By Michelle Graff

Last week, I attended the Rapaport Diamond Conference, which concluded with an interesting discussion on the Kimberley Process.

While my original article focused on that--journalists are suckers for a good debate--I felt I'd be remiss not to mention another topic that caught my attention during this all-day extravaganza: Other retailers leave jewelry stores in the dust when it comes to providing a relaxing and enjoyable shopping experience for consumers.

This is especially detrimental in an industry that's asking consumers to drop at least hundreds--more normally thousands--of dollars per purchase.

And while I hate to beat a dead horse, as this is a topic this magazine has covered time and again, it's probably worth mentioning at least one more time.

Just ask Chris and C.K.

--Chris Ellis, president of Consensus Advisors, talked about how jewelry stores are unnecessarily filled to the brim with product.

Ellis is definitely a man who understands where jewelry stores go awry. His Boston-based investment banking and financial advisory firm has been front and center for some of the industry’s most high-profile meltdowns in recent years, including L.I.D. Ltd. and Friedman’s Jewelers.

What he said, essentially, is that retailers need to quit worrying about filling every square inch of their showrooms with display cases--which are then, of course, packed with goods they don't actually own and have no motivation to sell--and put something different in their store, like a bar or children's play area.

Don't think anybody will sit at the bar and it'll be a waste of your time and money?

Talk to Cathy Calhoun at Calhoun Jewelers in Pennsylvania or Jeff Weiss at Glennpeter Jewelers in upstate New York.

Calhoun bar for blogTheir bars are a hit and, according to both Calhoun and the folks at Glennpeter Jewelers, so were the articles we did on both of their stores.

Cathy Calhoun told me she's been getting tons of calls about how she set up her bar (pictured here), whether or ot people use it, etc., since the article on her space ran in our September issue.

(Sorry I can't provide you with a link; that story's not up on our site yet, but the Glennpeter story was an online exclusive you can check out here.) 

--C.K. Venkatraman, of Indian retailer Tanishq, questioned whether or not jewelry stores both in India and the United States were doing enough to keep up with the increasingly interactive world that revolves around things such as iPods and "e-books," a reference to the new Amazon Kindle.

Diamonds might be a girl's best friend today, but will that still be the case 15 years from now?

"Are the jewelry stores in the U.S. sanctuaries?" he said. "Are the jewelry stores in India designed for the women of 2025?"

Venkatraman also notes that in almost every retail store, people can interact independently with the products, citing in particular the experience people have when they go to an Apple store.

People probably get sick of hearing experts heap worship on Apple like it's a retail demigod--the product of a retail store that's mated with a super-hip hangout--but it's pretty obvious they know what they're doing.

This is not the case in the vast majority of jewelry stores where the high-priced merchandise is locked up, though it is worth pointing out that Tiffany & Co. now has two stores that offer lower price-point merchandise that's displayed so customers can try it on without assistance. Iopened the first earlier this year in California and followed recently with a second store in Seattle.

Venkatraman said jewelry stores need to figure out how to make the shopping experience more fun for customers, citing his company's now-shuttered Tanishq boutiques as a good example of how jewelry shopping can be a "stress-buster,” a calming, relaxing experience, for women.

Can the same be said about your store?

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Since 1906, National Jeweler has been the must-read news source for smart jewelry professionals--jewelry retailers, designers, buyers, manufacturers, and suppliers. From market analysis to emerging jewelry trends, we cover the important industry topics vital to the everyday success of jewelry professionals worldwide. National Jeweler delivers the most urgent jewelry news necessary for running your day-to-day jewelry business here, and via our daily e-newsletter, website and other specialty publications, such as "The State of the Majors." National Jeweler is published by Jewelers of America, the leading nonprofit jewelry association in the United States.