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Turn Your Store into a Palace of Love



Experience. That’s the retail byword of the past few years. In no area of your business is experience more important than in the bridal category. Appropriately, jewelry retailers are diving in to creating memorable experiences for clients like never before, helping them to plan proposals, prepare for their weddings and create the most personal of engagement rings.

But first, go back to the basics. Determine how much opportunity there is in your market and what your market share of that wedding business is now and could be in the future. During a recent Stuller Bridge conference, Alex Graham, director of bridal for the company, asked retail attendees how many weddings take place every year in their markets. While some answers were spot-on, others missed the mark by a mile.

Weddings and engagements represent untapped potential for many U.S. jewelers. Consider this: there are 2.2 million weddings in the U.S. every year and 1.9 million engagement rings sold. Other facts to consider: men and women are marrying later, at an average age of 29.8 and 27.8 respectively. At this age, they’re likely to be discerning, to have thought about what they want, and are increasingly likely to want to customize their rings in some way. “The younger folks have their minds made up when they come into the store,” agrees John Cauley of John Cauley Jewelers in Mobile, AL. “If they have a design in mind, they don’t deviate very much.”

There’s much at stake. Estimates of the average engagement ring spend varies, but according to a Brides Magazine study, it was $7,829 in 2018, up rather dramatically from the $5,023 average spend in 2017. And although diamonds offer increasingly narrow margins, there is money to be made in custom mountings, alternative materials and vintage collections offered in a service-rich environment.

Here are 41 things with which to experiment to make sure your clients have the best experience possible, and that that experience translates to business success.

Your Environment for conversation

1 While some bridal customers likely prefer privacy, younger customers who like to share everything may find confidence from being in a group, says Ken Nische, chairman of JGA, a company that specializes in branded environments and consumer strategy. At James Allen’s brick and mortar showrooms, for example, customers try on alloy samples at tables built for 16 people. The salesperson takes a back seat and lets the customers engage with one another, seek out peers’ opinions and compare what they like.


Your windows

2 At least half of the year, Betsy Barron of Love & Luxe in San Francisco partners with a friend and local designer, who places her couture handmade wedding dresses in the store’s window, a signal to passersby that Love & Luxe specializes in bespoke handmade bridal jewelry.

Your listening skills

3 Listen carefully when a customer has what seems like an over-the-top idea, says Douglas Elliott, designer for Marisa Perry in New York. For example, he says, he recently made a ring for a client inspired by HBO’s Game Of Thrones. The client wanted a twisted band that incorporated a dragon into the design, while his bride-to-be loved the halo look. Elliott combined those two disparate ideas for a stunningly cohesive design, making everyone happy.

Your pet

4 Consider adding a canine greeter to break the ice. Adorable Ruby, a Frenchton, is a regular at Jacob Raymond Custom Jewelry in Greensboro, NC, as well as being a social-media celeb. “Many people recognize her from our social media and actually come in to see her,” says owner Jacob Wosinski. “You couldn’t ask for a better shop dog.”

Your case space

5 When deciding how much case space to give bridal, consider how important bridal sales from stock are, says merchandising expert Larry Johnson. Stores doing more custom bridal can devote less space. “I rarely see only one 6-foot case in a store unless they are under $500,000 in annual sales. I think a store doing $750,000 to $1 million would have two or three cases. Stores doing $1 million-plus are doing between two and six bridal cases, not including cases for wedding bands. Set aside a portion of each style case for ready-to-go-out-the-door rings for those customers getting engaged at 4 this afternoon. Avoid overloading your cases with alloy samples lest you immobilize your customer with too many choices.”


Your radio presence

6 Ramsey’s Diamond Jewelers’ radio commercials are iconic in New Orleans. Airing intensive radio schedules on virtually every radio station in the city every week for the past 25 years, Robert and Lori Ramsey have become known for their sibling banter that they compare to Charlie Brown and Lucy sparring in the Peanuts comic strip. Inspired by Tony the Tiger’s “Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes are Grrrrreat!” the signature radio tag line, “Rrrramseys Diamond Jewelers,” has become iconic, too. What can you do to bring your business top of mind?

T. Foster & Co. in Yardley, PA, is an appointment-only business in a private setting.

Your privacy

7 At appointment-based T. Foster & Co. in Yardley, PA, two private showrooms are designed to create a special-occasion feeling with parquet floors, coffered ceilings, luxurious furniture and drapes, creating the private, personal setting that Tim and Suzanne Foster’s clients crave. “Privacy is a must,” says sales consultant Shane Decker. “Have your bridal department as far away from other areas as possible (right rear corner if your store will allow it).”

Your Google listing

8 A first impression online is critical. To gain control over your content and the ability to interact with reviewers, search for your business on Google. Check your name, address and local phone number, URL, store hours and photos. Fill out every single field on this form with as much detail as you can. Verify location with a phone number or postcard verification.

Your timing

9 When Cut Fine Jewelers sells an engagement ring, the couple is highly likely to return for the bands. “When we sell someone a piece of jewelry it’s not, ‘Here’s your piece of jewelry, thanks, and bye,” owner Matthew Patton says. “We’re going to stay in communication with our clients.” On the other hand, Patton has learned not to push the band sale at the same time as the engagement-ring purchase, because usually the buyer wants to put as much money as possible into the engagement ring. Bringing up the wedding bands too early tends to confuse the guy and leaves him second-guessing the price of the engagement ring.

Your Youtube channel

10 Marisa Perry in New York recently introduced a bi-weekly series of videos on YouTube. The focus is on how consumers can avoid pitfalls when choosing their diamonds and looking for settings, and is designed for shoppers in all stages of the shopping process.


Your playful side

11 Have something in an open case that bridal shoppers can try on unsupervised. Stuller’s new magnetic bridal collection display, for example, allows shoppers to easily switch center stones on semi-mounts to create new looks with no risk to live goods.

