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January 2000


Investigating Image, Part 1

What you think your store's image is and what consumers see may be at odds. In a four-part series beginning this month, we'll look at what mystery shoppers see. We'll also show you how to measure your own message

You're in your store every day, so it's a challenge to remain objective about the message your design, merchandise and customer service send. You may be dying to change those wood showcases or be proud of your unique storefront. But do your customers feel the same way?

There's only one way to know – ask them. That's what Professional Jeweler did to research the seminar "Do Customers See What You Want Them To See When They Walk Into Your Store?" at the PrimeTime Fall Marketplace & Conference in October. We interviewed four jewelers about their decisions on store image – signs, colors, lighting, background noise, showcase layout and service. Then we sent mystery shoppers to the stores and compared their observations with the jewelers'.
In this four-part series, we revisit the findings. Throughout the series, we'll reprint questions and findings from the project. Use these to conduct similar experiments in your own store.

Education & Design: Jack Seibert

Jack Seibert Goldsmith & Jeweler, located in an upper-middle-class suburb of Columbus, OH, was the first store studied. In an interview before Professional Jeweler visited the store, owner Jack Seibert explained he doesn't want to be all things to all people: he's a goldsmith and a designer and doesn't carry other designers' brands or watches. He considers himself a destination location and uses his store design to communicate integrity, quality workmanship, understated elegance and the education of his staff.

Several years ago, he moved the store from an upscale mall on a busy road to a freestanding office building next door. Seibert's parking lot has brass signs designating spots for customers to distinguish it from the mall, where parking is always a hassle. The glass facade creates an open feel, while the buzzer system makes customers feel safe. His hand-lettered logo, which he calls "distinctive," is on deep red awnings on the storefront.

Inside, Seibert uses a state-of-the-art incandescent lighting system and handcrafted cherry showcases to show off his creations. He's proud of his jewelry design awards and his staff's education, so he works them into his store design. He displays trophies in the front window, hangs pictures of awards and gemology diplomas in cherry frames on the wall and includes his American Gem Society affiliation on all business cards and literature.

He says his customers like to get in and out quickly, so he doesn't give them a place to sit, and he provides a well-educated staff that's not on commission, so there's no pressure to buy.

First Impressions

Molly, the mystery shopper who visited Jack Seibert, lives in a small town about 45 minutes away, travels frequently and shops for jewelry a couple of times per year. In her late 30s, married with no children, she likes interesting-looking jewelry that's not too avant-garde and is demanding when it comes to customer service.

When Molly arrived, she found the building nondescript but was impressed with the canopy and logo. She was most impressed by use of the word "goldsmith" in the store name. It communicated quality and made her think the store has good service.

Before entering, she got the impression the store offers merchandise averaging $500-$1,000. Once inside, she decided it was a little more expensive. Molly liked being buzzed in; it gave her a sense of security – just as Seibert thought.

The store seemed warm with just enough commotion to make it friendly and not stuffy, and she said it was well lighted with nice cases. Molly noticed the awards displayed on the walls and in the windows, though she thought they should be placed beside the winning pieces in the showcases.
Molly felt the products were well-organized, with a nice mix of traditional and non-traditional. She always searches for a particular designer when she's in a jewelry store and noticed there are no brand names here. The lack of brand names didn't disappoint her, but she noted there was a limited selection of chains and accessories if she had bought a pendant and needed a chain on which to wear it.

She was impressed by the customer service. The first thing the salesperson did when Molly walked in was offer to clean her engagement ring. The salesperson stayed with her but didn't intimidate or pressure her, was knowledgeable and disclosed enhancements readily as they discussed cultured pearls.

The Results

At the end of her trip, Molly emphasized the store's quality and how different and interesting the merchandise is. "I wouldn't go there to buy a simple gold bracelet," she said. "But if I had a good gem I wanted to do something with, I would take it to him in a heartbeat." This is exactly the impression Jack Seibert wants to make. However, Molly felt the store's design and marketing efforts should do more to emphasize its owner's artistic talent and extraordinary jewelry.

Next month: Underwood Jewelers, Jacksonville, FL

by Stacey King & Robert Weldon, G.G.

The mystery shopper at Jack Seibert was most impressed by use of the word "goldsmith" in the store's name.
A state-of-the-art incandescent lighting system and handcrafted cherry showcases create "understated elegance," says the store owner.

Your Store Exterior

Professional Jeweler asked jewelers about their storefronts before sending in mystery shoppers to gauge their impressions. Here are some findings, along with related questions (in italics) to ask yourself about your own store facade.

  • Stores that consider themselves destinations more than walk-ins worry less about the outside appearance and surroundings. But some elements shouldn't be overlooked.

Do your parking lot and street feel safe after dark? If not, how do you increase the feeling of security? Is there one interesting thing about the storefront that catches the attention of established and new customers?

  • The merchandise in your windows sends a message. For instance, a store that featured whole windows of glassware gave the shopper the idea it focused on older people. Witty window designs in another store gave a down-to-earth feeling.

Who is your ideal customer? How does the design of your windows and the merchandise inside speak to that customer?

  • Location spoke volumes to our mystery shoppers, especially before they entered the jewelry stores.

What message does your neighborhood send about your store? If the message of the store and its surroundings conflict, what marketing efforts have you undertaken to secure your image?

– S.K.

Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


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