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Ready for some different approaches to selling jewelry? Look no further …

[dropcap cap=I]f you’re happy with your store and your business, then do not read this article. That’s right — put this magazine down right now and go back to selling. Still here? Okay-y … but don’t say we didn’t warn you. This month, Instore is here to provide you with a simple message: It doesn’t have to be this way.[/dropcap]

There are many options for jewelry retailers who want a change from their current business models … and, let’s just say it, their current lives. Bored to tears with selling the same old bread-and-butter jewelry, year after year after year? Then be like Llyn Strong and find a bunch of artists whose work really excites you, and sell it in your own combination jewelry store-art gallery. Buckling under the burden of carrying expensive inventory? Then don’t carry any — and, like Greg Stopke, do all your work in high-end CAD-CAM programs that can generate photo-realistic renderings of any jewelry you can dream up. Weary of the day-in, day-out grind of running your own store? Then ditch it all and become a private jeweler like Kenneth Gordon, flying around the country and selling high-end jewelry to wealthy clients. Exhausted by the process of selling single items to whatever customers trickle through your door? Then aim your sights higher, like Sonny and Bridgette Belew, and try to sell thousands at one time by developing big corporate accounts.

No, these alternative approaches are not for everybody. All required a great idea, lots of hard work, and a burning passion for their chosen path. But if you have these things, and you don’t like where you’re at, anything is possible. Read on, and see exactly what some “Alternative Stores” are doing: 

[componentheading]ALTERNATIVE 1: JEWELSMITH[/componentheading]

[contentheading]No inventory? No problem, says Californai-base CAD-CAM designer.[/contentheading]

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It was 10 years ago that Greg Stopko was introduced to CAD-CAM computer design. It was a career-changing moment — and one that formed the core of his current business, a thriving jewelry store in Tracey, CA that runs literally without inventory. Says Stopko: “I like to say that I am basically selling thin air! The process has me hooked, it is so exciting.”

Stopko had been in the business since he was eight, when “I earned my spurs helping my dad, who managed a Crescent Jewelers.”

He studied business at college with every intention of getting into another business. When his dad contracted terminal lung cancer in the late 1970s, all of that changed. Stopko joined his brother and mother, running the family jewelry store — with his brother, Dean, on the bench and Stopko acting as the manager.

New ideas fuel Stopko’s imagination and, at first, he re-organized the family business into a repair shop. All too soon, the business became so competitive that profits were marginal and Greg got restless.

He first saw GemVision, a CAD-CAM jewelry design program, at the Los Angeles Jewelry Show. He was immediately awed, and had to have it. With a digital camera attached to the computer, which photographed the customers’ work, the program could then illustrate, better than any other pencil and paper could, how a piece could be altered with the addition of a different stone, another band or any other design element.

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JewelSmith is still advertised primarily as a repair shop. With an average repair price of $150, the combined take from both stores is $1.2 million. Stopko says one of the biggest benefits of CAD-CAM design is that there is no price competition, as you aren’t selling anything tangible until the process is complete.

The brothers now run GemVision digital Goldsmith 4, a three-dimensional CADCAM program. The computers and the drop-off repair department are at the front of each store. “When people first come in, they see graphics right away that show what we do — repair, replace, or restyle pieces.”

Staff is trained in Stopko’s six-point upselling system. As each piece is photographed digitally, the piece is examined in three-dimensional detail. Are the stones chipped or loose? Is the shank cracked or too thin? It’s a check-off system that finally asks — is there an opportunity here for Stopko, his brother, or another trained technician to show the customer how their piece could be altered? “The success of the business is based on establishing a dialogue about jewelry,” says Stopko.

“The dialogue enables us to incorporate customers’ ideas and questions — ‘Can I redo this? Or add this?’ for instance. The dialogue is important because it gets the customer totally involved and that’s where the magic happens.”

