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Ruth Mellergaard: Don’t Forget the Back of the Store




Your showroom, of course, must look spectacular. But it’s the engine rooms that will drive success.

Store design advice for jewelers from Ruth Mellergaard

So you’re moving your store. This is exciting but nerve-wracking as well. Where to start?

First, what services do you offer (retail, repairs, custom design), and what functions do you have in your store now (jewelers’ area, diamond room, a staff room, safes, etc.)? Analyze what you have and how it works. Then, think about how you can improve it.

Contrary to a few years ago when the mantra was “retail, retail, retail,” because of the diversity of services and goods that jewelers offer now, we are allocating more room to support spaces. How you operate dictates how the space is laid out and how easy it is for you to make money.

Let’s leave the showroom for another day and discuss the back areas, starting with the location of safes or a modular vault. Easy in and out is paramount.

Next, the jewelers’ area: Should it be visible to your customer? You can separate the “dirty” functions from the clean. If it is a new idea for your shop to be visible, discuss this with your jewelers. Some training may be necessary. Don’t design your shop to suit your present custom/repair business, design it for growth. A design/custom center can be located close to the jewelers. If you have a separate CAD room for designing, make sure customers can see in. 3-D printers, in particular fascinate customers. Let them watch, but keep the area clean. Everything about a visible shop must be immaculate.


If you have a watchmaker, dust is the enemy, and he’ll need his own separate space. It is worth giving customers a view through a window, because not many stores have watchmakers.

The Americans with Disabilities Act establishes criteria including certain space for doorways, bathrooms and vestibules. The guidelines to which you must adhere will influence planning decisions.

What about the support spaces? Try to make the staff room large enough for a full-sized fridge, sink, dishwasher, cupboards and a counter with a stove or at the very least a microwave. On top of the facilities, provide somewhere for staff to sit — a table or counter. It might be possible to have the staff seating area big enough to double as a conference/training room.

The manager’s office should face the floor. Make it 8 feet by 8 feet at a minimum so there is room for a desk, some files and a bookcase. One or more owner’s offices should be planned for as well, with 8 feet by 10 feet the minimum if you would like a couple of easy chairs. Bookkeeping, inventory management and online marketing could all be in one office as long as there are sound-absorbing qualities in the room such as a tile ceiling. Room for files is imperative. Get rid of old deep ones and replace them with 18-inch-deep lateral files — more storage, less floor space. Last, don’t forget space for storage — holiday decorations take up space, while paper goods and past customer files also need room.

That’s it folks. Good luck and consider hiring a professional!


Ruth Mellergaard, CID, FIIDA is a principal of GRID/3 International, an interior design firm based in New York City. Learn more about its services at

This article originally appeared in the April 2016 edition of INSTORE.

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For 25 years, Stafford Jewelers of Cincinnati, Ohio, was THE place to go for special gifts, engagement diamonds, high-end Swiss watch brands — in other words, the crème de la crème of fine jewelry. But this summer, the Stafford family was ready to retire. So, they chose Wilkerson to help them close up shop. “One of the biggest concerns was having the sale in the middle of COVID,” says Director of Stores Michelle Randle. Wilkerson gave the Stafford team plenty of ideas as well as safety guidelines, which they closely followed. “All of the employees felt safe, the customers coming in the door felt safe and we did a lot of business,” says Randle. How much business? “The inventory flew,” she says. Translation: They sold millions and millions of dollars-worth of merchandise. Randle calls it, “an incredible experience.” Would she recommend Wilkerson to other retailers who are thinking of thinning their inventories or retiring? “Everyone got more than what they expected out of the sale. You have to hire Wilkerson. They’re amazing.”

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