By Natalie Hope McDonald
When Fara Abramson opened the Presence of Piermont gift shop in upstate New York in 2007, she wanted to feature gift items for people of all ages, including jewelry, home décor and collectibles. For the past decade, her shop has become an important presence in the community, not only as a flourishing independent retailer, but also as a place where someone will enjoy creatively curated gifts ranging from the sophisticated to the humorous.
Abramson, who has owned both brick-and-mortar and online-based retail businesses in Rockland County for more than 23 years, has also been involved with the Piermont Chamber of Commerce where she shares her sales and marketing strategies with other business owners.
One of the ways she brings attention to new jewelry and existing merchandise in her shop is by showcasing what it looks like being worn. “Our staff often wears in-stock jewelry,” said Abramson. “We also do emails of all new merchandise, as well as post on Instagram and Facebook. All of the social media and emails really work.”
Using social media to complement what’s happening in the shop has been a successful way for Abramson to get the word out about her new inventory and holiday specials. The shop’s Facebook page features images of displays in the store, as well as information about fun new merchandise and special events. Over the holidays, for example, Abramson worked with local charities in the region to collect gifts for needy kids. Her shop became ground zero for collections, everything from toys and movie tickets to athletic gear and coats.
Another way she generates buzz both in store and online is by creating fun and creative displays to showcase merchandise. “Bracelet displays that are really stocked do very well,” said Abramson. “It’s like a kid in a candy store, asking, ‘which should I choose?’”
She came up with the idea of showcasing bracelets in groupings to give customers a sense of how they can layer them, which also encourages people to buy more than one piece that can be mixed and matched. “I find that it can be overwhelming for some people,” she admitted. “They don’t feel they know how to group, so having a few stacked together on pillows as examples really help. It’s also very interactive and creates a really enjoyable experience.”
The tactile experience with the jewelry tends to drive sales. And propping jewelry items on other merchandise, like blankets, pillows and dishes, creates an eye-catching atmosphere in which customers can browse and shop, and possibly even pick up more than one item in different categories.
Like many independent retailers, Abramson walks a fine line between carrying the most unusual items she can find and also keeping up with consumer trends. A big question when it comes to jewelry is whether big names or locally made jewelry will be most successful. According to Abramson, it depends on the piece and the customer’s needs.
“Sometimes a customer is attached to a brand,” she explained, “but typically I find that my customers buy what they like. The sales team is knowledgeable on how items are made and that is important and does help.”
Customers who have questions about the history of a piece of jewelry, or even the materials, can be sure that the sales staff can answer them. It’s important to Abramson that the people working in the shop are as knowledgeable about the inventory as she is, especially if it means guiding customers in selecting a product that will ultimately make them happiest. Independents like Abramson have set their shops apart from chain stores by being able to offer truly personalized customer service. It’s not something that ever goes out of style even as jewelry trends come and go.
“Establishing an honest relationship with customers is key,” she said. “They can tell if you are selling them or really being honest. When they trust you, they will want your help. The more you help them, the more you can sell. If they walk out each time feeling good about their purchase, they will come back. Each sale is a future sale.”
Abramson ultimately wants her salespeople to be honest with customers. “The worst feeling is walking out of a store and saying to yourself, ‘Why did I buy that?’ I would rather a customer walk out empty handed than with something they didn’t need or like,” she said. “I sell how I like to be sold to. The shopping experience should be like shopping with your best friend.”
Making Jewelry and Displays that Match
At Savané Silver in Louisville, Ky., Rachel Savané crafts all of her own jewelry pieces. As a veteran of arts and crafts fairs in the region, Savané developed quite a following thanks to her beautifully designed jewelry pieces that combine metal and gemstones in a signature style. When she opened her shop in 1996, it gave Savané the opportunity to showcase a wide range of her custom designs in a proper gallery space. Over the years, she has found creative ways to display her inspired inventory.
Because she works on jewelry within the shop, she’s able to spotlight new designs regularly, which has created quite a buzz among her most loyal customers who keep coming back for more. “I am in production mode on a weekly basis,” said Savané. “A group of new pieces take approximately one month from decision to making the jewelry and putting it on display.”
