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Go Your Own Way

Creative concepts drive the success of these mavericks

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In the mood to shake up your business? These seven retail risk-takers have gone out on a limb to create unique shopping experiences for clients. From (live!) scorpions in cases and taxidermy on the walls to completely private shopping experiences and virtual custom design, these entrepreneurs have tried all manner of experiments to thrive in today’s retail environment.

 

Integrating Clicks and Bricks

Green Lake Jewelry Works, Seattle and Bellevue, WA

Green Lake Jewelry Works’ entire business model represents a maverick approach. Owner Jim Tuttle has replaced traditional sales staff with artists who consult with clients to create custom engagement rings in store.

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.

“None of our designers ever sits down and designs without our website open, so there’s a starting point for clients. We’re very much a bricks-and-clicks operation — they go together intimately,” Tuttle says.

To persuade website visitors to sign up for a design page, they incorporate live chat, reviews, engagement stories 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 their design blog, staffed by artists. “It’s really that human element that turns these casual inquiries into gorgeous rings,” says Eric Robertson, creative director.

Both locations 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.

Green Lake’s online-only business accounts for a third of the company’s total revenue. That category has grown 30 percent in volume over the past four years. Quick video sharing services like Vimeo and Instagram have enabled the Green Lake team to communicate ideas with a richer story than any static product shot could offer. “As a result, we’ve won numerous diamond sales from clients on the other side of the country just by showing the gems on an actual hand and in various lighting environments,” Robertson says.

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A Conversation Piece

GOGO Jewelry, New Orleans, LA

A mounted taxidermy bobcat with a squirrel in its mouth might be the first clue that GOGO Jewelry has its own sense of style. But it’s certainly not the last.

Gogo Borgerding’s store is decorated with paint-by-number masterpieces and tchotchkes of all descriptions, her interior design sense inspired by her grandmother’s passion for garage sales.

But the thing that really sets GOGO Jewelry apart is the fact that the business is built on the captivating nature of Borgerding’s signature jewelry pieces — colorful sterling silver and anodized aluminum cuffs distinctive enough to spark conversations in far-flung locales.

Her career was strongly shaped by her education. At the Savannah College of Art & Design, Gogo’s senior thesis explored conversational jewelry — jewelry that would spark a dialog between people. At the same time, she had created a bold cuff bracelet for herself using a technique she had learned to anodize aluminum.

The cuff immediately began selling itself when observers found it as powerful a motif as she did. “I couldn’t go anywhere without someone making a comment about it,” she says.

Her jewelry secured her a booth at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, where she quickly sold out of everything. In 2006, she opened a store in New Orleans with festival earnings.

She makes her jewelry in the back of her quirky retail space on New Orleans’ popular Magazine Street. “I describe it as if you’re walking into my house,” she says. Art from floor to ceiling; toys everywhere, sense of humor prominently displayed.

“I’ve been to a lot of jewelry stores that are sterile and clean, and I can totally understand why people want to have an emphasis on the jewelry, but I wanted to create an atmosphere where you could feel the personality of the person who owns the business,” she says.

“Everything is for sale except my lamps and my taxidermy. The taxidermy adds character and the lamps are actually functional.” Her taxidermy collection started with a deer head given to her by her dad and grew from there, with contributions from friends. “You never know what’s going to walk through those doors,” she says. “People know it’ll have a good home.”

She mentors fledgling jewelry artists, especially those who use offbeat materials, like stainless steel, rubber, nylon, formica and even 3D printing. Each artist’s name is spelled out in Scrabble letters. Prices are displayed on dice. Average prices for artists she represents are $60 to $80, while the sweet spot for her cuffs is about $250.

Word of mouth is key, although her store is listed in a variety of travel books, such as the French language Fodor’s Guide to New Orleans.

Her only concession to marketing is funny and irreverent direct-mail postcards. “I use drag queens or theater friends of mine or something controversial,” she says. “I try to have fun with them and people put them on their refrigerators.”

By Invitation Only

Mayfair Privé, Syosset, NY

To move forward with their fourth-generation jewelry retail business, Lauren Kulchinsky Levison and her family closed their main store in August and reopened three miles away in September.

In the process, they fired customers. And began to cater exclusively to clients.

Gone is their traditional store, replaced by Mayfair Privé, an appointment-only enclave in a 4,000 square-foot former warehouse. New clients are welcome, but only by referral.