Your photo shoots

12 Jessica Rossomme of Mucklow’s Fine Jewelry in Peachtree City, GA, orchestrated a collaborative photo shoot with photographer Mae Grace, LLC, and a recently engaged couple. The combined efforts of photographer, makeup artist, bridal shop, florist, models and location made for a much larger impact than anything Mucklow’s could have done solo. “We posted on Facebook and Instagram,” Rossomme says. “We’ve printed them and have them on display in the frames that we sell throughout the store. The photographer and makeup artist submitted it to a digital wedding magazine that picked it up and then posted it to their website.”

Your greeting.

13  At Ramsey’s Jewelers’ new 8,400 square-foot location in New Orleans, each visitor is greeted by a guest coordinator at a hospitality center near the front door, who will offer a refreshment and a freshly baked cookie. The coordinator learns what has brought the guest into the store and pairs them with the sales consultant who is the best fit. Whether or not you have an official greeting station, make sure each customer is welcomed.

Your inventory mix

14 Alex Graham, director of bridal for Stuller, says Stuller’s retail clients are selling asymmetrical designs, fancy shape stones and unconventional halos (fashioned from marquise accents, for example), as well as rings with scattered accent stones, unique stone directions (east to west pears, for example), special finishes and stacking bridal looks.

Your floor plan

15 Do customers seem confused? At Kelly Mitchell in Dallas, cases and displays are inspired by life events. She set up collections around the store: Engagement & Anniversary, Black Tie, Art & Investment, Everyday Wear and others.

Your lagniappe

16 Give ‘em a little something extra. Whenever Day’s Jewelers, with stores in Maine and New Hampshire, sells a diamond engagement ring, the engaged couple receives a bridal box — a special gift-wrapped box that includes a bottle of champagne, jewelry gift, special promotions for wedding rings and bridal attendant gifts, toasting flutes and a certificate for a free engraved cake knife. Day’s has partnered with a local photographer, formalwear provider, and other bridal-related businesses; each includes a special gift or coupon in the box.

Your celebration

17 The newly engaged at Fakier Jewelers in Houma, LA, are invited to attach engraved locks to a gate that encircles a pergola in back of the store and hurl the keys into the bayou to signify their commitment. The idea was inspired by the tradition in Italy and France of attaching locks to bridges as a symbol of love.

Your shop

18 Invite your customers backstage to see what’s involved in making their rings, or host a wedding band workshop to allow them hands-on experience. If that’s not feasible, let your guests watch the action through a window or on a video screen. Jacob Raymond Custom Jewelry in Greensboro, NC, takes the immersive experience a step further, situating the shop directly behind a display case with seating.

Your wedding band sales

19 Day’s Jewelers, a family-owned company with locations in New Hampshire and Maine, regularly transforms all of its showrooms into a wedding-band intensive experience that attracts both recently engaged clients as well as new customers. Key vendors bring trunks full of wedding bands for a mammoth selection. “During the events, it feels like all we carry is wedding bands!” says owner Kathy Corey.

Your flex space

20 Branham’s Jewelers’ Treasured Memories room serves as a bridal party dressing room equipped with mirrors and makeup stations. The bridal party can descend an elegant staircase or gather near the fireplace for photos. The experience is free to customers of Branham’s.

Your quality

21  Jude Dutille of Dutille’s Jewelry Design Studio in Lebanon, NH, says today’s customers notice craftsmanship. “The desire for platinum hand-fabricated rings with precision-cut diamonds has increased exponentially,” says Dutille. The store has invested in new forming tools and streamlined the processes of designing and manufacturing. “These rings require expert workmanship, taking an average of 12 to 14 hours to produce,” he says.

Your seating

22 Booth seating is a trend in jewelry store interiors and is integral to the design of Ramsey’s Diamond Jewelers in New Orleans. Individual booths provide a comfortable, intimate way of choosing a ring while creating a more effective selling environment. Another example: Jim and Daren Brusilovsky, owner of Marks Jewelers in Montgomeryville, PA, and a 2018 Cool Store, created what they call the Diamond Diner for their store that opened in 2016.

Your sales approach

23 Evan Patton at Cut Fine Jewelry in Baton Rouge has what sales consultant Shane Decker would call a missile selling style that works well with the indecisive. “A guy said, I have $7,000 for an engagement ring. What would you buy?” Evan says. “I told him, ‘This is what you need — I’m not going to give you something ugly.’ And she loved it!” Other engagement ring shoppers just crave reassurance. “They need to be told, it’s OK to get engaged. It’s OK to spend the money,” Evan says.

Your reviews

24 Harness the power of client reviews by subscribing to a service, such as Podium, that can simplify the process for your customers with a clickable text message that connects them instantly to Google and can be forwarded to your Facebook page. It also helps facilitate communication with clients, enabling business owners to respond to messages across multiple channels.

Your diamond cut

25 Search out superior cut diamonds, possibly giving thought to your own store brand. “If you know how to sell cut, you can get a superior price and compete against the Internet,” says David Brown of the Edge Retail Academy. That is the strategy behind Cut Fine in Baton Rouge, LA, founded by Matthew and Evan Patton in 2012. Their goal is to sell the most well-cut diamonds they can find and showcase them in the highest quality settings they can buy or manufacture.

Your clienteling

26 Wondering how to tell if your sales staff is following up without peering over their shoulders? Clientbook Retail is a mobile CRM and messaging solution built to make clienteling easier for busy sales associates. Results are measurable, which enables store managers to hold sales associates accountable for efforts at building relationships, vital in the bridal business.

Chelsea Mead orchestrated this surprise proposal for her engagement-ring clients.

Your Proposal planning

27 Chelsea Mead of Honey Designs Jewelry in Cincinnati not only posts engagement stories on her blog, she also crafts customized proposals for her clients that can include champagne or deserts, a local date night gift package, proposal coaching and curation, photo and video coverage of the proposal, a custom bouquet and party bus or limo transportation. Proposal packages range from the $1,500 to $3,000 and also include three 60-minute design sessions and a one-of-a-kind custom-designed ring, not including the center stones. She’s been expanding her reach to include destination engagements and has also become an ordained minister in order to officiate at clients’ weddings.

