Connect with us

Cover Stories

The Big Story: 35 Best Bridal Tips Ever

mm

Published

on

They typically account for about 2 percent of the
customers who walk into your store
, but almost 50
percent of your sales. Yes, we’re talking the engagement-
ring buyer. He’s the guy the American jewelry
industry is built on. He’s often a little nervous, not
always willing to admit he doesn’t know much about
what he’s buying and often in need of credit. But treat
him well, ensure his first step toward a life of happily
ever after is a successful one, and he will ensure your
business thrives. To help you in this endeavor, we’ve sifted through 14
years of INSTORE editions, eight years of our sister magazine INDESIGN,
and the almost 2,000 daily tips we’ve sent out over the years to
find the best bridal ideas we’ve published, and then added a modern
spin. Sure, you’ll be familiar with many of them, but best practice isn’t
about knowing, it’s about doing. As we reach another proposal season,
embed these tips into your processes. And you’ll be saying I do to a
good last quarter of 2015.
CHRIS BURSLEM


 

1

Men Are from
MIT,
Women Are
from FIT …

CLASSIC TIP: “Gender profiling”
is not a dirty phrase, at least
when it comes to engagementring
sales. According to The
Knot’s research, “stone quality”
is the most important attribute
for men when selecting
an engagement ring, while
for soon-to-be brides “style/
setting” is given priority over
other attributes. When it’s the
guy, talk about the quality of the
materials and construction. For
a woman, focus on the styling
of a ring.

MODERN SPIN: “When scoping
out new designers, check out
their Instagram accounts to see
what kind of following they have
and how on-trend they are with
end customers,” recommends
Cindy Edelstein of Jeweler’s
Resource Bureau.

Advertisement

 

2

Dump the Lab Report

CLASSIC TIP: Romance the
stone. This is the love business,
it’s about filling someone’s heart
with visions of a life spent with
their soul mate, not filling their
head with the numbers that
classify a dry commodity. Instantly
pulling out the lab report
whenever you show a diamond
is a romance-killer, “pure and
simple,” says Shane Decker.

MODERN SPIN: Promise yourself
that for the next month you
won’t bring out a lab report
when showing a diamond until
the deal is done or the customer
asks for it. Jewelers have to take
back their space and reclaim
their knowledge and their
skills, says Stephane Fischler,
president of the Antwerp World
Diamond Centre.

 

Advertisement

3

Build a Better Wallet

CLASSIC TIP: Let them touch. Nearly 100 percent of engagement
ring buyers do research on the Net, but only 10 percent
buy online. Why? Because it’s a product they have to touch.
What’s it mean for you? You need goods in the store. Bruce
Freshley of Freshley Media expressed dismay at the results of
our 2012 Big Survey, which showed the majority of stores stock
fewer than 10 1-carat-plus diamonds. “Even more shocking is
that the majority have fewer than 10 on memo,” he said. “You
simply cannot compete in bridal with a weak wallet. You’ve got
to have the right goods at the right price at the right time.”

MODERN SPIN: Memo up, although
do so
with an understanding
of the
carrying costs.
Be a hard-nosed
numbers guy
about this.

 

4

Aim Higher

Advertisement

CLASSIC TIP: Boost your average
ticket. Consumers are getting
older, wiser, and more cynical.
At the same time, if you give
them a good reason to trade
up, they will. “Most of us have
learned that the lowest price
isn’t always the best value,” says
Paco Underhill, keynote speaker
at the 2015 SMART Show. McKinsey
& Co. noted in a January
report what store owners have been telling us for the last few
years: “More people are trading
up from what
some consider to be
the standard 1-carat
diamond engagement
ring to 2, 3, or 4
carats.” This trend is
being reinforced by
the rising average age
of marrying couples
— they can afford a
more expensive engagement
ring.

MODERN SPIN: To be a player in
this market, you need to have
on hand a few aspirational
pieces, says David
Brown, president
of the Edge Retail
Academy. Even for
those regular customers
who can’t afford
a $100,000 bracelet,
it’s a thrill to try it on.
Start experimenting
with more expensive
bridal sets.

 

5

Aim Lower

CLASSIC TIP: A few years
ago, Torin Bales, owner of
Torin Bales Fine Jewelry
in Victoria, TX, realized
his store’s upper-end image
was scaring off young
customers and hurting his
bridal sales (at the time,
the segment accounted
for only 10 to 15 percent
of his business). So Bales,
with his ad agency, returned
to the mainstream
radio he had once thought
passé to broadcast a new
message: “Yes, young bridal
shopper, you can afford
to shop at Torin Bales.”
To support this theme,
he located vendors who
could make quality $1,200
engagement rings. And he
advertised his Wells Fargo
interest-free financing. He
also invested in social media
contests and provided
Blue Moon beer on tap in
the store. The results were
fast-coming and impressive.
The 200 rings in the
$1,200 to $3,000 price
range he brought in flew
out the door. “Having the
inventory as prepackaged
rings has worked much
better for us than semimounts.
Younger bridal
customers don’t understand
a semi-mount.” His
bridal business has nearly
quadrupled, to 40 percent
of his business, and margins
have never been better,
he says.

MODERN SPIN: Offer financing.
“If you go to any
mall store, they are really
selling a payment, not
quality or style. Once you
get them in, they’ll keep
coming back — for bridesmaids’
gifts, wedding
bands and anniversary
gifts, and they are sending
their friends and relatives,”
Bales says.

 

6

Shoot the Fish

CLASSIC TIP: Follow up.
For years we’ve been
preaching the need to
follow up on your engagement-
ring sales. But
only half of jewelers do
it, says David Liu, CEO of
The Knot. Speaking at the
SMART Jewelry Show in
Chicago, he said that according
to his company’s
recent research, just 51
percent of engagementring
customers hear anything
from their jewelers
after the big purchase.
This represents a tremendous
missed opportunity
when it should be like
“shooting goldfish in a
barrel,” he said. Including
wedding bands and
bridal party gifts, there is
an additional $3,000 in
jewelry to be sold after
the engagement ring purchase.
And then there’s
the lifetime value of the
customer.

MODERN SPIN: “Find
out their wedding date
and follow up,” says Liu.
“Use the media and communication
platforms
these customers are
using. Follow them on
Twitter, follow them on
Facebook, send your
congratulations. This is
a generation that cannot
share enough.” At the very
least, send a hand-written
thank-you note— they
are still among the most
powerful tools available
for building a long-term
relationship, and it will
put you in a minority of
jewelers — only 40 percent
of couples receive
such a note.

 

7

Find Out What
He Really Wants

CLASSIC TIP: Ask the right questions. When a customer
asks for a specific diamond, say a 1.40-carat,
round brilliant, H, VS1, GIA-certified diamond, your
first thought should not be, Dang, where can I get one
of those? But, why? The ultimate answer will allow
you to provide the customer with what he really needs.
Did he cite those specs because that is what he really
wants or simply because it’s something he picked up
at a random site on the Internet or because that’s what
his best friend bought his fiancée? Or is he just trying
to compare your prices with the jeweler’s down the
road?

MODERN SPIN: Your
job has changed from
dispensing information
to being a human solution
provider. If he just
wanted something different,
you’ve now created
the chance to show some
unique sizes and shapes
(rose cuts, old mine, organic
diamonds) that you
may have in stock.

 

8

Didn’t
Get the Sale?
Follow up Anyway

CLASSIC TIP: Don’t give up. The
next time a young couple comes
in and looks at bridal and then
leaves, follow up with a text
message saying “Do you have
any questions I can answer?”
urges Aleah Siegel, a sales rep
from Olympian Diamonds.
“This shows you care, plus
young people love texts,” she
says. They may well have had a
question they were too shy to
ask. “You will never know unless
you follow up,” Siegel says.

