Of Royal Diadem Jewelers’ 130 five-star reviews on Google, majority owner Sterling VanDerwerker says that most mention their customer service experience.

Greensboro, N.C.--In 50 Jewelers/50 States, National Jeweler interviews one retailer in each of the 50 U.S. states to find out how they are meeting the challenges of the changing retail environment.

In Greensboro, North Carolina, Royal Diadem Jewelers has widened its share of the jewelry retail market as competitors have closed their doors in recent years.

Majority owner Sterling VanDerwerker spoke with National Jeweler about how engagement ring shopping has changed over the years, the importance of custom design and how his faith has guided the way he does business.

20170905 NorthCarolina insert1Founded in 1999, Sterling VanDerwerker and store manager Brian Wilson are the owners of Royal Diadem Jewelers. The 1,600-square-foot store has seven employees.

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

Sterling VanDerwerker: I think our biggest challenge is providing health benefits for our associates. Our business has been very good, with consistent increases due to the closure of other independent jewelers, but health care and benefits are a huge challenge for us.

NJ: What do you think is the solution?

Sterling VanDerwerker: To eliminate government intervention in health care; I believe in the free market system and our ability to exercise our individuality and our ability to provide a service for the customer, which at this point is not regulated by the government. The government regulation in health care creates problems for the health care providers to individualize their service and provide value for their consumers. That freedom, I think, is an important thing.

NJ: What’s the top-selling category at your store?

SV: Our top-selling category is our diamond engagement rings and customization of engagement rings.

NJ: What’s your top-selling brand?

SV: It is our own custom work, and then the supplementary brand that we have is Gabriel & Co. If we carry one brand, that’s really it.

NJ: Describe your customer for me.

SV: Our client base is primarily in the Triad region and that consists of High Point, Greensboro and Winston-Salem. So that’s about a million, population-wise. Our clientele is a pretty wide variety of millennials up to senior citizens. We have business people, working people and a pretty broad spectrum of folks.

By far, we have more women. That’s our first contact with most people. But we do have a number of men and they’re focused specifically on service, so they’ll bring us watches for repair, come to replace watch batteries and bring broken jewelry to be repaired for their wives. I think that’s a fair characterization of how they interact with us.

It’s a rare opportunity to get a young man shopping without his fiancee or girlfriend at this point in time. Probably about 10 percent of our engagement ring business is generated by young men looking for an engagement ring by themselves.

I’ve been in the business for nearly 40 years and in the past, the vast majority of guys were surprising women with rings. Now there’s usually a cooperative event (with couples shopping together), if not girls searching to satisfy their design ideas in their future ring and bringing the guy along.

20170905 NorthCarolina insert2Sterling VanDerwerker

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

SV: Probably the most popular is a halo style around a center stone, usually rounds, and then the ring shank is an airline-style shank and most of those have some type of convolution or twist to them. The vast majority of units sold are 14-karat white gold. That would be 70 percent. Ten percent are yellow and 20 percent platinum.

NJ: Which social media accounts are important to your business?

SV: By far Facebook, and then Twitter and Instagram.

NJ: Do you have e-commerce?

SV: We do but it’s not our own ecommerce. We utilize the Stuller portal and it shows in a frame on our website.

We’ve had it for about three years. It was easy for us and the thing we were most concerned about is the security--that Stuller would ship to us and we would be able to deliver to the customer and ensure that we were controlling the collection and the transaction.

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

SV: That’s easy. Day in and day out, I have to focus everyone’s attention on the front door and the people who come through that front door. As a Christian I believe that service is the best platform for our business, but not to meet our own needs or for profit or anything else. We have to be able to determine customers’ needs and then meet those needs. If we’re using fair pricing and reasonable, traditional jewelers’ methodology, then our business will survive.

That’s what I would advise them to do. Focus on that front door. Serve the customer.

NJ: Is having that philosophy the reason why you think you’ve survived while other stores have closed in your area?

SV: Absolutely. One of the most interesting things is our customer reviews. You can read our customers responses in these Google Reviews. There are over 130 five-star reviews. I would bet that 70 percent of them talk about service.

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

SV: Even though I’ve been a retail jeweler for 40 years and I’ve done everything form bench work to corporate executive work, I’m still thrilled by the execution of a customer-focused design.

My undergraduate degree is in design ceramics and there are not too many jewelers who are potters.

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