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My Client, My Friend

State-of-the-art renovation brings customers and employees closer together.

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Tapper’s Diamonds & Fine Jewelry, TROY, MI

OWNER: Howard Tapper, Steven Tapper, Mark Tapper and Marla Tapper Young / LOCATION: Troy, MI / URL: tappers.com / OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2009 / FOUNDED: 1977 / LAST RENOVATED: 2017 / AREA: 5,500 square-feet / EMPLOYEES: 77 full-time, 45 part-time in three locations / BUILDOUT COST: $3.5 million / ARCHITECT/DESIGN FIRMS: JGA Incorporated, Pacific Northern, Bluewater Technologies
TOP BRANDS: Rolex, Breitling, Mikimoto, John Hardy, Kwiat
ONLINE PRESENCE: 31,491 Facebook likes, 8,478 Instagram followers, 4 stars on Yelp; e-commerce-enabled website with live chat.


 

Once upon a time, jewelry stores were dark, austere places. Salespeople looked down their noses at customers from behind a showcase. Customers were afraid to ask questions for fear of being seen as foolish.

Fortunately, this tale has a happy ending.

Jewelry stores across the country are working to become friendlier and more approachable, and Tapper’s Diamonds and Fine Jewelry has used a recent renovation of its Troy, MI, location to put itself at the forefront of this movement.

“It was all about us trying to get close to our customers,” says Tapper’s president Mark Tapper, who is the son of founder Howard Tapper. “We wanted to eliminate the barrier between us and our customers and give them a shopping experience they’re more familiar with. When people shop for apparel or electronics, that’s how they’re interacting with sales associates.”

To accomplish this goal, Tapper’s installed side-by-side, customer-facing showcases throughout the new showroom, as well as a U-shaped “bridal bar” for engagement ring shoppers. The store also features a 14-foot marble bar where clients can belly up for Michigan craft beer or root beer on tap. It is the first and only jewelry store in Michigan to serve draft beer, and Tapper’s was required to obtain a liquor license before completing the project.

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“We were very intentional about the bar, which features alcohol, coffee and a draft system,” says Tapper. “Guys will come in and have a beer while wives walk around the store, and we’ll talk to them about watches. It gives clients a place to relax and interact with us. The more face time we get with our clients, the better our relationship will be.”

If clients are excited about the bar, they’re equally enamored with the “digital wall,” comprised of multiple TV screens to create a single 165-inch display space that rotates videos, fashion and style images (many created in-house), Instagram and social media feeds, and even sports events.

“People who stand outside the store will see a game on our screen and come into our store,” says Tapper. “It gives us an opportunity to shake their hand and introduce ourselves. We still offer them a drink and are able to engage and develop relationships.”

They’ve even made sales as a result of the digital wall, he says. “A guy came in to watch a game one day and ended up spending $7,800 on a sapphire ring for his wife after the game,” explains Tapper. “I think he spent the money because he really liked the sales associate who engaged with him.”

 

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While the renovation was about creating more intimacy with clients, it was also intended to create a more tactile and tangible shopping experience and one that infuses technology into the process.

The store was formerly a Bailey Banks & Biddle location that Tapper’s took over in 2009. “We had done some minor modifications, but the truth of the matter is that it was more of an old-guard kind of store,” says Tapper. “A lot of dark woods, darker interior, not nearly as approachable. We still did a fantastic business out of the store, but it was a little bit passé. It needed a refresh.”

The renovated location features a mix of modern and mid-century design aesthetics, with textured ceilings, shining floors and fixtures and chairs that feel at once contemporary yet slightly retro. “We feel like it delivers a level of chicness and luxury that today’s consumer is looking for,” says Tapper. “A guy can come in jeans and a T-shirt on a Saturday and spend $70,000, but he wants an upscale, relaxed environment. Infusing the latest technology with a mid-century showroom vibe was, we felt, a chic and contemporary way to do things.”

The store also features a Rolex shop-in-shop that measures 1,050 square-feet (including a dedicated watchmaker area). Tapper says that he had visited another jewelry storeowner in Newport Beach who had a Rolex shop-in-shop, and he loved the aesthetic. “I wasn’t sure if it would substantiate the investment in inventory levels, but it’s really paid off in a short amount of time,” he adds.

