Professional Jeweler Archive: Investigating Image, Part 4

April 2000


Investigating Image, Part 4

Location, location, location is the theme in this final installment of our series on store image

You may have no control over the neighborhood where your store is located, but your surroundings do influence the way customers see you. This was one discovery from a mystery shopping experiment by Professional Jeweler writers Robert Weldon, Stacey King and Jack Heeger this past fall.

The shopping trips were research for “Do Customers See What You Want Them to See When They Walk into Your Store?” a seminar presented in October at Professional Jeweler’s PrimeTime Fall Marketplace & Conference in Las Vegas. The writers interviewed four jewelers about how they created their stores’ images – from their takes on interior design and window decoration to lighting and security – then took consumers to the stores to see how well their perceptions matched. While most of the jewelers were successful at conveying the desired message, some of the shoppers’ observations told useful stories about how consumers view retail stores.

In our final visit shopping trip, Professional Jeweler visited the Bernie Robbins store in Somers Point, NJ. The company, which also has a location in Ardmore, PA, recently relocated its New Jersey store from a strip mall to a freestanding building on Highway 9, a high-traffic road running toward the glamorous sea-side communities of the Jersey Shore.

Ins and Outs of Bernie Robbins

Harvey Rovinsky, owner of Bernie Robbins, wanted the new store to be cosmopolitan and world-class. He wanted it to have a feeling of substance and integrity and to look trustworthy, like a bank. If he could convey this message, he said, his loyal customer base wouldn’t mind that he was located next to businesses quite different from his own store – a shabby cluster of fast-food restaurants, hardware stores and gas stations. The store would depend less on walk-in traffic and become more of a destination.

Therefore, Rovinsky set about differentiating his business from his neighbors by building a large, modern, whitewashed store with distinguished-looking pillars. Instead of putting jewelry in his small boxy exterior windows, he filled them with flowers and placed a discreet sign, bearing only the name of the store and the Rolex brand, near the street.

The interior received the most attention during construction, Rovinsky said, and it’s organized and comfortable. He installed signs with the brand names he carries on the walls, a more permanent alternative to countercards, and he distributed countertop bowls of jelly beans through the store – they’ve been a trademark of Bernie Robbins stores for more than 40 years.

Changing Impressions

Our mystery shopper, Ayalah, is a 50-something wife and mother from an upper-class household in the Philadelphia area. Her family is also in the high-end retail business, so she understands how stores should look and feel. Though she’d never visited this location of Bernie Robbins before, she’s a frequent shopper for fine jewelry and watches.

Ayalah immediately was puzzled by the Bernie Robbins’ location and exterior. She even called the store’s exterior an “enigma.” The jewelry store didn’t seem to fit in with the surrounding businesses, and the building itself could have been any kind of store, not specifically a jewelry store. Pillars hid the windows, and when she did see them, they contained no jewelry. She said the sign near the street didn’t stand out, and only a small, barely noticeable Rolex clock conveyed the message that jewelry was sold inside.

Once inside the store, Ayalah’s perception of it changed. She said she was astounded by the lavish jewelry displays, brand-name billing and store layout. She also said the store carried weight and substance, a factor not necessarily communicated on the outside of the building. She assumed Bernie Robbins probably caters to a well-established, older professional crowd. Perhaps, she theorized, the combination of the spartan exterior and lavish interior sends a discreet message to established customers in neighboring communities.

Ayalah saw prices around $1,000, but she said she believed the store’s average prices were in the $3,500-$7,000 range. The earth tones on the walls and in the carpeting made her feel warm and comfortable, and the layout easily directed her through the store. The display cases were polished, sparkling and well-stocked. Everything looked “bright and gleaming” to her. The experience was memorable, she said.

Ayalah was most impressed with the service – she said it was possibly the best service she ever received in her experience shopping for jewelry. The salespeople acknowledged her and were comfortably attentive without hovering over her. She said they answered her questions intelligently and fully. She felt the atmosphere was meant to be a confidence-builder, and it worked. She was so taken by one salesperson’s degree of expertise and sales presentation that she almost bought a $2,500 watch before remembering she was on a mystery shopping mission.

Ayalah noted the jelly beans and a cappuccino bar. Her favorite part was the children’s section of the store, which includes a comfortable play area, Crayons and paper, a VCR and kid’s videos. She appreciated how it caters to frazzled soccer moms and conveys that the store owners don’t want anything to distract customers from the serious business of jewelry shopping.

Summary: As a new customer, our mystery shopper was hesitant to stop and try out the store because of the nebulous exterior. Once inside, however, she was overwhelmingly impressed with Bernie Robbins’ atmosphere and service, as the store’s owner expected her to be. But she said tying the exterior design together with the interior would better represent the business as a sophisticated, trustworthy jewelry store.

– by Stacey King and Robert Weldon, G.G.

All About Service

Our experiment in four jewelry stores proved the subtle ways service plays a role in customers’ perceptions. Following are some findings, followed in italics by questions to ask about your own store.

Customers take note when salespeople ask several times whether they can be of help. One mystery shopper commented she felt the salesperson was “very anxious” to find out what she wanted.

How much are your salespeople in the foreground of the shopping experience? If a customer says she’s just looking, how do salespeople respond? Are they on commission, and how does this affect the way they approach customers?

Salespeople who observed and listened to clues were successful in engaging our mystery shoppers. One salesperson asked about the favorite piece of jewelry our shopper owned. Upon hearing it was a black mabé pearl pendant, the salesperson suggested a pair of earrings that might match nicely. She made the sale.

Do you train your salespeople to look and listen for clues – what jewelry customers are wearing or favorite apparel colors, for instance? Do they know how to suggest jewelry based on a customer’s coloring and body type?

Education through show and tell is another successful way to catch shoppers’ interest. One salesperson showed a piece of rough opal next to finished opals and explained how they are cut, a moment the mystery shopper recalled favorably.

Do you have educational tools salespeople can use to engage customers: charts, De Beers’ Diamond Quality Pyramid or pieces of rough gemstones to illustrate how gems are cut and polished? Are your salespeople prepared with stories to tell about interesting gems and jewelry?

Before the mystery shopper went into Bernie Robbins, she said she had a hard time telling it was a jewelry store because of its nondescript exterior and product-free windows.
The mystery shopper felt the interior was “bright and gleaming.”
The mystery shopper was most impressed with the children’s play area, which she said was a well-deserved gift for “frazzled soccer moms.”

Copyright © 2001 by Bond Communications