Large overhead television screens are connected to the computers, and give customers inside the store the chance to see the design process unfold. When the computers are not being used to work on new designs, JewelSmith runs a Power Point program which shows before-and-after images of all the models they have created, as well as the actual jewelry that resulted.

As Stopko and his team have become more experienced with GemVision, they continuously refine their operation. Their two stores — one 650 square-feet, the other 700 square-feet — are so clean that you could eat off the floors. Inside the stores, every detail, including scent and sound are considered.

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As Stopko describes it, “the computers at the front of the store are my drawing pad. We’re a dog-and-pony show with computer and it has added that wow factor to the work.”

Technology is not the whole story, however, no matter what Stopko initially professes. “I’m passionate about selling. Everything in the world involves selling an intangible. I’m inspired. I never run out of ideas and energy. Creative selling like this fires me up with enthusiasm.”

Creative selling is an emotional experience, the way Stopko explains it. “If you can connect using emotional colorful words, you can tap into a woman’s purchasing side because her emotional level actually gets caught up in the piece, not the price. When you are involving the customer in the creative process itself,” he says, and pauses. “Well, you can’t put a price tag on that.”

JewelSmith holds no sales, and no promotional events. As a matter of principle, they keep everything simple. The emphasis is always kept on the process of creation, not the technology, no matter how advanced it is. “We work on a price book based on David Geller’s Blue Book to Jewelry Repair, creating the environment that romanticizes the repair. Ninety-four percent of my customers are women and I get that emotional response from them.”

Concludes Stopko, “All you need is a passion.” That he’s definitely got. As well as a little technological edge. — SARAH YATES

[componentheading]ALTERNATIVE 2: LLYN STRONG FINE JEWELRY[/componentheading]

[contentheading]Impresario’s Winning Strategy is Artists, Artists Everywhere[/contentheading]

Llyn Strong’s jewelry store is a distinctive presence on Main Street in Greenville, SC. It occupies the main floor of a century-old building, and looks like a cool little art gallery. But it’s only when you get inside the store that you see what’s really special about it: it’s filled not just with art, but with jewelry, and some items that occupy the ground halfway between.

Strong began on her path to jewelry /art impresario when she studied goldsmithing. Then, 14 years ago, she opened Llyn Strong Fine Jewelry to feature her own work and the work of other contemporary jewelry designers, from across the US and around the world. “We sell only art glass and designer jewelry because they show together well and it’s what I know and love best,” she explains.

Strong herself chooses all of the artists. Some of them she knows from her work in the field as a craftsperson. She also attends all Wendy Rosen Craft Shows, the American Crafts Council show and the designers section of the JCK Global Design Show, from where she finds her European artists. Strong’s emphasis is not on the name of the craftsperson but on the work.

“There are no rules about how I choose the work but it tends to be contemporarily conservative or conservatively contemporary work. When work is too avante garde, it’s too hard to sell.

“The work utilizes a variety of materials, everything from braided horsehair with sterling, to white gold and platinum. We feature Germans like Michael Zobel, who is basically a painter in metal and George Sawyer who does mokumé gane, a Japanese metal technique, like the fusion of domestic steel, with precious metals of different colors fused together. It’s a very labor-intensive process. We no longer handle titanium pieces because they are simply too hard to repair.

“We pride ourselves on offering merchandise not available anywhere else. Anyone who comes to town looking for something unusual, comes to us first.”

Work is priced between $50 and $2,500, with the average sale between $800 to $1,000. (December sales have a higher average sale of about $1,500).

Strong’s 30- by 60-foot store looks like an art showroom — with its high ceilings and custom-built showcases of pale grey laminate trimmed with blond wood. It has plenty of white space between individual pieces, allowing each piece to be individually viewed and considered. “They are all displayed on artfully sandblasted glass brick, putting the focus on the jewelry and the glass not what it is sitting on,” Strong explains.

