The Display’s the Thing: Visual Merchandising Tips Just for Jewelers

In February, Tiffany unveiled its collaboration with stylist/designer Rachel Zoe. Instead of a high-profile design partnership, Zoe was commissioned to decorate the windows of Tiffany’s 5th Avenue flagship in honor of the Oscars.

It was a bold bit of theatrics; but in fact, Tiffany understands that visual merchandising is key to courting customers. Finding unique jewelry lines isn’t enough—the pieces must also be displayed in a way that invites browsing, conversation, and, finally, buying.

“Less really is more,” says Michael Kowalski, vice president of merchandising for New York City’s ViewPoint Showrooms. “I tell retailers to make a statement with strong, distinct pieces that convey the energy of the brand.”

Fine ­jewelry merchandising consultant Elizabeth Anne Bonanno praises color blocking as an easy-to-follow strategy used by the likes of Verdura and Chopard in retail settings. “Nothing stops me dead in my tracks like pops of bold color,” she explains. “A client can see the story from across the room, and it beckons them to your case.”

Hitting a creative wall? Kowalski suggests challenging associates to do displays for a chance to win incentives. “ViewPoint had amazing success with a visual merchandising retailer contest for who could put together the most creative display for ToyWatch,” he says. “Stores used props, toys, you name it. It was fun for the store and the customer.”

Brands can also help retailers tell a visually arresting story. Maeve Gillies, designer of MaeVona, supplies retailers with a distinctive modular display and jewelry boxes lined with a map of her native Scotland, all of which help contextualize the Celtic-inspired brand. “We also supply our in-case display in our corporate colors,” she says. “All materials are visually consistent with every ‘touchpoint’ of the brand—how we present our brand on our website, in customer communications, in magazines, and social networking.”

Susan Foster, owner of Susan Foster Beverly Hills, doesn’t include POS materials in her retail showcases, but she will make an exception for distinctive jewelry boxes. “Shamballa created a beautiful wood box that not only showed off the brand, but functioned as a beautiful display on which to perch the jewels,” she says. “It served Shamballa well from a branding standpoint.”

Kowalski advises remaining focused when representing a brand in your store. “There should always be some presence of brand identification, but the product must remain the focus,” he says. “Too many props, colors, and textures will diminish the overall presentation. One strong statement has more impact than many smaller statements.”

Alas, good design may not come cheap. Foster recently tripled the size of her Beverly Hills store, and she put few budget constraints on the feel of the space. “For me, visual merchandising is the most important aspect of a store, even more so than location,” she says. “If the store is beautiful and has a presence, people will travel to experience it. Apply budgets to other areas. Impeccable merchandising is crucial.”

From a brand perspective, Gillies wholeheartedly agrees. “A significant portion of our marketing spend goes toward professional displays and packaging,” she says. “It is vital to demonstrate consistent quality and creativity in these items, just as our customers expect to receive in the jewelry itself.”