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Friendly atmosphere in a jewelry store?

OK orchidians, here’s kind of a dilemma for us. How does one create
a friendly atmosphere in fine jewelry store?

When I walk in a any store (jewelry or not) where everything is in
showcases, hardly any prices are visible and the sales staff have to
help me with everything, I feel like the atmosphere really isn’t
conducive to browsing. I feel that sales people hovering near by
means they don’t trust you or that they are going to pressure you so
they can make a sale. You know the saying, if you have to ask the
price, you can’t afford it. We want our customers to feel welcome,
not intimdated.

How can we explain to mothers that it’s OK if their kids get sticky
fingerprints all over the showcases? We do have windex after all.
And yes that the candy in the bowl on the counter is free, help

We’re hoping for some improvement by closing off the ends of the
showcases and mixing them up around the room to eliminate the
"barrier" between sales people and customers. They are all locked of
course. Some of the less expensive merchandise is placed on top of
the counter for folks to pick up and try on (like the fun colorful
$20 watches that we sell tons of). There’s the candy bowl, the
biscotti jar, the comfy armchairs (great for weary spouses)

Any ideas?
Barb Baur

Your attitude and efforts are all in the right place so far. .
Music. Upbeat - I’m a fan of early jazz, e.g. (Louis Armstrong and
Ella Fitzgerald will work every time.) NO musak. Anything that makes
you feel like dancing is good too, but not too loud, of course. Would
"Golden Oldies" form the '60’s work for you? Well chosen music will
always set a mood.

Boogie on,


There is a wonderful magazine called “Instore”.This may be a source
for some answers to your questions. I do
not let the back issues of this magazine get away. To valuable.

Bill Churlik

Barb - I agree with your “if you have to ask you can’t afford it” -
many people DO feel this way, rightly or wrongly, and are NOT
comfortable asking for prices. I HATE going in a store where I can’t
see any prices. I don’t like to bother the clerk with an item I may
not be able to afford. So my first suggestion would be to try and be
sure your prices are visible at all times - that DOES help.

Next, some good, funny, not necessarily large, signs - such as
"please touch", or “hey, we have Windex - lean all you want!”, or
even some paper handprints or outlined handprints and something
saying “kids - look all you want - tell Mom she’ll be pretty in
this!” or something of the sort.

Another idea might be a variation of something they do at some of
the big housed available for touring in England. They have
children’s booklets printed up, that are a sort of educational
scavenger hunt. You could have drawings/black and white photos of
standard items, or descriptions of types of stones, and ask the kids
to find them. Leave a place beside each item for them to check when
they find it. Then, if they find everything, they turn in the
booklet for a “prize” - maybe a stone to start a collection. You can
get really super inexpensive tumbled stones. This would get the kid
all around the store - which in turn would get the parent all around
the store!

You might even have a “touch tank” like they do at science centers,
with items for kids to pick up and l literature or small
signs. Maybe stone samples with identification; examples of different
silver finishes; old molds from casting; used tools with information
on how they are used, or photos of them being used - that sort of
thing. Then maybe something that says “See finished amber pieces in
case #3, gold in case #5”, etc. Step stools for small legs are good

It sort of depends on how “friendly” you are trying to be.

Good luck with it - please let us know how whatever you decide to do
turn out!

Beth in SC

the comfy armchairs (great for weary spouses) 

Not only the spouses are weary. How about a glass-topped coffee
table with a display tray under the glass, so people can look at
your wares in true comfort?


where everything is in showcases, hardly any prices are visible
and the sales staff have to help me with everything, I feel like
the atmosphere really isn't conducive to browsing. 

Hi Barb,

I think the challenge you’re struggling with is deeper than just a
"friendliness factor." I believe it is an evolution in retailing
that needs to be put in perspective. In the “good old days”, the
proprietor or staff member of a store would assist each customer and
see that their needs were met. Very traditional, but also labor
intensive and costly for the business. A high degree of customer
service, and an expectation of consumers during that era.

With the advent of JC Penny, Sears, etc., businesses had to find a
way to cut costs to remain competitive. As a result the concept of
self-service shopping evolved. In an ideal environment, every
product is marked with a price, and (signage) was
available to assist customers in making purchasing decisions on their
own. This reduced the need for customer service staff, and pretty
much changed that role into just a cashier with limited product
knowledge and few sales/customer service skills.

