Jeweler Looks Both Ways Before Crossing the Street

Tucked away in the back of a strip mall, Chris Graham’s options for renovating and expanding wouldn’t solve an even bigger problem: visibility. So when a fellow member of the local Chamber of Commerce approached Graham about renting his store across the street, the jeweler jumped at the opportunity.

Staying in downtown Wayzata, a wealthy suburb of Minneapolis, was essential. Roughly 30 customers make up 50 percent of Graham’s business. "I needed to bring in more bread-and-butter jewelry," says Graham. "I also wanted a safer business model of more affordable price points, more jewelry brand options, and giftware items as alternatives to the big ticket items."

Graham didn’t want to pack and move old jewelry, so he hired an inventory reduction/marketing firm to help manage a two-month moving sale. Word of the move and sale went to 7,500 customers on company letterhead, and direct mailers went to potential customers.

Clearance prices along with giveaways of 200 pairs of earrings drew crowds. "In the first month of the moving sale, we sold three times the average revenue in August 2007 compared to the same month in 2006," says Graham. "I couldn’t believe people were lining up for blocks to get in."

Graham displayed floor plans of the new store, and many customers offered valuable feedback.

The new store’s build-out plans fell behind schedule by a month, so little moving could take place until the actual move-in date of Dec. 1, 2007. Meanwhile, 500 guests were scheduled to show up at Graham’s grand reopening/Christmas party on Dec. 6.

"On Dec. 4, the contractors were still laying the wood floors," says Graham. "The move from the old store, cleaning up the new store, and setting up for the party all happened in roughly 36 hours."

On Dec. 6, on schedule, Graham and his staff welcomed 500 guests to their new store. "It was a crazy time to do all this, but it was good timing," says Graham. "The new store created a lot of excitement for our customers, and it was a better-than-expected Christmas, all things considered."

Christmas sales for 2008 improved 30 percent over 2007 figures.

Today, traffic counts are up, as are the number of transactions, but average sales are flat at the moment. With a wider selection of brands, designer jewelry, and name-brand giftware available in a broad range of prices, Graham Jewelers is positioned to ride out the tough economy.

Says Graham: "When the recovery happens, we’ll be in a perfect position to take off."