MODERN SPIN: Gallery of Diamonds
in Orange County, CA,
has a neat way of obtaining
customers’ email addresses:
If a woman likes a particular
engagement ring or other piece
of jewelry, an employee will
snap a photo of the ring on the
customer’s finger and then immediately
email it to her with
the ring’s information. In addition
to the key data obtained, it
keeps the piece and store top of
mind in the browser’s mind, and
allows her to easily upload it to
Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook
so her friends can see it, or
even forward it to her fiancé or
boyfriend.

 

9

Location,
Location,

www.location

CLASSIC TIP: Be easy to find.
Today, every diamond-buying
mission starts with a URL.
Make yours easy to remember,
because your store won’t be the
only site that prospective customers
visit.

MODERN SPIN: Go to any of the
following and you’ll find a successful
jeweler. Mayfair Jewelers:
Mayfairrocks.com; Alter’s:
hellodiamonds.com; Raymond
Lee Fine Jewelers: webuybigdiamonds.
com. What’s yours?

 

10

Stay Top-of-Mind

CLASSIC TIP: Advertise,
advertise, advertise. Being
a jeweler is like being a police
officer: nobody wants
to pay you much mind
until they need your help.
And at those times they
want someone they can
trust. That means your
goal should be top of mind
in your market — advertising
365 days a year, even
if it may be 3,650 days
before that engagementring
buyer needs you. But
at least by then he’ll know
where to go.

MODERN SPIN: Put the
shotgun away. Pick one or
two advertising mediums,
based on their reach and
return on investment,
and stick to them. That
requires courage, perseverance
and — sometimes
even being bored with
your own ads.

 

11

Talk the Talk

CLASSIC TIP: Speak the
language of love. OK, no
need to overdo it but the
right descriptive phrase
can help bring out the true
beauty of that lump of
compressed carbon while
also infusing it with emotion
and igniting desire.

MODERN SPIN: At the start
of every engagement season,
give your salespeople
a homework assignment:
Come up with 25 phrases
that describe a diamond.
If they need inspiration,
they should watch QVC
for half an hour and write
down all the adjectives the
well-trained presenters
on the shopping channel
use.

 

12

Jingle Bells,
Wedding Bells

CLASSIC TIP: Don’t rush the
sale. One of the cruel ironies of
jewelry retail is that the biggest
gift-giving season coincides with
the same month young men
feel most compelled to pop the
question. That requires a twospeed
approach to sales. “This
consumer is not preoccupied
with getting a package under
the Christmas tree, but rather
with making one of the most
important jewelry purchases in
their lifetime,” says Terry Chandler,
president of the Diamond
Council of America.

MODERN SPIN: Chandler recommends
training sessions
to prepare your sales associates
to effectively engage the
wedding-ring customer during
the season. Underscore the fact
that the bridal sale requires
a relationship. Train them to
change gears for this consumer
so he doesn’t feel rushed or
under-served.

 

13

Customer
for Life

CLASSIC TIP: Get ’em back in the
store. Ensure every customer
signs up for a yearly cleaning
and prong-check reminder. As
with auto sales, the real value of
a customer often doesn’t come
from the initial transaction, but
after he or she walks off “the
lot,” as a result of future purchases,
repairs, and long-term
good will. An engagement is the
beginning of a beautiful relationship — and not just for the
married couple.

MODERN SPIN: In 2015, personal
data is gold. Set your calendar,
automate cleaning reminders,
personal notes, phone calls …
and keep in mind that when
you’ve been a central part of one
of the most important transactions
in their lives, it’s not cold
calling, it’s good service.

 

14

Where
Everybody

Knows Your Name

CLASSIC TIP: When it comes to
diamonds, friendly wins over
expert. People often lack confidence
when buying diamond
jewelry, so you need to ensure
that everything about your store
puts them at ease, starting with
staff. It’s crucial they express the
idea that they’re there to help.

MODERN SPIN: Hire the best.
Research has shown great diamond
salespeople share similar
traits: They tend toward slight extroversion, and their patience
levels are in the median
range (they can wait to close a
sale without coming across as
pushy). “It’s very important to
have a qualified person with the
right ‘diamond DNA’ to make
contact with customers and create
a positive first impression,”
says David Brown of the Edge
Retail Academy.

 

15

Surprise,
Surprise:

Men Spend
More

CLASSIC TIP: Encourage
surprise
proposals. De
Beers research
learned that when
women were
involved in the
selection process,
they picked
cheaper rings. By
encouraging surprise
proposals, De
Beers shifted the
purchasing power
to men, the lesscautious
spenders.
And many men
could do with the
help. According
to a Men’s Health survey in 2011, 26
percent of brides
wished their proposal
had been
more romantic
and original.

MODERN SPIN: Next time a man
is wavering on
whether to bring
his intended in on
the selection process,
recommend
the joy of surprises
(Dave Richardson’s
booklet Pop the
Question is a good
place to start). And
don’t forget to ask
them to post their
ring selfie to your
Facebook page.

 

16

Theater of the Mind

CLASSIC TIP: Unlock their imagination. Chuck
Kuba came from a background in the performing
arts before returning to the family’s traditional line
of work and opening his own jewelry store. The two
really aren’t so different; one is played out on the
boards, the other in the imagination, says Kuba,
who is a big advocate of using the “theater of the
mind” to unlock a customer’s dreams and desires.

MODERN SPIN: “Nothing
can compare with asking a
woman to close her eyes and
imagine the perfect engagement
ring and then describe
it to you,” says Kuba, the
owner of Iowa Diamond in
Des Moines, IA. “It’s magic.”

 

17

The Four Es:
Expertise,

Education, Ethics
and Experience

CLASSIC TIP: Get your facts
straight. The Internet today
does a lot of the preliminary
heavy lifting when it comes to
imparting knowledge about
diamonds. That’s good and bad.
For one, it means you need to
get your facts straight, especially
when it comes to the origins of
your goods. Consumers today,
especially millennials, already
know a great deal about where
their buys come from. “An item
as common as a banana can
be traced to its source. If I can
see where a banana was grown, what can you do for a diamond
ring?” notes Larry Johnson,
author of The Complete Guide to
Effective Jewelry Display
.

MODERN SPIN: Prep staffers by
placing “cheat sheets” (index
cards listing selling benefits,
origin info, and treatments)
near displays, says Johnson.
Keep in mind that this is not
just about playing defense; earn
a reputation as an aggressively
ethical jeweler and more young
consumers will seek you out.

 

18

Cut Trumps
Color and Clarity

CLASSIC TIP: One of the unacknowledged
truths of the jewelry
business is that no one actually
wants a “cheap” diamond.
They want the good stuff. “They
want quality, value and service,”
says David Brown.

MODERN SPIN: Search out superior
cut diamonds, possibly
giving thought to your own store
brand. “You have to have superior
cut diamonds — they are an
easier product to sell, and you
can get a bit of margin on them.
If you know how to sell cut — as
opposed to talking about clarity
and color — you can get a
superior price and learn how to
compete against the Internet,”
Brown says.

 

19

The Fifth C

CLASSIC TIP: Expand
your customers’ idea of
what engagement can be
beyond the four Cs, says
designer Todd Reed, who
incorporates rough and
opaque diamonds in his
works. “Be interested
in the diamond’s provenance.
Don’t emphasize
the four Cs, but rather the
fifth C — the character aspect
of it, and that’s pretty
priceless in a lot of ways,”
he says.

MODERN SPIN: For young
customers in particular,
having a diamond that
is different from “everybody
else’s diamond” has
become very important,
notes Reed, adding that
by stocking such unique
stones you will also be
adding a different kind of
client to your mix.

 

20

You Want Fries
with That?

