Simon Jewelers, High Point, NC
URL: simonjewelers.com; OWNER: Gary Simon; FOUNDED: 1988; EXPANDED FEATURED LOCATION: 2008; PROJECT DESIGN: Gary Simon and Denny Ballard; SHOWCASES: Henry Ballester and Dan Romero of Artco Design Group; INTERIOR DESIGN: TChristi Barbour of Barbour Spangle Design Group and Koko Alexanian of Alex Velvet Inc.; COST OF EXPANSION: $600,000; STAFF: 7 full time; 5 part time; TOP BRANDS: Slane & Slane, Hearts on Fire, Pandora, Tacori, Simon G, Bixby, Simon Custom, Artcarved, Cordova, Honora; TAGLINE: Signature Jewelry for Lifetime Celebrations
WHEN GARY SIMON decided to embark on an ambitious expansion of Simon Jewelers in High Point, NC, he organized his customers into focus groups and visited an array of retail environments for inspiration. He conjured up a vision of the store, based on a desire to capture the escapism he has admired everywhere from Las Vegas’ Forum Shops to his neighborhood Coldstone Creamery. (“Who goes to an ice cream store and says, “I’m just looking,” he says.) He wanted to make his store a true destination, a break from the everyday, a figurative outing to the ice-cream parlor. “It started with a feeling and a vision. I tried to put that feeling in a little bottle and put a cap on it and bring it back. You really want a certain amount of fantasy.”
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Five Cool Things About Simon Jewelers
1. INSPIRED BY CUSTOMERS. While Simon raves about the team of designers he hired, it was his customers’ comments that carried the most weight. “A customer flat out told me ‘I know about your plans but I got to tell you right now I will not come in if it’s one of these big, cold places.’ That resonated with me the whole time.” Simon’s dilemma: How do you take a store from 2,000 square feet to 4,700 square feet, but keep it cozy? For starters, the floor plan is shaped like an hourglass. The space is larger, at first, then narrower, then it opens back up, creating a natural traffic pattern and allowing for plenty of elbow room between showcases shaped to fit the store’s undulating curves. Private client rooms and a design center also provide more intimate spaces within the expansive showroom.
2. ATTENTION TO DETAIL. Earth colors throughout the store — camel in the showcases and a blend of maple-look and cherry in the wood — add warmth, another ingredient of cozy. Using soft circular patterns and color banding, the carpeting complements the sinuous nature of the design and guides the customer around the store. A big priority was to keep the existing doorway, including the door handle that people had been touching for 10 years. “If I moved the door 30 feet to the right, they’d think, we’re not here.” Above all, Simon wants the experience to be fun and has outfitted the store with a refreshment center, big-screen TV and plush seating. Fun can be serious business when it comes to sales. “People will justify things with facts, but they make decisions based on emotions. A customer told me, “I enjoyed playing in the sandbox with you today.”
3. A CUSTOM APPROACH TO SALES. Simon contends that most people walking into his store don’t know what they want, so the old way of doing business — probing and qualifying — just doesn’t work. “We try not to ask them what they don’t usually know. You have to have a good understanding of body language and feedback. You can sense when people need more space or want to be engaged. Some people want to browse; some people want to be taken care of right away. We greet them and we see how they react, how they respond. We take the lead of the customer.” A mix of salary and commission for sales staff promotes teamwork without losing sight of goals.
4. MIX OF OLD AND NEW. Simon freely uses technology, including Facebook, YouTube and the store website to promote the store. Simon Jewelers’ eight double-sided Duratrans (in casework shaped like watches) provide illumination inside and out, day and night. (Customers say the lighting is a slice of Times Square — fitting, since the boutique center Simon Jewelers anchors is called Time Square.) But Simon never sacrifices old-fashioned customer service to technology. “I have tried to build my new store around the tenet of embracing the future while holding on to the values of the past. At Simon Jewelers, those core values should not change — although the way we connect and market to today’s consumer needs to be a moving target … with and about the end user.”
5. COMMUNITY-CENTERED E-COMMERCE. Simon Jewelers, with Slane & Slane, designed the silver and diamond Panther Collection for students and alumni of High Point University. A portion of each sale goes to the HPU Commerce Department Entrepreneurial Fund. The fund, established by Simon Jewelers in 2009, offers a scholarship to a student with a worthy business start-up plan. “Other businesses have now begun to support the fund; it is gratifying to watch it bloom,” Simon says. The collection link is www.simonjewelers.com/PantherCollection.
Five Cool Things About Gary Simon
1. HOW CHALLENGING WAS THE EXPANSION ITSELF? The expansion was divided into three phases, and the store stayed open all but five days of the process, a tribute, to the endurance of the staff, who had to work in one half of the building and then in the back third of the building. It’s been a challenge to go through all this, but we’re seeing a good resurgence in clients and spending.
2. IS THERE ANYTHING YOU DID THAT DIDN’T WORK OUT THE WAY YOU THOUGHT IT WOULD? We spent money on drop-down pull-out merchandise drawers, and while I think they are nice, the people that have been working here for years still bend over and reach in. Only about half the staff are using them. Before you pay for the pull-out sliding cases, make sure you are really going to use them.
3. IS THERE ANYTHING YOU DIDN’T DO THAT YOU WISH YOU HAD? If I did it again, I would opt for a wireless fob that you wave in front of the case and it locks and unlocks the doors and records it in a central computer. You can also monitor where the case-opening activity is by type of jewelry.
4. HOW HAVE YOU NURTURED YOUR REPAIR BUSINESS?
Mainly through the training of the salespeople to recognize when people need service. We try to recognize how much life they have on the prongs and heads on a ring and suggest they may need something done. If you offer something that is not asked for then it becomes service. You’re exceeding expectations. What grows out of that sometimes is custom design.
5. DO YOU PAY COMMISSION? Sales people get hourly pay plus commission. We have goals, individually and as a team but we don’t penalize the staff; we encourage them to work together as a team and split sales and split commission. If the store is healthy then everybody is OK.