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If I Owned

Mary Lou Quinlan: If I Owned a Jewelry Store, I’d Listen for the Whole Truth




Tips and advice from author and consultant Mary Lou Quinlan

Women tell marketers Half Truths. A woman’s Half Truth, her reflex answer, is not the same as the Whole Truth of what she really believes and buys. A Half Truth isn’t a lie; it’s just half the story. By listening patiently for the Whole Truth, you can get to solutions that reflect women’s true desires.

Her Whole Truths can help lead you to a better “human” experience in your store for men, too, because women are rarely selfish with their ideas and feedback. And they are astute about retail alternatives, which might inspire freshness in your sector. If she were talking to you, here’s what she might say.

Her Half Truth 1: You seem to want someone other than me. There’s a high-end designer jewelry store in Soho. I have bought pieces from another of their stores, but this new space keeps a huge bouncer in shades at the door. He seems to rate customers before they even enter. Is he deciding if I am cool enough to shop there? Her Whole Truth: When I shop, I am usually dressed for real life, not the runway. But if you look me up and down and you try to make me feel “less than,” I’m outta there.

The ideal store entrance would stage an “emotional welcome mat” near the door. Invite her with your friendliest first face so that she can see herself at home there. It’s all about opening the brand with a smile.

Her Half Truth 2: You are scaring me. The too-typical jewelry counter is gleaming and pristine, with a person guarding the jewels as if in a vault. She doesn’t look at me as much as protect what’s under the glass. Her Whole Truth: I want to relax and try. Ever been to a Warby Parker store? They have revolutionized the “glasses behind glass” business and instead have placed hundreds of frames to try on every wall alongside mirrors. Store personnel circulate and answer questions, give opinions and help.


“Jewels are the catalyst for conversation. Let her try and talk and play.”

The ideal jewelry counterperson knows that every woman has a story. Jewels are the catalyst for conversation. Be generous with options. And don’t overload the jewelry you wear yourself. Be the canvas. And let her try and talk and play. Then you can tailor what you show.

Her Half Truth 3: You’ve forgotten how to have fun. Maybe it’s the economy. Maybe you figure that women feel they don’t need as many new accessories. But her Whole Truth is: I deserve a break, a reward and some glamour in my busy life.

The ideal store would be indulgently fun. Lately, I have taken up competitive ballroom dancing. And I was amazed at how I, a relatively conservative dresser, could so easily adopt sequins, spray tan and extravagant gowns. That woman is inside all of us. Realize there are two women standing before you: The one you see, and the one she imagines herself to be.

Her Half Truth 4: Jewelry is a serious decision so I expect traditional service. Her Whole Truth: Once I decide, make it easy and fast for me to buy, return or upgrade when the mood hits. Case in point: Rent the Runway. They rent designer cocktail dresses and make it super convenient. After filling out my online style questionnaire (fueling anticipation), I chose the perfect dress. They created a Virtual Closet of other dresses I liked for future choices. My dress was delivered to my door in less than two hours by an Uber car. And after the event, I popped it in its custom bag directly at a UPS drop off. I’m already coming up with excuses to raid my Virtual Closet for more.

The ideal jewelry store would build easy inspiration into the business. How could a jeweler add this element of “pre-dreaming,” easy delivery, and yes, perhaps an easy way to upgrade when women decide they are ready?


Women often don’t feel listened to. They are waiting for someone to look into their eyes, to share a bit of themselves, to notice a smile or catch a sigh and ask, “How are you today?” Get personal with her. And get ready to hear the Whole Truth. Your business depends on it.

Mary Lou Quinlan is the founder of Just Ask a Woman and the author of What She’s Not Telling You: Why Women Hide the Whole Truth and What Marketers Can Do About It. Learn more about Quinlan at


This article originally appeared in the July 2015 edition of INDESIGN.

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