If I Owned a
Jewelry Store

A rock star, celebrity stylist and luxury consultant
share their jewelry-store dreams


There’s an old saying: “You can’t read the label if you’re sitting inside the jar.” By definition, you’re “inside the jar” of your business. Which is why it can be so powerful to gather opinions and feedback from those who don’t live and breathe in it the way you do.

For years, INSTORE’s sister publication, INDESIGN, ran a regular section called “If I Owned a Jewelry Store,” featuring essays from authors, business leaders, celebrities — heck, once we even had a museum curator. (To read these, including articles from thought-leaders like Seth Godin, Daniel Pink, Jeffrey Gitomer, Kathy Ireland, Ivanka Trump and many more, visit instoremag.com/ifIowned.) 

With jewelry retailing now undergoing an evolution of sorts, we thought now would be the perfect time to bring back this concept in the pages of INSTORE.

So go ahead: climb outside that jar and see what’s on the label!



Billy Gibbons

vocalist and guitarist, zz top

Of course, my store would have a rock ‘n roll theme. Bigger is better. Louder is a must! We really do enjoy the high energy and emotion that means rock ‘n roll. ZZ Top’s brand of rock keeps our attention toward the big and bold.

Billy Gibbons, vocalist and guitarist for ZZ Top, has teamed up with goldsmith and retailer Amber Gustafson of Houston to launch a line of jewelry with a “hot-rodded mindset”, which will be available on his website, billygibbons.com. He favors heavyweight creations set with gemstones and finely braided leather wraps intertwined with “some mean-machined imagery.” If he did open a store, he’d even like to work there. “The surroundings of shiny things make for an appealing experience,” Gibbons says. “And that ain’t work!”

  • The Location
    Running ZZ Top for four decades now has taken us ‘round the globe to some stunning locales, many of which have become regular getaways on and off the touring trail. That being said, the desert Southwest still holds a mystical allure. The quality of light across the desert ignites a gleam on fine gemstones that can’t be beat. An enclosed space with lots of glass on all sides would make a good start at getting an interior glow just right.

  • The Experience
    Comfortable seating would be a must. There’s nothing better than a relaxing space to create a casual experience. Polished concrete floors are beginning to take the place of cushy, carpeted pathways, which makes for a sharp contrast to the elegance of fine jewelry. I’d have flat screen TVs at every turn, and the darkened end of a side room featuring a bar with everything chilled to perfection. I am, of course, partial to musical accompaniment. High-quality sound in a store ups the ante without question.

  • The Staff
    Staff would have to know the stock. Everything from “where does it come from?” to “What can be expected from the item?”

  • Quality
    Despite the notion of rapidly changing trends in style and design, the aim and demand for quality remains constant and unchanged. Placing quality as a cornerstone ensures a positive feeling for any customer.

  • The Silver Summit Seven
    I’m still pals with a gang of designing understudies who all came into the West Coast wave of silver creations started by the master, Gabor Nagy and his lab known as “The Gaboratory.” Seven of us learned wax carving, casting, polishing and presentation. Ryk Maverick, Bill Wall, Travis Walker, Reid Roland, Mitch Binder, Dennis Polichino and me. The Silver Summit Seven. Bold and chunky works became the expression. Gerry Van Amburg handled the leather part of the operation. We’re all still in touch and have continued the tradition in Gabor’s memory. I’ve also enjoyed a successful, long-standing collaboration with Amber Gustafson and her award-winning work. It’s a rewarding partnership.

  • Lighting
    A show-biz display is always intriguing. We get to see all the latest and greatest developments in lighting for stage presentations, which is not so far removed from the environment where jewelry is found.

  • Events
    The ever-popular cocktail soiree works wonders to get the party started. We attended the opening of Mitch Binder’s King Baby retail operation in Beijing earlier this year, which was quite the glam and glitzy affair. Mingling with friends, surrounded by fine design, hit the spot.

  • The Shop
    A genuine workspace offers an escape into the realm of the creative when the energy strikes. 

  • The Message
    Marketing would be low-key word-of-mouth. Ain’t nothing like having good scuttlebutt hit the streets.

