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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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How Were Your Holidays? 20 Jewelers Describe Theirs

These retailers, all members of INSTORE’s Brain Squad, share their thoughts on the 2019 holiday selling season.

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A FEW DAYS AGO, we sent out our January Brain Squad survey, and we had many holiday-related responses in our “Letters to the Editor” section — so many, in fact, that we thought we would break them out and share them with you in this dedicated article. Most seemed to have had a successful 4th quarter, but some were mystified that their results were disappointing, and even those who were successful often mentioned working harder for the extra sales.

  • Our holiday selling season was amazing. My mom, fiancé and daughter all worked to helped us through the season… That part was challenging at times. No explanation needed, LOL. — Elizabeth Saba, Presley Co. Fine Jewelers, San Diego, CA
  • After a slow October and November, the December numbers made up the year. Happy overall. Best wishes to ALL the staff at the INSTORE!! — Mark Rozanski, Goldart, Ottawa, ON
  • We went through 2 seasons of orange barrels in front of our store. A year project took 20 months to complete. We maintained a positive attitude throughout and were rewarded with our best holiday and year-to-date sales ever. — Karen Fitzpatrick, Harris Jewelers, Rio Rancho, NM
  • We played catch up this Christmas and clawed our way to a decent number. I thought after last year it would be easier, but that wasn’t the case. — Rick Nichols, Nassau Jewelry, Fernandina Beach, FL
  • Three more area jewelers closed at the end of the year, making me ever so grateful to still have a vibrant successful business in these times of change. I am excited about the year to come, and feel even more committed to my business and my community. — Jo Goralski, The Jewelry Mechanic, Oconomowoc, WI
  • Holiday sales? Best ever, even at only 15% of our annual. The surprise? The week between Christmas and New Years is always busy, but this year we had everyone on the floor and still couldn’t help them all! — Debbie Fox, Fox Fine Jewelry, Ventura, CA
  • We had a nice holiday season. We had some folks actually being proactive and buying gifts several months early and then we had the very late rush. It’s getting harder and harder to pinpoint the timing of holiday sales though. And as far as jewelry goes, we sold some really nice color stone pieces this season, which is nice and refreshing for a change. — Marc Majors, Sam L. Majors, Midland, TX
  • Doubled our November goal, but didn’t even reach close to our December goal. It just about evens out financially in the end, so no complaints. I guess we just got our hopes up for a huge December, and were disappointed in the outcome. — Jill Hornik, Jae’s Jewelers, Coral Gables, FL
  • Our business felt different this year. We never felt overwhelmed like years past. When everything was over, our sales were up and profits were up. I think this meant the customers that came in were serious and purchased. I will take that over fighting for everything that comes in. I am interested to know if anybody else had the same experience. — Julie Brashier, Julie’s Jewels & Gifts, Greenville, SC
  • In all honesty, our “holiday season” could have been better, but it sure could have been so much worse. We have our health and we’ll be here for years to come. What I have come to learn about change is that it’s coming at such a rapid pace. Buckle up! Michael Cook, Walter J. Cook Jeweler, Paoli, PA
  • We had a solid December, and an excellent November — selling season was very short this year. 2020 has started well! — Allison Leitzel-Williams, Leitzel’s Jewelry, Myerstown, PA
  • Selling season was very good. Less customers, more dollars. Look forward to a new year! — Laurie Cusher, Hyde Park Jeweler, Hyde Park, NY
  • Taking the December issue to the beach to catch up. Somewhat difficult season. Had to work much harder and market more and more events. Business came at the very end. — James Gattas, James Gattas Jewelers, Memphis, TN
  • This was our best holiday selling season yet — so good, in fact, that this husband-and-wife team did not have a spare moment to read the December story on families who work together! Definitely looking forward to catching up on our required reading! — Zechariah Chambers, Chambers Jewelers, Ford City, PA
  • Our holiday season was better than expected. We were coming off the biggest sale in the history of our store (hence being down from 2018) but were very happy with how we ended the year. With all of the change (new owners, new location and showroom, many changes in staff), we were bracing for a lull, but the community has validated all of our HARD decisions! — Jennifer Hornik Johnson, Miller’s Jewelry, Bozeman, MT
  • We had a good season. Many new first time clients, thanks to Google and Facebook. — Sandra Giordanoriper, Sunset Hill Jewelers and Fine Arts Gallery, West Chester, PA
  • If the rest of the year had been better, we would have been happy to only miss last Dec. by $10K … but it wasn’t. — John Hayes, Goodman’s Jewelers, Madison, WI
  • It was our first holiday season in our new store/new location. We noticed a different clientele. SOHO really took off for us this holiday season. We love this line! Gemstone jewelry was also hot for us. Silver jewelry was down. Need to prep better for the change in clientele. — Christine Osborne, Christopher’s Fine Jewelry and Rare Coins, Des Moines, IA
  • Selling season was OK. Late shoppers seem to be the theme anymore. Year was down as was December. Very tough farm/ag economy around here right now due to flooding and poor crop yields and commodity prices right now. My buying was down/in control, so that certainly helped. I was actually quite surprised how strong the last 5 days were to save the month of December. Expectations for this year are really no different unless farming prices and conditions change dramatically. Plan to host / run more “events” in the store to create traffic and new customers coming in. — Tom R. Nelson, Nelson Jewelry, Spencer, IA
  • Christmas this year was very strange. Maybe because Thanksgiving was so late. People didn’t seem to be in holiday mode. The three days leading up to Christmas made the entire month. Now that Christmas is over, people are out buying for themselves. Tons of self-purchases now. There are no absolutes for retail anymore. It is changing too quickly. — Susan Kauffman, Black Dog Jewelers, Lewisburg, PA
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How You Might Be Able to Sell Jewelry Through Podcasts in 2020

People who listen to them give them their attention in a way that they don’t to other mediums.

