From the Editor, November–December 2016: Are You Experienced?

In late October, I visited Tokyo for the first time to attend a retrospective of Marie Antoinette’s life sponsored by the Swiss watch brand Breguet. Amid the city’s Blade Runner–esque expanse of skyscrapers and ancient Shinto shrines, the dichotomy between past and future was impossible to ignore—especially on my last day, when I stumbled upon a fleet of shiny, chatty robots stationed in a retail store on the busy thoroughfare of Omotesand?.

The scene reminded me how quickly tomorrow’s far-fetched inventions are becoming today’s reality. It was a thought-provoking place to be as I contemplated this issue, our last of 2016.

On the brink of the new year, we’ve scoured the marketplace for the top 10 ideas, products, and trends that will influence the retail conversation next year. “A Very Good Year” is our hit list of what to expect in 2017. (Hint: Make way for enamel jewels, pink gems, and stylish wearables.)

Perhaps the most important trend, however, is the full-blown arrival of the experience economy, as senior editor Emili Vesilind notes in an item about the future of malls, which are surviving by selling experiences, sometimes over products. The key takeaway? “Tomorrow’s mall shoppers will expect meaningful interactions with every brand they do business with,” she writes.

Those interactions almost always begin with hello. In “Straight Talk,” Emili examines the ways in which sales associates greet customers and build rapport, the importance of developing an ear for language, and how a single wrong word can derail the sale—including tips and advice gleaned from linguists and TED talks.

Those lessons, combined with the market insights shared by senior editor Jennifer Heebner in “Gold Standards”—which details the styles, price points, and selling strategies sure to strike a chord with shoppers next season—should put you well on your way to a banner year.

In “5-Year Plans,” contributor Daniel P. Smith solicits predictions from jewelry retailers across the country on the biggest challenges and most promising opportunities they see in the marketplace over the next five years.

Here’s my take: Come 2017, selling things will no longer be enough. When customers walk through your door, how do you engage them? Food and drink are always appreciated, but maybe you crank things up a notch by sitting them down in a comfortable armchair and cuing up a virtual reality experience courtesy of one of the numerous watch and jewelry brands experimenting with the sci-fi technology?

Sure, experiential retailing is de rigueur—but we never said anything about it having to be real. Read more about the coming wave of virtual reality in our forecast feature. As Matt Johnson, executive vice president of innovation at Bottle Rocket, a digital agency in Addison, Texas, told us: “The more context you can give people to understand your product, the more chance you have to sell.”

On that note, best wishes for a fantastic, fulfilling, and fun selling season! As you prepare for the final weeks of this crazy year, I hope your holidays are anything but.

Top: That’s me and my boyfriend, Jim, with Omi Privé’s Manos Phoundoulakis and his wife, Kelle, at the Jewelers 24 Karat Club of Southern California’s dinner in October (for more pics, see Social Diary).

(Gomelsky photograph by Stephen Simko)

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