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Here’s How One Store Owner Turned Lemons to Lemonade When Divorce Threatened to Wreck Her Business

Being honest about reason for liquidation leads to continued success.

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In 2015, Babs Noelle of Alara Jewelry in Bozeman, MT, advertised her clearance event as a divorce liquidation sale, which, in truth, it was. She had decided to liquidate her assets to reach a divorce settlement. Exterior signage included three big yellow banners that announced: “Public Notice Divorce. Everything Goes. Up to 70 Percent Off!”

“In the 11th hour, literally two months before our agreement was to see its final financial conclusion, my future ex threw a curve ball and said, ‘Buy me out of the business.’ I had no choice but to settle on a number,” recalls Noelle. The business itself was now the asset hanging in the balance, and she realized that the only way she could keep the asset would be if she could use it as a cash machine to “pay him off and get him out,” she says.

The next question was how to frame the sale for the public. “I asked, ‘Couldn’t it be called a divorce sale?’” says Noelle. “It was honest. It was simple. People know what a divorce is, and many know what kind of financial havoc it can wreak.”

When her consultant, Marsden Brothers, agreed, Noelle asked that all ads (half-page newspaper ads, TV ads, radio ads, bathroom ads, plus ads in all the media she was already contractually obligated to run) have a sense of humor, just as all of her advertising does. Catchphrases included “help me wash that man right outta my hair!” and “we’re liquidating the assets and splitting the sheets!” She also sent out a mailer to clients explaining the situation.

One of Noelle’s greatest concerns was figuring out where to find enough warm bodies to work the sale. “I sent an email to all of our frequent customers, telling them about our additional labor needs. In no time, we had more volunteers than we could use!”

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Honesty Becomes Best Policy

Noelle found that her honesty forged deeper relationships with clients as she planned to start over with her business. “The support was incredibly meaningful,” she says. “Five different women brought gifts of shampoo!”

After three weeks, she hit her goal to buy her husband out of the business, but she continued the sale four more weeks, restocking in the process. Also important was ensuring there were additional funds to pay for post-sale advertising. “Even though all the ads and signage said ‘Divorce Liquidation,’ people swore up and down that we had held a ‘going out of business’ sale,” Noelle says.

She took every network opportunity to get out the message that Alara was newer, better, and just a happier place to work and shop. She  set aside money for training, rebranding and a mini-remodel. The sale brought the team together more tightly, she says, which was probably the best benefit of all. Post-sale business was so good, Noelle took her entire team to Mexico for nine days.

“Most people thought the concept was brilliant marketing, when it was just simple honesty. What’s better than an honest jeweler?”

Make It Your Own

If you’re having a sale, do whatever you can to make it fit your style, your brand and your business ethos.


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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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Florida-Based Mayors Jewelers Seeks Connection With Young Luxury Shoppers

The Watches of Switzerland invests in well-respected brand.

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WHEN WATCHES OF Switzerland Group bought Mayors Jewelers group in 2017, it was already well-run and well-established, but out of date, thought Brian Duffy, CEO of Watches of Switzerland, the biggest retailer of luxury watches in the UK.

“Mayors has been around since 1907 in Florida and it’s very well-regarded in the local community. Everybody loved it, but we got some comments like, ‘It’s where my parents bought their engagement rings.’ It had aged as a brand. The whole plan has been to update the brand to appeal to younger customers. We updated the logo, changed the façade and introduced a new store format.”

One of the most important decisions they made, according to group executive VP David Hurley, was to keep the Mayors name. The brand was good, but could get much better with investment in digital, brick-and-mortar, and especially, support for the strong teams of employees already in place, who received in-depth brand education under new management.

June debut: The first new Mayors flagship store is scheduled to open in June at the Merrick Park Mall in Coral Gables, FL. The 5,657 square foot open-concept space, designed by MNA, will feature luxury watches.

Mayors operates in Florida and Georgia with a portfolio of 17 stores. A retailer of luxury products and service, the group features brands such as Rolex, Cartier, Omega, TAG Heuer, Mikimoto, Bulgari, Messika and Roberto Coin, as well as its own collections of bridal, diamond and gold jewelry. In addition to the Mayors acquisition, Watches of Switzerland also launched flagship branded stores in New York City and Las Vegas as part of their entry into the U.S. market.

