This Holiday, SPIFFs May Spell Success for Retailers and Suppliers Alike


Current economic conditions (inflation, an impending recession) understandably may have some Plumb Club retailer partners greeting the holiday season with dampened spirits. You won’t know whether headlines about consumers reigning in their spending will bear out in your specific region till the holiday shopping season kicks off in earnest. So, what’s a great way jumpstart morale—and boost your fourth quarter sales—in the meantime? Encourage your employees to take advantage of the SPIFF programs offered by select TPC members.

What is a SPIFF? It’s an old-school tactic that has a manufacturer or supplier incentivizing retail partner associates with bonuses or gifts per units sold, or hosting a fun “who can sell the most?” contest.

For suppliers, the goal of a SPIFF is to motivate store employees to become unofficial brand ambassadors, ones that sell their goods apace.

“When done well, SPIFF programs increase sales above the level that sales would have hit without them,” according to Andrea Hill, of Hill Management Group, a highly regarded business and brand consultancy for the jewelry industry. In order for the SPIFF model to work effectively, she says, the sales force must directly benefit from the awards. With modern technology, there are a number of ways that employees can log their numbers in real time which can itself be a motivating, morale-boosting tactic.

Hill says SPIFFs aren’t as common as they were in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but they remain a time-honored way for larger companies that are well-known at the industry level, but not so much with consumers, to increase brand awareness.

While quite a few TPC members do not offer SPIFFs for a number of reasons—including the fact that spiffing can create skewed metrics within a retailer’s inventory—several do make use of them with some unique twists and innovations.  

For example, Craft Lab Grown Diamonds, a division of Plumb Club Member HK Designs, is tying its ongoing SPIFF probram to a weekly training video, so that the sales associates can only earn SPIFFs if they watch the video. “Since lab-grown is a very new category in most stores, we believe that sales training is absolutely critical,” says George Prout, president, independent division. “Our training emphasizes ways to communicate with and sell to Gen Z, and how to sell lab without hurting mined. The continuous reinforcement of training on lab—combined with the natural predisposition to sell what’s being incentivized—will likely pay dividends not only to us a supplier, as well as to our retailer dealer network.” 

At Chatham, Olga Litvin, director of sales, says the company recently introduced a sales contest for its branded retailers that started on Sept. 1 and will run through May 31, 2023. The terms: For every piece of Chatham jewelry sold, a raffle ticket is generated and entered into a generous cash prize drawing. “Winners will be revealed during the next JCK show inside our booth in Plumb Club,” says Litvin. “It has been incredibly successful so far, and we have already accumulated a lot of tickets.

“This contest was designed as a friendly competition on a store level that will increase our brand exposure to consumers,” she adds. “The benefit to our retailers is evident—their sales staff is now even more motivated to offer Chatham to their clients and increase their sales. For us, it provides great insight on what’s trending amongst consumers and gives us an opportunity to look at the regional data.”

During the holiday season, Chic Pistachio awards associates with brand gift cards once they reach a certain dollar amount in items sold (example: sell $2,000 worth of merchandise, get $300 in credit towards a personal purchase). “The spiffs are very well received by stores and the employees love to get rewarded for their efforts, plus we want all our retailers’ staff wearing Ania Haie and Aurelie Gi,” says Katherine Whitacre, U.S. Sales Director for Chic Pistachio.

Theresa Namie, merchandise manager at Ostbye, reports that the company offers sales incentives for retailers annually. The terms are still being finalized but usually the program involves selling a certain amount to get a free gift and “is tied to the Shimmering or Diva Collections that are mostly silver-and-diamond, so easily sellable during the holidays. We always have a great response to it, but it is hard to measure [to what extent] as these designs are easy to sell this time of year. I always think it is a smart and fun way to engage our retailers during the holidays. It’s a win—a win for us all.”