English Lessons

How do the British approach luxury jewelry retailing? The significant difference is that most luxury jewelers in London design their stores to resemble a drawing room rather than a store. There are few, if any, of the traditional American-style showcases that create a barrier between seller and buyer and force the buyer to spend most of his or her time looking down.

Instead, the British jewelry store host invites customers to sit in an overstuffed chair or sofa, have some tea, sherry or whiskey, and just chat. The jewelry is merchandised in recessed wall cases, with a few tall pedestal cases highlighting specific collections or themes. The bulk of inventory isn’t visible; just enough to whet the appetite and give an idea of what the store has to offer. As sales associates and customers become acquainted over tea or the libation of choice, the salesperson gets an idea of what kinds of pieces to pull from stock to show.

At Boodle & Dunthorne’s Regent Street store, for example, overstuffed chintz sofas (so British!) flank a decorative fireplace, and the walls are a soft yellow. Cherry desks with stuffed chairs also serve as comfortable areas to conduct transactions.

At Bentley & Co., a Bond Street antique jeweler, customers sit at antique desks and sip tea. At Asprey’s Bond Street flagship store, the non-jewelry luxury goods (such as leather, small collectibles and pens) are merchandised on the ground floor in American-style showcases, but the jewelry salons upstairs follow the Brit formula.

It’s the proper English accent many American luxury jewelers may just be looking for.