Their market research indicated that millennials are as interested as any other generation in luxury watches and jewelry if conditions are right. But outdated store decor and inadequate digital presentation were holding Mayors back from its potential to offer the kind of experience that would hook younger shoppers. The reinvented Mayors is particularly interested in consumers in their mid-30s. “The important age is 35; it’s always been that way and still is,” Duffy says.

To update the buying experience, WOS launched an interactive website, as well as two magazines with free digital circulation, one of which focuses on watches.

Redesigned websites and marketing reflect sleek store design.

Online concierges are available to help shoppers through text chat or video chat on the redesigned website. “But obviously, we’re trying to make the whole website as self-navigational as possible,” Duffy says. “We’re having the easiest form of dropdowns and product selections and using the most advanced systems, so as you navigate around the website, the information it gives back is interactive and intelligent.”

The in-store experience also needed a modern edge, a project expected to be completed by the fall across all storefronts. “Having stores that are appealing and non-intimidating, that welcome people in with a big emphasis on hospitality, is the goal,” Duffy says. “Staff members don’t have to stand behind counters. The emphasis is on self-help and engagement with salespeople when they’re ready. “

The redesigned store facades have a distinctive monochromatic look with white banding and a black background. The store design meshes with both the style of the advertising and the brand’s sleek new packaging, rendered in black and silver. “We haven’t held back at all on the quality of the materials or the lighting,” Duffy says.

The look, feel and function of the store must be evaluated every few years. Says Hurley: “We believe in constantly investing in our stores. As soon as you stop doing that, the stores start to look tired, sales go down and you get into a vicious cycle.”

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This Store’s Murder Mystery Killed at the Party

Events coordinator enlists customers to stage murder mystery she wrote herself.

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LYNNETTE SOLOMON HAD never thought of herself as a playwright, but as special events coordinator at MJ Miller & Co. in Barrington, IL, she isn’t afraid to try new things.

“When we do an event, we always try to do something the customer can participate in — toga parties, pirate parties; those tend to work out the best for us. It’s a great way to get people engaged and wearing the jewelry.”

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But when it came to trunk shows, she realized they needed something to spice them up for her clients who craved the kind of interactive, in-store experience that really could be described as an experience.

So Solomon spent a whole year writing a murder mystery and pitched it to owner Michael J. Miller as a way to create drama around designer Victor Velyan’s two-day visit. Velyan’s dramatic jewelry designs seemed perfect for such an

event, especially because they’re less traditional and very different in style from anything else in the store, Solomon says. She debuted both the concept and the play itself over two days in October.

A dozen customers were invited to be characters. Another small group came just to watch.

Of course, each character was wearing jewels from Velyan’s collection, and each was teamed up with a staff member so they received personal attention.

“A lot of the characters had a back story with Victor, so they had to pay a lot of attention to Victor,” Solomon says.

Velyan, known for his global exploration, was one of the central characters. “

The scenario? Velyan, returning from his latest adventure in Africa, brought his whole new couture line to the store and thieves lay in wait to steal his new collection.

Sales associates invited clients based on whether they thought they’d enjoy it; many also had a history of purchasing Velyan’s pieces.

Sandy and Greg Kern of Arlington Heights were invited — and thrilled — to participate. “People were given a dossier on their character and told to dress in costume. My character was a teacher, and so I was supposed to dress in a pretty plain way — in a tweed skirt,” says Sandy. Greg’s character was a chemist.

“Everybody had a fabulous character, and some people did an amazing job of dressing like their characters,” Sandy says. “It was a lot of fun.”

Characters were invited, of course, to try to figure out who the murderer was.

“In our group, no one got who the murderer was,” Sandy says. “It was so clever, it was wonderful. It involved people in the store and with the fabulous jewelry, we had a great time.”
Diversions were built into the plot.

“The twist was that I had a police officer (an actor) come in and tell Mr. Miller there had been an incident at his home and he had to leave,” Solomon says. “Then someone ran out from the back and announced that a character was killed in the back of the store.”

Solomon was the narrator as well as the playwright and experienced opening-night jitters.

“I was very nervous, but everybody really had a great time,” she says.

Even the store’s signature drink, the Gold Rush, played a pivotal part in the action.

