Las Vegas – The Hearts On Fire concept store will open here next week with some notable omissions for a jewelry boutique: Gone are the heavy doors, long display cases, and the cash register.
It’s part of a strategy to establish itself as approachable jewelry store for modern, tech-savvy consumers. The 16-year old jewelry maker, which has 14 stores but mostly sells through independent jewelers, says it aims to open as many as 75 stores in the next five years, from Pennsylvania’s King of Prussia mall to China.
While it sounds like a novel you might read privately on your kindle, the Hearts On Fire name refers to its proprietary diamond cuts, which are marketed with a high-tech twist. Usually a special magnifier, salespeople - trained by the diamond brand - show customers the “hearts” and “fire” that can be seen in the diamond. While not as high end as Cartier, the company sells pricier goods than Zales. Its jewelry ranges from $1,000 to $1 million, with an average sales value of $8,000 for an engagement ring and $3,500 for other jewelry, such as earrings and necklaces.
To help create the new store concept, Hearts On Fire hired Eight Inc., the architectural firm that designed the Apple concept store. Jewelry customers will be able to roam freely, sit in groups at “community” tables while trying on jewelry, and play on a touch screen “knowledge wall.” Salespeople carry iPads or HP tablets that they can use to ring up shoppers. The can also use the tablets to create a “shopping cart” of items that can be emailed to the client – or sent as a hint to someone else.
From its minimalist glass front to its brightly lit glow, the Las Vegas store’s exterior is reminiscent of Apple’s glass-box stores. A “veil” of stainless steel pipes, hung floor to ceiling, guides people through zones in the store. “I feel like I’m in the Jetsons,” said Tracey Hatter a former Tiffany’s and Saks Fifth Avenue saleswoman who underwent the company’s sales training this week.
Jewelry in patent-pending “jewel-box” display case sits at eye level. A salesperson swipes a card to unlock the box, allowing a drawer to drop open and a mirror to pop up. The lighting shifts from a bluish light that highlights the diamonds’ rainbow shine to a glow more flattering to skin.
At the training sessions in Las Vegas, the salespeople – a team of 10 who spoke languages including Spanish and Mandarin – were told to forget what they had learned about selling diamonds in the past.
Thirty percent of shoppers leave a jewelry store saying they’d never return to that store, said Ellen Maloney, the company’s executive vice president. “Other companies in other industries have elevated the entire shopping experience.”
Hearts On Fire President Mark Israel says customers encounter barriers at a traditional store, such as a bouncer-like doorman, display cases that keep shoppers 18 inches away from products and limits how many items people may look at individually. “It ends up being an intimidating experience,” he says.
In one exercise, Mr. Israel had pairs of salespeople stand on opposite sides of a chair and then move to the same side. “We’re partners as opposed to opponents,” he says.
Women play in shoe stores, and they should be able to “play” in this store without being told the salespeople, who will work on an hourly wage plus commission. There will be no limit on trying on multiple pieces.
Salespeople were coached to lead shoppers to the community tables where customers are encouraged to gather. The seating enable customers to chat with neighbors comfortably. They’re a “place to get the opinion of the stranger next to you,” said Mr. Israel. Trainees were urged not to intercede when customers begin talking with each other. “You’ve got to give up some control,” Mr. Israel advised, speaking of a fictitious neighbor at the table. “She’s going to do all your work for you.”
It remains to be seen whether customers warm up to the unusual new stores. Oshrat Herscu, a trainee who formerly worked at H. Stern jewelers, said she wasn’t thrown off by the new sales techniques. Her worry, instead, was “educating the customer about this brand name they’ve never heard of.”