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Gerry Gonda: Pull Up a Chair

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Not too high, not too heavy, and not too lumpy.
When it comes to seating, form follows function.

This article originally appeared in the October 2015 edition of INSTORE.


One important aspect of jewelry-store design not often addressed is how to make the customer comfortable while he is deliberating over one of the largest purchases of his life.

It might sound trivial, but giving careful consideration to seating will transform your store from simply serviceable to enticingly comfortable.

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Remember, form follows function when it comes to choosing seating.

Let’s examine some of the factors to consider when selecting a chair.

Pull up a chair, everyone

What happens when the customer is seated while the employee stands?

In my opinion, this just doesn’t work. This scenario creates a power imbalance in the psychology of sales, with the customer feeling like a victim, being looked down upon by the sales associate. Today’s shoppers want to feel like they are on the same level with the employee.

Chair height: a happy medium

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If you’ve ever been seated under a sit-down case, you’ll know space is at a premium. Designers are faced with the challenge of providing adequate display height in the case versus enough space for the customer’s legs.

First, decide whether you want to use dining room or bar-stool height seating.

A general rule of thumb when selecting chairs is to allow for a minimum of 3 inches from the top of the seat to the underside of the case. A large selection of chairs is available that meets this criteria. And while it doesn’t sound like a lot of room between chair and case, the customer won’t feel squeezed.

The next thing to consider is the vertical display height of the case. Most jewelers want the maximum available space, which is approximately 8 inches, with an additional allowance for the lower frame of the case. But with this scenario, customers have to reach up to touch a piece, with their elbows elevated as if they are children seated at the adult table — definitely not comfortable either physically or visually.

Instead, aim for a good balance of display and comfort. A proven set of numbers is an overall height of 37 inches with 8 inches display and a chair height of 24 inches, a number that straddles dining room chair height and bar-stool height.

That chair height can be tough to find but meets the comfort level desired by customers and owners, and also corresponds to a current trend of a less formal selling floor. Other combinations work as well, but remember that they all begin with proper seating height.

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Other considerations

The size and weight of the chair are also of paramount importance: Too large or too heavy, and the customer won’t want to pull out the chair.

If the chairs have arms, they will usually not fit under the cases, making the customer sit on the front edge of the chair, which is not desirable or comfortable.

If stools are selected, recessed casters will increase mobility.

Considering benches with seating for two people? It’s a great concept in theory, but they are too large and heavy to move efficiently.


Gerry Gonda is a commercial interior designer with over 20 years’ experience specializing in refined retail environments. He can be contacted through retailspaceplanning.com.

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