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Commentary: The Business

2021 America’s Coolest Stores Contest Win Stuns Austin Retailer

“I hit submit and waited,” she writes.





THE FIRST TIME I heard about the America’s Coolest Stores Contest was two years ago. I was on a Zoom call with an industry friend who kept looking around at the background in my video, asking, “Where are you?” I mentioned I was just in my store’s showroom, and she immediately said I should consider entering the INSTORE Magazine America’s Coolest Stores contest. I had never heard of the contest before, but of course I knew the publication. I quickly did a web search and was so excited to see that it was about six months until the entry process would open.

I put it on my calendar and got to work on some prep for the entry. Knowing that the judges wouldn’t be able to fly to see each store in person, I knew photos of my showroom would be super-important for the entry. So, during one of our scheduled photoshoots of a new collection, I asked our photographer to take some images of our store, which I figured we could use for social media and the contest entry.

When it became open to apply, I hopped on the site and started in on the questions. Skimming through all the sections, I felt a bit overwhelmed, but thankfully there was plenty of time to think about everything and come back and edit if needed. I sort of stopped in my tracks when I saw the sections for “Budget for Buildout” and “Interior Designer Name.” I chuckled to myself since we designed everything ourselves on a shoestring budget. Continuing through the application, I finally found the section to upload photos. I had photos of my showroom, my team, our jewelry, customers shopping in the store and even some in-store events we’ve hosted. Together, I think it showed a complete picture of who we are as a company and the overall feel of our store.

I hit submit and waited. To my absolute surprise and shock, we got an email months later that we had won! Hilariously, I wasn’t quite sure what place we won: runner-up, first, third place … but knew we had won something. It wasn’t until the editor of the magazine was actually in our store and interviewing me for our article that I realized the magnitude of what happened.

We had won first place!

It still totally blows my mind and just makes me feel so proud of everything our little team of five women has been able to accomplish. If you’re hesitant about entering, just do it! You never know what’s going to happen.




He Doubled His Sales Goals with Wilkerson

John Matthews, owner of John Michael Matthews Fine Jewelry in Vero Beach, Florida, is a planner. As an IJO member jeweler, he knew he needed an exit strategy if he ever wanted to g the kind of retirement he deserved. He asked around and the answers all seemed to point to one solution: Wilkerson. He talked to Rick Hayes, Wilkerson president, and took his time before making a final decision. He’d heard Wilkerson knew their way around a going out of business sale. But, he says, “he didn’t realize how good it was going to be.” Sales goals were “ambitious,” but even Matthews was pleasantly surprised. “It looks like we’re going to double that.”

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