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A JEWELER WHO TAKES digital marketing seriously has probably run Facebook ads. They’ve probably run search ads on Google and possibly Bing. They may have tried display ads or dipped their toes into geofencing or YouTube ads. And when it comes to audio, they may have even tried running ads on Pandora or Spotify. But the one medium that they probably haven’t tried is Podcasts. And it could become accessible in a whole new way in 2020.

Why Businesses Run Ads On Podcasts

Podcasts are an amazing medium. People who listen to them give them their attention in a way that they don’t to other mediums. The average YouTube video was under 12 minutes in length in 2018. But the average podcast episode is about 37 minutes long. People who listen are buckling up for a ride.

They listen to podcasts while driving, doing dishes, jogging, biking and folding laundry. But they’re not multitasking in the same way that people do while looking at their phone while the TV’s playing. Instead, these activities take up a lot of time, but not a lot of mental energy. So they’re able to fully pay attention to what they listen to.

For this reason, some big successful companies have really invested in ads on podcasts and reaped big rewards.

Why You’ve Probably Never Run Ads On A Podcast

If you’re a local jeweler, you probably haven’t run ads on a podcast because it’s hard to coordinate, tough to measure, limited in options, not built for your size, and not local. Until now.

Traditional podcast ads are read by the podcast’s show host. Big companies make big deals with big podcasts and roll out a slow and labor-intensive process of sending out scripts and communicating what they do and don’t want to be said. These ads don’t get a consistency of voice, because every podcast host has a different voice. They are powerful, however, because they benefit from the trust that the audience has with the podcast host.

But the future of podcast advertising has another option. It’s already started and could very well open up to local retailers in 2020.

Dynamic Ad Insertion: The Future of Podcast Advertising

A new technology called “Dynamic Ad Insertion” is adding new options for podcast advertisers. But more importantly, it’s making advertising on podcasts possible for new advertisers who wouldn’t have been interested in the past.

Lex Friedman from Art19 talks about it in an episode of the Reword Podcasts which questions the ethics of the new practice. But Friedman is comfortable discussing and defending the new practice. Here’s how it works:

Today, most podcast episodes are uploaded to the internet and can be downloaded and listened to by anyone at any time in the future. The listener will hear the exact same recording no matter what time it is and where they are when they listen. Dynamic Ad Insertion makes it possible to insert a different prerecorded ad into the audio file based on the IP address of the person who is downloading the episode. That means that Sally in Milwaukee can hear a different ad on Thursday that Dan in San Diego will on Sunday.

This is a big deal because it enables ads to be location-based, time-based, and pretty much allows them to work a lot more like the ads that a jeweler might run on other platforms. If you have a limited time offer, you don’t have to worry about people hearing the ad after it has expired.

At the time of the recording, Art19 was selling these types of ads by invitation only. But they and many other podcast companies see Dynamic Ad Insertion as the future of podcasting and the technology exists now. That means that jewelers could see the opportunity to benefit from the cult-like following that podcasters have developed from their listeners as soon as this year. This is definitely one to keep an eye on in 2020.

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Commentary: The Business

The First America’s Coolest Stores Winner Reflects on What It Means

Cool stores encourage customers to hang out, says owner Brett Weiler.

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TWENTY YEARS AGO, as I was in the process of building out my second store, I remember my plumber saying: “I see what you are fixin’ to do here — you want people to relax, so’s you can get at their wallet.”

Well, kind of.

Thankfully, my introduction to the jewelry industry started at a small store during my college years in Gainesville, FL, called The Quarry. It was located in a charming old cottage. I would have to describe it as upscale-hippie with a low-key vibe, the kind of place where you just wanted to hang out, which the owners were kind enough to let me do. Interestingly, I was never monetarily compensated, nor did I ever set out to be a jeweler, but this little store evidently had a big impact on what I would do.

After that, however, every store that I was employed in felt stiff and uncomfortable. These were not environments I enjoyed, much less places I would want to spend most of my waking hours. I wanted a store that not only suited my sensibilities, but one that made all feel welcome. Somehow, I wanted my store to communicate my dedication when it comes to execution.  Let’s face it, in this industry, the devil is in the details.

I remember how excited I was when I won INSTORE’s first America’s Coolest Stores Award in 2002. But I also got to thinking, the magazine was pretty thin with hardly any advertising. I was kind of afraid that it would go the way of so many publications and leave me with a meaningless award. That was certainly not the case, as INSTORE became the powerhouse of the industry and the award quite highly regarded. I like to say that having a “Cool Store” is something you can never take away from me.

There are evidently many takes on what makes a “Cool Store” cool. Cool stores exude an ambience that makes it obvious that the customer’s experience is of key importance. The one thing they all seem to have in common is the ability to represent to the customer that this is not going to be just a typical retail transaction. A store does not have to be lavish; however, it should be able to demonstrate a commitment to your standards.

At the end of the day (pun intended), nobody spends more time in my store than I do, and I love it here. However, it is always very gratifying to me when someone comments on the vibe my store emanates. It is not lost on me how fortunate I am to be able to serve my time here. How lucky am I?  Imagine, having a job where you just want to go hang out.

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