Rethinking department stores. A great opportunity for jewelry brands.

Department stores and jewelry brands. Why not rethink the whole idea and boost retail and jewelry sales with some fresh new ideas about sales and marketing? In the upcoming weeks, I'll share some of these ideas with you. The first retail idea is the re-imagined department store. I hear you think! Department stores? How boring have they become! Exactly why we need to rethink them! 


Jewelry retail is struggling. Especially in the challenging times that the new normal is offering us. Some industries take a flight, others are struggling for their survival. As I am part of the jewelry industry, I will mainly shine my light over jewelry as a product and industry in any article I write on retail. We need to rethink many of our concepts, rethink values, re-imagine city streets and so much more. Challenging, but exciting. As I share my ideas and views with you, I hope to spark some new inspiration in you too. Maybe you sell jewelry yourself, or create it for others. Maybe you work in retail and maybe you are just someone who stumbled upon this article and read it because no matter what, you and I are all consumers. We all have retail in our lives. We all feel how the restrictions that we had led us to work, play and buy differently. 

Department stores do have potential to come back big time

Let’s dive into a few ideas in the upcoming weeks. This week, I would like to take you into rethinking department stores. Yes, right now. While one after the other is filing for bankruptcy. Because they used to be able to enchant consumers and the reason why they don’t anymore? Well, while I take you into my ideas and thoughts, I am sure you’ll come up with yours too! 

So yes, it is a struggling time for retail in general and big name department stores seem to have lost the battle big time. Yet here I am to share with you an idea about department stores and why and how they should have a new and fresh future again! Especially when it comes to jewelry, because they have a potential of becoming immensely relevant and interesting again!

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2020 and the new retail game

How were these past months for you? No matter where you live, you have probably gone through some interesting times. Perhaps you had to suffer a total lockdown, or a partial one, but chances are that many things that you took for granted changed over the past months. One of the things that took off big time was online shopping. For many it was the only way to even get their groceries in house.

Trends that were slowly dripping into our daily lives took off in an unprecedented way. We found ourselves working from home and communicating through Zoom, Teams and Meet. We all started to work-out at home, hence the still empty shelves at Decathlon and other sportgear suppliers. We also started ordering more and more online. 

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The Amazons of this world increased their turnover and unfortunately, once again, at the expense of the smaller stores and entrepreneurs. 

As a blogger and someone who likes to observe her industry, I have always tried to look forward. I am not a nostalgic person (I hope)  and am not turning into one, as the years pass by. However, I found myself, like many of you, being a little more quiet these months. I found myself reading, watching, thinking, reflecting and most of all; observing. I felt no need to be in the picture with opinions and predictions of the future. Although I did try it too in the beginning, I left the whole scene of webinars and articles about what my industry should do, very swiftly behind. 

And as we come out of this period and step into the new reality, the new normal, I feel calmer. I have started to look at both retail and the jewelry industry in a more holistic way. More about that too soon!  But let's shine a light on some of the retail concepts out there and see what we can imagine to give them back some spark! 

Online retail is here to stay, but...

Yes. Online is here to stay. But here is my passionate view on why brick and mortar is more relevant than ever before. And more so: why I started longing for department stores again, right now, with most of them being so unattractive and struggling for their survival.

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With several of the biggest department stores going bankruptbankrupt, I think it’s a rather daring thought that there is hope for a new kind of department store. 

Over the past years ( even decades?), we have seen glorious department stores turn into soulless shadows of what they once were. When big investors or investment groups take over, it becomes all about the results in 3 or 5 years time.  The first trick to pump up the results is to cut costs and raise prices. 

Most of the time the vision and soul of the store is thrown out of the window.  These kinds of soft values don’t translate into immediate financial results and are therefore not interesting for these groups and their following. Not just in retail but wherever they take over, it’s done with passion, vision and soul.

An example? How Harrods lost its soul…

Now, if you turn to Harrods or here in the Netherlands; De Bijenkorf ( I am sure you’ll have your version of this kind of thing in your country too) they have become just walls. A building. A place, with a once valued name, that rents space to various brands.

