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The Big Story: Robbery & Recovery





— By Eileen McClelland

Despite being
attacked in a store robbery in December 2013 that left her physically bruised, Denise Oros thought she had escaped
unscathed …
at least at first.

But in June 2014, while attending jewelry shows in Las Vegas, she learned two of her industry friends had been killed during robberies.

“It was the first time I realized I could have been dead. really dead,” she says. “After that I had a really hard time.”

Oros, owner of Linnea Jewelers in La Grange, IL, suddenly began reliving the nightmare images that were seared deep in her memory.


“Seeing them hold a gun on my employee — at her head. And feeling the gun at my head. They sprayed us both with mace and kicked us. I had bruises all over my body.”

Oros recalled how one of the robbers had grabbed her by her hair, threw her on the floor and stood on her. “Then he started opening up my cash drawer, yelling ‘Where’s the money? Where’s the money?’”

In June she cut her hair — short.

She learned more than she ever wanted to know about post-traumatic stress.

“These things are very intense in your mind and they come unbidden at the most unusual times. It can be a smell, it can be a news article, it can be someone’s shape, size and build that triggers a PTSD response. And you can’t — for a few minutes — shake it off.”

She didn’t want to leave her house or walk out of her store. She was plagued by nightmares and didn’t sleep well.


“Because I’m a designer, I see in pictures. The pictures of the violence stained my brain.”
Oros is far from alone. Jewelers Security Alliance conservatively estimates that several thousand people in the jewelry industry are closely touched by serious crime against their businesses in the course of a year. In addition to whatever physical or financial harm they suffer, many of these victims also experience psychological trauma of varying degrees. Even if a victim is not present for a crime, such as a burglary, the victim may no longer feel safe and secure.

The important first step in recovery from acute or persistent trauma is to recognize such psychological injury, says Joseph Utecht, who oversees RELI(E)VE, a new benefit from Jewelers Mutual. Utecht manages crisis response at Ceridian LifeWorks, an employee assistance service provider.

“We’re all familiar with stories of the individual who walks away from an automobile accident saying he is fine, when in reality he has a bad concussion or a broken bone,” Utecht says. “In the immediate aftermath, the shock of the event and rush of adrenaline temporarily mask the injury. Psychological injury can be the same, but sometimes with a longer delay before the individual realizes he is struggling to cope with what happened.”

Janine Gauthier Mullady, a clinical health psychologist with Life Reset Solutions in Chicago, says a delayed reaction is a type of adaptive coping mechanism that puts a trauma in the back of the mind. The type of trauma that triggers that mechanism usually involves an experience in which a life is threatened — yours or someone you love.

“It’s our system’s way of protecting us in the moment, to bury it for a of time,” Mullady says. “The brain puts it off to the side until a time when you’re feeling like, ‘OK, I can handle this now.’ As you get further away from the situation and feel stronger, the brain says, ‘OK, you are strong enough to deal with this,’ and it’s going to start to come up.



It can be a smell, it can be a news article, it can be someone’s shape, size and build that triggers a response.”


Dennis Petimezas, owner of Watchmakers Diamonds & Jewelry in Johnstown, PA, left work at an enclosed mall one day in 1981, carrying a briefcase with nothing of much value in it, he recalls, to go visit a friend in the hospital who was having a baby.

After he parked his car and began walking, he turned around and saw a baseball bat coming right at his face.

Petimezas reflexively lurched backward but the bat delivered a glancing blow to his eye. He spun around and fell down, bleeding profusely.

He heard someone yell, “Get the jewelry!”

Seeing someone handling his briefcase, Petimezas pulled out a gun.

“My hand was on the gun, the gun barrel was pressed against his cheek and my finger was on the trigger,” Petimezas says. “I looked at him and saw that he was a kid, about 13 years old, and he started crying. It was very frightening.

“I heard another noise and saw an older guy with a set of nunchucks. I pointed the gun at the other guy and he started running and the kid ran off, too. It was a vivid, bright day, and I remember I had bled all over his head, he was crying and he ran off.”

I couldn’t stop thinking they had watched me and followed me.”


He walked to the hospital, holding his eye, which required eight stitches.

The physical injury was superficial, but his nerves were shattered.

