is immune from the effects of a global recession. Although it was in expansion mode up until 2007, Ice.com was forced to lay off nine employees, around eight percent of its workforce.
The four founding brothers are all ordained rabbis, and Gniwisch said their faith plays a large role in their business ethics and practices. For example, the company tries to trace every diamond back to the source to ensure that they’re not carrying any conflict diamonds.
“Do unto others and you would have others do unto you,” he said. “Treat your customers as you would want to be treated.”