A COVID-19 windfall
The surge in consumer spending during the pandemic left some retailers flush with money. Summerwind Jewelers & Goldsmiths in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, was one of them; it saw record sales in 2021 after reopening from lockdown. The extra cash allowed the store to do a full first-floor renovation that took about a year and cost well into six figures.
“We ended up in 2021 with our sales up 80% [over the previous year],” reports co-owner Melvin Reisz. “We were putting money aside every month for the renovation, and we were very fortunate in 2022 that we maintained this level of income. So far this year, we are 2% ahead of last year. Our business has not slowed down from the increase during the pandemic.”
Summerwind is a quintessential main-street business in a historic small city about an hour’s drive north of Boston. The updates to the store included exposing more of the original brick walls, installing a vinyl floor, adding finishes to structural beams on the ceiling, and putting in new lighting and display cases. The cases are designed to let customers and staff interact side-by-side instead of over a counter, a shift that’s becoming more common in retail environments. One long display case serves as the bridal bar, where clients can sit on stools and peer down at the display of bridal jewels while speaking to the salesperson. This provides a more intimate environment, explains Reisz.
“The end result is that [the store is] still a long, narrow space, but the traffic flow is so much better, and it feels more open,” he says.
“One thing I always heard is that if you do a remodel of your store, your business generally goes up,” he adds. “It was 18 years since the last remodel, and the income from the pandemic gave us that opportunity.”
Room for everyone
For Louis Anthony Jewelers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, expanding had little to do with economic conditions; rather, the catalyst was the “overwhelming demand for additional showroom and office space, as well as hospitality services,” says vice president Veronica Guarino.
“This was a decision we made several years ago,” she explains. “In fact, we have a history of thriving in difficult economic times — opening our business during a recession in 1990, moving to a new location in 2000 during another recession, expanding our store in 2008 during yet another recession, and executing our current expansion under the threat of a recession.”
On this project, “we decided to trust our instincts. We began expanding during a time when the economy
was strong, and [the store] continues to thrive today.”
The jeweler recently completed the first phase of its 3,000-square-foot addition, which included setting up shop-in-shops for watch brands TAG Heuer, Tudor and Carl F. Bucherer. Phase two is set to be finished in the summer and will include a David Yurman boutique, new jewelry spaces and a Louis Anthony home collection. A dedicated corner space for Rolex is scheduled for completion in the first quarter of 2024. By the end of 2023, the store will total more than 9,000 square feet.
“With dedicated boutiques for several brands, we’re demonstrating our strong partnerships with our vendors and adding an urban flair to the overall atmosphere,” Guarino elaborates.
There will also be a “hospitality bar” where customers can enjoy coffee and alcoholic drinks. “There is a strong demand for personal experiences in retail,” she says. “Our business does and will continue to feel like home to our clientele.”
As for future plans, Guarino says the store is developing its own line of custom jewelry and watches.
Inside Louis Anthony Jewelers. (Louis Anthony Jewelers)
In May, Gunderson’s Jewelers announced plans to move its store in Omaha, Nebraska, to a new location that, once complete, will have 25,000 square feet of retail and operations space. The move is a result of customer demands in Omaha, as well as the company’s strategy to offer a greater range of luxury products and services, says Breanne Demers, president and chief operating officer of the family business, which has five stores in five Midwestern states.
“Our current location just can’t accommodate the demand we’re seeing. Our Omaha clients want access to more exclusive brands that will require boutiques and buildouts,” she says. “We hope to transition from being an engagement-ring and timepiece store to something that attracts luxury shoppers from surrounding states.”
Gunderson is also expanding into other areas. In April 2021, the company acquired JB Hudson, a jeweler in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It is now working on relaunching that store in October.
Concept for Gunderson’s Jewelers. (Gunderson’s Jewelers)
This article is from the July-August 2023 issue of Rapaport Magazine. View other articles here.
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Main image: Summerwind Jewelers & Goldsmiths. (Summerwind Jewelers & Goldsmiths)