At the High End of the Tourist Market

Luxury jewelers in resort areas and other travel destinations must accommodate themselves to their surroundings while maintaining their own unique appeal. The best take advantage of their environment even as they transcend it. All enjoy a steady influx of “new” if temporary customers, and some also develop a steady local clientele. Here are three success stories.

Living for the city. All things considered, Linde Meyer of Linde Meyer Gold + Silver is glad to be in Philadelphia. Despite its no-frills Quaker heritage and a history of put-downs by the likes of W.C. Fields, America’s fifth largest city provides Meyer’s distinctive jewelry gallery with a steady flow of affluent customers, including well-heeled business travelers.

Meyer’s store is part of a retail/entertainment complex in Center City Philadelphia called Liberty Place, which lies adjacent to the Westin Hotel and within three blocks of at least four other major business or luxury hotels and some of the city’s finest restaurants.

But Meyer’s key competitive edge is her carefully selected jewelry from Germany, Denmark, Asia, and Japan. Much of the jewelry is exclusive to her in the Philadelphia area, and to meet Meyer’s exacting standards, all of it must be superbly designed and executed.

Meyer was equally meticulous about the store’s design, working alongside her architect to create a singular space. Colors are restful grays and greens punctuated with splashes of bright red and purple. Tall, freestanding glass vitrines, accessible from all sides, display the merchandise. The décor includes twigs, leaves, and other natural materials as props for collages of jewelry.

Meyer’s jewelry has become emblematic of her customers’ personal styles and achievements. Linde Meyer Gold + Silver gets much of its new business through referrals by satisfied customers. One reason, says Meyer, is that she pampers her clients and offers not only fine jewelry but also an exceptional shopping experience.

Fantasyland. Las Vegas may not be the Land of Oz-it has talking statues instead of apple-hurling trees-but if you stroll along the famous Forum Shops at Caesars, you’ll quickly discover you’re not in Kansas anymore. You’ll also discover the local branch of Denver-based Hyde Park Jewelers, where tourists provide about 85% of the business. Store manager Sandi Perry says such a transient and diverse clientele presents challenges that other Hyde Park stores don’t face.

One of the biggest challenges is staffing. Hours at the three-year-old store are grueling (9 a.m. to midnight every day), and staffers must be multilingual (Chinese, Japanese, and Spanish, and probably French and Italian soon).

Watches are the store’s best-selling category. Like the other Hyde Park stores, the Las Vegas branch carries an extensive selection of designer jewelry, plus sterling silver and its own custom-manufactured line. The average sale at the Forum Shops location is around $5,000.

Any store located in a tourist destination must adapt to the resort’s particular atmosphere. But the ambience of a typical seaside resort or historical venue pales into insignificance compared with the strange and disorienting aura that pervades Las Vegas. Even though the city has repositioned itself as a convention and family destination and has attracted a new, affluent class of visitor, it’s still a gambling town, and the idea of buying fine jewelry there can seem incongruous. But Hyde Park’s sales associates work hard to instill trust and build rapport with customers, and Perry says their efforts go a long way toward allaying any fear of making a major fine jewelry purchase in Sin City.

Splendor on the isle. In ancient times, wealthy Romans traveled to the island of Capri in the Bay of Naples seeking rest, relaxation, and abundant beauty. A couple of millennia later, people still flock to Capri for those reasons, and many of the visitors are still wealthy. The island, famous for its Blue Grotto and cliffside villas, also is celebrated for the millions of dollars’ worth of fine jewelry on display in local shops.

One of those shops is La Perla, owned by jeweler Fiore Costanzo. So strong is his store’s reputation among tourists bound for Capri that he says his doesn’t have to advertise or promote it. Tourists, he notes, specifically seek him out, and his best customers are Americans and Germans. “They spend lots and lots of money!” he says. The amount of an average sale? Costanzo won’t specify, but he calls it “an obscene amount of money.”

La Perla, like many shops on Capri, emphasizes coral, South Seas and Tahitian pearls, diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, intricate gem carvings, and turquoise. What the tiny store lacks in size-the safe takes up more than half the wall space-the jewelry makes up for in grandiosity. (In early spring, Costanzo says he still hasn’t put out “the really magnificent stuff.” By way of explanation, he raises his hand and curls his fingers around an imaginary diamond the size of an orange.) The shop’s décor complements its product-several 4-ft. jade statues stand prominently in the doorways and inside the store.

Capri’s reputation for honesty and safety alleviates many of the security concerns that a similar jeweler in another location might have. Costanzo says that in Capri, finding a wallet full of money means turning it in to the police.

La Perla’s jewelry isn’t for every client, and its display isn’t for every location. Despite the grandeur of his jewelry, Costanzo prides himself on keeping prices significantly lower than most customers expect. How? He buys rough goods directly from their sources, and he owns a factory in Torre del Greco where many of his gems are cut.

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