“We didn’t see the point of doing business behind a showcase anymore,” Kulchinsky Levison says. “It had to be a new location and a new concept. A client is someone who is not a price shopper, not someone who comes in every five years for a repair. Our die-hard, love-what-we-do, love-what-we’re-about client.”

Mayfair Privé is for them.

The Mayfair team offers private shopping in an upbeat environment. First sales, particularly of engagement rings, are too important to leave to chance and the vagaries of other customers’ moods. “If you sell someone an engagement ring, 99 percent of the time they are going to buy everything from you for the rest of their life,” Kulchinsky Levison says.

The new space has private salons, a piano, a full kitchen, great lighting and the ambience of a high-end spa lounge. At Mayfair Privé, the team will know how you take your coffee, if you drink coffee, or if you prefer champagne. The entire shopping experience is customizable for each client.

The majority of their business has been done by appointment for the past 10 years.

“Most of our clients wanted to shop with the store closed, without their neighbors seeing them shop. And most of my VIP clients came in on days we were closed, so we had to operate around their schedule.” This meant their old store was often closed to the public at odd hours, a source of consternation to their former landlord.

Mayfair Privé offers a tempting alternative to the choice of shopping online at home or venturing out into a potentially unpleasant retail environment. “The second an appointment is made, it’s like a sale,” she says. “People forget that privacy is a type of currency.”

It’s lifted everyone’s mood.

“I only want to be surrounded by happiness,” she says. “My father is 68, and for him, this has been his most incredible experience so far.”

Best of all, it’s working. They’re busier than ever, but now they can plan their days in advance, which makes the operation more efficient.

“Selling under glass is definitely in the past,” Kulchinsky Levison says. “You might as well be behind a computer screen and we know we don’t want that.”

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It’s Part of the Package

Honey Designs Jewelry, Cincinnati, OH

Chelsea Mead helps clients devise creative proposals as part of a package she offers, meeting with them in coffee shops or in her co-working office space.

“My client base is coming to me for that specific reason, a fully catered service,” Mead says. “It’s not for people who want to get the best deal and say, ‘See you later.’”

The package includes proposal coaching and photography along with the engagement ring. Photographers are “willing to sell their kidneys” to capture those proposals because they often lead to wedding work, she says.

About 75 percent of ring recipients are involved in the design process. “The girls are the lowest hanging fruit in my business,” Mead says. “If they are happy about the ring design, it’s like a guaranteed sale. I don’t want to ruin the surprise, but it shouldn’t be a complete surprise at this point in your relationship.”

After a styling appointment with the couple, Mead talks privately about the budget with the groom. “Guys go from being stressed to hugging me when they leave.” She even sets up preliminary design workshops with groups of women expecting to be engaged soon.

Mead helps plan the proposal to make it personal and retain some element of surprise, whether it’s simple or over-the-top. She recommends a lunchtime weekday proposal because it’s unexpected. Flowers are always a part of it. One creative proposal involved a scavenger hunt on the riverfront. “We coach them to avoid cliché situations or places,” she says.

 

The World’s Most Dangerous Jeweler

South Lyon Custom Jewelry and Watch Repair, South Lyon, MI

The best $30 Scott Ward ever spent on advertising was the first time he incorporated live scorpions into his jewelry display cases.

“I did that as a display idea when I first opened,” he says. “I had lost my job and couldn’t find work as a full-time bench jeweler, so I started doing trade work. I opened a little shop. When I got my first showcase, I did a Southwestern display, filled it with sand, went to a pet shop and I remember seeing these huge black scorpions in there.”

The finished display cases looked like a desert tableau. It led to a lot of publicity, including a call from Good Morning America. It also made the store an attraction of sorts. He started calling himself the world’s most dangerous jeweler.

He also has a honey bear named Lucy living in the store, which has a bit of a rainforest theme. Honey bears, also known as kindajous, are rainforest mammals with a lifespan of 23 years in captivity. Ward and his staff are dedicated to keeping her comfortable and well cared for. “Everyone is used to Lucy; they bring her marshmallows and stop by to see her.”

Quirky attractions — along with a focus on custom work — have helped Ward make a name for himself in a small town dominated by big box players and mall stores. Now his son has joined him in the business.

And, yes, he does bring back the scorpions from time to time. With a diet of crickets, they can live for several months.

Employees are trained to hold the scorpions to avoid being stung or pinched. “Stay alert, stay alive; that’s our store motto,” he says.

