Making the Case for Good Display

For magazine publishers, “putting your best face forward” means creating a compelling cover that will stand out among the dozens of offerings at the newsstand. For jewelers, putting your best face forward means displaying your merchandise attractively and effectively. Fortunately, manufacturers of display cases and store fixtures have made enormous strides in the quality of finishes, the variety of colors available, and options for personalizing.

One of the most dramatic examples of using display cases in a unique way comes from the Daniels Jewelers chain in Southern California.

Daniels’s display cases—along with the company’s other design and architectural elements—are part of a strategy to create a friendly environment. That “friendliness” attracts those who might otherwise be too intimidated to venture into a jewelry store, explains Marcia Colwell Jaconi, principal of A Retail Resource Inc., Huntington Beach, Calif., and a former longtime interior designer and facility manager at Daniels.

“They work very hard not to be intimidating to the general public,” she says. “They feel that if they look too high-end, they will lose a segment of the marketplace.”

At Daniels Jewelers, customers are allowed—even encouraged—to bring in food and drink. Children are welcome. Bright colors and balloons provide a party atmosphere, and the sales staff is trained to sell jewelry from in front of—not just behind—display cases.

Security and salesmanship. The atmosphere is relaxed but not lax. Daniels Jewelers’ loss prevention department developed a secure wall display unit, used primarily to display watches and gold, that accommodates the store’s friendly image without compromising security. Jaconi says it’s the alarm system that makes these cases unique. “I’ve never seen this alarm system anywhere else,” she notes.

The system uses a key with a magnet that works like a proximity card reader embedded in the point. A salesperson passes the key in front of a magnetized metal part of the display case and the case unlocks. The salesperson opens the case and pulls out the watch or jewelry item. A display pad slides out like a drawer just below the glass case to display the item, and the salesperson has 15 seconds to close the case before the alarm sounds.

Sales associates are trained to perform the maneuver quickly, and Jaconi says the learning curve is short. “It may sound a bit awkward, but after some training, they can do it with ease,” she says. “And customers like it because they can be close to the merchandise.”

Ahead of the curve. If there’s one major trend in display cases, it’s the curve, says Henry Ballester, director of project development for the Miami-based ARTCO Group. The company manufactures display cases and provides complete design and architectural services for retail operations.

The technology and manufacturing process required to bend wood and glass has improved, Ballester says. For example, the process used in bending wood for curved display cases is the same as that used in manufacturing boats—and some of ARTCO’s carpenters used to be shipbuilders.

Curved display cases are best applied in a long, narrow store, he says, because they provide “pauses” for browsers. Those pauses keep customers from feeling overwhelmed by staring at long cases of jewelry.

“Curved cases allow clients to shop longer because you’re breaking up the merchandise being displayed,” he says. “You’re breaking up the pattern. It keeps customers in the store as long as possible so they can appreciate all the merchandise.”

Tecno Display Inc., a Brisbane, Calif.-based display case and fixtures manufacturer, recently created a system of modular display cases that includes curved corner pieces—what the company calls a “modular island.” The system allows retailers to use several cases in a variety of layouts, creating more display options for jewelers, says company president Gregory Lowe. And the curved cases provide a new design element for retailers.

“It provides a different look,” Lowe says. “A round look as opposed to a rectangular look. It’s a matter of taste and what you want to achieve in a design.”

Colorful choices. Wood veneers remain popular in jewelry operations, but advances in laminate finishes—as well as the affordability of laminates—have made this an increasingly popular option for jewelers. There’s a near-endless stream of color choices, and laminates can be made to resemble almost any kind of wood.

“New laminate finishes are looking more and more like wood all the time,” says Keely Grice of Grice Showcase & Display Manufacturing Inc., Charlotte, N.C. “The newest finishes actually look like wood.”

Ballester concurs. “Laminate companies are always trying to imitate or equal in quality original high-end veneers from Europe,” he says. “We have a variety of laminate colors that can challenge anyone’s palette.”

But whether the choice is laminate or wood veneer, it’s color that retailers want.

“The trend right now is color finishes,” Lowe says. “We have a pear-wood laminate that we import from Italy and we have an exclusive with that. We also do very well with cherry, wild cherry, and maple.”

Even with the advances in laminates and colors, there are those who still prefer natural wood finishes, says Herb Schottland of Store Design and Fixturing in Chapel Hill, N.C. “I have been noticing a return to wood finishes rather than color, particularly medium to lighter woods,” he says.

Popular door options for jewelry cases include “piano hinge,” sliding, or “pullout” models. A pullout door allows the entire platform of the case to be pulled out, allowing the sales staff to easily see and handle specific jewelry pieces without knocking other products down. “The less you handle pieces, the less chance they have of getting damaged,” Ballester explains.

Lighting. Schottland also stresses the importance of lighting in jewelry cases. “There have been a lot of advances in lighting,” he says. “There are times when I have gone into stores and commented that the first thing they need to improve is the lighting.”

“You really want the product to be the star,” Jaconi stresses. “You want energy efficiency, but you want to get the most sparkle out of the product.”

However, many display manufacturers still offer tried-and-true lighting choices for their cases. For example, Tecno Display’s standard lighting offerings include recessed halogen top lights (MR16-50W) and strip lights, or octron fluorescent strip lights. ARTCO also offers halogens, and both companies offer mirrored case backs and sides if specified.

Requirements for watch display cases may be slightly more stringent. Lights can mean heat inside the cases, which can cause problems for watches, Ballester says, so ARTCO installs silent fans beneath the cases to keep watches cool.

Furnishings, not fixtures. The word “fixtures” refers to objects that are “fixed” in place and meant to be permanent parts of a building or room: plumbing fixtures, lighting fixtures, kitchen fixtures. Store fixtures include jewelry display cases, but independent jewelers have had limited choices when selecting them. “Store fixtures, historically, were something you bought from a catalog,” says Ballester.

But recent innovations in shape, color, and design of jewelry showcases and other store “fixtures” may make the term obsolete. As display cases evolve from utilitarian necessities to stylish enhancements that help define the overall look of a particular space, the word “furnishings” may become the more apt term.