Day’s Jewelers Takes on New Hampshire

Big stores selling everything imaginable are a big part of retailing throughout this country. And it’s a very successful model, indeed. But is bigger better for fine-jewelry stores? For one regional chain, Day’s Jewelers, bigger has been compatible with success. And the company’s newest store in Manchester, N.H., is poised to continue that trend by turning an unusually large space into a quality jewelry operation.

At 9,600 sq. ft., the company’s sixth store—its first outside the state of Maine—won’t give the Home Depots of the world a case of size envy, but by typical fine-jewelry store standards, it’s a giant. (It’s large even by Day’s standards: Other Day’s Jewelers stores range from 4,500 to 7,500 sq. ft. in size.)

Located on the first floor of what was once a stand-alone 40,000-sq.-ft. Service Merchandise outlet, the store, which opened Nov. 1, 2003, maintains the look and feel of a typical Day’s Jewelers while incorporating imaginative design details that help unify the large space.

“It’s very large for a jewelry store,” says Herb Schottland, owner of Store Design and Fixturing, Chapel Hill, N.C., who served as the interior designer for the store. “And it has an extensive merchandise mix.”

Unifying a large space. To accommodate the 9,000 items in stock at the store, Schottland used more than 100 display cases along with countertops and other fixtures, and arranged them in a series of lengths and configurations that strategically unify the 6,500-sq.-ft. showroom space. He was able to do this without specifying custom-built display cases. Instead, he created an original layout with production cases of different lengths and configurations, including counters, special-service counters, sit-down cases, and two large gift islands.

“There are very few straight rectangular showcases in the store,” Schottland says. “My aim was to create as many places as possible where the customer is surrounded by two or three sides with merchandise. This makes for a very powerful selling environment, and it makes much more effective use of the floor space.”

He continues, “We have showcases on 90° angles in and out, and 45° angles in and out. Some showcases are configured so they surround the customer, and some are designed to lead the customer further into the store. All of the cases are designed to maximize the floor space, get as much merchandise effectively displayed as possible at the same time, and create a very large and roomy feel.”

Schottland also notes that the floor plan adheres to ADA regulations. “The main thing is that the aisles are wide and there’s plenty of accessibility,” he says. “I also made sure that every showcase section has at least one case 36 inches high for wheelchair access.”

A curvaceous soffit. To properly light the showcase area from above, Schottland rejected traditional track lighting in favor of a complex soffit system that winds along the ceiling above all of the display cases.

Just about everyone was impressed with the way the soffit turned out, says Mark Ford, vice president of finance and one of the four principals of Day’s Jewelers.

“Herb really loves soffits,” says Ford, who is the company official responsible for coordinating new projects. “We usually put track lighting over these cases, but Herb wanted to put this saw-tooth-like thing in. Getting the soffit over 100 cases was a real challenge. I didn’t know how we would pull this off. I was skeptical. But it turned out beautifully. We have received so many positive comments from vendors, customers, and our other store people. The credit goes to Herb.”

According to Kathy Corey, vice president of personnel and merchandising and another of the company’s principals, “That touch really makes the store distinct. It serves as a feel-good design element.”

In the soffit, Schottland specified metal-halide lighting that shines down over the cases. “It’s wonderful lighting for jewelry,” he says. “It’s a pure white, high intensity, low heat, and has long bulb duration. It’s a significant improvement over halogen.”

For area lighting, however, Schottland chose fluorescent lighting. In the display cases, he used Octron lighting, which he describes as fluorescent-style lighting that’s color-balanced for jewelry.

Designing to a culture. Day’s Jewelers officials specified a pearwood laminate finish for the cases, which is typical of all their stores and generally a good choice, Schottland says. “It’s very warm and inviting—not too dark or light, with a subtle grain that doesn’t draw attention from the merchandise.” It also complements the blue that is an integral part of the Day’s Jewelers brand.

Other design elements typify the unique culture at Day’s Jewelers, says Corey, who is the company official responsible for the interior design of new stores. Among them are a children’s play area and a large Grecian fountain in the center of the showroom space.

“What we try to do is create a feel when customers come to the store,” Corey explains. “A warm, inviting comfortable feel that creates an atmosphere of excitement every time you turn a corner.”

Day’s Jewelers has five distinct merchandise areas: sterling silver jewelry, gold jewelry, watches, colored gemstone jewelry, and diamond jewelry. “For our diamond section,” Corey says, “we have 30 showcases of diamond jewelry and diamond engagement merchandise. We carry everything from 4-ct. diamonds to diamond pendants that go for $45.”

Ford adds that every store also provides a full complement of services including jewelry and watch repairs, goldsmith services, custom jewelry design, gemological services, and appraisals. Much of the equipment used by the staff is state of the art.

“The idea is that each store is a self-contained jewelry store in the old-time way of doing things, but with the technology to help us accomplish it efficiently,” he says.

The repair area also is a way to attract a lot of traffic to the store, by offering specials on simple repair services such as watch battery replacements.

“We have what we call a triage area,” Ford says. “We use this area to focus on developing traffic in our stores. One way we bring people in is by offering watch battery coupons.” Obviously, the idea is working: The company replaced 40,000 watch batteries in 2002.

Day’s believes in branding its name through merchandising, Corey says. While the company carries about 30 lines of designer jewelry, it pushes its own jewelry lines, including diamond jewelry.

“We really focus on branding our products first,” she says. “When it comes down to it, people shop where they shop because they trust the jeweler.”

New store elements. To get a feel for the Day’s culture, Schottland spent time at the company’s store in South Portland, Maine. “This helped me to figure out the ‘level’ of the store, what they try to do, and where they are placed in this sort of pantheon of jewelry stores,” he says. His floor plan reflects a typical Day’s Jewelers operation: the fountain and play areas, the service area in the back, the diamond area. However, at about 3,000 sq. ft., the backroom area is larger than those in the company’s other stores and features details not found in the other locations, Corey explains.

“There’s one room just for polishing and one room for casting special jewelry,” she says. “We are permitted to staff up to five goldsmiths. The nice thing about the work area is that it is glass-enclosed so customers can watch the bench jewelers as they work.”

She also is impressed with the larger-than-normal diamond viewing area in the new store, particularly the diamond inventory, with pieces that range in price from $99 to $50,000.

One new element in the store is an area for people to relax and have coffee while in the showroom. Another design change, Ford says, is that the cash counter is in the back of the store instead of the front.

How everything works in the long run remains to be seen. At press time, the store had been open a few weeks. But so far, the design of the store is accomplishing many of Day’s Jeweler’s goals of expanding its brand with more selection and more amenities for its customers.

“Our goal is to develop new markets,” Ford says. “Not by competing with other jewelers, necessarily, but to create new markets for all customers making purchases.”