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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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America's Coolest Stores

Century-Old Store Embraces Change With Futuristic Features

Lighting and high-level interior design enhance a dramatic renovation.

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Reis-Nichols Jewelers, Indianapolis, IN

OWNER: William P. “BJ” Nichols; URL:reisnichols.com ; FOUNDED: 1919; OPENED FEATURED LOCATION:1998; LAST RENOVATED: 2017; STORE DESIGNER: Jill Duzan LLC; EMPLOYEES: 76 in two locations; AREA: 2,100 sq. ft.; TOP BRANDS: Rolex, Patek Philippe, David Yurman, Roberto Coin, JB Star, Forevermark


B.J. and Lori Nichols with daughter Hannah Nichols

A HUNDRED YEARS AFTER its founding, Reis-Nichols Jewelers is teeming with energy and optimism — from its mood lighting and comfortably elegant interior to the debut of Hannah Nichols, who represents the family’s next generation.

Highlights of the 12,000 square-foot space, expanded and reinvented in 2017, include sophisticated brand boutiques, cases designed for side-by-side selling, futuristic lighting and a glass-walled custom shop.

“The feeling when you walk in is a lot of energy,” says president William (B.J.) Nichols. “Our vendor reps say it’s the busiest store that they are in.”

Nichols sought to set a friendly tone for all of those visitors and welcome them in a natural manner, with a hospitality bar at the front of the store staffed with greeters. Refreshments are served there, and a video explains the history of the business.

History is reflected in the interior design itself. “We’ve used lots of the hip, dark-colored woods with white brick and some wrought iron and steel around the windows, so it feels a little bit more like a manufacturer, which is basically the origins of our company,” Nichols says.

Reis Jewelers was founded in 1919 as a manufacturing company that produced handmade, emblematic jewelry for Masonic organizations. In 1957, William Nichols began working for his uncle, the owner, and became an expert on jewelry manufacturing and wholesale distribution. When he bought the company, he renamed it Reis-Nichols. William later opened a public showroom and began selling to consumers. In the late ‘80s, William sold ownership of the company to his five children, including B.J.

Reis-Nichols’ latest retail incarnation does more than pay symbolic homage to its manufacturing past. In addition to a sprawling showroom and administrative offices, it also houses an authentic shop integrated into the space with steel and glass factory-style windows that reveal behind-the-scenes craftsmanship. If customers take a peek, they will notice a busy operation, with 10 jewelers and three watchmakers on staff. The watchmakers hold several Swiss-brand certifications. The versatile jewelry team has created everything from a 19 total carat weight yellow diamond ring to the official dog collar for Blue III, Butler University’s mascot.

Growing a strong in-house shop has helped Reis-Nichols thrive in a hot custom market, where smart jewelers are finding favorable margins and where consumers aren’t able to easily compare prices among competitors. It’s also very personal. “You can really make a connection with your client, and they’ll tell 100 people about what you did with a diamond they may have brought in,” Nichols says.

“It’s important for customers to know you have top brands. But brands are less important to engagement-ring buyers, and so we are designing most of the engagement rings we are selling.”

Jill Duzan Willey of Jill Duzan LLC, who is both an interior designer and a jewelry designer, was tasked with creating the overall customer experience, working with architects, lighting experts, engineers and builders to achieve that goal. “B.J. wanted it not to look like any other jewelry store,” she says.

By moving the main entrance to the south side of the building from the original north side location, the design team was able to create a modern new identity while adding space. All sides of the exterior were reimagined using up-to-date forms and materials.

A stately chest, left, deployed to display estate jewelry, is juxtaposed elsewhere with modern seating and cases.

Willey also fashioned a floor plan based on a multi-path pattern that allows shoppers to meander at will.

“It is not a typical one-path jewelry store. It is more of a boutique layout — each designer is identified, but all fit under the Reis-Nichols brand umbrella,” Nichols says.

The design team created a graceful traffic flow around the casework and used cases of different styles and sizes to add visual interest. Five curved showcases, usually set up in a semi-circle at the front, can be easily converted into a serpentine showcase for special events. “We tend to put what’s new and coolest up front, what we’re trying to show off,” Nichols says. The new space also includes several seating areas: from a comfortable waiting space and a semi-private diamond showroom to a luxurious watch lounge.