Customer education is a strong part of Strong’s selling philosophy. Each showcase features a single artist — with a postcard inside the case which profiles them.
“When jewelry is sold and packaged, we pop a miniature profile card inside about the artist,” she explains. “I’ve chosen [to highlight the] personal information, not the technical. This is the information that helps our customers see the artists as people with passions. It is up to our salespeople to inform customers about the technical aspects of any piece.”

Llyn Strong Fine Jewelry handles between 65 and 70 artists at any given time and every year Strong chooses up to 13 and 14 new artists. “I am always looking for new artists to show,” she says.

After artists have shown in her shop for a year, Strong assesses who sells and who doesn’t. The constant influx of new artists helps bring customers in again and again.With her town’s strong push recently to increase tourism, Llyn Strong Fine Jewelry is also beginning to attract more customers from around the region.

The store hosts a couple of trunk shows yearly — featuring either a high-profile solo artist or a small group of artists — for which they do regular mailings. Occasion-ally they get involved in promotions with other cultural groups. Otherwise, they do a limited amount of broadcast advertising on local television and some in regional magazines.

Coming to her business as an experienced jewelry designer, Strong had to learn the business part of the operations the hard way — on the floor, making mistakes.When experience taught her that handling people was not her forté, Strong hired a manager. She now has four full-time sales personnel, including the manager, as well as four part-time staff. Strong hires only Fine Arts graduates for sales — and, in addition, provides an extensive training process for all personnel, which includes information about various jewelry-making techniques and stones, both precious and semi-precious. Most of them, including the manager with whom she has worked for the past two years, have prior sales experience.

“Whenever we get new work in, we make sure everyone is up to speed on details of the work and how they were created, including the techniques involved. It’s part of the responsibility of each sales person to keep up. We subscribe to most important craft and jewelry magazines like American Style and the Lapidary Journal to help them keep up with new trends.”

Customers seem to enjoy seeing artists at work on the premises and Llyn Strong herself is frequently on the bench. She also has another jeweler on staff who makes some of the custom designs.

Born in Charleston and growing up in Greenville, a city she describes as “increasingly cosmopolitan”, Strong says “I am finally in the right place at the right time.” — SARAH YATES

[componentheading]ALTERNATIVE 3: KENNETH GORDON[/componentheading]

[contentheading]Private Jeweler Built Business Serving Wealthy Customers[/contentheading]

At the time, he didn’t know of anyone else who was doing what he was doing — serving as a private jeweler to individual clients. “But now that I’ve been in it for years I know others out there who are doing the same thing,” Gordon says.

Gordon says the opportunity for private jewelers has opened — and is getting larger — due to the large turnover in the jewelry retail industry. “It’s frustrating for people when they have to deal with different salespeople every time they enter a jewelry store. Finding a good jeweler who you trust and feel comfortable doing business with isn’t much different from working with a good accountant, lawyer or family doctor.”

While Gordon’s main target is wealthy clients ranging in age from 35 to 55, he never turns away clients, especially if they’re a referral. Typically his clients are extremely busy professionals, jet-setters and socialites who want quality jewelry and personalized service, and are willing to pay for it. On average, Gordon’s customers purchase $4,600 per visit — with some customers spending $100,000 to $200,000 a year. He won’t give specifics, but Gordon says, “I make a good margin on each sale.”

Dealing with such high-end clients does require some serious spending on Gordon’s part. To help his networking efforts, the jeweler belongs to exclusive sports and social clubs that are known to throw black-tie events, “where people wear their best jewelry, which is always a talking point for me,” Gordon says.

To keep his client base growing requires dedicated relationship-building on Gordon’s part. Good clients usually have family members and friends who turn into additional clients. And Gordon isn’t shy about asking for referrals. “I always ask for referrals,” he says. “It’s probably the one thing I’m very aggressive about, that and calling new clients.” When a referral pans out Gordon will forward a gift along — e.g. a fine table clock or a gift certificate to an upscale restaurant.