Fast forward a couple of generations to where big-box home
improvement centers, Super Wal-Marts and fast food are the norm for
the masses. Rather than having an expectation that they will be
assisted by a competent staff member, the expectation has become that
everything with be clearly marked with a price. If you can’t find a
product you seek, you might be able to find an employee to tell you
to look on aisle 7C, toward the end on the left-hand side. Having to
interact with a staff member becomes more of a perceived
inconvenience than an expectation of good customer service. If a
product does not have a price clearly marked, people have begun to
suspect that the price is arbitrarily set based on perception of the
shopper’s ability to pay. If a less sophisticated shopper enters a
more traditional high-service establishment, they may actually feel
uncomfortable with the degree of attention they receive from the
staff… “Just leave me alone and let me browse.”

So, I guess my conclusion is that one has to decide what atmosphere
is most appropriate. Do I want to emulate the traditional
high-service customer oriented establishment, or a contemporary low
service see-the-cashier type of operation? Of course, I’m painting
this in black and white, and the answer is probably somewhere in the
middle. Without the awareness of this evolution in retailing, you
might end up not doing either effectively, giving shoppers a mixed
message of what type of environment they have entered.

I know this doesn’t really answer any questions for you, but it
might provide some perspective to help you decide what is appropriate
for the atmosphere you are trying to create.

All the best,


Dave Sebaste
Sebaste Studio
Charlotte, NC (USA)

Something that we have tried in our store, since we are in a small
rural  area, we have placed little business sized cards pointing
out a great sale  price, or something that the customer can feel
free to enjoy on their  whim. 

This has worked for us, and we have received great feedback regarding it.

Kristine Jones
Cottonwood Jewelers
P.O. Box 668
Cottonwood, CA 96022
TEL (530) 347-9681
FAX (530) 347-9683


You certainly gave a good overview of the changes in the retail
scene but I must say, when I read your final paragraph,

I know this doesn't really answer any questions for you, but it
might provide some perspective to help you decide what is
appropriate for the atmosphere you are trying to create. 

it triggered a rememberance I had of a sales seminar I once attended
and at the end of the seminar the speaker made the statement

  "I know I didn't answer all of your questions.  In fact, more
  questions were raised along the way.  However, while we may be
  more confused than before, I do think we are confused on a
  higher plane.  Thank you for coming." 

And Dave, thanks for an excellent thought provoking response. I’m
glad I don’t operate a retail establishment - I’m sure you have to
walk a pretty tight rope to meet everyone’s expectations and still
maintain security. But I think pricing is a special issue. I
personally prefer everything priced where I can see the prices. This
prevents my being put in an embarrassing position when I enquire
about something only to find out that it’s out of my range. Or I’m
faced with saying that I’m "looking for something around $xxxx which
may result in my not seeing something that’s maybe a bit more but
which I would be willing to stretch for.

But it seems to be the policy these days for prices to be turned
face down in the case which results in the sale personnel having to
take out and show lots of things that just aren’t going to make the
grade for a sale once the person knows the price. I don’t think
you’ll lose customers by having the prices available but you may lose
some sales by not doing it. Just my personal opinion. And since I
don’t operate a retail establishment, I may not have a handle on the
issue at all.

Do you think it detracts from the item to have the price clearly
visible? What are you hoping to achieve by not showing the price? If
you are competing on the basis of price, then you’d clearly want your
prices to show if they were lower than your competitors. On the
other hand if you are not competing, but simply providing top quality
pieces, showing the price is not going to affect your sales one way
or the other, I don’t believe. I could be wrong - and have been on
many occasions but the whole price scene is a mystery to me anyway.


I was in a little shop that I would frequent. Since I’m home based,
and it’s a block away, I would run in if I needed a part. Many
times the store owner called and asked if I had something he
didn’t. I’d run it over.

On day I was looking for a setting for a cameo, the shop owner asked
my what I was doing. I said “shopping, like a customer,” his reply
was an annoyed “well it’s distracting.” Shocked, I replied, “well,
I can go shop somewhere else.”

I’ve since heard from others that I’m not special, he treats many
people this way. I don’t think this a the right atmosphere for


Hi Barb

I just finishing reading a book by Paco Underhill. He has written a
book called " the science of shopping" and his new one (I can’t
remember the title but it has mall in the title, adventures in the
mall or something like that). He calls himself a retail
anthropologist and in the book about malls he talks about the layout
of malls and what is appealling and unappealling to the customer. He
has a small chapter comparing a Cartier type jewellry store and a
lower end jewellry store. Some of the things he mentions about both
may give you ideas about what is appealling or intimidating about
each. Interestingly he talks about how the high end is set up to
interest a clientele who wants “the experience” of dealing with a
name that has history and cachet despite the reality that it is now
in many many malls and no longer serves such a small and unique
clientele. It might be a good read to figure out how the perception
of your store fits in and what practices you can take from each type
of store and make your own.