One challenge was to smoothly balance high-end branded boutiques with an overall casual ambience and make it cohesive, a feat accomplished with the informed choice of materials, lighting and layout. Nichols believes that a sense of brand identity offers clients something unique — the feeling of an escape to another place. Customers can be transported by that experience, as if they were visiting Rolex or Cartier in New York. On the other hand, if the design of branded boutiques is not integrated well into the overall design, the effect could be that of a duty-free shop at the airport.

PROMOTION: Advertising emphasizes the tradition of enduring craftsmanship.

“We tried to overcome threshold resistance while still presenting a luxurious experience,” Nichols says. “Our concept is to not be too intimidating for the younger clients, and not too casual for the higher-end luxury client.”

Layout, décor and technology are ambitious and look to the future. A steel structure, which was hoisted into the space with a forklift, creates a semi-private circular diamond showroom in the middle of the sales floor. A lucite table glows with light to enhance bridal sales or the delivery of an important watch.

A Ketra lighting-control system is connected by wi-fi to each light on the sales floor, shops and offices. The lighting in different areas can be customized to be cool or warm, based on whether it’s being used to illuminate watches, diamonds or colored stones. But the most exciting use for this system, Nichols believes, is to change the mood, scenery and feel of the store, especially during parties and trunk shows. During a Rolex event, the lights were a perfect shade of “Rolex Green,” while red lighting has been used for Valentine’s Day. In December, exterior accent lights glow green. Settings are programmed for morning set-up, daytime selling and overnight security, all activated with the click of a button on keypads placed around the store.

The company’s delicate balance between branded and unbranded, casual and elegant, past and future, modern and traditional, appears to have been achieved, with a big dash of wow factor.

PHOTO GALLERY (15 IMAGES)

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Five Cool Things About Reis-Nichols

1. A weighty wall. The stainless-steel wall behind the guest-services area was handmade by a local artisan, weighs 700 pounds and took half a dozen construction workers to install. The current installment contains permanent initials for father/founder William P. Nichols, who died in 2011, the names of B.J. Nichols and VP Cindy Nichols, and the initials of Megan, the graphic designer who designed the concept. Additionally, magnetic plaques recognize employee anniversaries of more than 10 years.

2. A brilliant idea. Reis-Nichols developed Brilliant, its own custom point-of-sale, inventory and client-management system. It was conceived by Nichols, brought to life by the company’s long-time CEO, and has been modified to fit ever-changing business needs, including real-time website inventory interface. “We can do entire store audits in less than two hours, and we’re able to make changes quickly and inexpensively to be more customer-centric,” Nichols says.

3. Finders keepers. For a Valentine’s Day promotion, Reis-Nichols staff hid clues throughout the city leading to treasure. “When they find it (the clue), they bring it in and we present them with a piece of jewelry and donate $100 to their favorite charity,” Nichols says.

4. E-commerce evolves. “We decided to get serious about e-commerce over five years ago,” Nichols says. “We tend to do very well with showing merchandise on the website and having customers come in and ask for it. For actually transacting e-commerce on the website and someone hitting the purchase button, that’s still a work in progress, but it’s growing.”

5. Hope for the future. B.J.’s daughter Hannah Nichols, graduated with a marketing degree from Indiana University five years ago, and is working as an assistant diamond buyer and bridal-jewelry consultant. “Customers like to see a family member,” says her dad. “And she’s developed a following from her days at Indiana University.”

JUDGES’ COMMENTS
  • Jill Maurer: Reis-Nichols Jewelers is a beautiful blend of heritage and modern. Rather than resting on their impressive laurels they pushed boundaries with their redesign. I especially love the programmable lighting system!
  • David Lampert: Nice store. Seems like they do a good amount of digital marketing.
  • Laura Davis: What a cool experience. And their Instagram should be a best-in-class shout-out. I can see why they get national attention. Just a fantastic story. I want to know these people! 🙂
  • Larry Johnson: Beautiful choices of colors and textures make the interior combination of iconic brands seamless.
  • Katherine Bodoh: I love the interior and exterior. The lighting, whitewashed brick and modern cases add a cool vibe to a more “traditional” store layout. The Est. 1919 sign is a great way to inform customers of their heritage without being “stuffy”.

 

ONLINE EXTRA: Q&A with BJ Nichols

What kind of philanthropy do you participate in?

