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Big Survey

Jewelers Imagine They’re Transported Back to 1997

They find yellow gold, mahogany cases and “big hair”.

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IN THIS YEAR’S Big Survey, we asked 750 North American jewelers to imagine they traveled back 25 years in time and were transported to a late 20th century jewelry store. “What would be the first thing that would alert you that you were in a jewelry store in 1997?” we asked.

Here’s a composite of what they envisioned:

  • The independently owned store is in a mall.
  • A sign on the door says, “No food or drinks.”
  • Once inside, the atmosphere is hushed, the walls are paneled, the wall-to-wall carpet is deep and plush. Natural dark wood jewelry cases are lined up on both sides of the store with an aisle in the center. The mahogany cases are stuffed with jewelry, much of it yellow gold with rainbow-hued “semi-precious” colored gemstones shown on white leather and pink velvet displays. Other accent colors in the décor are gray and purple.
  • There’s a watch band display and a class-ring display, both on the countertop, along with faux plants and an ashtray. Toward the back, there’s a huge giftware department.
  • It’s so quiet, you can hear a clock tick. If there’s music, it’s best described as “stuffy.”
  • The light is bright.
  • A smooth sales associate in a suit or a sports coat approaches immediately, within 30 seconds. His demeanor could be described as friendly, but a little bit haughty.
  • Other staff members are stationed firmly behind the showcases. A middle-aged salesman stands near a case of watches, clasping his hands in front of him.
  • Staff members, some with “big hair,” others with “bad haircuts,” are dressed in suits and dresses with shoulder pads. Women wear their hair up high to show off diamond stud earrings.
  • Chunky gold chains, including omega, herringbone and serpentine styles, hang from hooks on large wall displays. A sign announces the gold chains are “75 percent off.”
  • Customers are also shopping for slide bracelets, the Y-necklaces popularized by the TV show, FRIENDS, Swatch watches and cocktail rings.
  • At the bridal counter, a man shops solo for a marquise or princess-cut diamond engagement ring. Another is buying a contoured-style wedding set right out of stock, diamonds already set.
  • Despite this fanciful look back, one respondent said that little has changed in 25 years:
  • “Most stores have the same wood/glass showcases with salespeople standing behind them. Old carpet, slow, boring mood music. Our industry has a real problem, it’s so fragmented that individual owners can’t afford to make their stores look like trendy retail shops.”

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Moving Up — Not Out — with Wilkerson

Trish Parks has always wanted to be in the jewelry business and that passion has fueled her success. The original Corinth Jewelers opened in the Mississippi town of the same name in 2007. This year, Parks moved her business from its original strip mall location to a 10,000-square foot standalone store. To make room for fresh, new merchandise, she asked Wilkerson to organize a moving sale. “What I remember most about the sale is the outpouring excitement and appreciation from our customers,” says Parks. Would she recommend Wilkerson to other jewelers? “I would recommend Wilkerson because they came in, did what they were supposed to and made us all comfortable. And we met our goals.”

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