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De Bijenkorf in Amsterdam and the shop in shop concept inside

I personally had the experience of Harrod’s said they ask rent even to a small company selling pens. You have to pay them for the window space! With this new smart approach, I am certain that they survived perhaps difficult times. But at the very same time, the department store itself lost its purpose, it’s magic, it’s soul. And in the long run, it bit them in the ass.

How to bring back the magic of the department store? 

What if the magic was brought back again? What if a department store started to be an exciting place again? What if people entered them to get enchanted, inspired? What if they went for the pure experience? 

Big historical buildings in city centers have been the ideal place for department stores. They still are, but they might also open in a very modern building. As long as they are within city centers. What if we would  enter the doors and feel like going into a world of discoveries?

Where we can explore the items of beloved and well known brands, we read about previously in their online magazine? Where next to these well known brands we would discover the new and upcoming ones?

''Department stores? Reclaim your position of powerhouses of new and exciting brands!''

 I would love to see department stores regaining that name for being the ones with the vision and where we all look to see what’s new and cool. I would love to see knowledge on the sales floor. Staff that are both very friendly and extremely well informed. 

Department stores and jewelry

Not that hautain snooty sales person, not that ‘’ I am too precious to even look at’’ approach of exposing jewelry and treating clients. But a more exciting world of luxury where customers are heard and understood. See, most customers buy jewelry because of an emotional reason. Whatever their reason is, it should always be about them! Let’s try a warm and a human approach. 

2.Department stores rethink jewelry brands opportunity

I want to see handmade jewelry gaining back its rightful position and I want to see in the merchandising why this piece is special. I want stories, I want background. But tailored in such a way that it still meets the interest and fascination of the customer. The visual merchandising and the staff need to be a bridge full of information, empathy, excitement, stories and emotion. The bridge between the product and the consumer.

Now that I took you to this imaginary world, I am sure that browsing through a website seems a far cry from this experience. Whether it’s the ugly designed website of Amazon or the more beautiful websites of other online players, online is at its very best; convenient. But it will always lack everything else. No human touch, no emotion, hardly any story. No explanation of why this might be a good choice, but that other product, that you never thought of before, would meet your needs so much better. All worth far more. And can’t ever be achieved by a sheer online player.


Retail, from department store to independent retailers are the life and soul of a city

There is another thing that I would like to mention: brick and mortar stores, small and big, are the life and soul of a city. Small independent stores fulfill a great role in social interaction in a neighborhood. They bring passion back, they often have great relationships with the local residents, know names of those surrounding them and are the place to be for those longing for some true service, some fresh approaches and ideas and quality items. 

But more about this in another blog where I will share my ideas of the future of jewelry retail. 

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Department stores have a role to fulfill. They ought to understand that the reason they exist is to offer the very best in the most complete way possible. No single brand store can ever achieve what they can. Their USP is exactly that: they can offer you an exciting discovery of well known brands and new ones!  This mix and the way the are able to play with space and visual merchandising is unique.

They could become brands themselves again by becoming publishers and producers of their own channels with their very own content. Offering inspiration, not by merely selling and telling you why their consumers ought to buy such and such, but by understanding that becoming relevant in the lives of today’s and tomorrow’s consumer is done through creating content that helps people. Inspires them, that they will love and share. Tips, tricks, stories and more! No hard sales! (just look at Red Bull, the always quoted example of how to create content, being relevant and trying just to sell a beverage)

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If they can do that, they could have a very bright future. We, as consumers, are ready to be swept off our feet :-)

Jewelry retail

7. Department stores rethink jewelry brands opportunity

The title of this article implies that the return of the department store, new style, would be great news for jewelry brands. I truly believe this. Because the weakness of any department store has always been that they have too many brands and too weakly informed staff trying to sell them all. Making winners out of those jewelry brands with the strongest marketing power (which certainly aren’t always the best choice or product). But if that weakness is tackled and turned into a strength: becoming a place of pure discovery and inspiration, filled with famous and new brands to discover, oh what an experience would they be able to offer! And how wonderful would this be for those existing and new jewelry brands alike? What if department stores would be all that? 

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People connect with people. And people buy jewelry for lots of reasons, To celebrate moments in life, their love, their memories, to remnd them of their heights and lows.

If you have a great example, big or small, of a retailer that does things right, or has a new approach, I would love to know it. Contact me and if you love it, you’ll be mentioned too when I write about it! :-)  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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