Her turnover has proven to be a successful model in terms of how quickly she can refresh inventory throughout the year. The new jewelry she handcrafts often takes the place of pieces that have already sold so she rarely runs into overstock. She’s also able to keep the inventory fresh.
“I like to show my jewelry in sets,” she said, “although they are for sale individually. That said, when I use a new fabulous stone for the first time, the set of jewelry (necklace, earrings, ring and bracelet) will be featured alone in one of my cases.”
Savané has taken creative liberties in designing the displays that spotlight her lovingly crafted jewelry in fun, dramatic ways. “Display cases at Savané Silver are themselves handcrafted and garner appreciation from many browsers,” she said. “However, they are blank slates requiring creativity to come to life with display props and accents.”
For example, silver jewelry with gemstones tends to pop against textured backgrounds or with splashes of greenery. Not only are the designs unique to any other store, the unique displays (there are about 30 different ones in all) can make the jewelry stand out in the most vibrant ways.
“Each display reveals a plethora of styles,” said Savané. The displays are created in-house to showcase a variety of handcrafted pieces, some of which have become quite popular. She also customizes pieces for customers on special occasions. Working closely with customers has really allowed her to learn more about what they have come to expect even as jewelry fashions evolve over time. Regional color definitely adds to the appeal.
“Many people are familiar with our state rock, the Kentucky Agate, and are seeking a variety of jewelry made with it due to its wide range of colors and patterns,” explained Savané. “Kentucky Agate is my signature gemstone, representing about 15 percent of my inventory.”
In addition to the jewelry and complementary displays, salesmanship also plays an important role at the gallery. Savané said she encourages her staff to have fun. “Here at Savané Silver,” she said, “we have no sales tactics, quotas or pressures. The sales staff has a common goal of making our guests feel comfortable and respected. We welcome every browser and we cherish dynamic interactions that tend to flow best with a dash of humor. Really, we are just being our natural selves.”
Window Shopping 101
Ashley Peel, the owner of Philly Independents in the Old City neighborhood of Philadelphia, carries works of art, craft, clothing and jewelry that is completely hand-made by local artists in the region. One of the things that sets this friendly little shop apart from other boutiques or galleries in the city is that most of the inventory is exclusive to the shop. You’ll probably not find the hand-carved ornaments, letterpress prints, maps, greeting cards or printed tees anywhere else in the city. It’s what has built the shop’s reputation over the past few years and made it a popular spot to celebrate the region’s character while also supporting local artists.
In a challenging economy for smaller, independent retailers like Peel’s, carrying inventory that can’t be found elsewhere is a boon. Not only has Peel carved a niche for her shop, she enjoys traffic from locals and tourists alike. All told, she carries goods from about 50 local makers.
“Shoppers come to us for Philly-themed items,” she said, “especially our colorful coaster sets featuring an updated hipster take on Ben Franklin and pretzels which are big in Philly. Our mini LOVE statues are also very popular to commemorate a visit to the City of Brotherly Love. And a new item is a Philly-themed coloring book that is great for kids and adults alike.”
When it comes to jewelry, more than a dozen different designers are represented in this bright, airy shop. “We have a lot of jewelry,” said Peel, “especially necklaces and earrings. One of our best-sellers is the gemstone dangle earring set in sterling silver. They are so versatile, come in different colors and shapes, and can be worn from day to night.”
A few newer items that are doing well here are the 3-D printed earrings that say “Philly” or “Jawn,” the region’s favorite all-purpose word.
The window display at the shop also rotates every few days to showcase some of the newest, most interesting inventory ranging from clothing and home décor items to jewelry. By using the window space on busy Third Street in the heart of the historic district, Peel manages to attract customers into the shop right from the street. A pair of shiny dangles might grab the attention of someone heading to lunch or even a visitor who wants to take home a memento from the City of Brotherly Love. Because the shop is intimate, making the most of the window space that spans the entire front of the store, admits Peel, can really attract business.