JCK 5: Blue Water Jewelers

Robert Nettles woos customers with diamonds, kissing contests, and fresh-baked cookies

1. Tell us about a nightmare scenario you turned around to save the day.

A young bridal client lost her Rolex at the beach—the watch her parents gave her for high school graduation. [As she was about] to confront her parents and replace the watch, a metal-detector enthusiast came in with a women’s Rolex, wondering what he could get for it. I told him about the woman’s dilemma and asked if he’d be willing to do the right thing. Based on an appraisal we did on her Rolex years ago, I read back the serial numbers we had on file. That clinched it. The client came to the store, claimed her lost watch, and gave the man a reward for recovering it.

2. How do you differentiate your store from the competition?

Although we’re new, we have many features more established stores don’t—starting with a watch repair department with two certified technicians and a jewelry repair and custom department with two master jewelers who have more than 60 years of combined bench experience. Our store is a converted bank with a 600-square-foot vault that dominates the space. We still rent out safety deposit boxes. We’re also the only jeweler in our market with direct diamond-buying trips to Antwerp.

3. What ambitious goal do you have for your store, and what do you think it would take to achieve that objective?

In the four years we’ve been in business, we’ve been able to grow by 50 percent each year. One of our goals in 2011 is to be the diamond destination in our market. Diamond sales expert Shane Decker is already training us and our staff on better romancing diamonds. We’re also looking to narrow our scope of vendors, concentrating on a core group of manufacturers and designers whose products sell well. With steady sellers established, we’ll more frequently order fast-turners to increase sales and inventory turn while reducing debt. We want to be a
$2 million store by 2012, so we can bring on new lines that’ll make a big difference in our market—namely TAG Heuer, Hearts On Fire, and Breitling.

4. What’s the best idea you’ve come up with for your store?

One of the best ideas was a recent store event, “Kissing for Cancer” to benefit the American Cancer Society, based on those dance-till-you-drop contests from the 1920s and ’30s. We hosted a kissing contest to see if couples could kiss for eight hours straight. Participating couples each had a plastic jar. Contestants could put money in their own jar, but they were encouraged to have family and friends stop by to drop donations in during the contest. We did frequent updates via Twitter and Facebook so people could see which couples dropped out early and which ones made it to the end. We also shot a lot of videos and uploaded these to Facebook and YouTube. Our market responded very well—more than 25 couples participated, and over 20 cross-­promotional partners donated prizes.

5. When you walk into your store, what do you like most about it?

There’s an openness and airiness to our store. It’s clean and contemporary with zero clutter. And if you walk out back, you can see the ocean. Cookies are baked fresh every day. The combination of these elements makes our store a warm, low-key, unintimidating, and—most important—friendly place to buy jewelry.

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