CLASSIC TIP: Show the
wedding band with the
engagement ring every
time, urges sales trainer
Peter Canella. “I’ve been
using this technique for
25 years, and I can tell you
about 35 percent of the
time, the customer leaves
with both items.”

MODERN SPIN: Canella
says customers will typically
say they’re just looking
for an engagement
ring. “If your client says he
is sure about the engagement
ring but is uncertain
about the wedding band,
politely inform him he
is free to change out the
wedding band if his fiancée
wants something different,”
he says.

 

21

Drop Hints

CLASSIC TIP: Get a commitment
on the bands.
The current state of young
people’s finances and the
cost of precious metals
means it’s important that
you hint at the cost of the
wedding band early in a
bridal sale, says Michael
Lebowitz, vice president
of Buxbaum Jewelry Advisors.

MODERN SPIN: “Today, the
typical wedding budget
is quite limited, and yet
everything — the flowers,
the cake, the photographer,
the venue — is
important to the bride,
especially if it is her first
wedding. If jewelers don’t
make that sale early in the
process, or at least point
out the need to keep Xamount
available for the
groom’s wedding band,
they will miss out.”

 

22

Make it Special

CLASSIC TIP: Buy a diamond
at Sissy’s Log Cabin
in Pine Bluff, AR, and the
following will happen. 1.)
It will be set while you
wait. 2.) It is brought out
for you on a silver platter,
along with champagne.
3.) Salespeople will gather
around to congratulate
you. And 4.) One staff
member will sing Tanti
Auguri
in almost perfect
operatic Italian. That’s no
ordinary experience.

MODERN SPIN: Try an
English version of Tanti
Auguri
(best wishes)?
Nah, some things are best
left alone.

23

Paaaaarty!

CLASSIC TIP: Play dress-up. Damas Jewelry, a leading
jeweler in the Middle East, has private rooms in its
stores and throws engagement parties for couples to
watch a show and try on rings and bridal jewelry.

MODERN SPIN: Consider installing a large mirror
with a bit of privacy, and inviting a bride-to-be to try
on jewelry while she tries on her wedding gown. “It’s
easier to get someone to fall in love with it once you’ve
gotten them to put it on,” Paco Underhill says.

 

24

Offer a "Selection"

CLASSIC TIP: Banish
from view that big tray
of plain wedding bands
that you pull out to
show all the different
sizes you have. Sure it’s
convenient, but that
simple tray makes it
too easy to undersell
your customers.

MODERN SPIN: One of
your prime jobs as a
retailer in a world with
too much stuff is to edit
the choices offered to
your customers. Follow
a rule of not showing
more than three rings
at a time.

 

25

Sales Stigma

CLASSIC TIP: Don’t discount, at
least not loudly. Engagement
ring buyers have a mental stumbling
block with the symbol of
their undying love being “On
Sale!!!”

MODERN SPIN: A better approach
is to stealthily reduce the
retail price and keep retagging
until it sells — and add a motivating
spiff for the salespeople.

 

26

There You Are!

CLASSIC TIP: Money and your
reputation are on the line when
you drop a diamond and can’t
find it. But keep calm and smile.
You’ve got this.

MODERN SPIN: Try this: 1. Turn
out the lights, shine a flashlight
and look for sparkle. 2. If that
fails, put a stocking over the end
of a vacuum cleaner nozzle.

 

27

Follow the Customer’s Lead

CLASSIC TIP: Organize the
merchandise in a way the
customer shops. Group
your rings into stands
and trays that follow the
flow of your customer’s
thought process and your
selling presentation.
“Make it easy for yourself
to make it special,” says
Johnson. It also means
you never have to get up
and leave the customer,
often a fatal sales mistake.

MODERN SPIN: Unless
you’re dealing with one of
today’s heavily branded
items like Hearts On Fire
or Tacori where the name
is the draw, you should
sort by types — five primary
styles of mountings,
for instance — rather
than by brands. “If the
customer is interested in
a halo setting, why force
them (and your salesperson)
to move around to
six different showcases all
over the bridal section to
look at halos from six different
sources? Put them
all in one case and make it
easier on everyone,” says
merchandising expert
Sally Furrer.

 

28

Give it Space

CLASSIC TIP: The biggest mistake
in display, according to
Larry Johnson, author of The
Complete Guide to Effective Jewelry
Display
, is hiding the good
stuff among the bad. Expensive
goods need air to breathe.

MODERN SPIN: Plan for it. Keep
your good items away from your
beads, chains and costume jewelry.
Not only will this help avoid
diminishing the appeal of your
best goods, but it will keep boisterous
younger customers away
from your diamond engagement
ring area. Your wedding customers
invariably want a tad more
privacy.

 

29

Go for the
Gross Dollars

CLASSIC TIP: Don’t get fixated
on margins. Dollars get
banked, not margins. Industry
analyst Ken Gassman cites the
example of gold and platinum
semi-mounts. A gold sale will
invariably edge platinum in
terms of gross margin by a few
percentage points. “And jewelers
look at that and say, ‘No, I’m making more profit on a gold
mount’ — well they’re really
not,” Gassman says, noting that
platinum, with almost twice the
average sale, will result in a lot
more dollars flowing from a sale
into their account.

MODERN SPIN: Seven out of 10
brides opt for white gold rings,
but Platinum Guild International
says that according to its
research a lot of them would
prefer platinum. To make the
sale, you need to have the goods
in stock. The PGI says retailers
who stock at least 25 percent of
their inventory in platinum are
“much more likely” to close a
platinum sale.

 

30

Promote
Platinum’s

Staying Power

CLASSIC TIP: Want to sell more
platinum? Demonstrate how it
dulls only a little over time but
still complements a diamond
as opposed to white gold, which
fades to yellow.

MODERN SPIN: Keep an old
white gold ring and an old platinum
one behind the counter
to show customers what happens
to the two metals after a
few years. One of platinum’s
strength’s is the durability of its
white color, which won’t fade
or change, similar to their marriage
(hint, hint).

 

31

Leave Love Notes

CLASSIC TIP: Always handwrite a sales slip for
a wedding purchase. It’s a personal touch that
allows people to know exactly what they have
purchased.

MODERN SPIN: What to do in 2015? Much the
same as jewelers were doing in 1915. Write out
the details such as the size, color and clarity of a
diamond and its setting.

 

32

Lend
Some Shine

CLASSIC TIP: Let big customers
borrow some nice jewelry for
their wedding. It will ensure
their special day is extra special.
And it pretty much guarantees
they will tell everyone they
know what great service you
gave them.

MODERN SPIN: Tiny Jewelry Box
in Washington, DC, includes
this little extra as part of a cross
promotion with the local Ritz-
Carlton that also gives couples a
complimentary one-night stay
at the hotel. And don’t forget to
take care of the insurance.

 

33

Loop
the Loupe

CLASSIC TIP: Lend that diamond
browser your solid-looking
loupe and tell him to go shop
diamonds elsewhere. Not only
does it show trust but it’s a great
way to get that customer back in
your store.

MODERN SPIN: “Spend time with
the client explaining what to
look for in a diamond when using
a loupe,” says David Geller. “Then urge him to go elsewhere
to see if he can find a better
diamond, adding: ‘Just do me a
favor and bring it back.’”

 

34

Offer a Little Extra

One of the best ways to
show stand-out service is
with the little extras that
you give away with an engagement
ring purchase.