Your gender notions

28 Jamie Hollier of Balefire Goods in Arvada, CO, presents all jewelry as unisex on her website. “We have found that the idea of certain jewelry being for a man or a woman doesn’t fit with many of our customers,” she says. “We believe everyone should be able to wear jewelry that brings them joy, regardless of how others may label it.”

Your trend analysis

29 If women are bringing in Pinterest pictures to show you what they want, consider what these images say about trends in your locale. Observing the trends your customers want can help you bring fresh, exciting new pieces into your cases, says Alex Graham, Stuller’s bridal director.

Your metal

30 John Cauley of John Cauley Jewelers in Mobile, AL, has been excited to see many requests for yellow gold engagement rings. “I’m working hard to keep up with the younger market by creating non-traditional engagement rings per their request. I’m suddenly making about half of all engagement rings in yellow.”

Your favorite stories

31 The crew at Gerald Peters of Staten Island, NY, love hearing the creative, romantic and sometimes funny proposal stories newly engaged clients share with them so much, they decided to create a Perfect Proposal blog series online to give those stories a wider audience. It’s turned into the most popular feature of their website,, and the store’s Facebook page, too, amassing tens of thousands of clicks for each story. The clients who share their stories appreciate it as well, because they can easily be shared with family and friends.

Your attire

32 Make sure your style of dress matches your selling style, says Ken Nisch, chairman of JGA, who spoke at the inaugural Jewelers of America National Convention in July. If you have a side-by-side selling style and want to create an empathic environment, casual dress is best. If the wardrobe doesn’t match the vibe, shoppers will notice the disconnect.

Your omni-channel marketing

33 Kim Hatchell of Galloway & Mosley recognizes the importance of social media to promote ring sales. “We are revamping our website with Punchmark’s new platform, which will put even more options online. You have to reach them in every area, not wait for them to come to you.”

Your green cred

34 McCoy Jewelers in Dubuque, IA, employs solar power and casts from vendors who supply them with 100 percent recycled gold. They also recycle street buys into casting grain. “That’s made a difference not just in our image, but in our bottom line,” says Jonathan McCoy.

Your ride

35 Joe Thacker, owner of Thacker Jewelry in Lubbock, treats engagement-ring customers not only to a bottle of wine, but also to a ride, to or from their wedding, in a chauffeured vintage 1963 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud.

Your service department

36 Don’t call it a repair department. Service applies to a whole menu of possibilities, including restyling an heirloom into a reimagined engagement ring.

Your wow factor

37 “I’ve been to too many stores where when I ask about men’s bands, they pull a tray out from underneath the counter or take me to the farthest corner of the store,” says Alex Graham, Stuller’s bridal director. “We just don’t have the space for it,” they say, “I get it. But that’s doing a disservice to your bridal story. Believe it or not, the man wants a wow experience, too. Especially as more and more couples are shopping together, they want to share the entire experience together.”

Your honeymoon savvy

38 Evan Duke of Classic Creations in Diamonds & Gold in Venice, FL, is working on teaming with a travel agency to offer honeymoon packages.

Your detective skills

39 Dianna Rae High of Dianna Rae Jewelry in Lafayette, LA, will check out Pinterest if a proposal-minded man needs some clues. Some young women start pinning their dream rings on the platform after their first date, High says, and Louisiana couples prefer some element of surprise around the proposal process, even if they have discussed design ideas. It’s a very rare couple in her market who come in together to make the actual purchase, even if the women have done some pre-shopping of their own.

Your loaner rings

40 Balefire Goods provides “loaner” rings that customers can use to pop the question, allowing for the surprise of that special moment, but also ensuring that everyone can take part in the design process for artisan and custom engagement rings. Loaner rings can be solitaire style or bands since there is increasingly more diversity in couples and how they get engaged.

Your elbow room

41 After purchasing a second store, Chad Elliott Coogan, owner of Gems of La Costa in Carlsbad, CA, was struck by how small the bridal area was. Over the course of a year, he expanded the bridal footprint from less than 10 percent to 20 percent, gradually replacing the alloy samples that came with the purchase of the store to live engagement rings and diamond semi-mounts ready to set and deliver. “In a rolling year over year comparison, bridal sale are up 53 percent with gross profits in that category up 62 percent,” he reports.

ONLINE EXTRA: Q&A with Douglas Elliott, designer for Marisa Perry in New York, NY, who has 43 years of experience in the jewelry business

Q. As an experienced designer, do you have advice on how to sit down and work with custom-design customers?

A. First and foremost, find an idea, an/or a picture of the design that you like. There should be a framework which you can start with and make the desirable look. For example, I made a ring for a client who wanted to make a ring inspired by “The Game of Thrones”. He loved a twisted band, and wanted to incorporate a dragon and she loved the halo look. We combined it together and it turned out stunning!

Q. How do you get an idea of what they want?

A. First by listening, and finding out what they have in mind. There are many ways to go about the process – but it’s best if you start with the center stone. The setting can’t be first, because it is the diamond or center stone which, will determine the overall look of the final product. We start there and continue with other elements after.

Q. How do you “romance” the idea of the diamond? What is the most important thing about diamonds that shoppers should know?

A. An engagement ring is the most beautiful gift to ask for somebody’s hand and marriage. The diamond will stay in your family for generations and will be passed on to your daughter and further on – you should remember that when buying a diamond.

The diamond itself should be beautiful. It doesn’t come down to strictly color or clarity – those are not the only factors to consider when looking at the beauty of a particular diamond. The cut of diamond is equally or more important. Focus on a diamond that is beautiful and beautifully cut and faceted. But first it helps to set a comfortable price range, then find a diamond that you love within that range.

Q. Are you working primarily with couples now, or do men still work with you to design their bride’s ring as a surprise? Is there always input from the bride-to-be?

A. The answer is both. Today, most women don’t trust that men will get it right. And men are concerned about spending a great deal of money on something that they are not sure the girl will love so often they come together. However, some strong and powerful men want to keep it as a surprise therefore they come in themselves, alone.

