'Tis the Season for Spreading Splendor at Romance Diamond

If you think the holiday season can be stressful, try owning an upscale retail jewelry store.

“You do 40 percent of your business in the last 15 days of the year,” said Brittany Adair, owner of Romance Diamond Co. Jewelers in Fayetteville.

Despite that potentially nerve-wracking dynamic, though, Adair wouldn’t have her professional life any other way. A member of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal’s 2004 Forty Under 40 class, the 38-year-old Adair said “exhilarating” might be the best word to describe the feeling surrounding the holiday rush on which so much of her company’s success depends.

“You wait all year for this and it’s so exciting and it’s so fun, and you’re just making everybody so happy,” Adair said. “It’s just a real joyous time.”

A Little Rock native, Adair earned a degree in small business management from the University of Arkansas, and had a handful of jobs before moving to Dallas to work for jewelry manufacturer Egana of Switzerland. She said her experience at Egana, whether it was in product development, pricing or selling to independent retailers, was invaluable.

Adair said she also learned the importance of brand creation, which proved helpful when she moved to Fayetteville and became co-owner, along with her father, Patric Brosh, of Romance Diamond. That was in 2002, and by 2004 the company’s annual revenue had doubled thanks to the opening of the firm’s Dickson Street store and a big marketing push.

Adair said the branding of Romance Diamond and subsequent marketing push, in fact, might have provided her with the biggest piece of advice she has for anyone else wanting to start a small business.

“We spent a lot of money in the very beginning branding Romance Diamond Co.,” she said. “We went with DOXA, which is a local firm, and we have stuck with them. They really have the true last say on the marketing materials to make sure that it is the same message we’ve always had.

“That might be the most important [advice] because they really helped me create a true brand and kept me on task, and have never really seen the brand outside the way it should be seen, the same as the original day we said, ‘This is what we’re going after.’”

Adair also stressed the importance of establishing a proper support network when you’re a business owner.

“Invest in having the right people on your team,” she said. “Employees are No. 1, obviously, but having a good banker, having a good accountant — people who are talking to you about your business, with your best interest in mind, on a quarterly basis.”

Adair learned she needed the help early on, when annual revenue figures were skyrocketing. After Romance Diamond’s revenue doubled from 2003 to 2004, it did so again the following year and continued to climb at a brisk, if slightly lesser, pace through 2007.

A lot of those early profits went into deeper inventory, however, and Adair said she quickly realized “how capital-influenced the jewelry business is.”

“We were financed, but we weren’t financed long term,” Adair said of the time around 2003 and 2004.

Adair credited Eileen Jennings at Arvest Bank for helping her make some necessary adjustments to get Romance Diamond’s longterm strategy in place. Doing so in the upscale jewelry business can be especially tricky, Adair said, because so much business is done late in the year.

“You have to have cash on hand for those first 350 days,” she said.

That’s largely accomplished by making the most of the jewelry industry’s other three “big bumps,” which include Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day/graduation and a bridal season that essentially runs from April to June.

“Our front six months are pretty important, probably another 40 percent of the business,” Adair said.

Having survived the recession, Adair said Romance Diamond’s revenue growth has been “more normal, like 5 percent to 7 percent” since a tough 2009, during which the store was robbed at gunpoint. Customers seeking brands like A. Link, Marco Bicego, TAG Heuer and Breitling know they can be found at Romance Diamond, Adair said.

Adair prefers adventure vacations with her husband, Steve, and outdoors activities with their two children, ages 7 and 10. And while she sometimes dreams of returning to school to get an economics degree, Adair said the last 10 years have put her in a happy place.

“It’s been crazy,” she said with a laugh, “and then it’s now starting to be great.”