For a private jeweler, knowing the likes, dislikes, important dates, and habits of your clients is critical. Gordon learns everything he can about his clients, and writes down everything he learns. He has detailed files on every client and is diligent about follow-ups. “The key to this business is knowing important dates such as birthdays and anniversaries,” Gordon says. “Timing is everything.”
Gordon recalls a recent pleasure trip in Cincinnati where casual praise of a woman’s jewelry turned into a discussion. Instantly, a new customer was born — as well as a potentially lucrative new client-cluster. “When people talk with me about jewelry, they can tell I’ve been in the business a long time and know what I’m talking about,” Gordon says. “This woman from Cincinnati will most likely recommend me based on my good service and soon I’ll have another group of clients there. That’s how I build my business.”

Communications are important as well. The jeweler sends out periodic brochures every year, and his clients receive an annual letter before Thanksgiving Day summarizing the year’s events. Small, thoughtful touches are also part of Gordon’s charm — with handwritten letters sent during overseas buying trips or his ability to find “just the right gift” for “just the right client”. (He sometimes even buys jewelry on spec for his clients — “they trust my judgement”.) To attract new clients, Gordon advertises in upper-end lifestyle and fashion reads such as Town & Country and In Style.

As Gordon is based in Atlanta, most of his clients are from the Southeast. But he does have substantial numbers of customers in other regions. Whenever he travels, he tries to group as many client visits as possible into the trip. He characterizes his yearly business travel as “moderate to busy.”

Gordon’s inventory is high-end, consisting of 18k gold and platinum jewelry in primarily classic styles from name designers like Kurt Wayne, Gumuchian Fils, Simon G, Kirk Kara, Kwiat and Old World Chain.

Although pleased with his freedom, and his current business, Gordon hasn’t reached his ultimate goal yet. When he started as a private jeweler he dreamed of having an average sale of $1,000 — now, he’s done that and much more. His new dream target? “To have a select group of clients that spend $10,000 on the average,” Gordon says. “Fewer clients who spend more means less time working. That’s where I’d like to be in the foreseeable future.” — PAUL HOLEWA

[componentheading]ALTERNATIVE 4: SIGNATURE JEWELERS[/componentheading]

[contentheading]Corporate Jewelry Accounts Add Fuel to Company’s Rapid Growth[/contentheading]

If good business is where you find it, then jewelers Sonny and Bridgette Belew of Signature Jewelers made a significant discovery at Cracker Barrel. No, it wasn’t the chef’s surprise or the lunch-times salad bar. Instead, the couple has been filling up with corporate jewelry work ordered by the restaurant chain’s headquarters.

Lebanon, Tennessee isn’t much different from any other city throughout the country — with local businesses and municipalities of all sizes, full of potential customers and worthwhile corporate accounts. Getting Cracker Barrel’s business was an arduous and sometimes frustrating three-year battle for the Belews, but the couple learned that corporate accounts are easier to secure than most jewelers might think — whether it is a local business, or even the local police force.

The couple’s start in corporate accounts began with a small request from a local small business owner to put his company’s logo on a piece of jewelry to be given to an employee. Throughout the early 1990s, similar work that trickled in was outsourced at a time when the couple began developing their wholesale jewelry repair business — as well as doing custom jewelry production of their Sphere Rings, which have an interchangeable gemstone feature. Eventually these combined successes justified a significant move.

In 1996, the Belews moved from a mom-and-pop-sized shop to a super-store across the street. It was a simple move in terms of distance, but a complex one in matters of expanding the couple’s business plan to position themselves as full-service jewelers outfitted with the latest CAD/CAM jewelry making technology. By the late 1990s, the couple’s corporate accounts began to grow in tandem with their wholesale jeweler repair accounts and custom jewelry work. Today Signature Jewelers boasts of over 40 corporate accounts and hundreds of wholesale jewelry repair contracts, which collectively makes up 15 percent of their business.