The watchmaker area, inspired by trendy New York City restaurants with open kitchens, features open windows that allow clients to watch as their timepieces are serviced.

“They can see the craftsmanship that it takes to overhaul a Rolex timepiece and the deliberate nature we use to size bracelets or make other adjustments,” says Tapper.

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Was it worth the $3.5 million to renovate? Unquestionably, says Tapper. “It wasn’t a doom or gloom situation, but I think our customers expected the renovation, they wanted it, and if you’re not growing, you’re dying.

“In today’s competitive environment when a customer can buy while in their pajamas, I needed to give them a reason to come to our store,” he continues. “We didn’t want to be irresponsible with our money, but customers have a really high expectation of what they’re looking for.”

Tapper says that the company modeled out what the renovation would cost and how long it would take to pay back the investment. So far, the store is exceeding its growth forecast by almost 50 percent, which will allow it to pay back the investment in less than half the time forecast.


PHOTO GALLERY (12 IMAGES) 


Five Cool Things About Tapper’s

1. BINGO BONANZA: At Tapper’s annual company-wide meeting and holiday dinner, Mark’s father and company founder Howard serves as the bingo caller. The evening isn’t over until Howard unveils his outrageous costume connected to the meeting theme (one year, he dressed as Superman to emphasize a “superheroes of service” theme).

2. JEWELRY STARS CHARITY: Tapper’s developed a program called “Jewelry Stars,” which honors 12 clients who are involved in giving back to the community by featuring them in the store’s holiday lifestyle magazine that ships to 100,000 households. Each of the clients’ charities solicits online votes, and while all 12 charities receive a donation from Tapper’s, the winner gets an additional donation.

3. LIVING PLANT WALL: Behind the marble bar, Tapper’s features a living plant wall that flanks the bar shelves. “We wanted something organic to play off the organic nature of the jewelry,” says Tapper. The store also has the ability to create different vignettes on a seasonal basis. During the holidays, for example, poinsettias were inserted into the wall along with Christmas lights. For Mother’s Day, daisies were added. “It helps create different moods in the store and offers a changing aesthetic for those who come in frequently.”

4. FAMILY AFFAIR: Founder Howard Tapper is the company’s CEO, brother Steven is vice-president, son Mark is president, daughter Marla Tapper Young is a director and Mark’s wife Leora is heavily involved in the store’s merchandising and runs its estate department. Mark ascribes the company’s success in part to the tight family bond they all share. “We hired a family business consultant who asked each of us individually, ‘There’s no wrong answer, but is it family first or business first?’ And each of us answered ‘family first.’ We don’t always agree, but once a final decision is made, we all get on the bus and start driving in one direction.”

5. ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT: When Howard and Steven Tapper were children, they sold ice cream, cotton candy, snow cones and newspapers. He later sold his car and took out a loan to open the first Tapper’s store. And, the second generation at Tapper’s shares the same spirit, says Howard. “Their younger perspective has resulted in a modern approach to onboarding new associates, adding stores and product lines to our brand, and successful growth of our gold and estate division.”


JUDGES’ COMMENTS:

JILL MAURER: This store has an incredibly welcoming atmosphere. The lavish bar, comfortable seating, charging stations and beautiful surroundings all beckon me to stay awhile and enjoy.

KATHERINE BODOH: It looks like Tapper’s goes out of the way to create experiences like the root beer float “signature” drinks and the TV wall. I think their modern décor is welcoming and on trend.

DAVID LAMPERT: They do a really nice job of promoting themselves.

LAURA DAVIS: My goodness, these folks should be a case study in how to ‘do it right’. Know your audience, know who you are, make it local, keep them coming back often, market with gusto and make sure you keep the design tight. Love them.  

 

TRY THIS: OFFER A PLACE TO RECHARGE

Make your seating area a charging area for phones. The 14-foot marble bar at Tapper’s has USB and power charging stations underneath to accommodate customers who need to charge their mobile devices.

Trace Shelton is the editor-in-chief of INSTORE magazine. He can be reached at [email protected].

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