EXAMPLES:

  • Buy a ring at Joyce’s
    Fine Jewelry in
    Uniontown, PA, and the
    store helps negotiate
    discounts from local bridal
    vendors.
  • Glennpeter Jewelers
    Diamond Centre,
    with three locations in
    Albany and Clifton Park,
    N.Y., presents certificates
    for beauty services to
    brides including free
    blowouts and manicures
    at a local salon to ensure
    they are looking their best
    on their big day.
  • Montica Jewelry in
    Coral Gables, FL,
    gives bridal engagement
    customers who spend
    $5,000 or more a
    “savings package” valued
    at $1,000 that includes a
    $200 gift certificate for a
    wedding band, the first
    year’s insurance, annual
    in-house appraisal,
    engraving and unlimited
    cleanings. “Conservatively,
    about seven out of
    10 engagement customers
    come back for their
    wedding bands with us
    because of the perceived
    value of this savings
    package,” says owner
    John O’Rourke.
  • David Fairclough
    Fine
    Jewelers, Toledo,
    OH, partnered with
    a travel agent to
    send a lucky couple
    on a second honeymoon
    for their first
    anniversary.
  • Wanna Buy A Watch
    in Los Angeles, CA,
    offers a complimentary
    one-hour relationship
    consultation with a
    licensed psychologist
    with the purchase of an
    antique engagement ring.

 

35

Treat
Women Well

CLASSIC TIP: The surprise proposal
is a nice tradition, but in
reality women are involved in
the decision two-thirds of the
time, doing research, talking
to friends and browsing stores,
according to TheKnot data. And
many say they are not treated
all that well when they walk
into a store alone. That’s pretty
shortsighted. “When they go
with their fiancés, they say they
feel much more comfortable,
they are paid more attention to
and made to feel special,” says
Kristyn Clement, researcher for
The Knot Market Intelligence.

MODERN SPIN: Offer brides-tobe
whatever is at your disposal
— time to browse, a friendly
smile, a seat at the espresso bar,
a glass of wine, a comfortable
chair, and they likely will return
with their fiancés.

 

8 THINGS TO SAY
ABOUT DIAMONDS

 

How good are you at explaining what a
wedding ring means, what it signifies — you know,
that “once-in-a-lifetime purchase” thing — and
why customers should be open to exploring all the
possibilities, from diamond size to materials? Or is
your usual gambit “So, what did you have in mind?”
Here a few verbal plays from past pages of INSTORE
to help you on the sales floor.

 

1

“Wedding bands are
the real symbol of
commitment, more so than
engagement rings, which
symbolize a promise.” —
stylist Michael O’Conner on
the opportunity in bands,
especially diamond wedding
bands.

2

When chatting with
a potential customer,
lament how many dull and
dirty rings and pendants
you see out there, even
on the hands of women
with multi-carat diamond
pieces. Why? Because it’s
true, and shocking! And
reminding customers to
keep their jewelry sparkling
through both professional
(once a year at minimum)
and at-home cleanings will
keep them happy with their
purchase. And keep them
coming back to your store.
“Your customer will recognize
you as an expert, and
as her personal jeweler,”
says Kristie Nicolosi, CEO
of The Kingswood Co.

3

Invent your own terminology
for diamonds.
For instance, if a diamond
has strong light performance,
say it has a high
“scorch factor.” Not only
does such language lighten
the atmosphere on the
sales floor but it’s memorable.
What sounds more
interesting, “She’ll love this
ring” or “This ring will give
her jelly knees”?

4

Here’s the perfect
answer for when
your customer asks the
difference between two
diamonds you’re showing
(and you don’t want to slam
one). Diamonds are like
women … they are all pretty,
but some are prettier.”
That’s courtesy of Barry
Baxman of Baxman & Co. in
Denver, CO.

5

It never hurts to add a
hint of urgency to the
sale. Two suggestions from
Bruce Freshley at Freshley
Media: “I expect the bigger,
better diamonds will be
gone by Dec. 15.” or “If you
love it, you should consider
buying it because it may
not be here long.”

6

“Internal characteristics.”
That’s a way
better choice of words
when describing a less
than perfect diamond than
“flaws,” “blemishes” or
“inclusions.” “That’s like
saying the diamond has
cancer,” says sales trainer
Shane Decker.

7

Diamonds are a bargain
at $5,000 or more a
carat. Let your customers
know, urges Decker, adding
the trick is to focus on
“true value.” Value? Yes.
Let’s start with: 1) their
incredible rarity; 2) the
difficulty and expense of
mining them; and 3) the
high level of skill necessary
to cut a diamond. “Then
there is their toughness
(what else can you wear
every day for 1,000-plus
years?), and their enduring
value (especially compared
to other luxury products),”
Decker explains.

8

“It’s a good thing you
came in on (insert day
of the week) because we
have a buy-10-get-onefree
offer today” That’s
a favorite line of milliondollar
sales veteran Brian
Barfield when confronted
with a nervous young man.
“Depending on the vibe I
get I like to soften them up
with a joke to lighten the
tension,” he says. “It sets
up the friendship mode that
I am here to help you, not to
pull the wool over your eyes
or to try to get money out
of you.”

Advertisement

SPONSORED VIDEO

Gene the Jeweler

When Gene the Jeweler Speaks, His Employees Listen

In this episode of Jimmy DeGroot’s Gene the Jeweler series, Gene has a simple request for his employees. The good news is that they follow his instructions. The bad news is that they follow a bit too literally.

Promoted Headlines

Cover Stories

You Deserve Better or Best

Published

on

The success of thoughtfully implemented “Good-Better-Best” (G-B-B) pricing strategies has been proven beyond dispute. Look around. Airlines offer coach class seats with variable options. Allstate offers auto batteries with warranties ranging from 12-48 months at prices that vary disproportionately. Heating oil suppliers sell plans based on a monthly fluctuating rate as well as a “premium” package in which the rate is fixed for the season.

I read a recent article in the Harvard Business Review (“The Good-Better-Best Approach to Pricing,” by Rafi Mohammed) that made me wonder why retail jewelers were not taking full advantage of this strategy in their stores.

Twenty years ago, Allstate conducted research to determine just how much price really mattered to their insurance customers. They learned that drivers are very concerned that if they are involved in an auto accident, their rates will go up. They introduced three new policy levels to add to their “Standard” level policy. They have a “Basic” policy at 5 percent below “Standard,” a “Gold” policy (6 percent higher price), and a “Platinum” level policy (15 percent higher price). Last year, only 10 percent of their customers downgraded to “Basic,” while a whopping 23 percent upgraded from “Standard” to “Gold” or “Platinum.”

So what can we do in a retail jewelry store to take advantage of this tendency of consumers to move up in price when given attractive options?

Implementing a “Good-Better-Best” plan in your store has three benefits. One, it can entice new and existing customers to spend more. Two, it allows you to compete directly with lower-priced competitors, including Internet shops. And three, a G-B-B strategy will change your customers’ actions through consumer psychology.

Successfully offering a G-B-B option depends on the following considerations:

  1. The price level of the “Good” option should be no more than 25 percent below the price of the “Better” option. The “Best” option should be no more than 50 percent higher than the “Better” option. For example, if we have a $1,000 “Better” item, the “Good” option should be about $800, and the “Best” option about $1,400.
  2. There should be a perceived important difference between the “Good” and “Better” options that motivate the customer to opt up for the “Better” selection. Limit the number of features in your “Good” option to improve the perceived value of the “Better” option.
  3. Each option should be explained in four attributes that differentiate it from the lower-priced option.
  4. Signage should clearly explain the differences and costs of each option. Name each option intelligently. Don’t use descriptions that confuse the merchandise. There is nothing wrong with simply using “Good, Better, Best.”

When you are determining the price points for your G-B-B offerings, consult your “inventory performance by category” report in your inventory management software. This will tell you the average selling price of your current sales for each different category and style of merchandise. Your goal is obviously to sell more at higher prices, so consider a price about 10 percent higher than your current average sale as your “Better” option. For example, if your average diamond stud earring sale is $1,000 now, make your price points $899, $1,099 and $1,399.
Retail jewelers should benefit from the thoughtful implementation of the G-B-B principles. Here are some display suggestions for your store.

