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Cool Stores Sneak Preview: Here’s What’s Coming Up in 2018

Learn from the best — and coolest.

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I LEARN SO MUCH every year from interviewing the winners of our America’s Coolest Stores feature. I hope you do, too. Please enter this year’s contest. We’d love to hear about what sets your business apart. The application — complete with tips for success — will be available online in January at americascooleststores.com. There’s a category for you, no matter how small your operation might be. I’ve been told that just entering makes you cooler!

Still to come from January to June 2018, we’ll be featuring more winners from the 2017 contest in the pages of INSTORE. Here’s a preview of some of the lessons you can expect to learn from next year’s featured stores:

Change With the Times

Jewelry designer and retailer John Atencio opened his first store in 1976, but he’s not afraid to change with the times. When planning his newest store in Boulder, CO, he told his design team that if they had any inclination to do things like they’d done in the past, he would replace them. How is the store different? It has a loft or gallery vibe and cases are movable to make the space more versatile for events.

The result? The jewelry glows against a dramatic backdrop and people “come out of the woodwork” to attend events in the store.

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Fit in With Your Neighborhood

When friends and co-workers Joni Hamilton and Shelia Butler set out to create their own store, after years in the jewelry business, they chose a location on Hermosa Beach, CA. The store is as airy and upbeat as the neighborhood with floor to ceiling windows letting in views of palm trees and a cheerful peacock theme.

The result? People feel so comfortable in the store they stop by to see what’s new and enjoy a bloody Mary or a glass of wine. They start looking around and they leave with a little – or a big – something. Price points range from $200 to half a million.

Offer Something Extra

Branham’s in East Tawas, MI, owned by Ken Branham and Joyce Hill, has created a Treasured Memories room for clients to prepare for outdoor weddings, since Northeast Michigan’s beaches, rivers and landscapes provide incredible natural settings for nuptials. The bridal party can use Branham’s space to get dressed, and have hair and makeup done, then have their photo taken on Branham’s staircase or in front of the fireplace.

The result? Customers love it and Branham’s has the opportunity to form a more lasting relationship with the newlyweds.

Remember Your Roots

Jacquelyn Koerber’s parents, Mike and Felecia Koerber, started their business out of the trunk of their car, buying and selling scrap gold jewelry, then later moved a few showcases into her dad’s sister’s beauty salon. So in 2015 when the business grew into its dream location in New Albany, IN, the family was determined to keep the business as warm and welcoming and informal as ever. Jacquelyn has since taken the lead at Koerber’s and although she has modernized some aspects of the business – a focus on Instagram for example – she works hard to convey her parents’ sense of hospitality and gratitude for each client. “They really treated customers as friends and family,” she says. “My mother has an impeccable memory not only for faces, but for names, kids’ names, where they went to school.”

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The result? “People continue to shop here because they get that level of personal customer service.” They also tell their friends.

Tell a Compelling Story

Pyrrha designers Wade and Danielle Papin met in 1993 and began handcrafting jewelry at their kitchen table in Vancouver, Canada. The self-taught husband and wife team experimented with a number of styles, materials and techniques before discovering a box of badly damaged wax seals at an estate sale in 2004. The Victorian-era wax seals were the inspiration for Pyrrha’s line of signature talisman jewelry. In 2010, Pyrrha entered retail in LA, opening its flagship store filled with antique objects and displays that complement the jewelry. Each piece is made by hand and each talisman has a unique, symbolic meaning culled from heraldry.

The result? Customers spend hours in the store searching for the symbol that speaks to them.

Location Counts

Alchemy 925 is a contemporary jewelry and fine craft gallery near Boston, owned by Munya Upin and Kirsten Ball, that represents 50 artists. They chose an ideal location to express their personalities and taste – a 19th century Victorian house – that stands out from other buildings on the street. Both partners are big fans of mid-century design and their interior space was blessed with beautiful, natural oak floors, which were the perfect starting point for their design aesthetic. “We wanted something elegant and stylish and sophisticated,” Ball says. They designed all of the jewelry cases based on that aesthetic, “with slender legs and simplicity,” and to complement some display pieces they loved, including a mid-century modern credenza.

The result? The exterior attracts customers and the simplicity of the interior design allows the jewelry to shine.


This story is an INSTORE Online extra.

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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2019 Big Survey: 10 Times When Jewelry Store Employees Left the Job in Dramatic Fashion

Results of the 2019 Big Survey have been rolling in. Here’s a sample.

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WE ASKED SURVEY respondents to share the most epic ways they’d seen someone quit or be fired. Dealing with employees on their way out can be touchy. Sometimes these unfortunate encounters even culminate in award-winning dramatic performances. Read on for the most memorable ways employees have parted ways with jewelry stores:

Top 10 Countdown

The award for best dramatic performance goes to the employees who:

10. Screamed at the top of their lungs, “I QUIT”

9. Showed up in pajamas, had a breakdown, then quit and walked out.

8. Threw rings at the boss while asking for a raise, then quit.

7. Threw a crystal piece through a showcase shelf.

6. Hit the jeweler in the head with a bag of bananas.

5. Threw his key at me.

4. Came in wielding a pipe wrench screaming that we were liars.

3. Ran out of the shop, arms raised in the air, saying “he’s trying to kill me.”

2. Got drunk at a charity event we were sponsoring, hit on one of the ladies and pulled her skirt up. Police were called.