Custom Confidential

Mint DIAMONDS, HOUston, TX

Jewelry designer Nick Miller specializes in custom engagement rings for guys without much of a clue. Often, all they do know is that they want an awesome ring that won’t blow their budget — and they’d rather shop online.

Miller narrows down what they want with a questionnaire followed by as much handholding as they’d like through the design and manufacture process, usually by phone or Skype. Although he has a showroom in Houston, 90 percent of customers don’t visit, and only about 20 percent are local.

“Usually, they’ll find us through a referral, or social media or marketing,” he says. “I point them in the direction of the questionnaire with basic information, like ‘What shape?’ ‘What budget?’ and a few other questions, and I design the ring for free and show them digital renders usually within three days.”

Then he sends the digital rendering of the ring as well as a quote and a GIA certificate for a diamond he thinks would be a good fit. “Usually,” he says, “they like the first one I design, and about four weeks later, we are delivering the ring.”

Most customers are spending $5,000 to $6,000 and choosing a 1- to 1.2-carat center stone. The rings are made in Houston by a small group of craftsmen. “We’re bringing the best value and design to our customers without the huge overhead,” he says. Average production is five to six rings per week and Miller wants to keep growth manageable. Mint offers a 30-day, no questions-asked refund policy.

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It’s All Under One Roof

The Smithery, Columbus, OH

For years, Columbus jewelry artists Anne Holman and Jen Townsend found themselves wearing too many hats.

Holman had been selling her own jewelry at art festivals for years before opening a store became even a thought. “I was teaching and traveling and doing art shows and changing hats every day,” she says, while Townsend dreamed about giving up her day job in retail management to work full time in jewelry.

When Holman and Townsend, both graduates of the Columbus College of Art and Design, began sharing a studio, they talked about the concept of teaching workshops, selling and making jewelry all under one roof.

After creating a business plan and securing a modest loan, they opened the Smithery in 2014, the only jewelry store in the area that contains workshop space for the public, exhibition space and studios for themselves. Finally, they could hang up those figurative hats in one spot.

While Columbus has a vibrant art community, metalsmithing and art jewelry venues have been few. “We were anxious to bring the field we love to a greater presence in our city,” Townsend says.

Holman and Townsend each have their own line of jewelry and collaborate on a collection as well. They also represent 95 other artists. They’re rearranging the space to allow for temporary exhibitions of edgier, avant-garde collections.

They engage in social media, offer an e-commerce website and enjoy pedestrian traffic. Most important, perhaps, they encourage an interactive experience with their clients, including beginner friendly, project-based workshops that provide all of the tools and materials needed. “They’re often amazed they can make something and have so much pride that they made it with their own hands,” Townsend says. “People now see us as a place to go to experience a fun event with friends and family.”

Children’s workshops have included a make-and-take metal-stamping class for all ages. “A 5-year-old made a bunch of pieces for the whole family,” Townsend says. “You never know when you’re going to make a big impact on someone, a young budding artist who has a first experience working with metal at The Smithery.”

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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When It’s Time for Something New, Call Wilkerson

Fifty-four years is a long time to stay in one place. So, when Cindy Skatell-Dacus, owner of Skatell’s Custom Jewelers in Greenville, SC decided to move on to life’s next adventure, she called Wilkerson. “I’d seen their ads in the trade magazines for years,’ she says, before hiring them to run her store’s GOB sale. It was such a great experience, Skatell-Dacus says it didn’t even seem like a sale was taking place. Does she have some advice for others thinking of a liquidation or GOB sale? Three words, she says: “Wilkerson. Wilkerson. Wilkerson.”

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America's Coolest Stores

Portland, OR, Couple Fine-Tunes the No-Pressure Engagement Ring Sale

Website and window displays create perfect curb appeal.

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Malka Diamonds & Jewelry, Portland, OR

OWNERS: David and Ronnie Malka; URL: malkadiamonds.com ; FOUNDED: 2010; ARCHITECT AND DESIGN: One Hundred Agency and Bedford Brown Store; EMPLOYEES: 3 ; AREA: 1,000 square feet total; 700 square foot showroom; TOP BRANDS: Custom, vintage, Point No Point Studios, Vatche, Jolie Design; ONLINE PRESENCE: 1,645 Instagram followers, 957 Facebook followers, 4.9 Stars with 62 Google reviews; RENOVATED: 2018; BUILDOUT COST: $75,000; SHOWCASES:KDM


Ronnie and David Malka

VINTAGE RINGS DISPLAYED in authentic, retro jewelry boxes share space with newly minted engagement rings in the front window of Malka Diamonds & Jewelry, a boutique shop in the historic Hamilton building in the heart of downtown Portland.