“I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact they had watched me and followed me,” he says. “And also that it would’ve been so easy for me to have killed this child. I got really paranoid about that happening again. You can’t help but dwell on it and think about it all the time.”
Petimezas found his own solution to circumventing those fears.

“After about a year, I quit carrying a gun. Statistically, if you have a gun and you’re involved in something, you’re going to come out a loser. I quit carrying a weapon and all that anxiety went away. It took about a year, before I was comfortable again and I don’t really think about it any more.”

These days, Petimezas is security conscious, aware, but no longer paranoid, he says.

“If you’re ever in an armed robbery, do everything they tell you, don’t look at them, and let them go,” he says. “I’m fully insured. Almost any peril we encounter is completely covered. Of course, senseless slaughter is something you can never insure against. At home, I would defend my family with a weapon.”

INSOMNIA and denial


(We) help people tap their resiliency, give them confidence they have the resources to get through this.”


Utecht says counselors in the RELI(E)VE program encourage people to process what happened in whatever way they can.

“For most people that means talking about it, but not everyone is a big talker,” Utecht says. “For some people it might be just reviewing their own thoughts. It might even be writing down what happened.”

Mullady says that if the traumatic event isn’t dealt with on some level, it can build on itself and spiral out of control, leading to a deeper disorder.

Signs the individual may be having difficulty recovering from psychological trauma, according to Utecht, include insomnia, vivid and frequent flashbacks, a pervasive change in personality or demeanor, dramatic emotional swings, anxiety or paranoia, depression and/or heightened feelings of stress.

It’s better to seek help sooner rather than later, too. Early intervention can prevent lingering problems.

“People use different ways to cope with uncomfortable feelings like guilt, fear, anger or sadness,” Utecht says. “Most of us don’t want to feel those things very often. The classic mechanism is denial. They kind of stuff it and don’t process it. That can be healthy and get them through the initial stages of this. But deep down inside, there’s still the fear, still the anger, still the guilt. Something will trigger the memories and those feelings will come to the surface.”

In the first 30 days after the incident such symptoms are referred to as acute stress disorder; after 30 days the diagnosis of post-traumatic stress syndrome comes into play, Utecht says.
David Blitt, owner of Troy Shoppe Jewelers of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, experienced two robbery attempts within a couple of months, which led to a disorder that he still battles. “I think it’s a big mistake not to talk about it,” he says, “not to talk about your feelings.”

In the first attempt, late in October 2013, which he believes was random, he and his wife were leaving a movie, when three guys tried to jump them and steal their car.
But Blitt refused to comply.

“I got my wife in the car,” Blitt recalls. “I was in a shitty mood so I just started fighting back and didn’t let it happen, and they ran away.”

After that, he started carrying a small club.

The brain puts it off until you’re feeling like, ‘OK, I can handle this.’”


On Dec. 1, 2013, he was working late at the store alone, preparing to go home. “The car was about 5 feet from our door. I came out, and saw somebody across the street coming out of a parking lot, wearing a hoodie. He was walking across the street really quickly. As he started to reach into his pocket and say, ‘This is a holdup,’ I used my club and cracked him across the head four times. I lost the club and I jumped on his back and pushed him out into traffic. Then for some reason, I thought he was hurt and I stopped and he ran away. The police deployed helicopters and dogs but they didn’t get him.”

“Other than being shaken up, I wasn’t hurt in either case.”

But the emotional repercussions took a toll.

“I seemed to handle it fairly well, but I lost some sleep,” Blitt says. “There was no doubt it was traumatic, and there was no joy in beating that guy up.”

The aftermath of both incidents began to drive a wedge between Blitt and his wife.
“After the second one, I asked her if she wanted to go and see a therapist,” Blitt says, but she declined. “We started becoming more distant with each other.”

The attempted robberies, he believes, and the fact the after-effects were largely ignored, contributed to his separation from his wife.

“I did not get counseling because I thought I was OK,” he says. “I was wrong. I should have, because it haunts me even now. A year later I did get some professional help.”

But even now Blitt often feels “antsy,” never stays late at work and always leaves as part of a group. His security cameras have been improved, making it easier to see what’s going on outside, but he’s still hyper-vigilant. At the mall where he was attacked, for example, he feels compelled to look behind every column in the parking lot.

“My spidey-sense is tingling all the time,” is how he describes it.

