After a quarter-century in business, jewelry store Owner Sheri Evans knows what patrons want: Events where they can get to know the artisans who make their one-of-a-kind pieces.
“People want to meet the designers,” explained Evans, the owner of Metier SF, a high-end jewelry boutique in San Francisco. “We have trunk shows all the time, where we invite designers and antique dealers. It’s a real community builder.”
It’s also great for sales — and for cultivating the relationships that sustain independent jewelry retailers. From in-store events to Instagram promotions, email newsletters to sidewalk sales, boutiques employ a variety of strategies to stay in touch and boost sales.
For Teaser Boutique in downtown Detroit, big storefront windows are “the biggest draw,” said Manager Paulette Williams. “I have a lot of customers who actually drive by weekly to see the window. We make sure we keep it with a very nice layout.”
With flamboyant, super-feminine styles and statement jewelry, Teasers caters to Motor City’s entertainment industry — and its followers. “Word of mouth is big,” said Williams, reeling off a list of bold-face-name clients that include “The Voice” contestants. “We outfit a lot of local artists for events.”
Williams and her team send personal text messages to VIP clients. “They get first choice, of course,” she noted. Instagram and Facebook broadcast the new wares to everyone else. And twice a year, Teasers holds a massive fashion shoot on the street historically known as the “Avenue of Fashion,” which draws 3,000-5,000 visitors and generates priceless buzz for the boutique.
Word of mouth has also been vital to the success of Marigold – Gateway to India, a 12-year-old Austin, Texas, store specializing in South Asian fashions. Owner Lata Karna said her majority non-Asian clientele is drawn to airy cotton textiles, Bollywood-style jewelry and the brightly colored Indian aesthetic. “Some people find us through Google,” said Karna. “They may be traveling to India, or have an Indian wedding or party to go to.”
Many more are drawn to Marigold’s frequent events. Every Saturday, the store hosts a “henna party,” where a trained artist tattoos crimson designs on hands and foreheads. A psychic has weekly hours at Marigold, offering readings to customers shopping for filigree anklets or vintage print silk saris. Other parties have featured Indian music, and new home décor or jewelry items are modeled on Marigold’s Facebook account.
At Metier SF, trunk shows and designer meet-and-greets are “a party atmosphere, so it’s really fun,” said Sheri Evans. “With an event like that, we can put out quite a lot more one-of-a-kind pieces than we would normally.” Fans of a particular artisan or vintage style flock to these gatherings, hoping to score a hard-to-find item, Evans explained. “They want to meet the artist, talk about the jewelry, think deeply about it,” she added.
The original Metier store was in downtown San Francisco, with a larger space that accommodated clothing as well. Today, Metier occupies a 250-square-foot space in the upscale Haight neighborhood; the clothing is gone, and the focus is on high-end jewelry from a dozen local and international artisans, along with antique pieces that comprise about a third of total sales.
To maintain the store’s loyal following, Metier relies heavily on social media to generate interest — and foot traffic. “Instagram gives us a platform to show the merchandise, but also to do it in a way that reflects our image, our aesthetic,” explained Evans. She spends hours curating an Instagram feed that mixes interior shots, jewelry close-ups, designer spotlights, and poses with both models and staff members. “We do a variety of shots to give a variety of viewpoints,” Evans said.
Nearly every day, Metier greets new patrons who’ve seen jewelry on the Instagram feed, checked out the website to see more items, and then come see the wares in person. Evans also attracts clients by participating in pop-up stores around the Bay Area; recent events have included Sonoma and Oakland, Calif. “Pop-ups are great for outreach, for gaining new audiences,” Evans said.
Some jewelers benefit from a prime location. “We’re lucky to be in the arts district; it draws in a lot of people,” said Amanda Getz of Store5A, one of two Columbus, Ohio, outlets (another is in Tulsa). “A lot of people find out about us just from our location,” set amid dozens of galleries, restaurants and retailers.
Others discover Store5A by Googling, since its market is very specific. The business, owned by a local family, specializes in pre-owned luxury jewelry, handbags, timepieces and other accessories. Every piece is fully authenticated and appraised, Getz said, so the boutique attracts collectors and connoisseurs.
To draw new clients, Store5A participates in a monthly “gallery hop” promoted by the arts district, and hosts seasonal sales and events, such as a pre-Christmas outdoor bazaar. Regular patrons have come to rely on the personal shoppers who’ll scour weekly arrivals for rare finds; roughly 50 new pieces come in each Thursday. “If a customer is looking for a Louis Vuitton billfold, they’ll let them know if that comes in,” Getz said. “Our sales associates keep a close relationship with their customers and look out for them.”
Custom work for locals is how Mabel Chong, a San Francisco jewelry designer, built a loyal clientele at her eponymous boutique. When she opened Mabel Chong a decade ago on tony Sacramento Street, foot traffic and word of mouth helped grow sales of her fine jewelry featuring precious gemstones, bridal pearls and leather accents. Over the years, social media played a bigger role in attracting customers: “People come in because of Yelp reviews, and because they Google local jewelry designers,” Chong said. “In the Bay Area, for a lot of people, it’s very important to buy and commission from local artists.”
In the past year, Chong has invested “dearly” in targeted Facebook ads, which are costly but effective. Like many retailers, she sends out a periodic email newsletter. And she reaches out to the community in more organic ways as well: Mabel Chong sponsors a variety of civic causes, as well as hosting several fundraising events each year for local schools and foundations. “It’s really a combination of everything that keeps business going,” she said.