Q. Do you have advice for working with same-sex couples?

I don’t see any difference between working with same-sex or heterosexual couple. I think that it is very important to treat everyone equally, it doesn’t make a difference between sexes. However, there is a greater benefit with two women, they buy two engagement rings!! Where as the men just stick to two plain bands lol!

Q. How can retailers/designers put engagement ring shoppers at ease?

A. Environment is crucial – you have to make sure you’re making the customer feel good. When someone comes in they decide how they feel within one minute of being in the store. The personalities of the sales associates are also very important. You have to be friendly, caring, almost loving to be able to put clients at ease. And let the customers know that you are looking out for their benefit.

Q. What do you do to stay current on what brides want?

A. I listen to what the customer wants and am always pushing for the next big thing. I am trying to stay fresh, innovative and am always thinking about the next thing that women will love.

Eileen McClelland is the Managing Editor of INSTORE. She believes that every jewelry store has the power of cool within them.



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The Big Survey 2019: Buying & Selling




11. What are the three best performing brand-name jewelry lines that you carry?

COMMENT: Gabriel and Stuller made it a three-peat, claiming the top two spots in our rankings for the third year in a row.
1. Gabriel & Co. (64)1
2. Stuller (41)2
3. Allison-Kaufman (29)4up 1
4. Hearts On Fire (18)3down 1
5. Simon G. (15)20up 15
6 tie. Pandora (14)6
6 tie. Ostbye (14)10up 4
8 tie. John Hardy (13)9up 1
8 tie. Lashbrook (13)15up 7
10 tie. Benchmark (12)8down 2
10 tie. Frederic Duclos (12)11up 1
12 tie. Roberto Coin (11)23up 11
12 tie. Sylvie Collection (11)22up 10
12 tie. ASHI Diamonds (11)23up 11
15 tie. Berco (10)23up 8
15 tie. Tacori (10)outside top 25
17 tie. ArtCarved (9)7down 10
17 tie. Le Vian (9)outside top 25
17 tie. Officina Bernardi (9)outside top 25
17 tie. SDC Creations (9)15down 2

12. What are the three best performing watch brands that you carry?

1. Citizen1
2. Seiko2
3. Rolex4up 1
4. Bulova3down 1
5. Belair5
6. Beringoutside top 25
7.Tag Heuer8up 1
8. Shinola 17up 9
9. Tissot7down 2
10. Breitling12up 2
11. Obaku 9down 2
12. Reactor 12
13. Omega 12down 1
14. Movado 10down 4
15 tie. Fossil17up 2
15 tie. Michele12down 3
15 tie. Oris15
15 tie. Victorinox Swiss Army10down 5
15 tie. Tudor 15
20 tie. Caravelle20
20 tie. G-Shock20
20 tie. Nomos 20
20 tie. Pulsar 6down 14

13. Excluding sapphires, what is your best­selling colored gemstone in terms of total sales value?

1. Ruby1
2. Emerald4up 2
3. Topaz3
4. Opal5up 1
5. Amethyst2down 3
6. Tanzanite7up 1
7.Tourmaline 6down 1
8. Aquamarine 8
9. Garnetoutside top 25outside top 25
10. Morganite9down 1
COMMENT: Just out of the top 10 in descending order were peridot, blue zircon, and pearls, all at just under 1%; “Others” accounted for about 3%

14. As a store owner, what did you earn (salary + share of profit) last year?

COMMENT: Jewelers in the Southwest reported the highest income levels with 35% making $150,000 or more a year. Those in the Mid-Atlantic reported the lowest incomes with 37% making less than $40,000.

15. What were your total sales last year?

Less than $100,000
$250,000 to $499,999
$500,000 to $999,999
$1 million to $1,499,999
$1.5 million to $2,999,999
$3 million to $5 million
More than $5 million

16. What jewelry or watch brand would you most like to add to your cases?

The king lives: Rolex was the runaway choice for the most wished-for brand. Overall, watch brands were more desired by retailers, likely because those brands are more recognized by consumers due to massive marketing budgets. The most wanted jewelry brands were Gabriel & Co., David Yurman and Cartier, in that order, followed closely by designer Alex Sepkus.

  1. Rolex
  2. Tag Heuer
  3. Omega
  4. Patek Philippe
  5. Gabriel & Co.
  6. David Yurman
  7. Cartier, Citizen, Fossil, Tudor

17. What do you think will be the next breakout category in jewelry?

Top 10 responses:

  1. Lab-created diamonds and finished jewelry. (“I think we are already seeing it and it is anything with laboratory-created diamonds.”)
  2. Yellow gold (“Yellow gold has been hot, but with the current prices I am not sure.”)
  3. Color (Also described as rare, exotic and bold. Spinel was mentioned more than once.)
  4. Silver (including silver fashion with lab-grown diamonds)
  5. Custom and custom bridal
  6. Stackable rings and bracelets
  7. Men’s jewelry (Fashion, engagement rings and precious metal wedding bands were mentioned.)
  8. Pearls
  9. Avant-garde or alternative bridal, including anything asymmetrical
  10. Pre-owned jewelry, including vintage jewelry, updated estate jewelry, repurposing old jewelry and restoration of a customer’s jewelry

Other ideas mentioned by more than one respondent:

  • Ania Haie jewelry
  • Basics (including solitaire studs, line bracelets and diamond hoops)
  • Tiara bands
  • Sturdier designs, such as heavy, weighted rings
  • Minimalist jewelry, especially earrings
  • Smart jewelry
  • Hand-made, artistically designed jewelry

General responses:

  • “Hell, I don’t know but I always sell a crap load of diamond studs and diamond wedding bands every Christmas, year after year.”
  • “Who cares? We are in the Midwest where trends come in slow. But everyone needs repairs and loves custom.”
  • “Please God, anything but another bracelet line. LOL.”