Diamond stud earrings and anniversary bands

ffer three grades of earrings in the most popular styles. The differences in stud earring prices are obviously predicated by diamond size and quality as well as mounting material.
Start with 14K white gold mountings with round diamonds in sizes ranging from one-eighth, one-quarter, one-third, one-half, three-quarters and one-carat sizes. Develop a source (internally or externally) that can provide three different qualities in all six sizes. Obtain a display arrangement that allows the three qualities and sizes to be shown with descriptions, as well as prices and monthly payment options. Add signage that explains each of the four differentiating points between the qualities offered. Put in place a reorder procedure that quickly refills the empty space when sales occur.

Bridal

ake your most popular styles of engagement rings (halos, solitaires, sets, three-stone, etc.) and create a display with a G-B-B variation of each in a single tray. If you can, include several of these in each showcase. If you can direct your customer to those trays, you stand a better chance of easily up-selling the customer to a bigger size. Feature payment amounts to make it easier for your staff to sell up.

I am a big believer in organizing your bridal showcase by style, not by vendor brand (unless it is a very recognizable national brand) or diamond size. That is how your customer shops. With all your halo choices collected together in a single part of the showcase, you’ll find it much easier to move up in price and keep your customer from having to visit several showcases in order to see your selection.

Other merchandise

ollow this same strategy. Choose your most popular designs and identify what you can do to that item to be able to sell it at 25 percent less. Maybe it is a smaller stone or a metal change to silver. Make that new item your “Good” selection. Now revisit the original piece and ask what you can add to the design to make it worth 25 percent more. Make that your “Best” choice, and display them all together with prices and payments.

If you are successful with such a strategy, it could make both your customer and you very happy. Your store would be easier for your customer to shop, and your inventory could shrink to fewer pieces offered since your sales are more concentrated in your G-B-B offerings.

Give it a try and see what happens to your average sale. If it works, expand it. If it doesn’t, try something else. Be sure you track the results of your efforts to know what has worked and what has not.

Retail jewelry is hard enough without leaving money on the table when the customer is already in your store and poised to buy. Implementing this strategy might just move your results from “Good” to “Better” to “Best.”

Continue Reading

Cover Stories

E-commerce for Everyone: Let Your Customers Buy Something Where & When They Want To

Published

on

E-commerce has been vilified by many independent retail jewelers as an under-cutting, price-conscious evil entity intent on stealing hard-earned business from brick-and-mortar stores while ripping their profit margins to shreds.

At this point, though, it’s more or less a matter of if you can’t beat them the way you’ve been operating, you’d better consider joining them.

It’s time to rethink e-commerce as a viable option for you, the independent brick-and-mortar-based jeweler, but also to understand what it takes in dollars and time to drive traffic to a website, says Ben Smithee, digital-marketing expert and CEO of The Smithee Group. The big online players didn’t get where they are without investing considerable time and money into marketing, social media and search-engine optimization.

In other words, simply enabling e-commerce is not like flipping a switch and watching the money pour in. Instead, imagine you’re opening a second store. How much planning and preparation would you put into that? You’d work with a store designer. You’d hire more staff. You’d invest in advertising.

“Most people grossly underestimate what it takes for advertising to send people to the site,” Smithee says. “A lot of them expect to have overnight sales. Start with realistic expectations — they should be thinking about selling one, two, three things a week or a month to start and ramping up from there. Without realistic expectations, they will decide it doesn’t work and will quit,” Smithee says.

Independent jewelers like Tim Wright of Simply Unique Jewelry Designs in Yorktown, VA, have been reluctant converts in recent years. Wright says he realized in the past year that his company has to be searchable and sell its wares online. If not, he says, “We will go away like other independents in our area.”

It took time for Wright to wrap his head around the idea. “I cannot imagine people ordering jewelry, especially our one-of-a-kind pieces, off the Internet, but we are working on a new website to be more searchable and to be able to sell off of it. The basics we all have survived on over the years are not selling in the store anymore because of the Internet.”
Shane O’Neill, vice-president of Fruchtman Marketing, advises independent jewelers to temper their expectations when they turn to e-commerce.

Most jewelers are not going to see significant amounts of e-commerce, he says, because the marketing perspective is much different between traditional stores and online stores. “If they are marketing around a 20-mile radius, we still know that people want to touch and feel the jewelry,” says O’Neill. Plus the data that millennials don’t shop in stores isn’t necessarily true. They shop in bigger numbers than Gen X or baby boomers do. But they shop online with the idea of browsing and checking out pricing, and so they expect a shopping experience with all of the details revealed, O’Neill says.

The preparation it takes to be ready for e-commerce almost certainly will result in increased sales in the store.

“They probably have checked all the boxes in terms of a good user experience, descriptions, photos, categories of metal type and have galleries of multiple products,” O’Neill says. “When someone comes to the website and they have the ability to have a great browsing experience, they make purchasing decisions based on that. When they stop in the store, you should have a higher closing rate. To me, that’s an e-commerce transaction, too.”

The website should be like your second store, O’Neill says, in terms of how you relate to the customer online: “How you flow people through your site is like what a sales associate does in the store.”

For Janne Etz of Contemporary Concepts in Cocoa, FL, e-commerce has grown steadily over the past two years from 35 percent of her business to a solid 50 percent. “You have to pay serious attention to it,” she says. “It is not a set-it-and-forget-it operation. What works with e-commerce this month will evolve into something else next month. It’s a constant learning process. I continue to study and learn and implement the newest techniques, so I can continue to grow!”

Stephenie Bjorkman of Sami Fine Jewelry in Fountain Hills, AZ, says an e-commerce-enabled website seems like a huge project, and it can be. But start somewhere, she says. “Just do it, or just do something,” she says. “Get ready to flip that switch. Take on little bits and pieces at a time and set goals. I am so far from anywhere near where I want to be, but my marketing department and I sat down and made a monthly calendar so that we could plan all of our marketing, social media, blogs etc.” Bjorkman’s team also worked on posting pieces for sale in groups of 24 at a time.

If even this seems like too much, start with making time for your own social media. Friend your top 100 clients and start from there.

“I think you need to make a plan, then work your plan,” Bjorkman says. “You can begin by doing this in the evening when you get home. Or have one of your employees spend an hour a day on it. The first step is that every day you should be posting on social media. Post real pictures and start creating your online image. Connect your posts to your website and tell them how to buy.”

Borsheims

E-commerce continues to evolve in an omni-channel world

Borsheims of Omaha, NE, has been selling online since 1998 and today has seven associates dedicated to e-commerce.

“We’ve seen tremendous growth in the channel,” says Adrienne Fay, director of marketing and business sales — a 40 percent increase year over year in online sales for the past two years. This year that trend continued with a huge lift in January and February. The e-commerce staff is involved in navigation, digital photography, answering questions and virtually holding hands as needed. They also fulfill the orders — 99.9 percent of the inventory is in the store already.

In March 2018, the company introduced a new website that made online purchases easier on all devices, while updating their ring-builder tool to make it both more user-friendly and more luxurious-looking, says Andrew Brabec, director of e-commerce. “A lot of our customers will utilize their mobile device first and then make a purchase on their desktop. They prefer the process on the mobile device; it’s easier, faster.” Chat is used more than ever by customers looking for a promo code or to ask a quick question, but few purchases take much hand-holding.
One reason for that is that the new website is designed to anticipate questions that shoppers might have. Photographing jewelry items next to coins, for example, allows customers to gauge the size of the piece quickly and easily. “The main questions we get are: What size is this? And how does it look on someone?” Brabec says. One goal is to provide more views of each product.

“We try to replicate our customer service online,” says Fay. “It’s a strategic investment. We look at shoppers in an omni-channel fashion. Not as an e-commerce customer, not as a store customer. Simply a customer. We want to be able to knock their socks off in all channels.”