And the No. 1 best dramatic performance goes to:

1. The employee who hired a marching band to quit.

The 2019 Big Survey was conducted in September and October and attracted responses from more than 800 North American jewelers. Look out for all the results in the November issue of INSTORE.

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Wow Your Customers with This Video Messaging App

Jewelers can make online experiences feel a lot more like in-person experiences.

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DO YOU REMEMBER the last time a business did something unexpected for you? Something you truly appreciated? Of course, you do. Those are the moments that imprint themselves on our memories. For me, it was with a video messaging app called Bonjoro.

My Wow Moment

When I signed up for their free trial, I expected to get a video message from them. That’s what they do. And they told me I would. What I didn’t expect was to get a video answer about a tech issue I was having minutes after I emailed them about it. That blew me away.

In the jewelry industry, we pride ourselves on our in-store service and fret about our online marketing. Gone are the glory days with greater foot traffic. Now everyone wants to kick the tires online before they commit to coming in. But what if you could bring your amazing customer service to customers before they ever stepped foot in the store?

Bonjoro to the Rescue

That’s exactly what Bonjoro allows you to do. Bonjoro is an easy to use video to email messaging app for businesses. They make recording and emailing a personalized video to customers almost effortless. And you can even send these videos when they’ll have the biggest impact, like right after they fill out a contact form on your site.

Imagine a prospective customer visits your site. They fill out a contact form with some details about the type of engagement ring they’re looking for. After they press submit, someone on your sales team gets a notification. Once they have a free minute, they pull out their phone and record and send a video in less time than it would take them to respond to the email.

“Hi, Jim! I know exactly the style that you’re looking for, and we have some great options for you. You can see a few of them in the case behind me, but I have a few more that I’d like to pull out and show you. You mentioned that you have a lunch break at noon. Why don’t you stop by tomorrow, and I’ll have them all ready for you? In the meantime, there’s a link to our website’s engagement ring gallery in this window. If you see anything else you like, you can write me a quick message, and I’ll be sure to add it. See you soon!”

An Experience Like No Other

This is an experience most jewelers aren’t going to offer. The enthusiasm and confidence communicated in a video are hard to match in an email response. And the customer has likely never received a response like this from a jewelry store. Just the thought that someone took the time to personally address them with a video will make them more likely to stop in. Plus, they already feel like they know you.

Almost Face-to-Face

Bonjoro is a way to send quick, personalized videos to customers. They’re meant to be mixed into the daily routine and workflow of your sales team. This isn’t the time for high-quality video production or perfect angles. This is much more personal and organic than that.

People online aren’t used to being addressed personally by video. It gives them a personal touch that usually only happens in the store. When you use Bonjoro, the most important thing is to press the record button and talk to the customer like they’re right there in front of you. What a wonderful way to wow your customers!

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Commentary: The Business

Customer Fired for Cause

Her phone manners left something to be desired.

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Laurelle Giesbrecht of French’s Jewellery says her daughter Heidi, now 15, is not afraid to answer the phone despite what happened and calls it “a learning experience.”

WHILE VISITING A great friend and store owner, Laurelle Giesbrecht of French’s Jewellery in Alberta, Canada, we were commiserating over coffee. I have always loved hearing her stories about community involvement or win/win sales interactions. This time, she had a real doozy.

A customer had recently purchased a $300 ring for her daughter and had sent her back to the store for a free sizing. The young girl had decided it was not going to be on her third finger but the much larger first. That meant the ring needed to be sized from 5 to 10. For this, there would be a charge. The girl left the ring.

Laurelle’s daughter, Heidi, was answering phones as her mom finished closing the store. It was the last call before locking up. Heidi asked how she could re-direct the caller and then, holding the phone to her chest, asked her mom if she wanted to take the call. Mom assured her she was doing fine. It brought a smile to her face when she heard her daughter tell the caller that she would pass the message along to their HR manager.

But later at home, the true story emerged. The call had been from the original purchaser of the size 5 ring, and using a long string of vulgarities, she had demanded a full refund. The next day, typically affable Laurelle left a message requesting a return call. When the return call came, Laurelle informed the customer that the swearing she had done over the phone had been directed at her 13-year-old daughter. She added that she would not allow that treatment of any of her staff. After informing the customer that she would process a full refund, she asked for her mailing address so she could mail it. Laurelle calmly informed the customer that she was not to come back to her store.

But the story was not over. The customer ignored the request to not return to the store and instead brought a beautiful bouquet of flowers with a neatly written card. She wanted to personally deliver them to the 13-year-old child who had listened so intently to her vulgar language. This customer knew that the depth of her apology could only be appreciated by a face-to-face meeting between an embarrassed adult and precocious child!

If there are lessons here, they are written between the lines.

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