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Editor's Note

What Makes a Store Cool?

It’s the special sauce of individuality.

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WHEN I SAW a photo of an inverted canoe chandelier hanging from Erik Runyan Jewelers’ 18-foot ceilings in Vancouver, WA, I wanted to meet the people who put it there.

I got my chance in June when our panel of expert judges chose ERJ as the No. 1 America’s Coolest Store in the Big Cool division.

What draws me to ERJ is not just the canoe. The store is the perfect expression of everything Erik and Leslie Runyan love. They raised their three daughters on boats and dirt bikes. Their spirit of adventure, the sea and wide-open spaces are reflected in the store design and ambience.

Gem dealers Simon and Laurie Watt have curated EAT Gallery, the No. 1 store in the Small Cool division, to display beloved treasures, from local art to hand-carved gem sculptures. They’ve managed to connect Maysville, the Kentucky town they’ve chosen to call home, to the wide world of gems they inhabit in their travels. The place is so personal that if you tell manager Katherine Cotterill just what you want, she will string natural stones or pearls right there at her desk to match your vision — or your outfit.

Each of this year’s Cool Stores scored high in the category of individuality. Without that special sauce, even the most opulent store can feel cold.

On the other hand, when you’re able to be yourself, shoppers are delighted by the sense of ease and comfort that results from such authenticity.  How cool is that?

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Eileen McClelland
[email protected]

Five Smart Tips You’ll Find in This Issue

  • Create a proprietary wine label to share with clients in your store and add to your overall brand. (The Big Story, p. 46)
  • Provide “loaner” rings to customers to use to pop the question so that the fiancée can be involved in the selection/design process later. (The Big Story, p. 72)
  • Produce a video blog series that shows viewers how jewelry looks when worn and introduces new collections or pieces. (The Big Story, p. 36)
  • Offer concierge services for your clients, including making dinner reservations, finding local tours or calling up Google Maps for directions. (The Big Story, p. 66)
  • Sponsor a Champagne diamond giveaway, in which all participants receive a cubic zirconia and one trades in for a real diamond. (The Big Story, p. 78)

Eileen McClelland is the Managing Editor of INSTORE. She believes that every jewelry store has the power of cool within them.

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

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