Shoppers who convert to online sales represent a wide demographic — established customers, gift shoppers, fine jewelry shoppers. Average order fluctuates, but recently it was $263. “We definitely have sold items that retail in the tens of thousands. Not every day, but it’s not unusual,” Fay says. Customers log in from all over the U.S. and the world; international checkout is available with exact pricing.

What’s next? Borsheims is testing out products to provide shoppers with 360-degree views of products, a technology that is increasingly common in other industries. Another huge goal is to get 97 percent of their products visible online; currently that number is about 74 percent. “We want to see more items in the cart, too, so we’re working on ways to up-sell in the cart by showing related products,” Brabec says. “In addition, we are going to evaluate pages to make them faster and more effective.”

The year 2020 represents Borsheims 150th anniversary. “And you don’t survive that long if you don’t evolve and grow and roll with the punches,” Fay says. “We used to say we at Borsheims are going to tell you as customers what you need to buy. Now we respond to what they are looking for with content and expertise and education.”

Ringcrush

Growing fast on Etsy

Bailey Lehrer founded Ringcrush, a start-up online jewelry store, selling $30 to $60 jewelry items on Etsy. She started the business with $700 and turned a profit immediately.
“We were able to grow in two years really quickly,” Lehrer says. “I did a little under $1 million on Etsy and another $300,000 on Amazon. It made sense for me to start up online. Etsy is really friendly to people who want to experiment.”

Lehrer says that while high-end diamond solitaires aren’t the norm on Etsy, moissanite rings are moving fast, as are other non-traditional types of diamond engagement rings, usually with an artisan design or a unique setting. “Etsy is primarily for 25- to 35-year-old women,” she says. “A lot of them still want that look and they can swap out the stone later. One of the most popular rings looks like a hand-carved band with a diamond solitaire in the center.”

Bailey Lehrer, founder of Ringcrush

The process of opening a shop on Etsy is easy, Lehrer says, because they hold your hand through the whole process. Still, there’s more to it than just opening. “You have to understand your competition and price point. It can be cutthroat with common items, and there are people from other countries selling items with razor-thin margins. You need something unique. That way you can raise your price.”

Her point of differentiation is pieces of raw gemstones. “So I still focus on precious stones like emerald and sapphire, but I’m able to sell them at $60 because I get them uncut. They’re still blue if it’s a sapphire; still green if it’s emerald. It’s kind of a unique aesthetic, so it’s easy to stand out.”

Another thing to keep in mind, Lehrer says, is that there is clear evidence shoppers will convert to making a purchase if the product is photographed on a white background. “Know how to take great pictures,” she says.

Mullen Bros.

They want to be your local jeweler, no matter where you are

Bob Mullen is owner and founder of Digital Jewelers Academy, as well as an owner of the family business, Mullen Bros. Jewelers in Swansea, MA.

For several years, Mullen and his family pondered the “what ifs” and the concerns they imagined would come with e-commerce while they experimented with product catalogs on their website. “What about stock? What about if we sell things that are sold out? What about fraud? But it’s like having children: If you wait till you’re ready, you’re never going to do it.” In 2014, they began selling online through Shopify and realized $100,000 in revenue the first year.

“In terms of problems, the same things that I thought in my mind would be problems DID happen, but it was not that big of a deal to overcome them. In terms of inventory, it was about keeping things on the site that would be accessible and in stock, unless it’s something like bridal. We only work with designers who have products available that we can get quickly.
“Like anything else, there is no one thing that made it happen. It’s like Jim Collins wrote in the book Good To Great. You build momentum, and it gets easier and easier. It’s the trial and error of learning our audience, learning what they respond to, and looking at Google Analytics.”

Now Mullen, a marketing major in college, is working with other retailers on e-commerce goals. Digital Jewelers Academy, in partnership with Gemsone, administers a private Facebook group with instructional videos and an online posting service. “It’s about e-commerce, creating engaging content, Facebook ads, email strategy, website conversion.”
How much time does e-commerce take? “If you’re budgeting 10 to 15 hours a week of someone’s time, you can make a lot of progress if you know what you’re doing. You can be much more efficient in three hours knowing what you’re doing than 10 hours wandering around.”

Bob Mullen, owner and founder of Digital Jewelers Academy

“The No. 1 question I’m asked is regarding differences in inventory and pricing between the website and physical store. A lot of jewelers feel like they should treat the website like a separate store with lower prices to attract business. But unless you’re trying to build a nine-figure company, you should target a customer most like your own.

Mullen’s average ticket online is around $600, which is higher than in his store. “Our biggest sale was $17,000 and it goes down to $99 here and there. The sweet spot, like anything in jewelry sales, is $200 or $300. But the idea that people are just going online and plunking down 10 grand is a myth.”

The key to success is to provide the same level of service you do in your store. “In my opinion, I can service people a lot better than whoever is manning the call center at Blue Nile,” says Mullen. “You can sell an engagement ring in 10 minutes or have multiple visits over four hours in the store; online, it might take three to six emails. It’s about being proactive and being prompt about responding when people email.”

Local limits mean little when it comes to e-commerce, Mullen contends. “People respond nationally to the same things people respond to locally. Our industry loses 1,000 stores a year. When their jeweler closes, people have to go online or find another local store. More and more people are going online as a result, and are happy to work with a local jeweler, wherever you are. Meet them where they are.”

Sami’s Fine Jewelry

We are definitely on our way to our goal

Last year, Stephenie Bjorkman of Sami’s Fine Jewelry decided that her website and online sales needed to be a priority. But she also knew it was tough, if not impossible, to find time to own the store, work with vendors, manage employees, pay bills, oversee marketing and launch e-commerce.
So she hired one person and then a second person to make it happen.

Stephenie Bjorkman of Sami’s Fine Jewelry

“The only way I could do this was to have a dedicated person to take pics, write descriptions, update events, blogs, social media and more. What is really scary is that I see such an importance in this job, I have already hired her an assistant.”

It hasn’t necessarily “worked” just yet, says Bjorkman. But it is working. “Since I hired devoted staff members, I have seen a 30 percent increase in online sales, along with tons of daily mentions in the store. All of this proves that in the end, having a marketing person is well worth it.”

Online, Bjorkman sells branded items, including her own Animal Rockz line, a custom sterling-silver line of jewelry available in 38 different pet breed varieties. “My store is full of animal lovers, so this is easy for us to be passionate about. We seem to sell at least one of these a day. Prices range from $35-$60 plus shipping. The magic numbers seem to be in the $250-$500 average range. But, with that said, I sold a $30,000 diamond off my website and a $25,000 estate diamond from my e-blast.”

Sales are considered and tracked as “online sales” if everything is done online.

“If you do sell it 100 percent online, you need to handle them like any other client. Answer quickly, make them feel special. We do chat by phone, by social media messengers, text them, and even send them videos. It is a lot of work, but the good news is that it works.

“Our e-commerce actual sales do not currently represent a large amount of my overall business. A two-year goal for me is to sell as much as having a second store. E-commerce also represents the best type of marketing you can do for your business. Long before you advertise in a newspaper, magazine, etc., you should take time to do your online marketing, social media, e-blasts and blogs.”

Continue Reading

Cover Stories

Talkin’ ‘Bout a Revolution

Published

on

What’s the value of a good idea?

In the rapidly changing landscape of jewelry retail, your good idea could revitalize your business, if you have the vision and courage to put it into action.

In 1998, it was a commonly held belief that by 2019 we’d be driving flying cars. Little did we know that the cars wouldn’t (yet) be flying, but rather that we wouldn’t be driving them. Autonomous cars — highlighted in recent Consumer Electronics Shows — are poised to disrupt an industry that hasn’t changed much since the first combustion engine was added to a push cart in 1808.