18. Jewelers remember sales for a wide variety of reasons. Sure, sometimes it’s a big sale, but more often, it’s the occasion or the circumstances of the purchase or the inspiration behind a custom piece that ensures the sale will always have a place in your memory.

special delivery. A black opal of exceptional quality showed up in my mail with the note to make a “large custom ring” in 18K gold. A regular customer just sent it and said, “Make me something beautiful.”

a meaningful gift. A farm couple celebrating their 50th anniversary bought a $150 10K gold and sapphire ring. The emotion of the couple was more rewarding than anything else. It was not much, but it was what they could afford. It was what it meant to them that was so special.

a son closes the sale. A 1-carat diamond for a 50th-wedding anniversary. The husband did not want to spend that much, and the son told him his mother was worth more per year than the cost of the ring. He paid cash on the spot.

a last wish. A first-time customer came into our store and told us that a friend had recommended us. She asked if we made jewelry on the premises and we told her that we did. She then showed us several pieces of gents’ jewelry that she had brought with her and asked if we could use both the stones and the gold to make new pieces. She needed several ladies and several gents’ pieces. If memory serves me correctly, 13 in total. We came up with the designs and she gave us the OK to proceed, provided we could finish all items in five days. She explained that she had just come from the hospital where she had been visiting her dying father and that he had given her the task of taking his jewelry and converting it into multiple pieces so that he could give each of his loved ones a piece to remember him by. Needless to say, this project took center stage and was completed on time. He died three days after he got to give his gifts. She has become not only a fantastic customer, but also a friend.

it’s personal. Both of my daughters’ engagement rings.

a sentimental favorite. The ones I sold to my wife before we started dating.

a wild request. A custom pendant to hold an elephant eyelash.

a bonus. A 5-carat diamond sold to a client to put into his ring. I took what I made from the sale and bought my dream car, a 1966 GTO trig power convertible.

a turning point. For three years running, a middle-aged couple, not married, came in during a local festival. They looked at stones and talked about a custom “not-wedding, not-engagement ring”. By the third year it had become a joke because they thought it was as unlikely that they would buy a ring as it was that they would get married. I got them very excited about a trilliant purple sapphire and made a custom ring. After they came to pick it up, he proposed on the steps outside the store. This is the only experience I have had where the process of shopping for jewelry was the turning point toward actual marriage.


is this a practical joke? A dealer who bought six pieces I thought would be buried with me and who paid full price.

the best revenge. My best customer walks in and requests the most expensive item available to walk out with. When asked for what occasion she was buying this item, she says, “To teach my husband a lesson; he bought us a new tractor as our anniversary gift. Then he told me I wasn’t allowed to drive the new tractor. So, he will learn not to get me a gift I can’t use.”

a lasting lesson. I had just started in the business and an older gentleman walked in the store, not well dressed and not particularly well groomed, and wanted to look at something for his 25th anniversary. He was carrying a cigar box under his arm. Not being well trained but remembering the 25th was silver, I showed him several sterling pieces. I could tell we weren’t connecting, and he finally indicated he wanted something nicer. He picked out a beautiful white gold and diamond pendant worth 10 times what I was initially showing him. As he came to the counter to pay, he opened his cigar box. It was full of cash, from $1 bills to $100 bills. He had been saving money for years to pay for this piece. It is still one of the best sales lessons I’ve ever had!

a layaway legend. A gentleman put two rings on layaway ($79 and $89) for his wife and daughter for Christmas gifts. He paid $4 every week. They came in on the 26th to have them sized. They were so thrilled, you would have thought he had spent thousands.

the last gift. I recently had the opportunity to sell a custom designed ring to a gentleman who was about to celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary. His wife had been battling cancer off and on for the last five years. She wasn’t doing too well. His 50th wedding anniversary was on the 29th of August. It was supposed to be done on the 22nd, so no concerns. I received a text asking me if we could bump up the due date to the 17th because his wife had taken a turn for the worse. I said we would have the ring ready. It wasn’t easy, and required some sacrifice from our team, but we made it happen. I delivered it to him on the 17th of August. He was happy to be able to give it to her at the big celebration that evening with family and friends. I just got word this morning (August 24th) that his dear wife passed away in her sleep last night. I am happy he got to give her this last gift with so much meaning and that we were able to be a part of it.

a beautiful gesture. A bracelet given to the widow of a suicide victim, engraved inside with the names of 20 friends and the phrase “may you always be surrounded by a circle of friends.”

a dream piece. A necklace I saw in a dream. I woke up, drew it, created the piece, called a customer in another state and told him his wife had to have it. He bought it and she loved it.

more for her money. A little girl about 5 years old with her piggy bank in hand, wanting to get her mom a diamond heart for Mother’s Day. She had just under $10 in coins. The project was completed just in time for Mother’s Day. Best sale ever!

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Big Survey

The Big Survey 2019: Big Data





Big Data

Gabriel & Co. is king. Earnings for many jewelers have flat-lined. And customers — and almost as often staff — are still confounding. Those are some of the broad takeaways of the 2019 Big Survey. Dig in and enjoy our analysis of data provided by 802 North American jewelers.

Utah’s jewelers were most concerned about the impact of social media on their personal lives: 75% said it had been negative. In a possible related finding, Utah’s jewelers also checked review sites most regularly, doing it daily or every few days. Jewelers in Maine were the least likely to check what people were saying about them online.
California had the highest number of multiple-store owners: 23% had two stores and 3% had three or more.
Arizona led the way in e-ccommerce with 71% saying it contributed a moderate or substantial portion of their sales (meaning more than 10%).
Texas contributed the highest portion of big city stores to our survey (23%) among U.S. stores. (Canada actually had the most in North America at 29%.)
Wisconsin could possibly change its moniker to the Surprise State: Only 15% of its jewelers said their performance this year was in line with expectations. The rest were either doing better or worse than expected.
Jewelers in Iowa were most excited about lab-grown diamonds (63%), while jewelers in New York were most alarmed by their emergence (48%).
Canadian jewelers are most likely to be asked about a diamond’s origins (83% say it happens regularly) while in the U.S. it was California that holds that distinction (70%).

