Same Issues, Different Stores: Retailers Swap Stories at JCK Las Vegas 2013

Retailers Sean Moore of Borsheim’s Fine Jewelry, Jennifer Gandia of Greenwich Jewelers, and Veronica Mazzarese of Mazzarese Jewelry dished on their daily struggles, business strategies, and sure-thing merchandise picks during a Saturday panel seminar titled “Retail Roundup”—moderated by JCK editor in chief Victoria Gomelsky.

Both Mazzarese and Gandia, who currently are enjoying higher sales in their stores compared with last year, attributed the boost to targeted efforts in training. Both have used outside sales trainers, and Mazzarese has even “sent salespeople elsewhere to get trained and we’ve brought people into the store to train on certain brands.”

Moore, who cited flat sales this year compared with 2012, said customers are interested in higher-ticket items, but that interest hasn’t yet translated into a healthier bottom line.

Mazzarese said her biggest challenge this year has been bringing in new clients and moving diamonds, due to increased -competition in her suburban Kansas City, Mo., market. Gandia, meanwhile, discussed the perennial challenge of “buying smartly and stocking the store with the right price points.”

Cultivating the perfect mix of fashion and fine jewelry is a topic that Gandia—who counts fashion brand Alexis Bittar among her Greenwich Village store’s top sellers—lives and breathes. “I think we can’t deny that jewelry can be found almost anywhere, from J. Crew to Banana Republic,” said the New York City–based retailer. “We have clients that will wear an Alexis Bittar necklace with a Todd Reed bracelet. As jewelers, we have to broaden our horizons.… It’s about providing variety and options.”

For Gandia, a broadened horizon means bringing more fine jewelry into her store’s mix—a mission that the other panelists have tackled, only in reverse.

“We’re not doing anything too wacky or trendy,” said Moore. “That’s just not our business.” The retailer added Pandora to its stable of brands a few years back, “which was not a normal thing for us,” said Moore. But the collection’s easy-breezy price point “lets people start their shopping career with us.”

Mazzarese said she still struggles with stocking fine jewelry in the $350 price range—a hot spot for younger, fashion-savvy consumers. “I think we were hesitant to bring [fashion and costume jewelry] into store before,” she added. “But I think this year we are definitely contemplating that merchandise. You have that bridal customer who needs gifts. And you don’t want her to wait until her 10th anniversary to come back. You want her back immediately.”

The idea of incorporating storytelling into a sales pitch—a recent trend on both the retail and manufacturing sides—struck a chord with all three panelists.

“We have mostly small brands in our store and storytelling is incredibly important to our business,” said Gandia. “We train our sales team to know everything there is to know about brands. And if a customer’s into it, we can talk for hours. It turns clients into collectors.”