We love to give back and probably the biggest one is our watch battery donation. We ask our clients to donate to a charity. A big one we’ve sponsored is Second Helpings, which is the repurposing of food from restaurants and is a very large organization in Indianapolis. We do the yearly event, Corks and Forks, where restaurants donate their food. With the watch-battery program we’ve bought now two $20,000 delivery vehicles, with our name on the side of it in small print. When you have a purpose, each month we’ll do a charity and customers will get excited and sometimes write a check for a thousand dollars. We tend to donate to our better customers’ charities and juvenile diabetes and Indiana university cancer research

Are your customers expressing concern about responsible sourcing, or other ethical issues?

The majority rely on our reputation to be ethical but certain customers, younger, more informed customer today is more curious about that. We’re very good at explaining our processes, the Kimberley process and we carry Forevermark diamonds, which is a very important part of their positioning and marketing.

What has been your approach to lab-grown diamonds?

We do not market synthetic diamonds to the public. We will sell them by special request if it’s important to them to have that. But the main issue with lab grown diamonds is it’s a race to the bottom as far as pricing. We’re not comfortable selling someone a diamond that will continue to drop significantly in price. People buy jewelry from us to maintain its value over time. When I talk to my better clients, they’re all like `I want the real thing.’ If I’m promoting synthetic diamonds, it’s like speaking two different languages. It’s difficult to do both. And I want customers to have the confidence to know it’s all natural – rubies and sapphires and diamonds.

What have you learned about the latest generation of engagement-ring shoppers?

It’s very easy to be stereotypical and I don’t think you can generalize, but the bridal portion of our business has a more transactional approach than other parts of the business. But the majority want to buy in store and appreciate the experience and are buying based on their relationship with the sales person. So I see both sides of it. The average amount spent is down but we are selling higher end diamonds to younger and younger engagement ring buyers. There’s more variation between how people shop for engagement ring, and there is a trend that the latest generation is spending more on the experience and the wedding than they are on the diamond ring.

Have you noticed any engagement-ring trends?

Shoppers are looking for more curved shapes, ovals and cushions are strong. Less important are princess and Asscher cuts.

What’s the Most Important Lesson You’ve Learned as a Retailer?

After nearly 100 years in business, we’ve learned not to wait for customers to give you enough feedback to do something cool. Customers always want more. Lead, don’t follow. Be an innovator, don’t be ordinary. Start selling new and creative lines before anyone else. Make changes to the look of your store and develop out of the box ideas first. Be the jeweler (and sales professionals) that people want to spend time with, for fun! A word of caution: make sure to poll a couple of your good customers before implementing those changes. Just because it’s a great, out of the box idea doesn’t mean that your best customers will actually love it!

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Brand Portfolio

Store Brands Its Nautical-Themed Identity

A quest for a canoe started it all.

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WHEN ERIK AND LESLIE Runyan were planning interior design for their new store in Vancouver, WA, they were browsing in a store in Portland, OR, and happened to see a light fixture they loved: a hollowed-out canoe hanging upside down from the ceiling, with lights mounted inside. That led to a quest for a canoe chandelier of their own. After searching for weeks, they found a handmade wooden canoe for sale atop a houseboat on the Willamette River near Portland. “I drove my boat to it, Leslie and I hoisted it up, and so began its journey to Vancouver,” Runyan recalls. “The seller had no reason to suspect that I was going to put three holes in it and hang it upside down!” The resulting work of functional art, crafted by Steve Strong of Strong Construction, set the tone for the nautical-inspired store on the Columbia River as well as a branding campaign. The canoe is a powerful symbol for Runyan, for several reasons. The river, Runyan says, and access to the ocean, created Vancouver and define both city and store. When not running the store, Runyan can be found crewing aboard motor yachts from Mexico to Canada as a licensed Merchant Marine 100-ton captain. “These moments are my inspiration,” he says.

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Themed Parties

Events “Under the Canoe” have included Chamber of Commerce “After Hours” parties and receptions for artists during Art Walk Downtown Vancouver events.

The Gift of Gab

Erik Runyan says even his talented staff fits in with the nautical theme, since they are all great storytellers, an important attribute to have when engaged in high-seas adventures or a canoe ride down the Willamette River.

Under The Canoe

The novel canoe chandelier became the center of a marketing campaign. “Promoting all of the good things that can happen ‘Under the Canoe’ is fun and will continue to grow,” Runyan says.