Cracker Barrel, which would become Signature Jewelers’ top corporate account, was first contacted through the company’s headquarters, based in Lebanon. “The company has 350,000 employees, 5,000 of which work at the company’s headquarters,” says Sonny. “Lapel pins are worn every day by management-level people on up to their top level executives. Given job turnovers, position changes and retirements, this translates into a business of producing 15,000 to 20,000 new lapel pins a year.”

It took years of negotiating, but the Belews finally got the chance to prove their ability to Cracker Barrel with a modestly-sized order of bronze lapel pins. Satisfied with the initial run, the company returned with an order of 10,000 lapel pins.

In the six years the Belews have been working with Cracker Barrel, the couple have manufactured an array of gifts for the company — ranging from plaques and awards to engraving high-end name-brand watches and the occasional custom jewelry order. Although satisfied that their persistence has paid off, there is still bigger game to hunt: Signature has yet to secure the lucrative Christmas-gift portion of the restaurant chain’s business.

But just give them time. “Cracker Barrel is a very traditional company, and like all traditional companies they have a seasonal gift giveaway program,” says Sonny. “Not all companies think of jewelry as an employee gift. Give an employee a country ham and it’s gone when they eat it. But give them a piece of jewelry and it can last a lifetime. We’re currently working on some [jewelry gift giveaway] ideas with them.”

Another lucrative corporate account for Signature is with the town’s local police department. Again, what is now a booming business for Signature Jewelers began with a simple, single request from a policeman to create a gold charm version of his badge.

Of course a store’s main spokespeople is its staff. But employees must have the presence of mind to engage customers in the store or on the street to help foster these lucrative programs. “A jeweler has to have a good team to sell this [corporate jewelry],” says Bridgette. “And we’re fortunate to have such a team with four jewelers and an incredible sales staff.” — PAUL HOLEWA

[span class=note]This story is from the February 2004 edition of INSTORE[/span]

 

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America's Coolest Stores

Portland, OR, Couple Fine-Tunes the No-Pressure Engagement Ring Sale

Website and window displays create perfect curb appeal.

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Malka Diamonds & Jewelry, Portland, OR

OWNERS: David and Ronnie Malka; URL: malkadiamonds.com ; FOUNDED: 2010; ARCHITECT AND DESIGN: One Hundred Agency and Bedford Brown Store; EMPLOYEES: 3 ; AREA: 1,000 square feet total; 700 square foot showroom; TOP BRANDS: Custom, vintage, Point No Point Studios, Vatche, Jolie Design; ONLINE PRESENCE: 1,645 Instagram followers, 957 Facebook followers, 4.9 Stars with 62 Google reviews; RENOVATED: 2018; BUILDOUT COST: $75,000; SHOWCASES:KDM


Ronnie and David Malka

VINTAGE RINGS DISPLAYED in authentic, retro jewelry boxes share space with newly minted engagement rings in the front window of Malka Diamonds & Jewelry, a boutique shop in the historic Hamilton building in the heart of downtown Portland.

Passersby enchanted by that tempting array are welcomed inside by owners David and Ronnie Malka, who offer guests a warm greeting and refreshments from the coffee shop across the hall.

Adding to the relaxed environment, they rarely ask for the prospective customer’s information right away. “Our customer is our friend. Just like you don’t ask someone you just met for all of their information, you really should try to take the same approach with your customers,” David says.

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Once guests have a chance to settle in and look around, graduate gemologist David loves to share what he knows by comparing loose diamonds at his desk. What makes the Malka experience distinctive is that David includes tricks of the trade in his consumer education, such as explaining what kind of diamonds people in the jewelry business might select for themselves.

“A lot of people who are thinking about buying diamonds online have done some research, and I like to educate them on the stuff you can see in a diamond that you should pay for,” David says. “The stuff you can’t see, why pay for it? Common sense goes a long way when you’re spending thousands of dollars. Great, if you want to buy a VVS stone, we have it, but most of the people who see the difference, or don’t see the difference, between D and F color are making a much more informed purchase, and they feel good about it.”

Large windows allow passersby to glimpse a mix of vintage and new rings on display while flooding the space with natural light.

