Hale’s Jewelers has been serving the Greenville, S.C., market for 150 years and is among the five oldest retailers to be inducted into Jewelers of America’s JA 100 Club. The club honors jewelry stores that have been in continuous operation for a century or longer and have provided their communities with knowledgeable, professional service.
Hale’s was established in 1856, when Greenville’s business center was little more than a courthouse, a jail, and a handful of wooden structures. Today this full-service AmericanGem Society store is a modern 5,000-square-foot operation that employs a staff of 16, including three graduates of the Gemological Institute of America. It specializes in designer jewelry, classic Swiss timepieces, European treasures, and one-of-a-kind gifts. Hale’s also offers in-house certified watch repair, master jewelry repair, custom design and engraving, and other services.
Hale’s has experienced numerous shifts and changes over the years, including ownership that has passed through three families and a move in 1993 from its longtime downtown lo-cation—where it had been a fixture since 1923—to its current home. The fact that the new store doubled the company’s sales in the first year proved the wisdom of that decision.
Lucian Lee, the owner of Hale’s Jewelers, bought the store in 2000, after working for the company for nearly 30 years. In 1973, Lee entered the store to buy a ring and left with a job to help pay for his purchase. Lee answered five questions for JCK regarding the company’s major successes, challenges, and opportunities.
What are some key challenges you face related to being a 150-year-old family business? The key challenge for a 150-year-old business is to stay current and stay energized. Addressing that challenge has meant understanding that our community is growing and changing, as well as implementing marketing and business decisions that keep us in tune with the needs and demands of the changing community. One constant in our history has been our sense of vision. We are very much in the fashion business, which changes rather rapidly. There are some time-honored staples, but you have to be forward-looking.
What are some things you do to set your business apart from your competitors? Being able to say “150 years of business” gives us a big advantage over our competitors with customer issues like trust, longevity, and familiarity. Our message continues to promote our age, knowledge, experience, and reputation in the industry.
What has been your most successful marketing initiative?We are big believers in message and consistency of the message, which has been a very successful marketing strategy for us over the years. That is why we have refocused our message on the bridal engagement ring market—we believe this is our future, and it is not always just about price.
What has been your most suc-cessful money-saving initiative? We view our vendor relationships as partnerships, and we are trying to view inventory as an asset. Vendor partnerships can truly be one of the most important things we do in business. Our vendor partnerships have allowed us to save a great deal of money over the years and have provided us with great opportunities we may not have had otherwise.
Where do you see the greatest growth opportunities for your business, and how do you plan to capitalize on these opportunities? The bridal engagement ring business has become extremely competitive; it also is growing. We view this as an opportunity to market the assets of 150 years of business.