Passersby enchanted by that tempting array are welcomed inside by owners David and Ronnie Malka, who offer guests a warm greeting and refreshments from the coffee shop across the hall.

Adding to the relaxed environment, they rarely ask for the prospective customer’s information right away. “Our customer is our friend. Just like you don’t ask someone you just met for all of their information, you really should try to take the same approach with your customers,” David says.

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Once guests have a chance to settle in and look around, graduate gemologist David loves to share what he knows by comparing loose diamonds at his desk. What makes the Malka experience distinctive is that David includes tricks of the trade in his consumer education, such as explaining what kind of diamonds people in the jewelry business might select for themselves.

“A lot of people who are thinking about buying diamonds online have done some research, and I like to educate them on the stuff you can see in a diamond that you should pay for,” David says. “The stuff you can’t see, why pay for it? Common sense goes a long way when you’re spending thousands of dollars. Great, if you want to buy a VVS stone, we have it, but most of the people who see the difference, or don’t see the difference, between D and F color are making a much more informed purchase, and they feel good about it.”

Large windows allow passersby to glimpse a mix of vintage and new rings on display while flooding the space with natural light.

They’re also adept at explaining the difference between the diamonds and their paperwork. “The cert says XYZ, but if you lined it up with five others, you might see why that stone was priced so low in its bracket,” Ronnie says.

They think it’s just fine if their customers walk out without buying anything on their first or second visit — even if they’re headed to the competition.

“We keep it really simple in here,” says Ronnie. “A lot of the guys who come in are buying something they don’t know anything about. We don’t bombard them with phone calls or emails; we just offer education. They continue to explore and research, and most of those people we see back here.”

The Malkas are taking the long view. “We want to be like their grandparents’ jewelers with a state-of-the-art shop so we can create things that are going to last,” Ronnie says. “Like the 1920s-era jewelers you trusted but still current and evolving with time.” Although engagement and wedding rings dominate their business now, with as much as 85 percent of sales, they believe that as their original customers continue to mature, they’ll eventually diversify into jewelry for other occasions.

By the time the customer does make a purchase or put a deposit down on a custom ring, David and Ronnie have developed a relationship with them. They give their customers a Malka hat, pin or T-shirt. They also give them a pamphlet detailing the history of their three-generation tradition of diamond dealers, and paperwork that includes an appraisal. There’s no paperwork involved with the guarantee; that is automatic for the life of the ring.

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As for that history, David’s father, Yossi Malka, who still has an office across the street from his son’s store, began his career as an apprentice under his great uncle in Israel, studied diamond cutting and later became a wholesale dealer in Portland.

David studied at the GIA, earned a graduate gemologist degree, and worked in a retail store for several years. David also ran his own jewelry appraisal lab, Independent Gemological Services, for the trade and private clients. “That’s a tough gig to be looking through the scope all day,” he says. “I was getting a little bit bored.”

Still, everyone thought he was crazy, he says, when he decided to open his own store. “It was the recession. It was a tough time.” Three major Portland jewelry stores had closed. “I figured if we took this plunge and we could stay afloat for two years, we should be able to weather anything,” he says. They’d been considering a variety of different names for the business when a friend offered this advice: “When you put your name on the door, you’re putting your name behind the business.”

Perfect. They had a name.

Ronnie Malka collects retro jewelry boxes to display vintage engagement rings.

They leased a prime 1,000-square-foot spot within a vacant 10,000 square-foot space. It was bare bones, with not much beyond walls and floors.

“Welcome to the world of retail,” David says he remembered thinking. Traffic was thin at first, and David continued to operate the appraisal lab, taking it month by month. Although changing shopping habits of American consumers had seemed to be a bad omen, it turned out that Portland shoppers who did spend money on jewelry wanted to make sure they were investing in local, independent businesses. Within a couple of years, they’d won Oregon Bride Magazine’s “Best Rings of 2012” award.

In 2013 Malka became the official fine jewelers of the University of Oregon and their shop got very busy. Ronnie left her teaching job to join Malka full time after it became clear David needed help with marketing and events.