“As much as I would like to say I feel over it, I know it’s still there. For a while, I would wake up in the middle of the night almost nightly thinking about it. I would recommend that regardless of how strong a person thinks they are emotionally, they should get some help. The average person is not equipped to deal with this kind of trauma.”

One of the things he thinks about is what he’d do if it happened again.

“Either I’d be stabbed or shot, or I would kill the other person,” he says. “I would not stop. That is one of the biggest reasons I lose sleep, asking myself, ‘Why did I stop? If it happened again, I know I wouldn’t stop. That’s the one thing I’m certain of. If he presents a gun or knife, there’s nothing I can do. But if he came at me with nothing shown, I would revert to defending myself. I have a hard time with the morality of people who would steal like that. That to me is enough of a reason to defend yourself. I found out when it comes to personal protection of my family or my property, I am capable of actually killing a person.”


Utecht says that it’s important to remember that while recovering from trauma is not an exact science, there are guidelines that can help.

“In general, we’ve found that the sooner people get back to work and push through that resistance, the better the likelihood they will get through it quicker. It’s not bad if someone takes a couple of days off, but the quicker you can ease them back into it, the better.”

Utecht advises store owners to encourage affected employees to come to the store for a meeting or light duty away from the sales floor as they adjust to their return, rather than retreating to their homes for an extended period.

Also, while it’s OK to find comfort in healthy activities, finding comfort in drugs, alcohol or food will only exacerbate the situation. “We encourage you, right after the event, to take a hot bath, go for a walk, spend time with your family, go get a massage — but when it comes to things you’re using to cover things up, it can turn into an addiction,” he warns.

The Jewelers Mutual benefit includes counseling options for a jewelry business’s employees and family members impacted by a traumatic event resulting in a Jewelers Mutual insurance claim, such as a robbery or natural disaster. Clients are invited to call to talk to a counselor 24/7. One-on-one and group counseling is also available.

I found out that when it comes to personal protection of my family
or my property, I am capable of actually killing a person.”


Sometimes, just one conversation with a counselor can make a big difference. Jewelers Mutual client Edmond Bakos of Mona Clara Jewellers in North York, Ontario, Canada, had been robbed at gunpoint in his store. Initially, he thought he was fine. But as he worked with police on the investigation, reliving those events took a toll and led to insomnia. The breakthrough came when he learned about RELI(E)VE from his claims adjuster. Bakos was able to arrange a 45-minute phone appointment with a counselor. After that, he was amazed to begin sleeping through the night again.

“The goal is to help people tap into their resiliency, give them the confidence they have the resources to get through this,” Utecht says.

Oros’ attack took place before Jewelers Mutual launched its own crisis program, but she sought out therapy on her own. It took a solid three months of therapy, she says, to begin to cope with those terrifying images and flashbacks. The main strategies she employed were substituting other images for the frightening ones, and learning therapeutic breathing techniques.

“Now, I can remember that I am in the here and now,” Oros says. “That it’s over and I am still here. I survived. I’m extremely lucky.”

Mullady says that one breathing technique, known as Sudarshan kriya yoga, or SKY breathing, helps to turn off the nervous system that creates hyper arousal and the feeling of constant vigilance. “You can do that anywhere, so if you’re at work in the store and start to feel hyper-aroused — someone walks into the store who has a similarity to the person who robbed you — you can practice the breathing,” Mullady says. “No one has to know. But it can stop the flood of chemicals, cortisol and adrenalin and slow the heart rate.”

Other techniques include cognitive behavioral therapy, which can challenge distorted perceptions of what’s going on around you; exposure therapy, which allows virtual exposure to a traumatic event in a controlled environment; and eye movement desensitization, which helps people process disturbing images in different ways. “It’s an attempt to get the two sides of the brain to talk, and not let the experience get stuck in one part of the brain,” Mullady says.

In addition to therapy, support from Oros’ community helped her heal. Customers brought her cookies, conveyed their sympathy, and made it a point to patronize her business, leading to a 20 percent overall increase in revenue in 2014 over 2013. “To have your community rally around you is so reaffirming,” she says. “We share all the intimate celebrations of people’s lives — the surprises, the babies, the graduations — we get the red carpet premiere seats to all of that. Those moments give you the strength to handle life’s dastardly bullshit of the consequences of a robbery.”