  • Merchandise
    Maintaining a willingness to experiment with materials in exotic, non-traditional techniques is the challenge. Let the design speak and aim to remain genuine. Stay focused and have a good time.


Michael O’Connor

If i owned a jewelry store, I would want the store to be perceived as much more in a fashion realm than in a jewelry realm. It would be customer-friendly and at ease. I’d want to take away that stigma of not being able to touch or interact with the jewelry or having to ask a salesperson to be able to see and touch it.

For over 30 years, Michael O’Connor has promoted the jewelry industry as a designer, marketer and a celebrity stylist, showcasing jewelry internationally on television, radio, online and in print. O’Connor works with designers, manufacturers and retailers, helping them to create and evolve their brands, position, target market and to generate awareness and desire. O’Connor has recently launched a line of jewelry under his own name on Jewelry Television in partnership with Premier Jewelry Co. “The brand is based upon my design background, as well as my background in celebrity styling and red-carpet experiences,” O’Connor says.

  • A Tactile Experience
    Although you can’t get away from showcases because it’s necessary to have jewelry locked under glass, I would try to set myself a price or dollar limit for what gets put under glass. If something sells within a particular dollar amount, I would put it into an area where it is watched, but where people can freely pick it up and try it on. That experiential feel is what causes you to try on clothing. I’d like shoppers to feel like they can pick things up, play with them and try them on without a tremendous amount of issues.

  • Fashion-Style Displays
    I’d display things more like a fashion store. In jewelry stores, often there is the ring case, the pendant case and the earring case. Instead, I would try to do things in terms of suites. I’d perhaps partner with a local clothing or accessory store and instead of just having the neck form or the earring form, I might have a bust form in a larger showcase and show clothing with necklaces and a pair of earrings and bracelets and maybe a ring.

    And in showcases, I would want to show things that work complementarily. I would display them from a trend perspective; I’d mix in tear sheets from fashion magazines or do something digitally, where you would have a fashion show on one side and jewelry pieces on the other side.

  • Create a Relationship
    Some jewelers do a phenomenal job of creating a relationship with the customer. I correlate that experience to my experience in Hollywood with celebrities. It’s not uncommon to hear of companies who pay a celebrity to wear pieces. What always strikes me is that there are many celebrities who could get paid to wear it, but instead they come to me for an honest opinion because of that relationship cultivated over years. They know that I will not force them into something that isn’t perfect for them. I would want to do the same thing in a jewelry store: cultivate long-term relationships so the customers would feel that we were not trying just to make a sale. We would say, “I know that you collect this kind of thing,” or “I’m not going to push you in this direction or that direction but bring you a product that is right for you.”

  • Look to a Younger Demographic
    The bridal segment is the bread and butter of most stores. But your relationship needs to start with a consumer much earlier these days than previously thought. Years ago, the age of marriage was younger than it is today and stores used bridal product as “the gateway”. Now the average age of marriage is in the 29 to 30-plus range, so we are losing a lot of ground by cultivating customers only from that point. We need to reach younger consumers in high school and early college and build a fashion and affordable gifting relationship with them. These kids are spending disproportionate amounts of their incomes on things that are fascinating to them like clothes, electronics and handbags — why not jewelry?

    I would try to get younger consumers into the store through events to build relationships with them so that by the time they are ready to be engaged or married, I already have that relationship. Building relationships with the customers very early on might mean carrying pieces that are bridge or costume for the younger people. The fact is, that’s the customer right now who IS looking for jewelry. If you go into stores like PacSun that cater to the teen market, you’ll see T-shirts and you’ll see walls and walls of jewelry. We should be helping these kids to start thinking about jewelry as an extension of fashion. 


Pam Danziger

If i owned a jewelry store, I’d want it to be an extraordinarily different kind of jewelry store. I’d want it located on an active “Main Street” surrounded by other extraordinary shops, boutiques, pubs, restaurants and other places that attract guests with fun things to do and see. I’d want my store to be an exciting place where people can experience jewelry shopping in a brand new way. I’d make my jewelry shop pop!