In 2018, they expanded the shop and fine-tuned their interior design, adding metallic cork wallpaper, a custom woven rug, a gathering area with a modern, round table and gray leather chairs, and custom-built display cases. The counter now boasts a marble top and black paint. Other additions include a gold light fixture and a trio of geometric mirrors. The look is upscale without feeling stuffy. The decor is also a personal reflection of what makes David and Ronnie comfortable, complete with a prominently displayed black and white wedding photo of the couple.

“Ninety-nine percent of the time, you meet a Malka,” Ronnie says. “We want them to know us as we want to know them.”

VIDEO: MALKA STORE TOUR

VIDEO: MALKA “ABOUT US”

VIDEO: MALKA CUSTOM DIAMONDS


PHOTO GALLERY (30 IMAGES)

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Five Cool Things About Malka Diamonds & Jewelry

1. Salt-and-pepper diamonds. A year ago, Malka started showcasing the work of a Seattle designer, Point No Point Studios, which has a strong Instagram presence and specializes in salt-and-pepper diamond rings. “We knew that going out-of-the-box and trying something new would potentially bring new traffic,” says Ronnie, who gets several inquiries about them every week. David, as the son of a diamond dealer, admits he was reluctant at first to move in that direction. “My dad says, ‘How much is that per carat?!’ Ten years ago, it would have been used for drill bits, but now there’s an actual marketplace for it. I don’t think it’s a fad, either,” David says.

2. Collaborative environment. “We all know the projects, what’s going on, and what’s coming up,” Ronnie says. “It doesn’t feel compartmentalized.” That approach also creates opportunity for growth. Chloe, who works in the showroom, says Malka has the friendliest atmosphere of anywhere she has worked, as well as enormous growth potential and pride in values. “It gives me satisfaction learning-wise and experience-wise, knowing what the jewelers have to do to have a certain outcome for whatever kind of piece we’re making,” she says.

3. Custom connection. A 2018 expansion made room for two full-time master jewelers and more equipment in the shop. “We wanted everything done under our roof,” David says, from design to manufacture. Sometimes they are simply consultants: “An architect is doing his own CAD design for us to look at and make sure it’s going to translate into a ring and not a building,” Ronnie says.

4. Website curb appeal. Ronnie considers Malka’s digital presence, including its website, to be online curb appeal. “People want to engage online first,” Ronnie says. “Maybe 10 or 15 years ago, your website was a placeholder for your contact info, but now it tells your story.” People know what to expect.

5. Digital marketing ROI. Digital marketing has for the most part replaced traditional radio and TV, because as Ronnie says, “Our customer is online and if they’re seriously looking for a ring, they are seriously looking — not seeing it on TV. Many jewelers will say this is a waste of time, but in the last six months when our followers have doubled, we have noticed customers referring to an image they saw on Instagram or Facebook. It is a real relief to see the return on investment on the time spent taking photos and creating tag lines.” Even shop dog Toby has his own Instagram handle!

JUDGES’ COMMENTS
  • Julie Ettinger: This store is a real gem! I love the shop-local feel and that it can all be done in house. I also appreciate the mix of vintage and new.
  • Julie Gotz: I love that the owners are so invested in the customer and their life cycle. Many stores are too focused on the sale and not enough on the relationship. It is great to hear that a store is using social media in such a successful way.
  • Joel Hassler: I like the approach to gathering customer information. Building a relationship is more important than data-mining.
  • Barbara Ross-Innamorati: : The store interior is exquisite and feels upscale but also warm and inviting. The website is quite informative and I love their blog, “Stories,” as it features a lot of interesting topics with gorgeous photography.
  • Hedda Schupak: I like the laser focus on diamond rings, and I love the impressive depth of selection they have, especially nontraditional styles. The store itself is very hip and welcoming. Their online presence is very strong; they’re using all social media quite well.
  • Eric Zimmerman: Malka Diamonds has done a wonderful job of creating a modern elegant boutique while still highlighting the building’s historic features. Their store’s design tells a story that complements the products they showcase: modern and antique.
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Best of The Best

This Retailer Combined Diamonds with Donuts for a Sweet Event

Social media played a big role in drawing 50 new customers.

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DIAMONDS AND DONUTS are each desirable in their own right, but put them together and the combination proves irresistible. At least it did in April for customers of Bernie Robbins Jewelers, whose purchases hit seven figures in four locations over two days.

