By Michelle Graff

Of the 800-plus brick-and-mortar shops projected to close their doors for good this year, how many will be missed?

That's a question that was posed to attendees of the American Gem Society Conclave by management expert Jim Collins. How many retailers can say they truly fill a void in their community, offering something so unique—perhaps product, service or the shopping experience—that cannot be duplicated by the jeweler down the street, or Wal-Mart or the Internet?

To listen to consumers talk, jewelers aren't doing such a hot job at distinguishing themselves, unless of course being compared to discount retailer Filene's Basement can be considered distinguished.

Alarmingly, they are often failing in an area they pride themselves on: selling emotion. Video interviews of consumers, shown during a Diamond Promotion Service (DPS) presentation on the bridal category, revealed the disconnect between shoppers making the most significant purchase of their lives and the sales associates trying to close the deal.

Among the descriptions thrown out to describe the store or the customer experience were "boring," "uninviting," "ordinary," "looks the same," "sterile" (good if you're a doctor's office, bad if you're a jeweler), "annoying" and "confusing."

Some sales associates were described as too pushy, while others were considered dismissive—especially of female self-purchasers.

After sharing the clip, Claudia Rose of the DPS informed attendees that the comments were typical, even in describing independent jewelers who are considered among the best.

It's probably safe to say that an "uninviting" store is one that won't be missed when it goes out of business.

With competition converging on all sides, retailers must make sure their store is memorable and distinctive in a positive way. It goes back to that philosophical question: Does the store fill a void? Is there a reason for it to exist in the community? Is the shopping experience distinctive and positive?

If you believe your store answers these questions in a positive way, I'd like to hear from you. Please email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

If you haven't wondered about your relevance as a retailer, why not?

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