There’s No Substitute For Experiences

There’s No Substitute For Experiences

Industry / Retail

Jewelers who are committed to beating the online competition understand that in addition to offering great service, they must prioritize the in-store experience. And how might they do that? Convenience and novelty are key.

Richter Phillips Vault 1
A peek into the Vault, the downstairs speakeasy-style room at Richter & Phillips Jewelers in Cincinnati

For its sixth store, Sissy’s Log Cabin wanted a glamorous interior, great selection, and services to elevate the retail experience. So the venerable Arkansas chain bought a golf cart.

A golf cart? For a jewelry store in a West Little Rock shopping center? According to retail experts, the addition is a brilliant touch that shows Sissy’s Log Cabin is thinking creatively about new ways to attract high-end clientele. That’s because the chauffeured golf cart is more than a way to shuttle people around. Rather, it blends convenience and novelty—two factors that will distinguish a store that sticks around from one that gets eaten up by omnichannel competition.

For Sissy’s, the innovation reflects an effort to “transcend the ordinary,” says William Jones, chief operating officer and grandson of Sissy Jones, the brand’s founder.

“When we envisioned a store in West Little Rock, we knew we wanted to provide the same level of accessibility and ease of parking customers have at other locations,” Jones says. “So we thought, ‘Let’s take it up a notch and show our customers that we’re serious when we say Sissy’s is the premier shopping destination in the mid-South.’

Richter Phillips Vault 2
Inside the Vault at Richter & Phillips Jewelers

“No matter the weather, or parking distance, all customers upon arrival at the shopping center can text our concierge number, and we’ll go pick them up in our signature-blue Sissy’s Log Cabin six-seater golf cart,” Jones says. “We’ll even be their private chauffeur while they’re waiting for their jewelry to be cleaned or once they’re finished shopping.”

Retailers with brick-and-mortar stores are facing an uphill battle not only to maintain the profitability of these locations but also to keep consumers interested in coming in, says Cesar Maldonado, an economist and industry analyst with IBIS World Inc. in New York City.

“It’s all about personal experience with jewelry,” Maldonado says. “For example, Gen Z and millennials may have less money than other age groups, but they do spend what they can on jewelry. It’s part of their identity. They want a personal connection with the brand and to invest in their personal identity through the jewelry.”

In the jewelry industry, examples of how to establish that connection are legion. Give them a golf cart ride, as Jones will tell you. Create one-of-a-kind events or an event space that is like nothing else in your city or even region. Make your store feel like a destination with a distinctive “selfie wall” that all but ensures free publicity for your shop on social media or a cozy home with comfortable lounge seating. Figure out a way to attract customers to your physical location while also fostering a deep understanding of what your brand is all about.

Jewelers Touch love mural
All you need is love! The selfie wall was painted by Ruben Rojas for Jeweler’s Touch in Brea, Calif.

Richter & Phillips Jewelers in Cincinnati always seeks to come up with creative ideas to keep its retail experience fresh, says marketing and events director Rebecca Schaeper. The store’s Instagram-worthy alleyway and downstairs speakeasy-style room, the Vault, are its latest “wow” factors. The space is a bank vault Richter & Phillips inherited when moving into its current location. The retailer realized the old vault’s full potential in 2020, developing it as a posh hideaway with velvet furnishings, a marble-top bar, blue-and-gold wallpaper, and lots of 1920s swagger.

Since its debut, the Vault has opened its iron door to book clubs, nonprofit events, and couples looking for a great place to celebrate an engagement. Come fall, Richter & Phillips will host a wine-tasting experience, Vines in the Vault. “The guests are formally seated at a table with a lovely, modern tablescape and charcuterie spread,” Schaeper says. “Our certified sommelier partner then takes a journey with the guests through each wine.”

A jewelry store wine tasting on a well-set table—that’s like turning the store into a home. And that concept is trending. In Boston, Tiina Smith wanted her boutique jewelry gallery, located inside a brownstone on Newbury Street, to feel like someone’s grand salon with art deco lamps, an imported wood table, and pink leather chairs. Meanwhile, Greenwich St. Jewelers’ new Tribeca store in Manhattan is designed to make you feel you’re walking through a pied-à-terre, moving from dining space to living room as you shop.

Then there are stores like Jeweler’s Touch in Brea, Calif., that are going all in on the customer experience. When owners Ken and Jana Rutz opened their new stand-alone store in January 2021, they highlighted the studio with a 26-foot-tall glass window. They hired Los Angeles muralist Ruben Rojas to paint a “Love” selfie wall and boosted the store’s “California-comfortable” vibe with more seating areas. These efforts, coupled with an old-school focus on service, increased sales by 30% during the store’s first year at its new location, compared with the prior year, Ken Rutz says.

Greenwich St Jewelers
Greenwich St. Jewelers’ airy new Tribeca location in Manhattan

For Jeweler’s Touch, getting out into the community certainly helped the bottom line. The store has taken a full bench jewelry setup to local food and wine events like Taste of Yorba Linda, an Orange County food, wine, and beer tasting event. “We bring our jewelers out there for inspecting and learning,” Rutz says. “Some of our current customers had forgotten they could get their jewelry cleaned for free, so it was a great reminder. It was fun to interact. It’s one thing to sponsor these events and another to get out there.”

Jewelry Set in Stone Chelsea
Jewelry Set in Stone in Chelsea, Mich.

At Jewelry Set in Stone in Chelsea, Mich., owner Stephen Kolokithas recently moved from a basement office to his town’s beloved clock tower, creating a jewelry store and studio that is not only easier to access but also something of a tourist attraction. The octagonal brick tower is Chelsea’s main landmark, giving the small Michigan town a memorable skyline as well as historical personality and charm. The tower, which originally displayed the time and also held a large water tank, now serves as home to many local businesses that bank on its character to bring in customers who may simply be curious as well as those ready to shop. To enhance the shopping experience inside his light-filled store, Kolokithas hosts events like a Diamond Dinner date night, where couples learn about diamonds and gemstones while enjoying a meal from a local restaurant.

“From the moment the client walks in, everything in the space is custom, from our murals to our bar,” Kolokithas says. “It’s not so much about sales, sales, sales. It’s about them coming in to design and create something.”

Top: The Sissy’s Log Cabin golf cart (all photos courtesy of retailers)

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