They’re also adept at explaining the difference between the diamonds and their paperwork. “The cert says XYZ, but if you lined it up with five others, you might see why that stone was priced so low in its bracket,” Ronnie says.

They think it’s just fine if their customers walk out without buying anything on their first or second visit — even if they’re headed to the competition.

“We keep it really simple in here,” says Ronnie. “A lot of the guys who come in are buying something they don’t know anything about. We don’t bombard them with phone calls or emails; we just offer education. They continue to explore and research, and most of those people we see back here.”

The Malkas are taking the long view. “We want to be like their grandparents’ jewelers with a state-of-the-art shop so we can create things that are going to last,” Ronnie says. “Like the 1920s-era jewelers you trusted but still current and evolving with time.” Although engagement and wedding rings dominate their business now, with as much as 85 percent of sales, they believe that as their original customers continue to mature, they’ll eventually diversify into jewelry for other occasions.

By the time the customer does make a purchase or put a deposit down on a custom ring, David and Ronnie have developed a relationship with them. They give their customers a Malka hat, pin or T-shirt. They also give them a pamphlet detailing the history of their three-generation tradition of diamond dealers, and paperwork that includes an appraisal. There’s no paperwork involved with the guarantee; that is automatic for the life of the ring.

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As for that history, David’s father, Yossi Malka, who still has an office across the street from his son’s store, began his career as an apprentice under his great uncle in Israel, studied diamond cutting and later became a wholesale dealer in Portland.

David studied at the GIA, earned a graduate gemologist degree, and worked in a retail store for several years. David also ran his own jewelry appraisal lab, Independent Gemological Services, for the trade and private clients. “That’s a tough gig to be looking through the scope all day,” he says. “I was getting a little bit bored.”

Still, everyone thought he was crazy, he says, when he decided to open his own store. “It was the recession. It was a tough time.” Three major Portland jewelry stores had closed. “I figured if we took this plunge and we could stay afloat for two years, we should be able to weather anything,” he says. They’d been considering a variety of different names for the business when a friend offered this advice: “When you put your name on the door, you’re putting your name behind the business.”

Perfect. They had a name.

Ronnie Malka collects retro jewelry boxes to display vintage engagement rings.

They leased a prime 1,000-square-foot spot within a vacant 10,000 square-foot space. It was bare bones, with not much beyond walls and floors.

“Welcome to the world of retail,” David says he remembered thinking. Traffic was thin at first, and David continued to operate the appraisal lab, taking it month by month. Although changing shopping habits of American consumers had seemed to be a bad omen, it turned out that Portland shoppers who did spend money on jewelry wanted to make sure they were investing in local, independent businesses. Within a couple of years, they’d won Oregon Bride Magazine’s “Best Rings of 2012” award.

In 2013 Malka became the official fine jewelers of the University of Oregon and their shop got very busy. Ronnie left her teaching job to join Malka full time after it became clear David needed help with marketing and events.

In 2018, they expanded the shop and fine-tuned their interior design, adding metallic cork wallpaper, a custom woven rug, a gathering area with a modern, round table and gray leather chairs, and custom-built display cases. The counter now boasts a marble top and black paint. Other additions include a gold light fixture and a trio of geometric mirrors. The look is upscale without feeling stuffy. The decor is also a personal reflection of what makes David and Ronnie comfortable, complete with a prominently displayed black and white wedding photo of the couple.

“Ninety-nine percent of the time, you meet a Malka,” Ronnie says. “We want them to know us as we want to know them.”

VIDEO: MALKA STORE TOUR

VIDEO: MALKA “ABOUT US”

VIDEO: MALKA CUSTOM DIAMONDS


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Five Cool Things About Malka Diamonds & Jewelry

1. Salt-and-pepper diamonds. A year ago, Malka started showcasing the work of a Seattle designer, Point No Point Studios, which has a strong Instagram presence and specializes in salt-and-pepper diamond rings. “We knew that going out-of-the-box and trying something new would potentially bring new traffic,” says Ronnie, who gets several inquiries about them every week. David, as the son of a diamond dealer, admits he was reluctant at first to move in that direction. “My dad says, ‘How much is that per carat?!’ Ten years ago, it would have been used for drill bits, but now there’s an actual marketplace for it. I don’t think it’s a fad, either,” David says.