From Jewelers Security Alliance and Jewelers Mutual Insurance Co.
Stay calm and comply quickly with demands in order to get the robbers out the door.
Do not attempt to disarm the robber or reach for a concealed weapon. Assume the robber will shoot without hesitation.
If you are out of the robbers’ sight, in a back room or elsewhere, stay where you are. – Do not intrude on the crime scene.
Don’t activate a panic button until robbers have left the store to avoid a hostage situation.
Lock the doors immediately after the robbers leave. Do not chase the robbers or follow them out of the store.
Call 911 and tend to anyone who may be injured.
Try to keep all witnesses at the scene and collect contact information.
Ask your staff and witnesses to make notes about the robber and the incident.
Share details with the police and allow them to conduct a full investigation.
Contact your insurance company to report the loss.

Recommendations for Employers from Jewelers Security Alliance:
Following a crime at your store, have a staff meeting to calm people down, reassure them, allow them to grieve if necessary, and tell them that management understands that they are upset.
For a severe incident, have a psychologist, social worker or other psychological professional, with experience in trauma counseling, conduct a group session for the staff.
Give upset personnel a few days off, or some appropriate time, in order to recover.
Consider closing the store for the rest of the day following a dramatic crime and allowing employees to go home.
Talk to your employees individually to find out if they need help.
Be visible and available to listen to and talk with employees who experienced or witnessed the crime and violence.
Provide information on local crime victims support groups and trauma or crisis support groups in the community.
Provide information to traumatized employees regarding professional psychological resources.
Look into worker’s compensation or other issues resulting from psychological trauma.
Regular staff meetings should prepare staff for the day a crime occurs. Stress that if staff remains calm, and do not resist, the chance of inquiry is low.
After a time, management should again schedule staff meetings on security.
Recommendations for Employers from Jewelers Security Alliance:
Following a crime at your store, have a staff meeting to calm people down, reassure them, allow them to grieve if necessary, and tell them that management understands that they are upset.
For a severe incident, have a psychologist, social worker or other psychological professional, with experience in trauma counseling, conduct a group session for the staff.
Give upset personnel a few days off, or some appropriate time, in order to recover.
Consider closing the store for the rest of the day following a dramatic crime and allowing employees to go home.
Talk to your employees individually to find out if they need help.
Be visible and available to listen to and talk with employees who experienced or witnessed the crime and violence.
Provide information on local crime victims support groups and trauma or crisis support groups in the community.
Provide information to traumatized employees regarding professional psychological resources.
Look into worker’s compensation or other issues resulting from psychological trauma.
Regular staff meetings should prepare staff for the day a crime occurs. Stress that if staff remains calm, and do not resist, the chance of inquiry is low.
After a time, management should again schedule staff meetings on security.



Les Georgettes

It’s All About Choices

With beautiful jewelry from Les Georgettes, choice is everything. Choose a design. Change colors. With 30 styles, 3 finishes and 48 stunning leather colors, you’ll never be at a loss for a unique piece of jewelry. Create, mix, stack and collect Les Georgettes by Altesse. Made in France.

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THE INSTORE DESIGN AWARDS 2019 – Winners Announced!



Jewelry design is the lifeblood of our industry, and those on its forefront are constantly challenging the status quo, pushing boundaries in creativity and wowing jewelry lovers with their skill and passion. These are the creators we seek to honor with the INSTORE Design Awards.

For 2019, we expanded our categories from eight to 25, allowing designers more freedom to enter the best category for each piece. And we received more than 171 entries as a result. In order to determine the best of the best, we recruited a judges panel composed of nine retailers, all of whose businesses carry multiple designer lines, to vote on their favorite jewelry in a “blind voting” process. We also opened voting to all North American jewelry retailers online at, where more than 9,300 votes were cast to decide the “Retailer’s Choice” winner in each category.

And finally, as we have since our competition began, we recognize one up-and-coming designer who embodies the inventive spirit so long encouraged by our former colleague Cindy Edelstein, who passed away in 2016.

Now, turn the page and see the very best that our industry has to offer. Who knows, maybe you’ll find your next hot-selling line right here in this story!

Best Men’s Jewelry

Best Statement Piece


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Cover Stories

3 Simple Ways a “Good-Better-Best” Display Can Make You More Money

The success of these pricing strategies has been proven beyond dispute.




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

Offer 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.


Make 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

Follow 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.”

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



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.”


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.”



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.”



“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.”

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