The owners of Indiana’s Windsor Jewelry said that its business tends to the follow the economic ebb and flow of retail statewide.

Indianapolis--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.

Windsor Jewelry has been in business for 98 years in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana.

Originally founded by Sig Asher in 1919, current owner Greg Bires started off at the store as an employee in 1984, then took ownership in 1998.

Bires chatted with National Jeweler about stocking independent designers and the evolving downtown Indianapolis businessperson.

20170612 Indiana insert1Windsor Jewelers, located in Indianapolis, Indiana, has 10 employees. The store is 3,000 square feet.

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

Greg Bires: Probably the lack of consistency in business.

We’re doing the business we need to do, but we don’t see it as consistently as we did years ago. We have weeks where business is really good and then we have a week or two where things are slow.

It seems to be driven, I feel, by news in the economy, which, for some reason, triggers buying spurts. I can’t explain it but I look at the sales tax records for the state and when the state has a good month of retail sales overall, not just in the jewelry industry, we have a great month. And I notice when the sales tax figures are down in the state, our business was weak.

So there’s something in the media or the news that drives people to want to shop--that’s the only thing I can figure out. I’ve noticed this in the last three or four years.

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

GB: Finished jewelry and custom.

Bridal is an important part of the store but we’re a downtown location so we sell more gifts, like for anniversaries and birthdays. Being a 98-year-old store we have a long list of customers so we have a lot of birthdays and anniversaries to take care of.

A lot of those customers started with bridal--that’s what initiated their first purchase--and gifts have kept them coming in here for generations. We have fifth-generation customers now.

Right now, because of the diversity (of its product), our top-selling brand is Gabriel & Co.

NJ: Who is your regional customer?

GB: Our customer is a working professional because we’re downtown. Lawyers, some doctors, accountants, different executives at the companies who are located close to us.

I wouldn’t say it’s predominantly male any longer, but at one time it was. It leans more towards males, but we have a lot of female customers now because so many women are in the executive workforce now in the area.

We get a wide range of ages. A lot of millennials have moved downtown now that there are a lot of tech companies. So we’re seeing a lot of 20- to 30-year-olds now, especially for bridal.

The bulk of our finished jewelry, which I consider as jewelry for occasions, is more of a middle-age, 30-plus, 40-plus purchase.
20170612 Indiana insert2 copyThis is a view of downtown Indianapolis, with Windsor Jeweler’s storefront visible in the lower left-hand corner.

NJ: What engagement ring trends are you seeing?

GB: I’ve definitely seen a shift more towards round center stones. Round has always been the most popular but I’ve seen a recent shift away from the fancy shapes, especially the princess cut, which has faded considerably.

Probably the biggest trend in bridal is that everything needs to be uniquely made for the person buying it. We very seldom sell a ring out of the case as is. Everything is tweaked a little bit--add a stone here, move a stone there, add the bottom of this ring to the top of that ring, that type of thing. Everybody wants it to be unique.

White gold is still the most popular metal, but I’m seeing more people ask for yellow and rose gold. Without a doubt, it’s still 90-plus percent asking for white metals, either white gold or platinum. But finally, people are again asking for yellow gold.

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

GB: We have Facebook, and we have someone from an outside source that is posting daily on that for us. We have Instagram and a little bit of Twitter but our focus is Instagram and Facebook.

NJ: Do you have e-commerce?

GB: At this time, we don’t have e-commerce. We’re looking into it now and trying to put that package together.
20170612 Indiana insert3 copyGreg Bires

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

GB: Try and individualize yourself. If you’re an independent like myself trying to compete with the multinationals is very difficult because of the marketing. So try and find a niche that only you have so that when you do have people shopping in your store, that’s the reason they come back--because they can’t find it anywhere else.

Customer service has been the most important way we’ve stood out. People are not finding it in the major chains so they need to come to us. It’s good to be equipped to handle repair work as well.

Another way we’ve set ourselves apart is that in the last five to eight years, we’ve really sought out small individual designers, the type that can only make enough jewelry for a handful of stores around the country. We’ve tried to look for entry-level price points, to get people in the door, in the $100, $200, $500, $800 range.

They’re things that are made well, the type of quality that we’ve carried historically with alternative metals like silver. (It’s) mainly jewelry that’s unique, kind of artsy and easy-to-wear every day, because I’m finding that people aren’t getting dressed up as much as they used to, and you need to find comfortable jewelry, jewelry that you can put on and wear daily.

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

GB: My passion when I’m not at the store is duck hunting.

More importantly, in the last year and a half I have three new grandchildren who have really consumed a lot of my free time in a great way. That’s probably been the best thing that has happened to my wife and myself--the fact that we now have grandchildren to enjoy.

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