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Saved By Radio

Integrity and service are at the heart of Shelton Jewelers in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

By Joyce Kauf

Gregg Ruth
Our mission statement is part of our merchandising,” explains Eric Shelton, president and owner of Shelton Jewelers in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It is so integral to his business that “The Mission of Shelton Jewelers” is prominently displayed on a plaque at the entrance to the store. Yet while Shelton emphasizes traditional values, he embraces innovative marketing techniques to promote his designer and custom jewelry, watches and giftware — ranging from themed events to a stint as a master gemologist on call-in radio.
   Shelton Jewelers opened in 1984. In selecting the venue, Shelton sought a “destination location” in an affluent, well-trafficked area. He wanted a freestanding building that would attract dedicated shoppers, unlike a mall that is frequented by both buyers and browsers. His decision was prescient; according to his estimation, 86,000 cars drive by daily. Initially, Shelton rented one of the building’s eight separate retail establishments. However, as stores became available, Shelton “knocked down a wall,” eventually creating a two-level entity, consisting of 4,000 square feet of selling space across the entire lower level. An additional 3,000 square feet above serves as office space and storage.

Granite and Glass
   Shelton’s goal was to display elegant jewelry in a “relaxed and casual atmosphere.” Customers enter to glass-paneled waterfalls separated by black granite. Most of the walls are made of simulated stonework, but other materials are used to carve out designer areas. A wall made of glass crystals resembling three-dimensional rough gemstones serves as the backdrop for one area.
   Illuminating a center island is a circular fixture of recessed light, 12 feet in diameter. A facade of translucent frosted circles separates the showroom from an area dedicated for goldsmiths. “It adds a sense of confidence to their purchase that the work is done in the store rather than being outsourced,” says Shelton, pointing out that it reinforces the “integrity” cited in the mission statement.
   A separate sit-down island is designated for bridal. Adjacent arches lead to private areas that allow closer inspection of diamonds under a microscope.
   Shelton notes that engagement rings account for 51 percent of the business. Rubies and emeralds sell well, but Shelton points to the popularity of the “more exotic” gemstones, such as star sapphires and kunzite. Some of the lines sold include Hearts on Fire, Gregg Ruth, Konstantino, Mikimoto and Simon G. One of his top lines is John Hardy, which is exclusive to Shelton Jewelers in the city. He recently expanded his jewelry selection with estate jewelry.

Call the Expert
   Shelton describes the market as “muddled,” with far fewer exclusives since some of the brands he once carried are now opening their own boutiques. “But ‘the Shelton brand’ is more important than our exclusives,” he says. He credits that awareness to concerted efforts to increase name recognition.
   According to Shelton, radio “saved us” during the economic downturn. “I volunteered to become the local expert,” says Shelton. On a call-in show, he would describe a piece of jewelry, the gemstones and the story of its origins. People would call in with questions. Shelton recalled one show where he described a diamond hummingbird pendant with a ruby eye. Three sold before he even returned to the store and orders were placed for more. “The program definitely brought people into the store. It created excitement because listeners imagined the piece and then wanted to see it.” However, his participation ended after a change in the program format and a clamor from other retailers — potential advertisers — wanting to be on the radio themselves.
   To kick off each Christmas season, Shelton plans an elaborate themed holiday event, transforming the store and often engaging actors from the Albuquerque Civic Light Opera and a live band. A James Bond party celebrated “Diamonds Are Forever” with movie posters replacing product photographs in the light boxes. During a Sherlock Holmes night, jewelry clues were hidden throughout the store and the “detective” circulated among guests asking questions and awarding prizes for correct answers.
   Advertising is another tool. Shelton takes over one entire side of a city bus, featuring a product and a pun, such as “sighs matter,” all designed to attract attention.

The Shelton Experience
   “If you ask a man how he plans to present an engagement ring, at least half have no idea,” Shelton explains. To add a romantic touch — while at the same time enhancing customer service — Shelton created “the Shelton experience,” in which he collaborates with fine local restaurants to plan a memorable proposal. Dinner begins with champagne, courtesy of Shelton. As the couple clink the glasses, the maître d’ lifts a dome from a silver platter to reveal the ring. However, the actual proposal is up to the man. Still, Shelton happily notes that women constantly come to the store to express their gratitude. He adds that the experience works for anniversaries as well, citing the time he sent a white stretch limousine to a campground to whisk a couple off to a tenth-year celebration.
   Shelton maintains that adherence to the mission statement has both contributed to his success and distinguishes Shelton Jewelers from other stores. “It is all designed to show the customers that we appreciate their loyalty,” he emphasizes.

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - October 2014. To subscribe click here.

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