Pam Danziger, author of Shops That Pop! 7 Steps To Extraordinary Retail Success, is a luxury marketing expert and founder of Unity Marketing. Her most recent book reveals the secrets to crafting a retail shopping experience that’s irresistible to high-value shoppers.

Retail today has evolved from a product business to a people business. When people simply want a product, they can get it “Internet-easy, Internet-fast.” Going shopping today is a choice, not a necessity. So I’d make the shopping experience rewarding, engaging and personally satisfying. Sure, I’d want to have cool jewelry, but I know that the success of my jewelry store will hinge not on what I sell, but how I sell it. That means putting people, both the shoppers and the staff, first. In other words, the product follows, rather than leads.

My plan to open a jewelry store starts with the three R’s — Research the opportunity; Reimagine what a wonderful jewelry shopping experience should be; and Recruit the right people to populate my store, both customers and staff. Let’s break the three R’s plan down:

  • Research The Opportunity
    Market research is the first step in planning a store that will be successful. It needs to be located where there is plenty of traffic, and not just any traffic, but the right kind of traffic — where the affluent shoppers in the community are drawn.

    I’d research the direct competition, conducting discreet secret shopper research, browsing the stores, interacting with the staff and generally studying what those stores are doing right and wrong, and how I could do it better.

    I’d also take every opportunity to talk to people in the community who look like the kind of shoppers I want to attract. I’d identify them by their distinctive jewelry and chat them up, starting with compliments on their jewelry to lead to deeper discussion about where they found it and what makes it special. As a researcher, I find most people are more than willing to share if you approach them with authentic interest.

  • Reimagine The Shopping Experience
    I’d throw the traditional jewelry store model out the window and start with a clean slate. 

    I’d look outside to get inspiration for distinctive ways to merchandise and display jewelry. Art galleries present interesting ways to get jewelry out of the traditional glass counter displays and up on the walls to put jewelry at eye level. This is an innovative model that the Hearts on Fire diamond boutiques are doing with cases mounted on the walls. New York City-based Doyle & Doyle displays its vintage jewelry in picture frames on the walls so that shoppers examine the heirloom pieces at eye level. Framing the jewelry elevates the piece from simply an object to a piece of art.

    Home décor stores inspire new display ideas by making maximum use of color. Traditional jewelry stores tend to arrange displays by gemstones, but I’d use a color-wheel concept. Jewelry shoppers, especially men looking for a gift, may not know specific gemstones, but they do know color, so I’d arrange my wall-mounted jewelry cases to make the most impact of color: blue stones, purple stones, clear stones, yellow and red stones displayed together with low, mid and high-priced jewelry featured in one wall-mounted display.

    In merchandising my jewelry store, I’d favor handcrafted jewelry collections from artisans. This will give me unique stories to tell about each piece, stories about who crafted it and their inspiration in its creation. In this way, the jewelry artisan becomes “hero,” and the jewelry piece becomes a way the customer can share in the artisan’s creative expression.

  • Recruit The Right People
    Because retail is primarily a people, not a product, business, the people part of the business is where I will focus my attention, both to attract customers and to attract the staff to service them. First, I would look for genuinely warm, friendly, open and people-pleasing people to hire. I wouldn’t worry about jewelry-sales experience, since that can be taught. People either have the essential qualities of warmth and genuine friendliness that will make the store successful or they don’t.

    The next priority is attracting customers. The only way to guarantee people will come in is to be open when they are passing by; that means being open evenings when the pubs and restaurants are busy. 

    For my store’s opening, I’d make the whole first month my focus with special events. I’d buy a list of affluent, higher-income women in my area (household income $100,000-plus) and mail a postcard invitation to announce the opening. Then I would collect contact information for all my guests, offering a weekly raffle to give away a special jewelry piece throughout the month. 

    Finally, to keep the excitement going, I’d host monthly gallery openings showcasing one artisan’s special collection. I would do everything possible to forge a connection between my artisans and my customers. 

    In this way, I would put the people first in my jewelry shop — all the people that impact my business, including staff, customers and artisans. That is how I would make my jewelry shop pop!