Actively engaged: Randy and Kristie Mitchum keep up a vigorous public presence to stay top of mind for their customers in Ozark, Missouri.
Not many jewelry stores can boast of being busy on Tuesdays. But the traffic at Mitchum Jewelers in Ozark, Missouri, reflects the targeted, proactive approach that owner Randy Mitchum takes to ensure “effortless shopping” in an ambience that wows.
His father, John Mitchum, opened the store in 1965 as a watch repair facility. He gradually expanded it to include jewelry repair, then jewelry sales, and the company earned a reputation for being responsive to the community’s needs. Mitchum Jewelers is now the largest and oldest jewelry store continuously owned by the same family in the southern part of the state.
Initially, John did not encourage his son to join the business. “I lived at home, and he was concerned that working and living so closely together might not be a good idea,” the younger Mitchum explains. “But then I moved out and took a semester off from college to work in the store. My father decided I had a gift for retail, and I never went back to school.”
Upping the ad game
The year 2007 marked several significant milestones for the business, including breaking the million-dollar sales mark and purchasing a freestanding store. It also saw the company shift its marketing strategy from radio to TV advertising, which made “a huge difference,” Mitchum says.
“We changed our marketing game to become really focused on bridal,” adds the store owner, whose joy in identifying “super-quality, nice stones that aren’t VVS but capture their beauty” attests to his passion for natural diamonds. “We’re not just a store that sells diamonds. We’re a store that specializes in understanding diamonds and sharing that knowledge to educate our customers.” His strong sales in the natural segment obviate the need to carry lab-grown stones, he says.
On the advertising front, “we saturate our market with the most aggressive on-point marketing…which produces big top-of-mind awareness,” says Mitchum. “We change up our TV marketing all the time.”
One of his strengths is making personal connections, and he uses it to his advantage in the store’s TV and YouTube ads. “My wife Kristie and I have lived here forever, and people know us. We appear in the commercials, exchanging witty and clever comments,” alongside testimonials from customers who share “how much they love coming here,” he says.
Mitchum has embraced social media and has an employee tasked with creating daily content. “Our engagement with our customers is very high, especially for those within a 100-mile radius.” In fact, he intends to increase the budget to “stay in front of our customers and their friends.”
He considers it “pretty cool” that the store still attracts some of his father’s original customers, as well as their kids and grandkids. Mitchum also wants to attract younger, newly married couples who are embarking on professional careers and starting families. “The 20- to 40-year-old demographic allows us to build a relationship and trust so we can be with them through all of their life changes,” he elaborates.
His top sellers include rings with a thin, straight line of diamonds on either side of a center stone, like the Simply Tacori round solitaire. New vendor JB Star is performing well in the bridal category, as well as with its bold colored-gemstone fashion jewelry. Classic styles are also trending in colored stones.
While younger female customers may be more open to self-purchasing, Mitchum acknowledges that selling to them requires greater effort. His store’s approach combines encouraging the woman to try on the piece and convincing her to treat herself. Gold fashion jewelry — including paper-clip necklaces, rectangular earrings, and hoops — are among the more popular self-purchase items. Often an impulse buy, such jewelry is positioned at the counter where the staff rings up sales.
Height and light
In 2018, the company underwent a “super-sized renovation” that doubled the size of the store.
“We opted for a very modern design and décor,” Mitchum relates. This included capitalizing on the building’s high ceilings for a dramatic effect and installing recessed LED lighting that matched the lighting in the cases.
Analyzing how people shopped was a critical consideration in the redesign. To facilitate client interaction, Mitchum replaced the existing display cases with custom front-loading ones. The changes meant the sales staff had to rethink their selling techniques. “It took some learning to show a piece [while] standing next to the customer instead of from over the counter,” he recalls.
He credits his employees with much of the store’s success, describing them as “good, genuine people.” He views his business as a team effort and eschews the traditional commission structure, which he feels is not conducive to teamwork. “We reward everyone on the team. Without the person in the back room entering the items into inventory, or the diamond setters, or the people wrapping the purchases — we are no one without everyone.”
This attitude benefits customers, too. “I think they realize it when they walk into the store. It’s easier for them to shop, because they can ask any of the staff for help,” he explains.
Passing the torch
Mitchum voices concern about the future of the trade. “Jewelers are the backbone, but the reality is that they are not getting any younger, and they are fewer in number. I think there are tons of options in the industry for young people graduating from high school, except they are not aware that these opportunities exist.”
He would eventually like to partner with a local high school or college to develop a curriculum, and even build a facility further down the line to introduce young jewelers to the industry.
“We have built a name and a brand in our area,” he says. “People know when they shop here that they’ll get honest, caring and superior service. We’re going to keep doing that.”
Image: Owner Randy Mitchum and his wife Kristie. (Mitchum Jewelers)