Why We Buy: The Science Of Shopping
Paco Underhill
Media: Paperback
Manufacturer : Simon & Schuster
Release data : 01 June, 2000

Hope that helps
Brigid Ryder

Hi Dave;

Welcome back! That last post was very insightful, reminding me of
just how much you have to contribute to this forum. It’s good to
have you back.

I have an idea about this situation. Suppose the high-end retailer
has a distain for cluttering up his or her beautiful displays with
clearly visible price tags, fearing that it will add a sort of
"declasse" character to the place. How about having, on each case, a
nice little leather folder, within which is a price list, much as you
would find in an art gallery, listing the price for each item in the
case next to a description? Like a menu in a good restaurant. It
would be easy enough to freshen it up on the computer and print the
updated copies as inventory changed. Now I suppose people might be
self conscious about looking at it, the idea of “if you have to ask,
you can’t afford it” mentality coming to play again. But suppose
you gave them a perfectly good excuse to look at it? Each item could
have a small picture, a very brief description of materials, design
inspirations, whatever, and the price just happens to be there at the
bottom of each paragraph. They can “learn” about each piece, and by
the way, notice the price while they’re at it. Or is this a really
lame idea? :slight_smile:

David L. Huffman


You hit the nail on the head. Stores that have the merchandise with
prices VISIBLE do better and it does do better to have items grouped
by price ranges.

Also, think of this

We’re one of the very FEW businesses that you have to ASK PERMISSION
to touch the product.

You can go sit in a $100,000 jaguar, touch a $40,000 mink coat, rub
up against and lay on a $1000 bed, but you have to ask permission to
touch a $100 or $10,000 bracelet.

Sales staff must be proactive in taking out a piece to HAND to a
client before the client asks.

Sales will increase if you can get the stuff out of the glass case.

David Geller

I like prices to be posted. As David Huffman pointed out they can
be posted with class. Not only does it keep people from being
embarrassed or let them decide if they want to “stretch” to a higher
price, but… sometimes we assume something would be expensive and
out of our reach when in fact it is well within our reach.

Leslie Anne Wright Macy


Thank you for the insight about jaguars, mink coats, and our
jewelry. I had not put that relationship together before.

We can be “proactive” in a very friendly way. I prefer to get a
piece out and hand it to the customer as a way to surprise and engage
them. Many people are quite moved to be able to hold and admire a
piece that they know that there is probably no chance of them ever
being able to afford. I have also found that this often turns into a
"mini" fashion show, especially if they are with friends. If you
don’t make a sale then, you will later as they do not forget the fun.
The staff at the gallery I am in does the same thing too. As a
result, I sell more larger ticket items, especially when they can
"meet the artist". I am watching my average sale price go up this

I have price tags on the pieces and the tags are visible.

I have always believed that jewelry cannot be fully appreciated
until it reaches body temperature.

Bill Churlik

You can go sit in a $100,000 jaguar, touch a $40,000 mink coat,
rub up against and lay on a $1000 bed, but you have to ask
permission to touch a $100 or $10,000 bracelet. 


I almost always agree with what you write, but let’s not get carried
away. Yes, handling the work is a very important step in the buying
process; but when was the last time someone smashed into a jaguar
dealership and ran off with 10 jaguars in a sack? I haven’t heard
lately of someone ripping a fur coat out of the hand of a
salesperson and running out the door. As well, it’s pretty unlikely
that someone would walk out of a store with a mattress in their

Also, I’d be really interested in getting hold of the source of your
research that supports that showing prices and grouping them
together results in more sales. This is certainly true in a Walmart
or some other self serve store, but if it holds true to all jewelry
stores why don’t all stores do it? Are they crazy for turning down
more sales? Snobs for not wanting to clutter up displays? Or, is
it that not every strategy works in every store.

I’ll never forget the time I set up my booth in NYC and had a woman
come by and chastise me for showing prices on everything. As I
asked others shopping at the show they felt, they most always said
it cheapened the product. Now this doesn’t hold true in Charlotte
or Oklahoma City, but if you have a high quality product that is not
sold purely on price and has benefits that go beyond price, is
unique and one of a kind or not a commodity and have a savvy,
educated client base, this strategy is just not always useful. The
complaint I get most often at shows about pricing is that clients
want assurance that you aren’t asking them to pay $1,000 but asking
someone else to pay less. Having a price tag or cube is tangible
proof that an object has a set price and is not negotiable based on
what you are wearing or how you speak. But it’s not necessary for
the price to be visibly “in their face.” Next on the list of reasons
that people want to see prices is that they are timid or feel you
will expect them to buy based on their interest in a piece (which I
never really understood, but respect). The problem with timidity is
overcome by approaching a client with respect and friendliness and
getting them to open up to you and realize that you’re no threat.
It’s a perfect opportunity to get the trust of a client and show
them that you aren’t the archetypal pushy salesperson.