Our point is this: progress is inevitable. Change is a part of life, and our industry, much like the automobile industry, is on the verge of an evolution. The independent retail jeweler has the opportunity to be a self-driving car… or a horse-drawn buggy.

On the following pages, you’ll find examples of how innovators with a variety of different backgrounds are experimenting with their own good ideas to embrace change in jewelry retail. Read up. Be inspired. The (r)evolution is now.

CUSTOMERS COMMIT TO CATBIRD

Catbird — the Brooklyn, NY, jewelry boutique with the reputation for appealing to the coolest of celebrities (Meghan Markle, for one) and blowing up trends like stackable rings, multi-stud earrings and delicately layered necklaces — introduced an idea last year that appeals to its most loyal of followers: jewelry you can’t take off. Really.

The retailer is selling a Forever Bracelet, a barely there 14K gold chain bracelet for $94, that solders directly onto the wrist. The custom-size chains are available at Catbird’s Welding Annex in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood.

It’s inspired by the idea that many women have favorite pieces they never want to remove. Rony Vardi, Catbird founder and creative director, told Elle Magazine that she never takes off her Catbird Greco Lariat, for example.

“For years, we had been playing with the concept of permanent jewelry,” says Sriya Karumanchi, manager of marketing and communications for Catbird. “Once we acquired a set of welders for our studio, we started to experiment. In the beginning, it was just our jewelers zapping each other and the rest of our staff. Now, almost all of us have a permanent chain on our wrist.”

The idea of offering the jewelry to Catbird’s customers was brewing for some time, Karumanchi says. “We tested it with a ‘one night only’ event a year ago — and that had a really big turnout. Seeing that this was something people wanted from us, we were able to build out a welding annex space that’s open Friday through Sunday.” During the soft opening, they welded about 30 bracelets within a few hours.

“The jewelers who weld the bracelets are also in-house bench jewelers, so they really merge that piece for us: a behind-the-scenes process that is now part of a customer-facing experience.”

Catbird is ethically minded, and boasts cool brick-and-mortar locations and seamless online shopping. Everything a millennial (and her younger sister, too) dreams of.

PROFIT SHARING SPARKS JEWELRY REVOLUTION JEWELRY WORKS

Jennifer Farnes, founder of Revolution Jewelry Works in Colorado Springs, CO, is an innovator across the board — in operations, marketing and customer service. But she points to profit-sharing as the best idea she’s implemented. “It’s shocking to me that businesses (of any kind) are still operating on a commission basis. Profit sharing makes the dynamic of my business completely about the end-goal for everyone under my roof. We celebrate wins together, joke about weird situations, feel loss, and work as a complete unit for each client that comes through the door. If we make the clients happy, and make money, then at the end of the year we all reap the benefit of doing good work.”

“Other business owners look at me like I have a third eye when I explain our profit-sharing structure, except one local restauranteur who adopted my model exactly. He is opening his third restaurant in five years, solely with the profits from the businesses he already is running under my model.”

Revolution Jewelry Works specializes in custom design with an average sale of $1,200. Farnes believes strongly in spending 15 percent of gross income on advertising — with a priority on movie theater advertising as well as radio and TV, but only stations her team listens to. She also runs a business that is completely transparent to her staff, and treats them well — offering paid time off, a 401K plan and competitive salaries, which, not too surprisingly, keeps them around. “We have lost only one employee to a job change,” she says.

Those strategies are working for Farnes, who reports that in 2016, 2017 and 2018, Revolution Jewelry Works was recognized as one of the fastest-growing companies in Colorado. While only six years old, the company has exceeded $1 million annually in revenue and so far is realizing sales that are 45 percent up over last year. ”My opinion is; if you’re not succeeding, you’re doing it wrong,” she says.

SOHA IS A DIFFERENT WAY TO DIAMOND

Retailers Soha and Aubree Javaherian are not working in a huge market in Madison, WI. On the other hand, Madison’s residents tend to be young and open to new ideas, such as the ideas that propel Soha Diamond Co., a self-funded startup with no employees.

Soha Diamond Co. is a click-and-mortar design studio that sells only laboratory-grown diamonds. It’s opposite, Soha says, from what most other jewelers do: “Usually they build a beautiful store and take a lot of pride in it — and the website is an afterthought.”

To build their company, though, Soha and Aubree launched their website first. Although it was up and running by the fall of 2017, it took 18 months to build their e-commerce site to the point that they considered it to be polished, presentable and functional enough to begin building credibility.

Then came the appointment-only design studio, which they opened in an office building. “We find about 50 percent of sales comes from each — half from the design studio and half from online sales. The biggest challenge we have in Madison is that it’s not very common to find a jeweler in an office building. It’s a brand-new building in a nice new part of downtown, but our name is not on the outside of the building. So we are really reliant on the web.”

Soha is a graduate gemologist and a 10th-generation jeweler whose last name means “family of jewelers.” Aubree has a background in wedding planning. They’ve also found success getting out of the office to meet potential clients at wedding trade shows and expos.

When they meet customers in their office, Soha and Aubree can tell from their body language if they are a little hesitant. “We don’t put any pressure on them,” Soha says. “There are no physical products they can buy and walk away with. Everything we do, no matter how nominal, we are making it to order. Generally, our clients are relieved.”

An integral part of their strategy was to sell only lab-grown diamonds, moissanite and lab-grown colored gems. “For us, it’s a very technical sale. We have to go out of our way to describe what these items are, and what their value is. We didn’t want to be a jack-of-all-trades.”

THIRD-GEN JEWELER MODERNIZES APPRAISAL PROCESS

Dustin Lemick is a third-generation jeweler who became frustrated by what he sees as a lack of in-store technology in the jewelry business. After he earned his graduate gemologist certification, he found himself in charge of appraisals and claim replacements for insurance companies. “I realized there are some serious issues here. Communication between the insurance companies and customers was horrible.”

After talking with other jewelers, he came to believe it was an industry-wide problem. “Appraisals haven’t changed in forever, and retail jewelers are getting left behind on the technology front,” Lemick says.

So, together with partners, he launched Briteco, a business concept wherein a new type of personal-jewelry insurance is tied to a user-friendly appraisal software program. He began his efforts by moonlighting after hours, but after a few months, it became clear he had to either make it a full-time enterprise or let it go. He considers his decision to go for it to be one of the best he’s made in his career. “We built a full-fledged insurance company with notable investors and an incredible insurance partner in 48 states and D.C. I hope to launch with approval in every single state.”

The software is intuitive, fast, and it really works, he says. “It’s designed by jewelers, so we completely understand how this needs to function.”

It’s free to qualified jewelers. Algorithms will give jewelers guides for what the pricing of the appraisal should be. Once jewelers complete the appraisal with an easy-to-use online form, the consumer is sent a text message and an email saying, “Don’t forget you need insurance.” They click on a link to get insurance, go through four short screens answering questions that take two to three minutes, and they then have A-rated insurance.

“I believe that millennials and gen Zs still want to go into stores,” Lemick says. “They just want technology to help assist in the process.”

MARKETTE SIX CREATES ONLINE STORE FOR DESIGNERS

Justin and Heather Knapp worked for Apple for years, traveling to launch iPhones in 60 countries. That globe-hopping led them to begin a treasure hunting habit, bringing home collectible souvenirs, which often took the form of gems and jewelry.

Inspired, they decided to strike out on their own to create an online treasure-hunting experience of their own, and recently launched Markette Six, a secure marketplace to sell one-of-a-kind pieces, including jewelry, watches and gemstones. The platform aims to support jewelry designers in telling their brand stories, while being supported by the Knapps, who bring their branding knowledge to the jewelry industry. The site is clean, structured and replete with layered storytelling. “Jewelry is a personal reflection of who you are, whereas online is impersonal. It’s hard to have people trust you,” Justin says. “Storytelling can make all the difference.”

