The Jewelry Store as Hangout

lfrederick@cahners.com

To be noticed in the increasingly crowded marketplace, it’s becoming clearer all the time that every consumer business will have to be partly about entertainment. —The Entertainment Economy, a new book by Michael J. Wolf

At first glance this assertion may seem far-fetched, but then think about some of the developments Wolf cites:

  • The Mall of America in Minneapolis added an entertainment complex, a walk-through aquarium, and an amusement park to lure shoppers. Now it hosts more visitors than Disney World, Disneyland, and the Grand Canyon combined.

  • Wal-Mart broadcast a live Garth Brooks concert in 2,400 stores the day the country singer released his album Double Live.

  • McDonald’s forged a promotional partnership with Disney, so customers get 101 Dalmatians snow domes, Hercules figurine sets, and Mulan action figures. By volume, McDonald’s is now the world’s largest distributor of toys.

  • A multi-level watch emporium in New York lures people downstairs with a mini-museum that traces the history of watchmaking.

  • Nike Town stores feature 36-ft.-high video screens and a big clock counting down the seconds until the next showing of the Nike movie. Each store is divided into elaborately outfitted mini-environments; in the “all-condition gear” section you gaze over old ropes, oxygen tanks, and climbing shoes with fearsome spikes to put you in the mood for mountain climbing.

Of course, you don’t want your customers mesmerized by a movie instead of your merchandise. But as shopping becomes a pleasure activity in itself, entertainment content becomes more important. And as every retailer knows, the longer you can keep people in your store, the more likely they are to make a purchase.

All of this got me to thinking how you could make shopping more fun. Could a jewelry store become a hangout? Why not? Consider these ideas:

  1. Install an entertainment center where you continuously show videos about fancy colored diamonds, pearls, watches, gold, and various colored stones. You can get such films free or for little cost from groups promoting these industries or individual companies selling the products. Or buy documentaries from public television, like the ones I’ve seen on pearl farming and the astonishing story behind the discovery of Canadian diamonds. Provide a few comfortable chairs so your visitors can relax.

  2. Offer coffee, tea, and cookies. You will not only be giving customers a pleasant surprise but also sending a subtle message: “Hang around for a while and visit with us. We’re friendly people who enjoy your company.”

  3. If you have a benchworker who’s not too shy, put him on display. Create a partially enclosed area so customers can watch him work and he can respond to questions. You might be surprised how many people find his skills fascinating.

  4. Make your store a source of gemological knowledge. Install rotating displays of diamonds, pearls, green gems, red gems, American gems, man-made gems, amber, etc. Inform your community newspaper, which will give you free publicity. You might even get local television coverage if you bring in an expert—say, a mineralogist from your local college—to lecture on the exhibit, or give a talk yourself. Prepare for a large turnout. The diamond exhibit that recently toured five cities drew crowds in every venue.

  5. Auctions are becoming more popular, so why not stage your own? Expensive, dazzling contemporary pieces and antique jewelry and watches will arouse the most interest. Set a minimum bid you can live with and watch people have more fun than they’ve ever had before in a jewelry store.

None of these events will stimulate a big jump in profits, but that’s not the point. Your goal is longer-term, and that’s to make people in your area aware that your store is more than just a place to buy something. It’s also a place to learn and have fun—a hangout for well-heeled adults. If you can gain that reputation, you won’t be left out of the new entertainment economy.