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America's Coolest Stores

America’s Coolest Stores 2012: Big Cool 2 Two by London

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Typically, when young customers — 20s to mid-30s — walk into TWO By London, it somehow feels familiar, even if it’s the first time they’ve set foot in the Long Island jewelry store. Owners Scott and Jessica Udell aren’t surprised by this. In fact that’s exactly the kind of customer reaction the couple had expected from Generation Y, the age group the new store is focused on. “We built a visionary jewelry concept store, primarily focused on bridal — the two in our store’s name refers to two people in love — with a large selection of rings and wedding jewelry not especially out of reach for first-timers. We concentrated on things that would appeal to that demographic in many ways — elements and attitudes we knew they’d feel comfortable with and encourage them to be relaxed, despite purchasing something that might seem serious, confusing and overwhelming. We wanted it to have a young vibe, not only in how it was designed but also with lots of interactive education and hands-on technology,” Scott explains.

“For that generation, which Jessica and I are a part of, developing a unique approach to selling diamonds and bridal was the key. We concentrated on do-it-yourself technology, products they could touch and not feel intimidated by, and communications they’re accustomed to, that teaches them things beyond the four Cs. All of this was important as was enabling them to do everything at their own pace and not feel pressured.”

Before proceeding with their plan, however, the couple conducted focus-group research that confirmed what they’d been discussing for some time: The new store needed to be a place for customers to: “Engage. Enlighten. Envision. Create.” — those four words now appear on their website home page as well as in all ads and marketing materials.

The store, which opened in the chi-chi Americana Manhasset mall in November 2011, has sleek, contemporary décor young people can relate to, and is furnished with technology and communications that speak to the millennial market. In addition to the high-tech toys — flat screen TVs, touchscreen computers and DIY design programs, there’s an array of low-tech, but, again, engaging, in-store experiences. Fist-sized crystals, for example, are scattered throughout the store, enabling brides and grooms to easily see the signature faceting of a dozen or so different diamond cuts before they view a stone under a microscope. “It makes it all less mysterious,” Scott emphasizes.

The store’s open ring displays are another example of TWO’s well-thought-out touchable teaching tools. Customers can linger as long as they want trying on prototypes without having to ask sales associates to take the real rings in or out of a showcase. “When they’re ready for our help and advice, we’re here,” Scott says. “When we opened the store, we started an ad campaign, which we still run, built around the words ‘when you’re ready, we’re here.’ We have years of experience and expertise.”

Yes, while TWO is new, its jewelry roots run deep. Scott is the son of Candy and Mark Udell, owners of London Jewelers, the high-profile Long Island chain of luxury jewelers, a family business founded by Scott’s great grandfather in New York in 1926. TWO, in fact, is adjacent to London Jewelers’ Manhasset shop, which was INSTORE’s America’s Coolest Stores winner in the Big Cool division in 2009. Scott, now a member of the fourth generation of Udell jewelry retailers, says, “I grew up in the stores, so I always knew I’d be in the business. But once Jessica decided to join me, we started discussing this idea of selling diamonds and engagement and wedding rings in a non-traditional jewelry store environment.”

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ENGAGE, ENGAGE, ENGAGE

Tom Pulk, director for Callison LLC, New York, NY, talks of the initial meetings his firm had with Scott and Jessica to discuss the interior concept. “After our team met with them, we started to ‘see’ the store space we’d design almost like a museum, where the customer would come in and begin to discover things,” Pulk says. “The point is, everything is inviting. When we were designing TWO, we focused on words like alive, fun, cool, young at heart, and engaging.”

Callison coordinated with architect Peter Marino, who designed TWO’s storefront — the firm has constructed all of the retail facades for the Manhasset mall. In one of those large front windows is a continually running video called “Ring Tales,” which spotlights different London Jeweler customer couples between 1926 and 2011, showing their pictures and telling each love story. It was created to celebrate London Jewelers’ 85 years in business, and now, with TWO specializing in bridal, it’s perfect, says Matt Martini, sales associate, “because it really adds interest. Sometimes people will come into the store and say, ‘That’s my niece or my parents or my grandparents in the video in your window.’ This video isn’t online — you have to come into the store to see it.”

However, TWO did use its Facebook page to encourage people to send in their photos and stories for the video.

Paige Chernick is coordinator of TWO’s social media, which includes Twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest, in addition to Facebook. When TWO ran a 30-day Faecbook competition in December called “Treasure Quest,” Paige says, “It was so successful that we increased our Facebook fan page by 9,000 or 10,000 just in the one month that we ran the contest!”