The goal is to let the pieces speak for themselves. Navigation and design are inspired by the aesthetic of sites like Design Within Reach and Lonely Planet.
Markette Six is targeting small- to medium-sized designers for its platform. “We’re looking for originality,” Justin says. “They’ve created a brand and stories about why they have designed what they have designed. Sometimes, they are one of a kind, but always they are things that have stories and will speak in an online setting. You become more emotionally invested when you know the designer and the story behind the piece itself.”

Markette Six holds the funds on behalf of the buyer, notifies the designer of the purchase, and the designer sends the piece to Markette Six. Every piece is received by Markette Six and evaluated by an independent lab in Portland, OR, for authenticity. “That’s a very important step for us to make sure they feel comfortable buying online,” Heather says. “Designers can decide if they allow for returns, and if a client does return it, it is sent back to the lab to make sure it is still authentic and not damaged. We’re never going to hand a customer over to the designer to deal with or vice versa.”

They launched in November 2018, about 19 months after devising a business plan. “Our biggest focus is building the relationships, finding the right partners and building those partnerships that will grow with us,” Heather says.

COOL STORE WINNER PACKS HIS BAG AND GOES HOME

In 2018, Thomas Mann sold his Magazine Street buildings, closing the New Orleans location that landed him on the cover of INSTORE with a 2016 America’s Coolest Stores win. The next step in his revolutionary jewelry career was to regroup into his own home, which contains his shop, gallery and party space. He even shares his kitchen with gallery guests.

He has created an interactive experience where jewelry display and artwork are integrated into living and dining areas. “Because the gallery space is tiny, we’re going to turn every space into exhibition space. Even the decor is for sale,” he says. Every detail of his gallery is an expression of his design aesthetic, from the jewelry furniture and displays he designed and built himself, to the work of other jewelry artists he selectively curates.

His staff comes and goes, often arriving while Mann is still asleep. “People bring their dogs. It has a homey feel. This is where we live and work. There’s no curtain between the two.”

Angele Seiley, who runs the business and marketing side of the operation, says visitors are delighted when Mann comes out of his workshop, meets them in the gallery and then shows them around the space.

Before he moved, he had watched foot traffic decline in his former Magazine Street location. Now, an estimated 10,000 cars a day pass by on busy Tchoupitoulas Street, which connects the Central Business District with Uptown New Orleans.

Mann, a jewelry artist, sculptor and painter, has operated on the cutting edge of art-jewelry design for decades, inventing a distinctive style that initially incorporated found objects into his designs. “I came up with a peculiar look at the right time and the right place for an audience that was ready to receive it,” Mann says. “I wanted to make it as technically fulfilling as possible at a price that most people could afford.”

MORE REVOLUTIONARY IDEAS FROM RETAILERS ON THE CUTTING EDGE

Clicks, bricks and custom keep Green Lake growing

Green Lake Jewelry Works’ entire business model represents a retail revolution. Owner Jim Tuttle replaced traditional sales staff with artists who consult with clients to create custom engagement rings in colorful stores with bench jewelers visible behind walls of glass. That design conversation sometimes begins and often continues online, where shoppers are invited to use a personal design page with a collection of notes, quotes, inspiration ideas and contact information for the designer with whom they worked. They can pick up where they left off the following week or even in the next year. They incorporate live chat, reviews, engagement stories, video-sharing services and a thorough explanation of the custom process into a digital presentation optimized for mobile display. The next step is to engage the customer through a design blog staffed by artists. Both locations, in Seattle and Bellevue, WA, also employ full-time photographers to shoot finished goods, loose gems, wax models, sketches and stages of work, which can be shown to online and in-store clients. Whether online or in-store, design is a carefully considered process. Most in-store customers visit five times.

For D&H Jewelers, seeing is believing

Partners Shawn Higgins and Lindsay Daunell founded D&H Jewelers in San Francisco in 2011 on a commitment to sustainability and responsible sourcing. For the building, they used LED lighting, bamboo walls and recycled doors, restored the wood floors and made displays from discarded material. The sycamore bar top was salvaged from a construction site. Sourcing presented more of a challenge. Higgins and Daunell personally verify every source of jewelry, gold or gemstones. They have traveled to mines in Botswana and Sri Lanka and manufacturers in Canada to verify ethical claims. Ninety percent of their gold is reclaimed from consumer electronics.

At Cut Fine,the emphasis is on quality and yes, cut

Matthew Patton and his wife, Evan, set out to appeal to the youthful bridal market of Baton Rouge, LA. Their goal from the beginning was to sell the best-cut diamonds and gemstones they could find and showcase them in the highest quality settings they could buy or manufacture. The name of the store offers the opportunity to educate customers about the importance of cut when assessing a diamond’s quality. About 80 percent of the business is custom engagement rings. Now Matthew, a pocket knife collector, has started a second brand, a business called Slice, to sell high-end custom pocket knives almost entirely online. They sell for $1,500 to $16,000 and are made to order by expert knife makers all around the world. “There are only a few countries we haven’t shipped knives to,” Matthew says.

Marks Jewelers turns store design upside down

Marks Jewelers in Montgomeryville, PA, completely reimagined the layout of the traditional large jewelry store with the location it designed and debuted in 2016. Each unusual feature of the 15,000 square foot store is designed with a practical reason behind it. The Diamond Diner, for example, affords couples a comfortable, intimate way of choosing a ring at the same time it creates a more effective selling environment. Shoppers are seated in booths, and diamonds are both safe and easily accessible for showing. The gem lab is on a “stage” that is three steps taller than the booths, so the diamond manager can keep tabs on what’s happening in the booths, keep an eye on the movement of diamonds and assist in the sale as needed. It’s resulted in a higher closing ratio, say owners Jim and Dareen Brusilovsky. Also innovative are the spacious fashion lounge, where shoppers can relax and enjoy a drink, and multi-purpose modular cases that can be reconfigured for trunk shows and other events.

Embedded consultant shares what he learned at Mucklow’s

Rod Worley manages Peachtree City, GA’s Mucklow’s Fine Jewelry as a successful business for owner Robert Mucklow, who has retired from the day-to-day business. But Mucklow’s is also a laboratory for Worley, who has used the store to test innovations in marketing, merchandising and management and now shares his insights with other retailers on a contract basis.

Worley is president of consulting company Four Grainer LLC and host of “Inside the Jewelry Trade Radio Show”.

Worley developed a community-outreach program based on charitable giving, through which all marketing funds are channeled with the goal of getting people in the door. It’s worked so well that Worley wrote a book about it — A Reason To Chant — and created a portfolio of marketing and management options that he shares with other retailers on a contract basis. Four Grainer sets up the program, trains the staff and contacts local 501(c)3 charities. Worley’s company also drives traffic to clients’ websites by establishing retailers as the thought leader for jewelry, bridal planning, women’s health, fashion and beauty. The ultimate service is total store management, which allows the owner to retire within 90 days while retaining complete ownership and drawing their salary. “We put a leader in place that has the skill set needed to grow the business and support that leader through continued training and supervision,” Worley says.

Bitcoin on the bayou

David’s Antiques & Jewelry, owned and managed by Sharona Edly and her mother, Ester, in New Orleans, decided to start accepting Bitcoin as a means of payment in 2013. “We think it’s a revolution,” Ester says. “It’s a new, global currency, there’s no government behind it; it’s run by the people. We believe in the system and the idea behind it.” The store deals with people from all over the world, adds Sharona. “It’s pretty much like accepting cash, but even better because it cannot be counterfeited. It has low transaction fees and we enjoy the playfulness of it. Our first Bitcoin purchase was by someone who traveled from Austin, TX, specifically to buy his wife something using Bitcoin, an amber necklace for his wife.”

Continue Reading

Most Popular