Owner Harvey Rovinsky said he had noticed “donut roll” events in other types of retail-store promotions and thought donuts would be a great draw to add to the Bernie Robbins promotional repertoire, which has included a Yoga Fest, a Chic at the Shore series of summer events and trunk shows, a student design contest and a high-profile Super Bowl ticket giveaway, along with a recent emphasis on social media, digital advertising and geo-fencing.

“We always want to do something that is different, unique, that people will talk about,” Rovinsky says. “In my mind, donuts go with everything, and they certainly go with diamonds. Because of what the marketing team put together, there was a story to tell besides this jewelry store and their diamonds. It was a way to make a jewelry store visit more fun.”

As it happens, the shape of donuts is even suggestive of a ring.

Integral to promoting the event was a “donut wall” for customer selfies, created entirely by the staff, who invited customers to decorate the donuts with bridal toppers.

Says Peter Salerno, digital-marketing manager: “The idea came in the form of having a part of the store that is more photogenic, something new and fun. Our sales staff used their own Instagram accounts to reach out to customers, and we also advertised on traditional digital platforms. It was a cool space, a departure from a typical jewelry store. It had interaction and on-site activation.”

Customers were invited to decorate donuts with bridal-themed toppers, adding to the in-store experience, during Bernie Robbins’ Diamonds and Donuts event.

The store also borrowed wedding gowns for display that the staff accessorized with diamond jewelry.

“We had champagne, flowers, and it smelled like a bakery,” says Cristin Cipa, director of marketing.

The sales event represented true value for customers, who shopped at up to 50 percent off for mountings, engagement rings and wedding bands, and saved up to 40 percent on a large selection of GIA-graded loose diamonds. Instant credit and interest-free financing added to the appeal of instant gratification.

While salespeople set up appointments in advance to ensure their best clients would visit, the promotion also lured 50 new customers over two days.

“We had cooperation from all of our staff — marketing, selling, support staff,” Rovinsky says. “We checked all of the boxes when it came to marketing and we did an enormous amount of clienteling. Sightholders sent us hundreds of thousands of dollars in diamonds for two days at great prices. It was a win-win-win — a win for our clients, for our salespeople and for Bernie Robbins.” The entire staff was given a bonus as a result.

As for timing, April is diamond month, Rovinsky says. “Is it a popular time for engagements? Who knows? But we made it into one.”

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America's Coolest Stores

America’s Coolest Stores 2019 – Winners Revealed!

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Check out America’s Coolest Jewelry Stores of 2019!

Congratulations to the winners of the 18th annual America’s Coolest Stores Contest! In the following pages — and in the months ahead — discover why these stores earned the stamp of approval from our judges. As in past years, we divided the entries into two categories — Big Cool (six or more full-time employees) and Small Cool (five or fewer). We asked two six-member teams of judges to evaluate stores based on their back story, interior, exterior, marketing, online presence and what we here at INSTORE believe is the most important intangible: individuality.

Our six America’s Coolest and additional 10 Cool Stores — each of which will be featured in INSTORE issues through June 2019 — represent creative approaches to doing business as well as aesthetically pleasing retail environments. Each of the six winning stores also offers an omni-channel shopping experience, with merchandise available for purchase online.

If you haven’t taken the time to enter yet, why not give it a shot in January 2020? Retailers have told us that the entry process alone can be inspiring and motivating because it requires them to assess all aspects of their businesses. And if you entered and weren’t chosen this time, fine-tune your entry and try again. That’s proven to be a winning strategy.

Check out America’s Coolest
Jewelry Stores of 2019!

Congratulations to the winners of the 18th annual America’s Coolest Stores Contest! In the following pages — and in the months ahead — discover why these stores earned the stamp of approval from our judges. As in past years, we divided the entries into two categories — Big Cool (six or more full-time employees) and Small Cool (five or fewer). We asked two six-member teams of judges to evaluate stores based on their back story, interior, exterior, marketing, online presence and what we here at INSTORE believe is the most important intangible: individuality.

Our six America’s Coolest and additional 10 Cool Stores — each of which will be featured in INSTORE issues through June 2019 — represent creative approaches to doing business as well as aesthetically pleasing retail environments. Each of the six winning stores also offers an omni-channel shopping experience, with merchandise available for purchase online.

If you haven’t taken the time to enter yet, why not give it a shot in January 2020? Retailers have told us that the entry process alone can be inspiring and motivating because it requires them to assess all aspects of their businesses. And if you entered and weren’t chosen this time, fine-tune your entry and try again. That’s proven to be a winning strategy.

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