1. How well is your business performing in 2019 compared to your expectations going into the year?

Far below expectations
Below expectations
In line with expectations
Above expectations
Way above expectations

2. How many stores do you operate?

3. Where is your store located by region?

Mid Atlantic


Mountain (Rocky Mountains)
(including Alaska)
West (including Hawaii)

4. Is your (main) store located:

On a downtown street
In its own free-standing building


In a strip mall
In a lifestyle center
Office building/Business park
In a mall
Home studio
On the Internet
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Cover Stories

12 Imaginative Ways to Reach Today’s Fickle Holiday Customer

Ideas to make sure stressed out shoppers find your store … and what they’re looking for.



Consider the holiday shopper: stressed, confused, possibly hungry and above all, in search of a friendly face.

What will that harried consumer find in your store? Solutions or more stress?

Make sure your store is a relaxed environment where shoppers know they can unwind, take their time, enjoy a snack and a drink, and find a cheerful someone to greet them immediately and help them ASAP.

“That in itself can make all the difference,” says Tammy Benda of Bottom Line Marketing, who reminds her retail-jewelry clients that the holiday hustle can be as overwhelming for shoppers as it is for retailers. Impersonal Internet shopping, although a convenience, is missing that human touch that only you, their personal shopper, can provide. “That’s very important during the holidays because you’re not just competing with other jewelry stores, but with purses, clothes, electronics, home improvement,” she says.

Here are some ideas to make sure those stressed out shoppers find your store and find what they’re looking for when they get there.

1Make it fun to visit. Have an ugly sweater contest among your staff and ask your customers to vote on a winner. Ask customers to submit their own ugly sweater photos on social media, Benda suggests.

2Feed them. Jennifer Farnes of Revolution Jewelry Works in Colorado Springs, CO, is planning a food-truck event. “Most highly rated food trucks have a big and loyal following on social media,” she says. “It’s a great way to promote local restaurateurs while exposing their regulars to our business. Also we are trying to put together a live music event featuring local individual musicians all day long, with hors d’oeuvres and drinks.”

3Spend money on social media to target not only your customers and their friends, but lookalike audiences as well. “A lot of businesses say ‘I have 10,000 followers on my Facebook page.’ But Facebook is not going to deliver your ads for free,” Benda says. “There is far less organic reach during the holidays than at any time of year because there is so much competition.

“Make sure everyone who goes to your site is retargeted. When they get to your website, follow them around and virtually say ‘I know you are looking for an engagement ring, this is why you should buy an engagement ring from us,’ and then list all of the reasons why buying that ring from you is the best choice.”

4Be human in your marketing. In other words, be the human being that that customer wants to come in and talk to. Have your staff appear in videos showing their favorite gifts under $500. Put a personality on your social media, a smile, a welcoming voice.

5Experiment. If you’ve always done things one way with middling results, consider trying it a different way. Tom Schowalter of Miners Den Jewelers in Royal Oak, MI, plans a big sales event each November to kickstart the holiday season. “In the past, we mailed over 20,000 direct mail cards; last year we did everything via email, text and Facebook and we got a bigger response.”

Lacey Madsen of Lacey’s Custom Jewelry in Bismarck, ND, has hosted ladies nights and men’s nights, as well as remounting, vintage and loose-gemstone events. This year, she experimented in September with a preview event, inviting customers in to help her select new holiday inventory.

Chris Wattsson of Wattsson & Wattsson Jeweler in Marquette, MI, is updating his holiday events, including the traditional ladies night. He’s found that wish-list conversions have been steadily declining, so this year’s event will target self-purchasing women and include a gift with purchase or a dollar amount off for a dollar amount spent. Soon after Christmas, he’s also planning a new event targeted at people who received jewelry online for Christmas and are looking for sizings and appraisals.

6Start early. Ellen Hertz, owner of Max’s Jewelry in St. Louis Park, MN, is scheduling all of her holiday trunk shows in November this year to capture holiday shopping dollars earlier. “One of the things I’ve heard a few too many times is somebody coming in for an event toward the end of the year, and saying, ‘Oh, I wish I had known, I already got a present for my wife or girlfriend or daughter.’ I don’t want to hear that anymore. So I’m going to jump start the holiday season. I’m not going to be obnoxious and horrible by putting out the glass ornaments and cards that we sell before Halloween, but Nov. 1 is turning into holidays in the store.”

7Save some energy for the homestretch. Try as you might to encourage early shoppers, it’s hard to change habits, Benda says. “Those last three days — Dec. 22, 23 and 24 — are going to be the craziest days no matter what you do.”

In addition to those seven tips, here are 12 more inspirational marketing ideas.

Say It With Dinner

Croghan’s Jewel Box

Family-owned Croghan’s Jewel Box in Charleston, SC, believes in the power of appreciation. Each year, Rhett Ramsay Outten and her team print a list of their top 100 customers in terms of dollars and frequency of purchase. “We choose something to send each of them with a handwritten note saying thank you for your business this year,” she says. “One year we partnered with an exciting new hotel in town and gave them a night and dinner on us. Some years we send a $100 gift certificate with a pretty ornament. It is a nice touchstone and people seem to appreciate being appreciated! It definitely brings them back in the store!”

Instant “Catalog” On Instagram

Max’s Jewelry

At Max’s Jewelry in St. Louis Park, MN, owner Ellen Hertz had been phasing out her printed holiday catalog in favor of a digital version; last year, she dropped the print version altogether. But this year, she’s going to deconstruct it into multiple Instagram stories. Hertz believes the new format will be more far-reaching. “The catalog in the past has brought us for the most part the same customers,” she says. “We had people come in who saw things in the catalog they liked, but by and large, those were our customers who were inclined to shop with us regardless of whether or not we had a catalog. I don’t know how many new eyeballs it reached. But Instagram is a good venue for us.” It’s possible they will also bundle the posts together at some point and make it a catalog. But if they do, that catalog will be digital. “Basically, it’s digital, digital, digital,” Hertz says. A year ago Max’s also launched an intense national digital branding and retargeting campaign. “My goal is to link people through those ads to those catalog stories,” Hertz says.

Customers Rock the Catalog


Every once in a while, a good idea stands the test of time.