Three couples who won an online scavenger hunt were invited to play TWO’s version of “The Newlywed Game” in the store, and whoever correctly answered the most questions about their partner received a Ritani engagement ring. The store also posted a short video of the guy who won it calling the girl’s parents to tell them they won the ring and asking if he had their permission to marry their daughter. Such a fun and engaging event aptly reflects “the TWO experience” that Scott and Jessica Udell envisioned and that their customers are now embracing.

HEARSAY

“It’s not unusual for a customer to bring in a friend — someone who’s never been here before and they’ll say, hello, but then they tell us they’re going to give their friend a tour of our store!”

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QUICK FACTS
 

Location: Manhasset, NY
URL: twobylondon.com
Owners: Jessica and Scott Udell
Founded: 2011
Area: 3,150 square feet
Interior: Callison LLC, New York, NY
Exterior: Peter Marino Architect PLLC, New York, NY
Employees: 7 full-time, 3 part-time
Brands: TWO by LONDON, Ritani, Penny Preville, Forevermark Diamonds, Martin Flyer, Diamond in the Rough, Norman Silverman, Crown Ring, Benchmark, Katharine James, Mikimoto
Tagline: “The Engagement Shop at London Jewelers”
ONLINE PRESENCE:
Alexa Traffic Rank: 5,192,513
Facebook Likes: 10,570
Yelp Rating: 5 stars

 

 

 
   
   
   
     
   
     
 

“I think it’s a good idea to buy a special treat one specific day of the week — and let customers know about it.” We serve snacks here all the time, but every Saturday we also bring in gourmet cookies from a local bakery.”


“Posting at least once a day on your company Facebook page is important so customers know they’ll always see something new — like photos of brands you carry.”


“Use Pinterest to create boards that show customers new pieces when they come in.”

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“We like to play current hits and top-40 music, but we don’t blast it loud because people need to be able to hear all the education that’s going on.”

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FIVE COOL THINGS

1. HANDS-ON WITH RINGS “There are many engagement rings and wedding bands in open ring displays that customers can interact with before they even talk with our sales associates,” Scott says. “They can have fun with it, figuring out if they like a thin or wide band, a certain cut or carat size, maybe a halo.”

2. LEARNING AT EVERY TURN The Udells hired their own production company to create short tutorials on topics like diamond cutting and mining and platinum and gold melting. These play on flat screens throughout the store and can be called up on in-store computer monitors.

3. “PRECIOUS” PICK-ME-UPS Cushion? Princess? Maybe a marquise? TWO had paperweight-size crystals made, which are scattered all through the store. “The crystals replicate the different important diamond cuts, so that a customer can pick one up and easily see the symmetry and proportion of the pear, oval, or whatever, without having to squint through the scope to see the faceting,” Scott says.

4. SKETCHERS OR CAD, ANYONE? “Design bars” get people involved in custom designing their rings. Customers can work with CAD or sketch artists who are also gemologists. “Many customers want simple but with a unique twist, and our sketchers can very quickly show them details like engraving or different textures,” Scott says.

5. SLEEK SPACE With a cool color palette — particularly whites, grays and blues — and modern materials like chrome, glass and marble, the whole store is highly designed yet clean-lined and contemporary, says interior designer Tom Pulk. “I actually think of the entire space as very futuristic, but the round diamond viewing room in the back is especially so.” For that room, they chose strong modern pieces, like the dramatic oblong chandelier and the Philippe Starck transparent ghost chairs.

WHAT THE JUDGES SAY

Jim Rosenheim: I love this concept. It speaks to the couples getting engaged in a like manner that Apple speaks to them about electronics. It is the aesthetic of this younger generation. Their use of the phrase “a new way to engage,” along with this aesthetic speaks volumes as to who they are.
Andy Malis: Here’s another store that isn’t afraid to put a stake in the ground. They’re focused and it shows. The store design, both exterior and interior evokes a high end European spa.

Harry Friedman: Having customers engage with open cases is just terrific. And the ability to customize in a setting that is built to sell engagement rings, rings my bell.

Pam Levine: I love the bold, dynamic and beautifully designed exterior light wall — an entertaining attractive storefront. The store is elegant and cool and a bit space-age. Interior space is light and modern and welcoming. Although it runs the risk of appearing a bit stark and high tech, TWO is clearly a jewelry bridal destination that respects retail design and creativity with the young couple’s experience in mind.

Lori Wegman: The store is contemporary, young, hip and modern. The all-white minimalist design is actually very inviting and energetic, not sterile or cold. The store supports the promise of helping couples find the perfect ring through an open, transparent and educational process. Love the exterior metal panels and signage/logo application both architecturally and in print.

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