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Canadian Jewelry Exchange

Virtual minimalist

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Canadian Jewelry Exchange, Kelowna, BC, Canada

OWNERS: Carl Maloney, Kevin Maloney, Lisa Maloney; CURRENT LOCATION OPENED: 2007; STORE AREA: 2,700 square feet; INTERIOR DESIGN: Dalaun Klaassen; BRANDS: lexander Paylan, Alishan, Art Carved, Benchmark, Beverly K. Collection, Tycoon Cut, Sarah Graham, Tissot, Triton; URL: cjex.net


TAKING TO HEART what they had learned in a 2005 seminar about the store of the future — minimalist, with virtual inventory — the Maloneys decided not to wait. They began operating as if the future had already arrived. The 30-year-old family business, founded by Carl Maloney, reinvented itself as it moved into a new storefront in 2007. Shunning the traditional setup of jewelry displayed in cases, they put their inventory in the vault and displayed it on their website. Other jewelers said they were crazy, that it would never work, but the subsequent growth of the business (about 30 percent per year) affirmed their decision. “It must be working,” says Carl’s daughter, general manager Lisa Mahoney. “We were voted our city’s best jeweler for 2009.”

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Five Cool Things About Canadian Jewelry Exchange

1. VIRTUAL INVENTORY.  At least two-thirds of the store’s inventory is estate jewelry, purchased by an on-site appraiser from personal collections every day. A camera shows sellers diamonds on a large screen, so they can see possible flaws for themselves. “We’re very transparent; we explain the wholesale value and give them options to consign, sell or trade,” Lisa says. “There’s no pressure to sell.”

Other merchandise includes basic, but very well made bridal jewelry, and the work of designers who offer a more eclectic variety. “Most of our business is bridal so we have a lot of contemporary bridal pieces to go along with the vintage,” Lisa explains.

Clients peruse virtual inventory, either from the comfort of their homes, or in the store, where computers are set up on the bar and at desks. Clients select what they’d like to see and staff bring it out of the vault. Lisa’s niece, Sabrina, is in charge of inventory control — taking photos of everything and updating the website continuously. “We have 4,000 pieces in the store and it’s constantly changing,” Lisa says.

There’s an additional benefit: Keeping jewelry in the vault saves money on insurance and time on setup.

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2. FAMILY AFFAIR.  Lisa Maloney’s earliest memory of life in the family jewelry store is cleaning cases when she was 5 years old for 25 cents an hour. Now she works with her 72-year-old father, her husband, her brother, her sister and her niece. In all, seven family members and four non-family members make up the staff.

The small lounge and full kitchen in the back of the store is a home away from home, where Lisa makes breakfast and lunch for her dad. “The family is the business and the business is the family. It’s all kind of blurred. This is where we socialize, talk, everything.”

3. A BRIDAL NICHE.  With their new business approach, they deal with far fewer browsers than before. “Most people who come in come here for a reason and quickly say what it is since there isn’t much to look at,” Lisa says. “People are very focused. We try to keep it goal-oriented.”

The setup greatly appeals to guys, and helping them is considered the store’s specialty. “When guys walk into a jewelry store with cases, it’s really overwhelming,” Lisa says. “They don’t know where to look. We can make them comfortable.”

At the Canadian Jewelry Exchange, many customers have already checked out both the inventory and the prices, and are ready to look at the real thing. They may browse on the website for a while, but more often than not, they are ready to speak to a salesperson, which speeds up the process.

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4. ADVERTISING. Canadian Jewelry Exchange sends out four postcard mailings a year.

They’ve had the most feedback and store visits when mailing out postcards featuring pictures of babies. “Babies get four-fold the response any other mailing has gotten.”

When the Maloneys returned to their store in April 2010, from the Smart Show in Chicago, they had heard enough about Facebook to know they needed to catch up on social media. In April, they had 66 fans and five months later, 1,273 fans “liked” their business. They regularly run contests on Facebook. Newly engaged couples post photos, get their friends to vote for them, and can win $500 gift certificates toward wedding bands.

They also do radio ads on hard-rock stations, targeting men. And they have returned to newspapers recently to advertise the fact that they buy jewelry. Much of the message is spread by word-of-mouth. “Guys tell their friends about us,” Lisa says. “I really like that. It shows we’re treating people well.”

5. DÉCOR.  Maloney had envisioned brown and beige tones in the store, but when she interviewed interior designer Dalaun Klaassen he was so adamantly opposed to her choice that she hired him anyway, and let him have free rein. “He was so confident and had such vision, and it all turned out so well. It’s funky and simple.” Klaassen did the design and the Maloneys implemented his vision. “Our budget was really low,” Lisa says. “We did the painting, ripped out the walls, my dad did the electrical, my husband did the flooring. We hired someone to make the bar and do the cabinetry.”

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Five Questions with Lisa Maloney

1. WHAT’S IT LIKE, WORKING WITH YOUR FAMILY? Most of the time, it’s fun. We always work through issues. If something’s really wrong, after a big blow-out fight, then we just go out for lunch.

2. DESCRIBE YOUR DÉCOR.  Refreshing, urban, minimalist and funky.

3. WHO ARE YOUR CLIENTS? We cater to the new-age client (sync’d up, plugged in, hot-wired, heat-seeking and warmhearted) and have the depth of experience to ensure our more traditional clients are served.

4. WHAT’S ONE OUT-OF-THE-BOX MARKETING INITIATIVE FROM THE PAST YEAR? The Canadian Jewelry Exchange has become the jeweler to local celebrities. On the day before the gala event celebrities are invited to the store to browse through estate pieces and choose the one that best matches their evening wardrobe. They give us an authorized credit card number and, voila, they are happily strutting around the event while showcasing our wares. It creates ambassadors to the store as well as many sales by the celebrities themselves.

5. WHAT SALE STANDS OUT?  We have a male client whose wife had returned every gift she’d received in their 15 years of marriage. The wife stopped by and became smitten with a diamond and ruby band. We phoned her husband and told him he had a lock with this purchase. He was ecstatic. We changed history by providing her (and him) with the first gift ever not to be returned.

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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