Mike Miller of MJ Miller & Co. in Barrington, IL, has produced a holiday catalog for three decades that continues to be the best sales tool in his holiday marketing repertoire. The key to the project’s enduring success, he says, is the personalization that comes from enlisting customers as models; the models and their friends and families become instant brand ambassadors.

The 2019 catalog showcased 64 pages of jewelry worn by 24 of their customers. Each model is selected specifically to wear a featured piece of jewelry. “We look at the piece of jewelry and we think we know what will look best on a certain customer,” says Lynnette Solomon, special events coordinator. “We can envision a customer wearing it.”

They partner with a salon for hair and makeup, and the photo shoot is done at the store throughout June. Models, along with their friends and family, are invited to a champagne-fueled “Catalog Reveal Party” in September to view the finished product first.  “We are the talk of the town,” Solomon says. “Everybody wants to see who is in it and what they are wearing.”

MJ Miller enlists customers to model for a holiday catalog that’s mailed all over the world and celebrated with an invitation-only, catalog-reveal party.

If that hot commodity of a catalog is not in customers’ hands by mid-October, the phone will ring. “If it’s a day late, people want to know, `Where’s my catalog?’” Miller says.  And while the catalog has been online for years now, customers still prefer to hold this marketing marvel in their hands. So Miller keeps thousands on site and orders more from the printer as needed to meet requests that exceed the initial mailing of 150,000 copies. Most are mailed in the Chicago area, but the customer base encompasses all 50 states and 13 foreign countries, so this locally produced catalog has global reach.

“If they have an interest in it, we can overnight it to them,” Miller says.

“I make damn sure we never run out. We don’t have time for that!”

Unscripted Commercial Saves The Day

Barry’s Estate Jewelry

Barry Fixler of Barry’s Estate Jewelry in Bardonia, NY, would not call himself social-media savvy. His forte is TV commercials, in which he has invested significantly for years. So, when he decided to give away a $5,000 diamond engagement ring, he enlisted the help of a social-media guru. The first 150 couples to respond to the promotion by email would be entered in a chance to win the ring, but would be required to show up at the store for the drawing. By the day of the drawing, Fixler had set up a tent to accommodate 300 people with food, entertainment, heat, and a photo booth. Then he discovered that his guru had failed to follow up and invite the contestants to the event. “I expected 300 people and only 20 people showed up,” Fixler says.

Barry Fixler’s diamond-ring giveaway resulted in a spontaneous reaction that he was able to turn into a TV commercial with wide appeal.

But, turning to his tried-and-true marketing medium, he notified both his TV production company, (theTerry Snyder Co.) and a local TV station in an effort to salvage his marketing investment. That part turned out better than he could have anticipated. When a young couple won the ring, the groom-to-be knelt and proposed on the spot, and his bride-to-be said, “yes,” through her tears, all while the cameras rolled. Fixler was also able to use the unscripted, heartfelt moment in a memorable commercial. “That was a home run,” Fixler says. “It was a super, super hit. It brought more customers here. What I thought was a major bomb turned out to be a huge success.” 

Make Over My (Ugly) Ring!

Revolution Jewelry Works

Before and after photos of a ring that was redesigned for the Revolution Jewelry Works’ “Make Over My Ring” 2018 contest.

A few Novembers ago, Revolution Jewelry Works in Colorado Springs, CO, first partnered with a local TV station for a promotion called “Make Over My Ring.” Owner Jennifer Farnes had a good working relationship with the TV station, so much of the publicity was good will. “If you’re nice to salespeople, when opportunities come up, you can cross-promote,” she says. Contestants submitted photos of dubiously designed jewelry that they wanted to transform. TV viewers voted on the ugliest. The owner of the ring deemed the absolute ugliest would win a $1,500 makeover at Revolution Jewelry Works that included CAD design, casting and setting. That first year, voters chose a wedding ring with a missing center stone that was also afflicted with “monstrous channels” and an early ‘80s design. The winner used everything left in the ring to create a new cluster ring with a compressed halo. Social media followers as well as the TV audience loved it, and so the contest was repeated in 2017 and 2018, drawing steady attention to Revolution’s custom and makeover talents.

Geo-Fencing The Consumer

Seita Jewelers

Nicole Moret of Seita Jewelers of Tarentum, PA, has worked with Gemfind for the past year on digital marketing, and this will be the first holiday season they’ve used geo-fencing as a marketing tool.

Geo-fencing draws a virtual line around a perimeter and targets mobile-device users. “If a customer has walked into a location and their IP address is grabbed, then your ad is going to be served on any of 10,000 apps,” says Alex Fetanat, founder and CEO of GemFind. “The beauty of this is it’s a targeted marketing effort. You can geo-fence the location around a big box competitor or anywhere you think your potential customers will walk into. As they walk in and when they go home, your ads will appear on their apps for about 30 days. You can grow your brand awareness and it’s trackable.” 

Geo-fencing just makes sense, Moret says. “As a consumer, I’ve been geo-fenced myself. It gets the consumer what they’re looking for in a quicker and easier way. We target local businesses within 20 miles, some of the major areas, malls, country clubs, grocery stores and other jewelry stores to raise awareness that we’re here. We’ve had proven walk-ins from them and phone calls. Our general traffic from the website and online inquiries has increased.” The geo-fencing ads include a call to action — click to call, to get directions or to make an appointment. “We talk about selection. We do have a very large selection and we offer custom design. Engagement and wedding rings are always a top priority.”

Holiday Bling Box Has It All


Borsheims’ Holiday Bling Box 2019 is built around a coveted pair of diamond huggie earrings.

Since 2017, Borsheims in Omaha, NE, has offered variations on a theme of a gift collection that debuts in the holiday preview catalog. The 2019 Holiday Bling Box has a “chic-glam” theme and includes a Citizen rose-tone and white-ceramic Chandler watch, 14K gold huggie hoop earrings with a full carat of diamonds, a 14K white gold diamond line necklace and an Orrefors small Carat vase, all for $1,685. All items come packaged in a single box and wrapped in Borsheims signature silver with a burgundy bow.

