In our ongoing piece focusing on retailers and their experiences with PPOM, we sat down with Mark Leigh of Leigh Jewelers in Vero Beach, Florida. Mark offered some wonderful insights on the changing times we are seeing in the jewelry industry and the subsequent technologies to which we all must soon adhere.
Tell us about your store. What is the history? Who are your customers?
We originally opened Leigh Jewelers in New York State back in 1972 and ultimately grew to four stores in the New York State and Connecticut markets. In 1990, warmer weather and a change of pace beckoned and my wife and I moved to Vero Beach, Florida after liquidating the stores. Almost immediately after arriving here I felt that there was a need for an upscale, fine jewelry store. In essence, there was a dike in hole that needed to be filled and sure enough we were back in the game. Starting off small with a 600 square foot shop, my wife and I were the lone team behind the counter. After 20 years serving the community, we are proudly in a 3,000 sq ft store with a staff of fully G.I.A. certified professionals.
Our customer base in Vero Beach, a true resort town, consists of high net worth individuals, from retired CEOs and knowledgeable Fortune 500 executives, to privately wealthy citizens and members of the professional community, such as doctors and lawyers. I have seen the age shift younger in recent years to encompass the 45-80 year age group.
What are your customers looking for at the moment? Do you notice any trends?
Being a seasonal town, the summer has lulls but it is certainly still profitable to remain open. Our robust Rolex and Pandora business keep people coming in during the down summer months, as well as the custom services and repairs we offer (we have the latest equipment and employ the newest technologies, such as state-of-the-art lasers).
In general, during our in-season from October through June, we get customers who are looking for something rare. Our clientele can go anywhere and buy anything, so they are extremely particular. They come through our doors for our selection of big, bold and unusual pieces from avante garde designers and look to our expertise in fancy colored stones, such as vivid fancy yellows. Also, it’s a special atmosphere. It is a mom and pop shop but we are constantly investing in new technologies, software and equipment to remain current. The guiding philosophy behind the operation will always remain the same though, providing the utmost service and exquisite merchandise, hence satisfying a true luxury connoisseur.
What are your thoughts about 2011 so far? Is business up? Steady? What do you think you can attribute that to?
I feel cautiously optimistic. The recession actually helped us in that during that time we cleared up all debt and focused on becoming fiscally stable. We buy responsibly and pay immediately, so the relations with vendors are optimal. We bought healthily this year and adjusted our inventory to reflect the times and buyers’ new behaviors. For example, we made a concerted effort to carry sterling silver, fashion forward pieces that may replace the 18k gold purchases of years past.
We had a solid Christmas last year after two years of tough holiday sales and expect that the remainder of this year will be on par with last, if not up. Although the media tends to paint a certain picture, the fluctuations as of late have not necessarily indicated a double-dip recession at this point.
Why do you feel the PPOM initiative is important for retailers (i.e. why did you feel it was important to sign up)?
Retailers, including myself, are always trying to improve their sites, to adjust to new technologies and maintain the best online presence. The look of your site is an image in peoples’ minds of your store and it must be maintained and continuously adapted. Obviously, this is no small task. The PPOM platform was just a natural fit. Their designers and the expertise of GemFind took all of the work away and made it look great.
We were one of the first to sign on because the offering just made sense. We stuck with it through the initial phase and some hiccups but it was worth it. It has improved tremendously with GemFind coming aboard. They have done a great job of organizing the interface and back-end functionality; it looks fantastic.
Has being part of the Prestige Promenade Online Marketplace (PPOM) improved your business? If so how?
People comment on how wonderful the look and feel is. They are amazed that they have access to such a wealth of designers and products through our store’s website.
Are there any examples of a customer using yet? (i.e. printing out pictures from one of the brand showrooms and bringing it in)
Not yet, but I imagine that is coming.
Does your store have e-commerce? Or are you considering e-commerce at this point?
Yes, this coming Fall. I am actively trying to move above and beyond the 21st century and prepare the store for future generations of managers and customers alike. We are experimenting with new software platforms that will enable us to integrate and streamline our social media efforts as well.
Do you like the PPOM interface? Or have any suggestions for making it better?
Yes, it gives the illusion to the consumer that they haven’t left our site. It’s an easy free-flowing transition from our page to the PPOM page.
The only suggestion would be to get more retail stores on board. I think it’s just a matter of time. It’s a no-brainer.