Continental Jewelers in Wilmington, Delaware opened in 1955. Chrysa Cohen is the jeweler’s current and sole owner, having bought out her business partner in 2013.
Wilmington, Delaware--Amid the changing and challenging retail environment, the editorial team at National Jeweler wondered how macro trends--from online shopping to serving new generations of consumers--have affected jewelers in disparate parts of the country.

In order to find out, we launched a series called 50 Jewelers/50 States, in which we interview one retailer in each of the 50 U.S. states.

In Delaware, Chrysa Cohen, the owner of Continental Jewelers Inc., keeps her store relevant by acting as the go-to for her clients’ every jewelry- and watch-related need.

Founded in 1955, Continental Jewelers has undergone a series of familial and partner ownership changes. Cohen started working at the store as an employee in 1980, becoming a partner midway through the decade. In 2013, she bought out her business partner to become the sole owner.

Cohen advised other jewelers not to be afraid of technology but, most of all, to keep relationships personal.

20170519 Delaware insert1Continental Jewelers Inc. moved to this freestanding store in 1989, which was originally a residential house. The first floor is a 900-square-foot showroom and the rest of the building houses an appraisal office, general office and repair shop. The company has nine employees.

National Jeweler: What’s the biggest challenge your store is facing?

Chrysa Cohen: I think people’s shopping habits changing is the biggest challenge that we have.

(We have to compete) with the internet and people’s ability to shop in their pajamas first thing in the morning at 6 a.m.

We’re definitely working on making it more convenient for people to shop with us but I think that’s the biggest thing, competing with the internet.

NJ: What’s the top-selling item or brand at your store?

CC: We carry a wide variety of product categories and we offer a wide variety of services.

If you look at percentages, our custom design work stands out because most of those (transactions) are higher dollar amounts, but if you look at units it’s our fashion jewelry and our sterling silver jewelry.

We did carry Pandora; we do not anymore.

I think people come to us because they look to us to solve all of their jewelry needs so it’s not any one driving category. We’re not positioned as the bridal destination or the estate and vintage destination, though we do a lot in both of categories.

We have a repair center on site, we do have a laser welder, so I think people think of us when they have some sort of gift-giving or other jewelry related problem to solve.

In terms of dollars, our estate jewelry business and custom jewelry business are probably neck and neck.

NJ: Describe your regional customer.

CC: Our customer is so diverse. You can come into the store on any given day and there will be a little old lady with a watch battery, there will be a lot of 40- to 60-something-year-old women who have jewelry needs or issues; you might have the guy who is shopping on his lunch hour for an engagement ring.

If I had to describe my target market, I’m really looking for the 40- to 65-year-old women and the reason for that is it feels as though in our market, they have the most disposable income and are looking to either change up or add on to their jewelry collection.

NJ: What’s the most popular style of engagement ring with your clientele?

CC: It is still the halo. The halo reigns supreme right now.

We’re still looking at round diamonds and cushions and probably about 1 carat on average. We’re getting a few requests for rose gold as well.

NJ: What’s your internet and social media presence like? What accounts do you have or actively use?

CC: We actively use Facebook and we dabble and have good results from Instagram but we’re more irregular in our posting for that.

We launched our website in 2015. We don’t have e-commerce on our site but we link to Stuller showcase on our website and we have made sales from that and people love it. But that only gives us a certain range of products. I don’t have a point of purchase for anyone else.

We’re working on setting up e-commerce so we can then have more product from a wide range of vendors, though I think we’ll continue to work with Stuller Showcase because they’re wonderfully flexible and there’s very much a “create-your-own” kind of feeling with them, but I don’t know that that’s the only thing I want to be able to use.
20170519 Delaware insert2Chrysa Cohen

NJ: What’s the best piece of advice you’d offer to other independent jewelry stores?

CC: Don’t be afraid of technology and implementing it in your business, and don’t be afraid to be accessible to people outside of your business hours.

It’s amazing to me the conversations I have with jeweler friends who are very savvy business people. When I tell them that I give my cell phone number out to clients whom I know and encourage them to reach out to me, especially if we’re working on a specific project, people are genuinely horrified by that.

And yet I find that clients in today’s world of technology want to be able to shop 24/7, get information 24/7, and if you’re not willing to (be available) as a jeweler, I think you’re losing out.

I’ve had clients text me at 11:30 on a Saturday night or 6 a.m. on Sunday morning with a quick question. If I don’t answer it because I’m busy, I don’t answer it. And I’ll tell them that. I tell them, “You know what, I can’t always get to my phone--I’m a single mom of a 15-year-old who is really busy.”

I’ll get back to a client as soon as I can. If I can answer them, right away I will. And they’re fine with that.

Just having that access (is what’s important). They might want to forward something along, as far as, “Oh hey, I saw this picture and now I really like this style,” or they might have a question about, “Can you do a repair for me? I’m going away on Sunday.”

I don’t understand what’s so hard about giving a client that you know a cell phone number, if not your personal one. We got a cell phone just for the store; my staff also has more access in terms of being able to take a picture and text it to a client.

I just think that the best advice I can give is: Don’t be afraid to embrace the personal connection. It’s what our business is about and it’s what jewelry is evolving into if we’re going to stay brick and mortar.

If you’re going to go totally online, you can have that closed-door mentality because your store is open all of the time. But if you want to have a personal relationship with clients and do the custom work that we do and expand that one-on-one type of selling, I think you absolutely have to be available.

NJ: What’s a fun fact about you we can share with our readers?

CC: We have a dear client and I always say to her, “When I grow up I want to be you.”

She is an international flower show judge and she travels all over the world judging flowers and flower shows and I always tell her, “When I grow up, I want to be you.”

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