Every Thursday during the pandemic, we’re checking in on members of the jewelry trade in an attempt to glean shareable tips and tricks for doing business—and living as well as possible—during the COVID-19 crisis.
Today we hear from Janice Winter, president of Judith Ripka, which will open its first brick-and-mortar store in June—a major milestone in the brand’s steady reemergence after it went through a restructuring and was acquired by Xcel Brands in 2014.
JCK: Hi, Janice! Where are you located?
Janice Winter: I live both in New York and Charleston, S.C., with my husband. I spent the first part of the pandemic lockdown in Charleston with my husband and one of my two daughters. Then I returned this summer to my home in Westchester, N.Y., where I can be close to my other daughter, her husband, and my two grandchildren.
At this point in the pandemic, how are you feeling?
I’m feeling extremely optimistic. Spring is just around the corner, we will be opening our flagship store in The Westchester [an upscale shopping mall in downtown White Plains, N.Y.] this June, and we have had an incredible response to our new collection launch, Eros. I think people are feeling confident and have a much more positive outlook [than before]. They are shopping, looking forward to the beautiful weather, and with so many people getting vaccinated, it means more opportunities to hug the loved ones we needed to keep a distance from. There’s a lot to look forward to.
What have been your biggest challenges, business-wise, during the pandemic, and how have you worked to overcome them?
The biggest challenge has been responding to online demand, and making sure we have the safety protocols in place to protect our team members and get them back to work in a spaced and safe environment so that we can effectively fulfill orders. We were fortunate to have a strong e-comm business in place when the pandemic hit. Even so, with many people working from home the first few months, it was a challenge to keep up with the shipping demands while making sure everyone was safe. We learned a lot from it and learned that as a team, we can pivot as needed to be responsive to the demands of our business.
Tell me about the upcoming flagship and how its plans changed and evolved.
How much time do we have? Originally, we were slated to open the boutique last summer, but due to the pandemic we had to delay the opening, because we are completely remodeling the space. However, I’m happy to report that it’s looking great. It is going to be a very unique space and we’re excited to debut it.
How do you think consumers (and Judith Ripka clients) will be changed from the pandemic in terms of how they shop?
Although the pandemic has brought about many challenges, I’d like to believe the silver lining is that we’ve all learned how to appreciate and value what we do have. We have learned to work remotely, and customers have become more comfortable buying luxury items, such as fine jewelry, online. As technology improves, with virtual try-on tools, 3-D models, customization, live streaming, etc., more opportunity emerges.
Our clients were already moving in the direction of casualization before COVID-19 hit. Once that happened, our customers went from casual to being all about comfort. They were buying classic, everyday wearable jewelry, like our Eternity ring or our Vienna Huggie Earrings, because that worked with their new stay-at-home, Zoom-call attire.
At the same time, now I think people are starting to miss getting dressed up and having special events to attend. I think as they see things starting to open up, they’re going to [want] things that make them look and feel good.
What have you been doing to relax during the pandemic?
It’s not easy to relax during a pandemic. My therapy is a good spinning workout or a meditative yoga session. Quality time with my husband entailed going for walks or riding bikes when we were in Charleston or when the weather was still nice in New York.
What are you most looking forward to once the landscape becomes safer for movement and gatherings?
Hugging and kissing my grandchildren without my mask! I think that has been the most difficult part of the past year for me. I have my standing weekly date with my 3-1/2-year-old granddaughter and she has become quite expert at FaceTime! That said, it can’t replace sitting next to her to read her favorite book and having an ice cream outing. My grandson was born just as we went on lockdown, so I hope he will soon recognize me without my mask!
Any TV/movie/book/podcast recommendations?
I really love Marion Fasel’s new book, Beautiful Creatures, which takes a deep dive into the stunning jewelry pieces inspired by nature and their history. And fortunately, there were many good series to watch during the pandemic. I really enjoyed binge-watching The Queen’s Gambit. It makes me wish I learned how to play chess. And Schitt’s Creek! That’s so funny, and I loved seeing Moira’s outfits—the stylist did an amazing job with her wardrobe.
Top: Janice Winter (all photos courtesy of Janice Winter)
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