Adrienne Fay, Borsheims vice president overseeing the customer-purchase journey, says the Bling Boxes were created as a response to research about what customers want. “Beyond saving customers time, they’re fun to give, fun to receive, and are a gift that will really be treasured,” Fay says. After experimenting with a variety of price points and options, they determined that focusing on only one option in the $1,000 to $1,600 range worked best. They choose one strong seller — such as the diamond hoops this year — and then add pieces to complement it. The other pieces represent the breadth of merchandise categories available in the store, such as giftware and watches. “People say they really like this one item, and all of these other gifts are a bonus,” says Fay. Sometimes the boxes are disassembled and given as gifts to more than one recipient.

Two Holidays At Once

Mucklow’s Fine Jewelry

At Mucklow’s Fine Jewelry in Peachtree City, GA, “Cover Two Holidays At Once” is designed to provide value for customer loyalty. The goal of the promotion is to extend the December holiday season into the Valentine’s Day season. During December, clients receive 10 percent of their purchase back in the form of a gift certificate that can be used from Jan. 9 to Feb. 28. During that period in 2019, the store had a 19 percent increase in the number of units sold, a 40 percent increase in average ticket price, and 56 percent increase in merchandise profit vs. the previous year.

“This promotion added significant value to the Mucklow’s shopping experience, strengthened our community relationships and increased bottom line sales in a traditionally slow quarter,” manager Rod Worley says.

Sleep In, Then Shop

Midwest JewelerS & Estate Buyers

At Midwest Jewelers & Estate Buyers in Zionsville, IN, no one’s in a rush on Black Friday. Doors open at noon sharp for the Sleep-In Sale. “Unless you have a $1 TV for sale, who wants to show up at midnight?” says Allyson Gutwein, store manager. To make it even more relaxed, employees wear pajamas to work and serve hot chocolate and biscotti to customers, who are invited to show up similarly attired. Customers who do wear pajamas are entered in a drawing to win discounts, the best of which is 50 percent off anything in the store. The staff got together and found zip-up onesies to wear in solidarity. “Last year I sold a very high-end ring while in pigtails and a reindeer onesie,” Gutwein says. “If you can sell a high-end ring wearing that, you can do it any other day.” Luckily, customers’ choice of pajamas have all been quite modest, and generally climate-appropriate flannel. “You do wonder if you try something out-of-the-box that someone’s going to take it too far, but there’s been nothing salacious,” Gutwein says.

Staffers wear pajamas to work for the Sleep-In Sale at Midwest Jewelers & Estate Buyers. From left, Allyson Gutwein, Emilie Ritchie and Alley Pontius.

Most important, Midwest Jewelers & Estate Buyers has a reputation for having fun.

Owner Brian McCall jokes that he hasn’t been invited to the event, possibly because no one wants to see him in pajamas, but Gutwein disputes that claim. “Everyone is invited,” she says.

Keep ‘Em Guessing

Toner Jewelers

Toner Jewelers promoted its “Guess the Weight of the Gemstones” contest on the front cover of a holiday catalog.

Last year, Alisha Moore and the Toner Jewelers team in Overland Park, KS, filled a wine glass full of random gemstones and displayed it in one of their cases. Then they mailed out thousands of catalogs. The front cover of the catalog promoted the “Guess the Weight of the Gemstones” contest. Customers could enter the contest once a day while in the store, but they were required to share their contact information. First prize was a $5,000 store gift card. “There was excitement about it when regulars would come in,” Moore says. “You couldn’t touch it or handle it, but people would stand there and do calculations. Other people in the store were asking what they were doing and would join them. The first place winner was a good client of ours, and yes, she made guesses every day. It was a good, no-pressure way for us to capture information.”

Big-Ticket Items – No Waiting!

Bernie Robbins Jewelers

If you don’t have it, they can’t buy it. A Bernie Robbins Jewelers customer recently spotted a 7-carat diamond ring in a case, loved it and bought it on the spot, which made owner Harvey Rovinsky ponder the vast potential of focusing on his luxury clientele. “We’ve identified a significant number of clients who have the ability to spend six-figures-plus, and we wanted to reach out to them,” says Rovinsky, who owns five stores in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Bernie Robbins’ luxe catalog introduces a high-end diamond collection pre-holiday
in an effort to romance luxury shoppers.

So the team at Bernie Robbins is launching a Luxury Diamonds line this holiday season, which Rovinsky believes to be the largest collection of 3-plus carat diamonds in their market. They’re also building areas in their stores to house fancy, GIA-certified diamonds in green, pink, blue and orange. Some will be ready to go: “We thought if we mount them and talk about them, we are selling rings and other jewelry, which is way different than selling a diamond in a paper,” Rovinsky says. They’re also producing a high-end catalog to accompany the Luxury Diamond collection. Each book costs $25 to produce. “Everything is funneling toward the holiday,” Rovinsky says, “but we expect this initiative to be a year-round thing.”

When Life Gives You Orange Barrels

Harris Jewelers

A promotion involving the color orange saved Harris Jewelers from an anticipated road-construction slowdown for the 2018 holiday season and beyond.

When a major construction project claimed the street in front of Harris Jewelers in Rio Rancho, NM, in fall 2018, Karen Fitzpatrick expected a 40 percent drop in holiday business. But instead, due to a fun promotion combined with an aggressive radio and Facebook ad campaign, she’s met her goal every month since then, even as the construction project dragged on for a year. 

Here’s the promotion she credits with her success: For every $10 spent in the store, including on watch batteries, guests receive an orange ticket (a shout-out to the orange construction barrels). Every Monday, Fitzpatrick and team draw 10 tickets, which are then posted on a wall in the store. So shoppers must return to the store by Saturday to see if they won. She clears out old inventory with the promotion, too, since winners choose from a showcase of wrapped jewelry gifts from the half-off case. “We have customers addicted to this,” Fitzpatrick says. Winners’ pictures are posted on social media. “I cannot tell you what a success this has been,” she says. “We even have an orange barrel, named George, with a tumbleweed head in our vestibule that we decorate for the holidays.”

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