2. Collaborative environment. “We all know the projects, what’s going on, and what’s coming up,” Ronnie says. “It doesn’t feel compartmentalized.” That approach also creates opportunity for growth. Chloe, who works in the showroom, says Malka has the friendliest atmosphere of anywhere she has worked, as well as enormous growth potential and pride in values. “It gives me satisfaction learning-wise and experience-wise, knowing what the jewelers have to do to have a certain outcome for whatever kind of piece we’re making,” she says.

3. Custom connection. A 2018 expansion made room for two full-time master jewelers and more equipment in the shop. “We wanted everything done under our roof,” David says, from design to manufacture. Sometimes they are simply consultants: “An architect is doing his own CAD design for us to look at and make sure it’s going to translate into a ring and not a building,” Ronnie says.

4. Website curb appeal. Ronnie considers Malka’s digital presence, including its website, to be online curb appeal. “People want to engage online first,” Ronnie says. “Maybe 10 or 15 years ago, your website was a placeholder for your contact info, but now it tells your story.” People know what to expect.

5. Digital marketing ROI. Digital marketing has for the most part replaced traditional radio and TV, because as Ronnie says, “Our customer is online and if they’re seriously looking for a ring, they are seriously looking — not seeing it on TV. Many jewelers will say this is a waste of time, but in the last six months when our followers have doubled, we have noticed customers referring to an image they saw on Instagram or Facebook. It is a real relief to see the return on investment on the time spent taking photos and creating tag lines.” Even shop dog Toby has his own Instagram handle!

JUDGES’ COMMENTS
  • Julie Ettinger: This store is a real gem! I love the shop-local feel and that it can all be done in house. I also appreciate the mix of vintage and new.
  • Julie Gotz: I love that the owners are so invested in the customer and their life cycle. Many stores are too focused on the sale and not enough on the relationship. It is great to hear that a store is using social media in such a successful way.
  • Joel Hassler: I like the approach to gathering customer information. Building a relationship is more important than data-mining.
  • Barbara Ross-Innamorati: : The store interior is exquisite and feels upscale but also warm and inviting. The website is quite informative and I love their blog, “Stories,” as it features a lot of interesting topics with gorgeous photography.
  • Hedda Schupak: I like the laser focus on diamond rings, and I love the impressive depth of selection they have, especially nontraditional styles. The store itself is very hip and welcoming. Their online presence is very strong; they’re using all social media quite well.
  • Eric Zimmerman: Malka Diamonds has done a wonderful job of creating a modern elegant boutique while still highlighting the building’s historic features. Their store’s design tells a story that complements the products they showcase: modern and antique.
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Best of The Best

This Retailer Combined Diamonds with Donuts for a Sweet Event

Social media played a big role in drawing 50 new customers.

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DIAMONDS AND DONUTS are each desirable in their own right, but put them together and the combination proves irresistible. At least it did in April for customers of Bernie Robbins Jewelers, whose purchases hit seven figures in four locations over two days.

Owner Harvey Rovinsky said he had noticed “donut roll” events in other types of retail-store promotions and thought donuts would be a great draw to add to the Bernie Robbins promotional repertoire, which has included a Yoga Fest, a Chic at the Shore series of summer events and trunk shows, a student design contest and a high-profile Super Bowl ticket giveaway, along with a recent emphasis on social media, digital advertising and geo-fencing.

“We always want to do something that is different, unique, that people will talk about,” Rovinsky says. “In my mind, donuts go with everything, and they certainly go with diamonds. Because of what the marketing team put together, there was a story to tell besides this jewelry store and their diamonds. It was a way to make a jewelry store visit more fun.”