Under the Influence

A branded wine label is part of the ERJ branding plan. “It gives me great pleasure to open and share a bottle with a customer or send them home with some to enjoy later,” Runyan says. They also introduced Wine Wednesdays, when light appetizers and local seasonal wines are served.

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All In, Online

Most of ERJ’s advertising dollars go to the Internet. “SEO, SEM and social are how you can find me now. I am ‘all in’ looking for a connection with future customers of ERJ. My web traffic has quadrupled for the efforts put toward Google, Yelp and Facebook. Our blogs discuss both diamond education and proposal tips.”

A Catchy New Moniker

In addition to the Under the Canoe branding campaign, the use of EJR, rather than Erik Runyan Jewelers, helped modernize and transform branding for the century-old business.

Almost Seaworthy

The nautical branding theme is smoothly integrated with the store’s interior. Other nautical notes found throughout the store include an operational ship’s wheel, plank wood flooring, welcome aboard sign, custom compass rose wood floor medallion and visibly marked latitude and longitude coordinates. The 18-foot ceilings add to the feeling of openness and room for adventure.

Making an Impression

ERJ’s ad images include the canoe symbol as well as the compass symbol, which is integrated into the ERJ logo.

Canoe Talisman

Erik Runyan is in the process of developing canoe-themed jewelry.

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Best of The Best

Florida-Based Mayors Jewelers Seeks Connection With Young Luxury Shoppers

The Watches of Switzerland invests in well-respected brand.

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WHEN WATCHES OF Switzerland Group bought Mayors Jewelers group in 2017, it was already well-run and well-established, but out of date, thought Brian Duffy, CEO of Watches of Switzerland, the biggest retailer of luxury watches in the UK.

“Mayors has been around since 1907 in Florida and it’s very well-regarded in the local community. Everybody loved it, but we got some comments like, ‘It’s where my parents bought their engagement rings.’ It had aged as a brand. The whole plan has been to update the brand to appeal to younger customers. We updated the logo, changed the façade and introduced a new store format.”

One of the most important decisions they made, according to group executive VP David Hurley, was to keep the Mayors name. The brand was good, but could get much better with investment in digital, brick-and-mortar, and especially, support for the strong teams of employees already in place, who received in-depth brand education under new management.

June debut: The first new Mayors flagship store is scheduled to open in June at the Merrick Park Mall in Coral Gables, FL. The 5,657 square foot open-concept space, designed by MNA, will feature luxury watches.

Mayors operates in Florida and Georgia with a portfolio of 17 stores. A retailer of luxury products and service, the group features brands such as Rolex, Cartier, Omega, TAG Heuer, Mikimoto, Bulgari, Messika and Roberto Coin, as well as its own collections of bridal, diamond and gold jewelry. In addition to the Mayors acquisition, Watches of Switzerland also launched flagship branded stores in New York City and Las Vegas as part of their entry into the U.S. market.

Their market research indicated that millennials are as interested as any other generation in luxury watches and jewelry if conditions are right. But outdated store decor and inadequate digital presentation were holding Mayors back from its potential to offer the kind of experience that would hook younger shoppers. The reinvented Mayors is particularly interested in consumers in their mid-30s. “The important age is 35; it’s always been that way and still is,” Duffy says.

To update the buying experience, WOS launched an interactive website, as well as two magazines with free digital circulation, one of which focuses on watches.

Redesigned websites and marketing reflect sleek store design.

Online concierges are available to help shoppers through text chat or video chat on the redesigned website. “But obviously, we’re trying to make the whole website as self-navigational as possible,” Duffy says. “We’re having the easiest form of dropdowns and product selections and using the most advanced systems, so as you navigate around the website, the information it gives back is interactive and intelligent.”

The in-store experience also needed a modern edge, a project expected to be completed by the fall across all storefronts. “Having stores that are appealing and non-intimidating, that welcome people in with a big emphasis on hospitality, is the goal,” Duffy says. “Staff members don’t have to stand behind counters. The emphasis is on self-help and engagement with salespeople when they’re ready. “

The redesigned store facades have a distinctive monochromatic look with white banding and a black background. The store design meshes with both the style of the advertising and the brand’s sleek new packaging, rendered in black and silver. “We haven’t held back at all on the quality of the materials or the lighting,” Duffy says.

The look, feel and function of the store must be evaluated every few years. Says Hurley: “We believe in constantly investing in our stores. As soon as you stop doing that, the stores start to look tired, sales go down and you get into a vicious cycle.”

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