Rapaport Magazine

Retail Revamp

Keeping up store environment

By Phyllis Schiller
RAPAPORT... You can have the best merchandise, the most desirable location, but if your store environment hasn’t kept up with today’s selling priorities, you’re going to be losing customers.

In a presentation before retailers, luxury marketing guru Pam Danziger, founder of Unity Marketing, and author of the new book Shopping: Why We Love It and How Retailers Can Create the Ultimate Customer Experience, referenced a study she did for American Express Platinum Cards about luxury dining. “What we found,” she related, “was it isn’t about the food; excellent, superior food was taken for granted. What their luxury experience was centered around was in the dining room, not the kitchen — how the matire d’ greeted them and sat them at the table, how the waiters served them, how the wine steward advised them, the flowers on the table.... Most restaurateurs, however, spend 80 percent of their time in the kitchen worrying about the food. But if luxury for the consumer is happening in the dining room, then they’re mismanaging their time. It should be spent in the dining room where the luxury experience exists for the consumer. That’s the challenge manufacturers and retailers have, to make sure to align their luxury values and qualities with what the customer perceives them to be.”

Danziger points out that along with the traditional 4Ps of successful marketing — Product, Price, Promotion and Place — there’s a fifth “P” to consider — Performance. And that includes not only how the products you sell perform, but how your store performs and delivers the luxury experience to the consumer. And that encompasses all of the factors that make your store, “your store,” from the exterior location to the interior atmosphere.

For jewelry retailers, getting their store’s environment to match up to consumer expectations might call for some radical updating. “Right now, this industry is at a point where most of the stores look the same,” says Dimitri Vermès, partner and vice president, marketing, GRID2, a Manhattan-based design firm specializing in retail stores and showrooms for the jewelry industry. “There has to be something else that’s happening besides waiting for a salesperson to pull out a piece from a long straight line of showcases.”


A retailer who has successfully merged service and creativity is Brian Toone, chief executive officer (CEO), Jewelry Design Center, Spokane, Washington. When his retail business moved into an expanded space — 12,500 square feet of which 8,000 square feet is selling floor — he was able to fulfill some design goals he’d wanted to do for years.

“We’ve been in business since 1977, but just moved into this location in August of 2005. It’s new and everything we’ve done has been to fit our company’s personality. We began as a trade shop and then expanded into retail. In our old space, our jewelers had always been behind glass so you could watch them and see what was going on, but we knew we really wanted that to be a focal point. People loved to watch the jewelry being worked on.”

In the new space, the shop is all behind glass. Each of the jeweler’s benches is fitted with a video camera that takes real-time footage of them, and the cameras broadcast out into the showroom on eight flat-screen monitors. “As somebody buys something and wants to have it sized, they can watch it being worked on,” Toone explains. “Our laser welder is on camera. The CAD/CAM is broadcasting behind glass and people can watch it work. They can watch waxes being hand-carved. When people first come in, they look at that and get excited. It sparks questions about what we do.”

A by-invitation showroom reached by a spiral staircase also maintains that air of excitement and luxury with a skylight, a bar and high-end showcases. “We have 15 hidden picture showcases,” says Toone, “and when you flick a switch, they raise and the pictures disappear into the walls and reveal the cases of jewelry. So it’s kind of a fun thing. We’ve had people get engaged up there. We have special events up there. The nice thing is we can have events there that don’t interfere with the day-to-day business. We can have 50 to 100 people upstairs and not have it affect our business.”

Adding a natural warmth to the store’s interior, there are native Northwest cedar trees that look “as if they’re growing out of the carpet. If you’ve ever seen a cedar tree, they flare at the bottom and the root structure comes out. We use those in six different spaces; they’re actually the supports for the building.” Even before customers set foot inside the store, there’s something to catch their eye. “We have a six-foot, stainless steel diamond that looks as if it’s cut from stone,” Toone points out.

Preston’s Rocks, in Fishers, Indiana, also offers a unique selling excitement to customers from the moment they step in the store. It’s definitely not anyone’s grandfather’s jewelry store. In fact, it’s at least a generation or two removed from parent company Reis Nichols’ more traditional Reis-Nichols jewelry store — and deliberately so.

Not only young at heart, everything about the store, from sales associates to merchandise, is geared toward attracting the younger “Eco-Boomer” customer. Deciding one jewelry store couldn’t be all things to all generations, the new location was created after a series of focus groups that helped pinpoint the areas of “frustration” for less traditionally inclined shoppers.

The more open layout features a small internet café complete with Starbucks coffee machine as well as more open space to try on samples. Customers don’t have to ask to see everything. The salespeople are younger, more casual for a peer-to-peer approachability. In keeping with environmental concerns, showcases are recycled bamboo, as are the floorboards. There’s a lot more metal on the showcases, which have foot rails, as well as a cool slate blue color, echoing home decor colors, and lots of frosted acrylic glass.

Technology — big-screen TVs, computer modules with internet access — plays a big part in the high-concept store’s more casual retail environment, says Jennifer Demmary, merchandise manager, speaking on behalf of B.J. Nichols, president of Reis-Nichols. What’s playing on those attention-getting screens runs the gamut from music videos to sports or entertainment shows to a loop of bridal rings.


Technology and today’s luxury shopping are a match made in marketing heaven. Rather than diminish from the experiential quality consumers are asking for, high-tech touches can reinforce it. “Technology doesn’t have to be intrusive; you can incorporate it in point-of-purchase (POP) displays or an island system where people can look at the display and maybe interact with it. Technology ‘salespeople’ are nonthreatening and allow customers to make their own purchasing decisions. More and more, customers sell themselves on the internet and then come into the store and say ‘here’s what I want. Let me see it and try it on.’ Technology can create the type of ‘soft selling’ that reaches customers,” Vermès says.

Today, Vermès sums up, “you either embrace technology, or you will forever play the catch-up game. There’s a wonderful opportunity here in the jewelry industry to go ahead with it. The customer is looking for more than just a little warmth and color in the retail environment. If retailers don’t wake up and smell the coffee, the catch-up game will be so intense that it will be almost impossible not to get left behind.”


Wave of the Future

RFID, radio frequency identification, is a back-of-house inventory control system that, says Dimitri Vermès, partner and vice president, marketing, GRID2, has potential front-of-house applications for jewelry retailers.
With RFID, Vermès explains, “a small tag that you can attach to each product in a showcase sends out a frequency that is picked up by a receiver. This allows inventory control and management to be done not only on a monthly basis, but on a daily basis.” But RFID has more consumer-friendly applications.

“When the product is picked up in an open showcase display, “explains Vermès, “the receiver knows that the product is being looked at and a plasma display turns on and talks to the customer about the product’s features. If the customer puts that product down and picks up the one next to it, the monitor will notice and then compare the two items. It’s like an independent salesperson that you don’t have to pay.” Customers, in effect, are selling themselves. And even selling themselves up, without the “pressure” of a salesperson. Having an open-sell system might be more problematic with jewelry, because of how expensive the product is and how small it is, Vermès acknowledges, ”but what some jewelers have done is to showcase the mounting without the stone. This technology is slowly but surely being implemented in the jewelry store retail channel.”

Technology can also help to personalize selling. Vermès points to the example of Helzberg Diamonds, who use an SOA — service-oriented architecture — system. “SOA is basically the call name for a type of point-of-sale program that gives you information on customers’ past purchases. It’s basically like the club cards. When a customer walks into any Helzberg store, a salesperson can immediately access what their last several purchases were in any of the chain’s stores, and use that data to suggest matching items or point out sales on like types of pieces,” creating a truly “customized” customer service.

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - May 2007. To subscribe click here.

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