As it happens, the shape of donuts is even suggestive of a ring.

Integral to promoting the event was a “donut wall” for customer selfies, created entirely by the staff, who invited customers to decorate the donuts with bridal toppers.

Says Peter Salerno, digital-marketing manager: “The idea came in the form of having a part of the store that is more photogenic, something new and fun. Our sales staff used their own Instagram accounts to reach out to customers, and we also advertised on traditional digital platforms. It was a cool space, a departure from a typical jewelry store. It had interaction and on-site activation.”

Customers were invited to decorate donuts with bridal-themed toppers, adding to the in-store experience, during Bernie Robbins’ Diamonds and Donuts event.

The store also borrowed wedding gowns for display that the staff accessorized with diamond jewelry.

“We had champagne, flowers, and it smelled like a bakery,” says Cristin Cipa, director of marketing.

The sales event represented true value for customers, who shopped at up to 50 percent off for mountings, engagement rings and wedding bands, and saved up to 40 percent on a large selection of GIA-graded loose diamonds. Instant credit and interest-free financing added to the appeal of instant gratification.

While salespeople set up appointments in advance to ensure their best clients would visit, the promotion also lured 50 new customers over two days.

“We had cooperation from all of our staff — marketing, selling, support staff,” Rovinsky says. “We checked all of the boxes when it came to marketing and we did an enormous amount of clienteling. Sightholders sent us hundreds of thousands of dollars in diamonds for two days at great prices. It was a win-win-win — a win for our clients, for our salespeople and for Bernie Robbins.” The entire staff was given a bonus as a result.

As for timing, April is diamond month, Rovinsky says. “Is it a popular time for engagements? Who knows? But we made it into one.”

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America's Coolest Stores

America’s Coolest Stores 2019 – Winners Revealed!

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Check out America’s Coolest Jewelry Stores of 2019!

Congratulations to the winners of the 18th annual America’s Coolest Stores Contest! In the following pages — and in the months ahead — discover why these stores earned the stamp of approval from our judges. As in past years, we divided the entries into two categories — Big Cool (six or more full-time employees) and Small Cool (five or fewer). We asked two six-member teams of judges to evaluate stores based on their back story, interior, exterior, marketing, online presence and what we here at INSTORE believe is the most important intangible: individuality.

Our six America’s Coolest and additional 10 Cool Stores — each of which will be featured in INSTORE issues through June 2019 — represent creative approaches to doing business as well as aesthetically pleasing retail environments. Each of the six winning stores also offers an omni-channel shopping experience, with merchandise available for purchase online.

If you haven’t taken the time to enter yet, why not give it a shot in January 2020? Retailers have told us that the entry process alone can be inspiring and motivating because it requires them to assess all aspects of their businesses. And if you entered and weren’t chosen this time, fine-tune your entry and try again. That’s proven to be a winning strategy.

Check out America’s Coolest
Jewelry Stores of 2019!

Congratulations to the winners of the 18th annual America’s Coolest Stores Contest! In the following pages — and in the months ahead — discover why these stores earned the stamp of approval from our judges. As in past years, we divided the entries into two categories — Big Cool (six or more full-time employees) and Small Cool (five or fewer). We asked two six-member teams of judges to evaluate stores based on their back story, interior, exterior, marketing, online presence and what we here at INSTORE believe is the most important intangible: individuality.

Our six America’s Coolest and additional 10 Cool Stores — each of which will be featured in INSTORE issues through June 2019 — represent creative approaches to doing business as well as aesthetically pleasing retail environments. Each of the six winning stores also offers an omni-channel shopping experience, with merchandise available for purchase online.

If you haven’t taken the time to enter yet, why not give it a shot in January 2020? Retailers have told us that the entry process alone can be inspiring and motivating because it requires them to assess all aspects of their businesses. And if you entered and weren’t chosen this time, fine-tune your entry and try again. That’s proven to be a winning strategy.

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