Case Study: Arthur Gordon, Oklahoma City

Arthur Gordon, a third-generationjeweler in business for two decades, has focused in recent years on marketing his award-winning jewelry (50 percent of his business in 2004). The goal was to set his store apart. “There are lots of jewelers named ‘Gordon’ in this town,” he says. Success led to the decision to create a new brand for his store.

“Now my store has a new brand identity, and I specialize in jewelry design, custom manufacturing, restoration, and selling diamonds and fine gemstones,” he says. “We still have showcase goods, but the emphasis is on supplying what the customer wants.” He also says that his new branded store “has brought back the fun” of making jewelry and being a jeweler.

“In defining a store’s brand like my new one, you must start with a crystal-clear vision as to the look, feel, mechanics [e.g., traffic flow, where cases are set, point-of-sale systems], and layout of the new venture,” he says. “Knowing who your customers are is a crucial key, too. You must get to know their buying habits, their tastes, and so on.

“I had these concepts in my head for several years, adding or subtracting pieces until I had a final plan I was comfortable with,” he says. When he felt that his local market could support his new concept—based on his reputation, the affluence of local communities, and changing customer patterns—he took a year off in 2005 to implement it.

He defined his target customers as women 35 to 50 years old, fashion-forward, with a combined household income of $75,000 or more. To reach those consumers, he moved his business, even though he owns the building in Oklahoma City. He relocated to Edmond, Okla., an affluent community 20 miles north, in a high-end shopping plaza with several upscale women’s stores, including Ann Taylor and Talbots, and good foot traffic.

He rented an empty store shell and hired an architect and an interior designer to work with him to create the layout and look, which he wanted to be “very comfortable, accessible and open, with a nice atmosphere, where people can relax.” The result: The interior looks like a comfy living room, with a large bay window, where customers can chat with Gordon and see into an open area where craftsmen work.

“Store branding is also about the relationship between us and customers,” says Gordon. “We offer our customers personalized service, and they get what they want in a relaxed atmosphere, rather than having to go to a store and choose what’s in a case.”

He changed the business name from Arthur Gordon’s Fine Jewelry & Watches to JewelSmiths. He consulted friends and marketing people about the local market and the issue of name recognition when there’s an existing store. “I wanted to start fresh and get past any muddle about which ‘Gordon’ we were. The name JewelSmiths defines what I do for customers—create jewelry—rather than focusing on me,” Gordon says.

He reduced his staff from nine to three—himself, a salesperson/bookkeeper, and a bench jeweler/salesperson. That reduced overhead, de-emphasized ready-made showcase goods, and put the focus on what customers really want, says Gordon.

Store size went from 2,000 sq. ft. to 1,500 sq. ft., including customer reception, jewelry manufacturing, and office. “You don’t automatically need a big store to sell jewelry,” Gordon explains. “What you need depends on your concept and business plan. This size gives my business a more personal, intimate ambience.”

He used direct mail to tell customers about his new business and location and did some dry runs of new point-of-sale software.

For the grand opening last year, he promoted the new store through local newspaper advertising and e-mail. He also gave away a free Caribbean cruise. The cost of the changeover was high, but Gordon is pleased with the community response, which surpassed his expectations. So far, 75 percent of his former customers have followed him to his new store.

“Now, I want to get new people, too,” says Gordon. His goal is to have multiple stores and to brand the business’s name in his market.