There were appetizers, sweets and bourbon-spiked punch. The soundtrack featured Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” and Hall and Oates’ “Man Eater.”

Props in the showcases doubled as clues.

At the end of the day, the drama had the best possible ending: there were a number of pending sales.

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Cleveland Jewelry Store Wins Makeover from Jewelers for Children

Charitable giving yields rewards on many levels.

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ON A BUSY DAY THE week before Christmas, Howard’s Jewelry Center in an eastern suburb of Cleveland, is abuzz with activity. Customers come in waves all day, tracking down giant hoop earrings, a charm for a young granddaughter, or a seasonal splurge for themselves.

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Owner Howard Hurwitz hurries in for an appointment, stopping to exchange pleasantries with a customer he’s known for years, who congratulates him on the success of his business.

It’s a typical pre-Christmas week in many ways. Something’s different this year, though. Howard and Leslie Hurwitz have seen their store in a new light this season. So have their customers.

The couple won a $100,000 store makeover in a Jewelers for Children charitable giving contest, for which they raised $50,000. The renovation — the first significant change to the store in 30 years — was complete in December. “Customers are all pleasantly surprised,” Howard says. “We are very pleased and happy for everything that everyone did for us.”

One of the biggest changes is how drastically brighter everything is with fresh paint, new in-case displays and LED lighting.

Howard and Leslie own four stores in the Cleveland metropolitan area, and had been passionate supporters of Jewelers for Children ever since their first Facets of Hope dinner in Las Vegas touched their hearts 20 years ago.

There, they heard children talk about their struggles with catastrophic diseases and how they were helped by St. Jude’s Research Hospital, one of the charities JFC supports. “I’d like to get more people involved in it,” says

Howard, now a board member. “And I think if they could get to one of these dinners and hear the kids’ stories, they’d be a donor for life.”

JFC is woven into the fabric of their business. In all, they’ve raised $200,000 for the organization with collection canisters on their counters. The couple promotes JFC in their advertising and suggests their customers make a donation for watch batteries and other small repairs they offer for free.

For the redo, the Hurwitzes chose their Maple Heights flagship location, a busy place in a high-traffic area that sells jewelry and also makes loans on jewelry. Although they’ve occupied the space for 30 years, there have been few changes in that time.

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The design team carefully considered which updates would bring the biggest bang for the buck.

Eric Zuckerman of sponsor Pac Team America says the goal was to make the buying experience comfortable, special and intimate. “You can take an old store that hasn’t been touched for 30 years and do some things to make it very fresh and inviting. Environment creates confidence. If the environment is not at the same level of the product and the training of the salesperson, that inconsistency will be felt. Simple and clean and presentable doesn’t have to be a major renovation.”

Zuckerman and Ruth Mellergaard of GRID/3 International agree that the improvements with the biggest impact were replacing the ceiling tiles and upgrading the overhead track lighting to LED bulbs.

“The ceiling tiles were in pretty bad shape and set the tone for the entire environment,” Zuckerman says. “Something as simple as their replacement alone made a big improvement. Same thing with adding case lighting and replacing their bridal in-case presentation. What was there was very dark and worn, which contributed to the entire store appearing worn out. New case pads and displays gave a fresh look that was visually impactful.”

A metal security gate near the threshold was an inhospitable eyesore by day, but a necessity by night. Now, thanks to a design by GRID/3 International, the gate is enclosed in new drywall partitions with flush detailed doors that completely conceal it when the store is open for business.

“When you walk into a retail environment, being greeted by what is essentially a metal fence is not ideal for establishing a warm shopping experience,” Zuckerman says. “Having them hidden while the store is open allowed them to serve their purpose without detracting from the store’s presentation.”

Ruth Mellergaard of GRID/3, who donated her time to the project, says the question she asked before beginning to outline an overall plan was, “How does the business work and how can we make it easier for them to deal with their customers, to make their customers feel wonderful?”

Heavy wooden chairs were replaced by modern chairs with a lighter profile to bring the diamond engagement area into the 21st century, and designated spots for a children’s corner and a custom refreshment station for coffee are designed to put customers at ease.

The interior and exterior have been freshly painted.

Many of the showcases were in good shape, but some didn’t match, so their fronts as well as the front of the service counter were updated with panels covered with 3M Di-Noc film, which changed their appearance completely.

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