When I do shows I’m always concerned with security. I’ve heard too
many stories of craftspeople who have been ripped off at shows. I’m
sure that brick and mortar stores also have similar concerns that
someone would walk in find the most expensive piece and try to walk
off with it.

As well, how will we build a trusting relationship based on
professionalism and knowledge if our clients don’t need us for our
expertise and can just walk around a store until they decide that
everything is too expensive.

I assert it is more important to dialogue with your cliental and
guide them than it is to nurse the most base instinct of the shopper
by hand feeding them the price.


 I like prices to be posted.  

So do I, but I think the reason prices are often hidden is that many
sellers feel that if they can just get the piece into your hands
they’re more likely to make a sale. Ergo, they make you ask the
price so they can put it in your hands.


How about having, on each case, a nice little leather folder,
within which is a price list, much as you would find in an art

Hi David!

Thanks for the welcome back! I think this is a neat idea! Feasible
in practice, I’m not sure, but worth exploring! Back when I was doing
shows, posting prices for the work in an effective and tasteful way
was always a challenge. But that’s a whole other topic…

What you’re suggesting is almost like doing a catalog for in-person
shopping… which would obviously lend itself to other uses, as
well. Publish as a Web page, print for direct mail, etc. The
prospective customer could even take a copy with them when they
left… showing the hubby what they want for a gift. You’d probably
have to have a database program with a field to store an image of the
piece and display case number, and a nicely formatted report that
would print the contents by display case. Hmmm…

All the best,


Dave Sebaste
Sebaste Studio
Charlotte, NC (USA)

Kay, you took the words out of my mouth - and did it so well. I
really dislike a store with price tags hidden. I recently found
myself in a local jewelry store for the first time. Lots of estate
items and interesting things. But price tags were hidden, except
for one. I’m sure it was an accident, but that little gold antique
watch key caught my eye that way - and I bought it !

Could very well have overlooked that small thing in the corner
otherwise. Now what do you think of that ?


How about having, on each case, a nice little leather folder,
within which is a price list 


Far from being lame, I believe you have a brilliant solution. The
tastefully-bound leather booklet would not only help those who are
hesitant to ask for pricing, it could also be a sales enhancer. When
a client looks at the book it may overcome his initial “sticker
shock” as he reads–at his own pace–what makes the item worth the
quoted price. As frontliners we have the responsibility both to our
stores and to our customers to fully inform those who show an
interest in a piece. Many times, however, the client is so concerned
about the price that they really don’t listen to us as we extoll the
benifits. When they can read and see the whole picture on their own
terms they may get comfortable enough to actually realize the piece
is worth the price. I forget whether it is Dan Gendron or David
Geller, but one of them makes the observation that jewelry customers
are in visual mode. If we can give them something they can see,
rather than just tell them about it, we are much more likely to reach
them at a level of comprehension and bring them to the level of

Del Pearson
Designs of Eagle Creek
In South Texas, where the third wettest June in history seems to have ended.

There are some legal issues that might creep in on this particular
discussion. It is, I believe, illegal in Massachusetts not to have
items marked with a price in a store. I’m not sure what the other
state laws are but I wouldn’t be surprised if they have similar ones.
We mark everything in the store, but with individual price tags that

  1. for the customer to see that everyone pays the same price,

  2. to properly identify the piece and its components and

  3. so we don’t have to run around trying to look up prices (something
    we have to do anyway when it gets into custom work).

The tags are, however, only truly legible once you get the piece out
of the case (we don’t try to hide them, it just looks better if you
see the price, not the tag) and there is a reason for this. It is
very hard to sell someone a high end product without getting them to
actually try it on. If prices are posted so that someone can just
say that’s too expensive and walk out the door, I have no chance to
allow them to hold the piece, look at the difference in craftsmanship
between my piece and a mall piece, see how beautiful the stones are
in a variety of lighting situations, feel the weight of the piece,
etc. People are not (despite the direction the Wal Marts of this
country are taking us in) simply moved by price (and quite frankly if
they are, they’re probably in the wrong store when they come into
mine). So I would disagree that prices should be either set up in a
menu, or posted somehow. I also don’t think you should group
similarly priced pieces together as I feel that you don’t get a
chance to step a customer up to a higher price range if you do that.
It has been clearly shown, in a number of surveys that most customers
who come into a jewelry store will tell you that they are looking in
a particular price range, but will consistently spend more than that
if the salesperson approaches them right (often because they lie and
are really interested in a slightly higher price range to begin
with). Limiting them to one area to look at can only limit your
ability to sell them up.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Spirer Somes Jewelers
1794 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140