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If I Owned

If I Owned a Jewelry Store: Paco Underhill





One of the great revolutions in selling to women came when Sephora opened its flagship store on the Champs Élysée in Paris in the 1990s. Women were invited to come in, play, self-serve and fantasize without being pushed into buying. Sephora figured out that if they offered a customer help in the first minute, it was too soon.

A woman wants to walk into a jewelry store and not have someone in her face immediately. If she wants service right away, she will let you know. You want a woman to come in, look at your products and get a sense of context. If she wants help, her head starts to swing, and that’s when a sales associate can approach her and ask if she can get something out of the case for the customer.

The jewelry store is historically designed for men buying for women, not women buying for themselves. While a significant amount of jewelry is still sold to men, there has to be recognition that women are purchasing for themselves or for their friends and family. The first key to selling to women is getting them to try on jewelry. One jeweler I know has a party room at the back of his store where a woman can book a birthday or wedding party, invite her friends, serve juice and candies, and they can try on jewelry to their hearts’ content. The jeweler said in almost every case, someone would come back and buy something they had tried on.


This begs the question: Is there a way for the jeweler to better facilitate the consultative sale? Particularly as you have a generation of jewelry shoppers who are much more technologically savvy, that will definitely be part of our future. It’s also a very effective way to end-run the strictly online jewelers who are trying to sell based on price rather than consultation, which is what the independent jeweler does best.


As part of the consultative strategy in your store, do you have a dressing room where if someone is buying jewelry for a particular gown, she can bring the gown and try it on with the jewelry? Is there a full-length mirror in your store? Can she email you a photo of the dress and have you put together jewelry for her to accessorize it with before she comes in? I have a client where the mirror isn’t a mirror, it’s a big-screen TV. As the woman tries on outfits, she can take pictures of herself and review her outfits on the screen.

“”Almost everything sells better when you understand the appropriate cognitive distance.”

To create this intimate experience in your store, you need to pay attention to all five senses. When it comes to sight, one of the problems with most jewelry store lighting is that how you light the product and how you light the face have to be different. When you light the product, you’re using a cold light — and yet the light you want to use to light people is warm light. You have to be able to adjust the color temperatures to be appropriate to the subject.

You also want to be sure that people don’t have to lean over to see your jewelry. Almost everything sells better when you understand the appropriate cognitive distance. You have to think of the distance between the customer’s eye and her hand if you want her to imagine something on her wrist. Be sure she can put a necklace on while standing up in order to visualize it properly.

Finally, understand that today’s female customer wants to have her own style and look. I have a friend who sells eveningwear in Madison, CT. When you come into her store and buy a dress. you use her phone app to register the dress and the occasion you’re wearing it to, and the merchant guarantees that no one else will wear the same dress to that party. She registers more than 300 events across the state. People drive past Neiman Marcus and Macy’s and Saks because she has that phone app. It’s about understanding what the female need is. Men are penguins who are expected to look the same at a party, while the ladies all expect to look different. This merchant is speaking to that need. Are you?


PACO UNDERHILL is the best-selling author of Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping, which has been published in 27 languages, and he will be the keynote speaker of The SMART Jewelry Show in April 2015. He founded Envirosell, the New York-based behavioral research and consultancy, in 1977. His columns and editorials have appeared in The New York Times, Money Magazine, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and more. Underhill’s new book, What Women Want: The Science of Female Shopping, focuses on how the changing status of women affects the physical world we live in.


This article originally appeared in the September-October 2014 edition of INDESIGN.

Over the years, INSTORE has won 80 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INSTORE's editors at [email protected].



When Sales Beat Projections, You Know Wilkerson Did Its Job

There are no crystal balls when it comes to sales projections. But when Thomasville, Georgia jeweler Fran Lewis chose Wilkerson to run the retirement/going-out-of-business sale for Lewis Jewelers and More, she was pleasantly surprised to learn that even Wilkerson could one-up its own sales numbers. “Not only did we meet our goal, but we exceeded the goal that Wilkerson had given us by about 134%,” she says. After more than 40 years in the business, Lewis says she decided a few years ago to “move towards retirement.” And she was impressed by Wilkerson’s tenure in the industry. Overall, she’d recommend the company to anyone else who may be thinking it’s time to hang up their loupe. “As a full package, they’ve done a very good job and I’d definitely recommend Wilkerson.”

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