Rapaport Magazine

Sparkling experiences

Outside-the-box events bring customers into stores and create unforgettable moments.

By Jennifer Heebner

Image: Just Jules, Alexis Ahrling

Kira Kampmann isn’t a stockbroker, but she’s looking forward to a fourth-quarter event at the Stock Exchange in Copenhagen, Denmark, nonetheless. The Danish owner of pearl wholesaler Marc’Harit Pearls is holding an event with a jewelry retailer to give local collectors a rare shopping opportunity.

“We’re participating in a shop-in-shop with more of their suppliers,” she says. “It’s something customers can get excited about.”

Kampmann is one of many in the jewelry business who are offering customers outside-the-box events to keep them intrigued. As Covid-19 vaccination rates rise worldwide, jewelers are reintroducing select in-person experiences to help them stay top of mind among pandemic- fatigued clients — and entertain them at the same time. Gatherings range from charm parties to piercing events and wine tastings, all providing a broad appeal for consumers of varied ages and interests.

“Customers like to come to an experience-based store,” observes Wendy Kunkle, president of Kemo Sabe. The western-inspired lifestyle shop has locations in Las Vegas and the Colorado towns of Aspen and Vail; by summer 2022, there will also be one in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Kunkle’s number-one sellers are custom-made hats, followed by boots, belt buckles, and diamond and vintage Native American jewelry. “We offer lots of music, laughing, yelling…happy chaos. It’s a lively situation in all of our stores.”

Turning on the charms

Chunky, one-of-a-kind gemstone charms have become a mainstay in the collections of designers who like to let customers assemble their own perfect looks. Julie Romanenko of Just Jules in Scottsdale, Arizona, does a brisk trade selling free-form gem cuts with gold and diamond bales. While she doesn’t specifically call these pieces charms, they earn that moniker by default because they’re infinitely layerable. They also represent a large portion of trunk-show sales.

“I don’t go into a store calling part of my trunk a charm bar or party, but that’s what it turns out to be,” she explains. “The charms come out, and people start to play.”

At an in-person event at Kemo Sabe’s Aspen branch in August, Romanenko sold six gemstone buddha figures with diamond bales. Some went on leather cords, others on gold chains, and more took up residence on cowboy hats. “We sell a ton of charms for hats,” notes Kunkle.

Meanwhile, when Kampmann isn’t selling pearls on Copenhagen’s Wall Street, she’s offering the lustrous gems to shoppers in retail stores. She sets out trays of individual pearls at in-store events for customers to pick up and admire, hand-selecting the ones that speak to them.

“Even people who think they know pearls get surprised to see the diversity of the gem and the stories surrounding them,” she relates.

Stores that host these events, including Mads Heindorf Jewellery in Copenhagen, have custom departments to help clients design a piece of pearl jewelry. Shoppers need to be in a retail environment to understand what can be made, and the relationships that form between pearl and shopper can be as valuable as the gems.

“People value making a connection to specific pearls,” says Kampmann. “Shoppers are really into those experiences, and our retail partners want to provide more of them.”

Piercing parties

Jeweler-led piercing parties are a growing trend that encourages strategically placed piercings around the ear. No longer relegated to the lobe alone, the options include the helix, rook, and inner conch — all creative ways of adding more metal and gems to ears.

For the occasion, jewelers bring a licensed professional into the store to offer the piercing service. Debbie Ellick Wallis of Barbara Ellick Jewelry in Narberth, Pennsylvania, hired a piercer for clients who had pre-purchased earrings, all of which had to be sterilized the day before. Customers also signed waivers of responsibility to protect the store, which provided the service on request.

“We had a lot of customers asking for it,” says Wallis, who held three day-long events between fall 2020 and spring 2021. Thirty-five customers attended the first, with 28 and 25 at the second and third.

A few rules helped her keep the events manageable. She insisted that guests stick to ears only — no face or tongue piercings — and made all piercings free with the purchase of at least one earring. The takeaway: Piercing parties are a lot of work for the retailer — and not a lot of money — but they do provide a service.

At Marissa Collections in Naples, Florida, however, piercing parties are so popular that the merchant is opening a standalone piercing studio this month in Palm Beach, on the state’s eastern side. The store has hosted them multiple times over the past two years with Stephanie Anders, a celebrity piercer from Los Angeles.

“We were apprehensive at first, but you wouldn’t believe the people who show up,” says Jennifer McCurry, the store’s jewelry buyer. “You may think you don’t have the clientele, but you do.”

Getting the events off the ground took legwork, including visits from a Department of Health inspector, but once up and running, every event sold out.

Wine and jewelry

Steve Padis’s love of wine stems from an issue of Wine Spectator magazine that he received as a gift decades ago. That single copy got the San Francisco-based owner of Padis Jewelers — founded in 1974 — hooked on wine, winemaking, vineyards and the Napa Valley. Those passions, in turn, paved the way for the family’s Padis Vineyards and its Napa jewelry store and tasting room.

“My dad is a diamond guy, a collector, who appreciates the subtle nuances of a diamond in a similar way to how he enjoys wine,” says marketing and operations manager Alexis Padis, who helped open the Napa location in September 2020. The store is just miles down the road from the vineyard, and the idea of a tasting room inside a shop helps get reluctant customers to cross the threshold.

“Most people aren’t super excited about [walking into a jewelry store],” concedes Padis. But merging the two gives people a place to kick back, drink wine, and shop fine jewelry without having to drive to the big city. Bottles on hand include a Padis estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignon called Brilliance. Jewelry sales associates double as wine ambassadors.

“My staff doesn’t mind being cross-trained on wine,” Padis comments.

A separate Breitling bar with an aviation vibe will soon join the tasting room to tie watches directly into the space. Wish-list events complete with wine, whiskey, jewelry and watches are all on the horizon.

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - November 2021. To subscribe click here.

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