Traditional Jewelry Retailing Is Ready for a Change
Everyone knows what to expect when they go into a jewelry store. It’s filled with row upon row of glass waist-high counters, where the sales person stands behind and the customer stands in front, separated by a no-man’s land a foot or so deep of shatterproof glass. The cases are chock full of shiny, beautiful and quite expensive things, usually organized by designer or brand names. If one makes the mistake of asking the clerk about gold or diamonds, things immediately go south — lost in details of karats, fills and plating, or carats, clarity, color, and cut — leading to complete customer confusion.
Fortunately, Doyle & Doyle in NYC’s Meatpacking district is nothing like that, which is why Doyle & Doyle is a jewelry shop that pops! And that’s one reason that throngs of New York City’s downtown creative-class Millennials, as well as uptown fashionistas and ‘ladies who lunch,’ pack the place, along with bloggers and the press eager to get the low down on this unique and special jewelry store.
Meet Elizabeth Doyle, a GIA-degreed gemologist and co-owner and founder with her sister Irene Pamela, of New York-based Doyle & Doyle. I sat down with Elizabeth to learn the secrets behind the success of their store specializing in vintage, antique, and estate jewelry.
Founded in 2000 and recently relocated to W 13th Street in the Meatpacking District, the Doyle & Doyle difference starts from the moment you enter the store. The double-locking doors are an essential security feature, but transformed for the customer into an inviting vestibule, with glass panes inspired by the Crystal Palace of the Great Exhibition of 1851. Elizabeth says, “We designed it to be beautiful, so when someone walks though, instead of feeling like they are in a man-trap, they feel like they are entering a special, different place. It is a transition space. And it is historically inspired, which is the concept that runs though our business.”
Upon entering, the jewelry is displayed not in cases, but in carefully merchandised vignettes showcased in eye-level picture frames on the wall. This is another security feature — “it limits the exposure” — but, more importantly, a customer-centric presentation that allows Doyle & Doyle to tell a story about each carefully-curated collection. “The jewelry looks like framed works of art, which in a way it is. Our store has a gallery look with cases lining the walls, so that customers can walk right up to it and see the jewelry closely. The jewelry is hung in cases like it would if you were wearing it,” Elizabeth explains.
The gallery atmosphere also changes the dynamic between the customer and the sales associates. “When people enter the store, they are meant to get up close to the jewelry and interact with it, and also to interact with the sales people. There isn’t this hierarchical separation of the customer on one side of the counter and the sales people on the other. The gallery setting allows the customer to walk side-by-side with the sales person, which encourages a conversation, so that we can listen to what the customer is saying, what they need. We want our store to be very welcoming and inclusive,” she states.
Elizabeth stresses that she and her sales associates are not there to sell, but to help the customer find something truly amazing and beautiful that becomes their own. That consultative approach in sales makes a huge difference. “Customers breathe a sigh of relief. They have been to other stores and found it very stressful. But when they come here, they feel safe and secure and supported and that is why they come back. They trust us, they know we are going to help them, do the best thing for them.”
Doyle & Doyle’s new style of retailing jewelry encompasses the luxurious jewelry it sells: antique, estate and vintage, and recently expanded to include its own Heirloom collection with historically-inspired designs, but with the brand’s distinctive ‘downtown’ style. Elizabeth explains the Heirloom collection fills voids in estate jewelry, like stud earrings, that people ask for, but simply can’t be found in vintage. With prices varying from under $200 to upwards of $100,000 for rare vintage pieces, the goal is to help customers find that special something that becomes truly ‘their own.’
Engagement and wedding rings have become a particular specialty of Doyle & Doyle, owing largely to listening to customers. “When we opened, we thought we were going to sell low-priced, pretty, everyday wearable vintage jewelry, but, early on, people came in looking for engagement rings and that is predominately our business now. But it wasn’t our plan,” Elizabeth says.
The engagement ring customer is drawn to the one-of-a-kind nature of vintage. A Doyle & Doyle ring isn’t going to be like anyone else’s. Elizabeth says, “You know when that ring is your ring. When you put it on your finger, it comes to life and it doesn’t do that for everyone. It breathes life into the ring, and life into the person. It is a magical moment. Once it is yours, it is yours and no one else’s.”
For Doyle & Doyle selling jewelry in new luxury style is not about the luxury jewelry itself, but about filling the customer’s deeply personal need with a special piece of jewelry that symbolizes the emotional connection. Elizabeth says, “People need an engagement ring. It is a very important symbol. It is not just buying a ring, but going through the whole process. Today most couples go through that process together. In picking out the engagement ring, they work out all kinds of things that are important in embarking on a life together. They talk about budgets, what is important to them, style, aesthetic, price. They make compromises, until they get to a place they both feel good about. That is when they know they can be engaged and now they are ready to move on to being married.”
Elizabeth Doyle of Doyle & Doyle has uncovered the secret of success for retailing jewelry in new luxury style. That secret breaks down into three key ideas:
- Know your Customers: Elizabeth understands Doyle & Doyle’s ‘downtown’ customers, being a ‘downtown’ girl herself. “Our customers are young creatives, interested in vintage, cool style, jewelry that is interesting, but that doesn’t break the bank.
- Bring It: Doyle & Doyle has refined the art of ‘bringing it’ to its customers, that includes everything from the products, the displays, the store arrangement, its architecture, the marketing, and the stories that are told to the customers.
- Get Connected: Building a connection with the customers today doesn’t start in any one way, but in every way you interact and engage the customer. Doyle & Doyle has built connection through its flagship store; to-die-for coverage in publications, including Vogue, Lucky, Martha Stewart Weddings, New York Times, New York Weddings, Elle and including foreign coverage in Italian Vogue and Vogue Japan; an ecommerce-enabled website; blogs and social-media platforms, notably Instagram, which Elizabeth says has quickly become an important platform for sales conversions for Doyle & Doyle. She also notes that “Pinterest continues to be a good referrer, but as it grows, it becomes more challenging to connect with our customers though the platform.” But the true connection is made one-on-one with the customer personally and intimately.