In the year
Helzberg became the first nationwide jeweler to qualify for membership in the American Gem Society
Engagement rings, wedding rings, pendants, bracelets—they’re small in size, yet they speak volumes as symbols of love and affection. But, how much does the average person really know about gems and precious metals? Shopping for such items can be intimidating, and what they represent—relationships and, oftentimes, marriage—is somewhat diffic
ult to confront, so Helzberg Diamonds, the nationwide jeweler, has done everything in its power to break down the barriers between its products and consumers, including a new, company-wide redesign that emphasizes the brand’s offerings better than ever before.
It was CEO Beryl Raff who initiated the redesign, starting when she took over Helzberg in 2009 and bringing in a consultant named Parke Wellman, whom she’d worked with previously at Zale Corporation. Then, quickly recognizing the benefit of having a permanent leader to oversee the overhaul, Raff invited Wellman to join Helzberg as divisional vice president of store environment.
Raff encouraged the removal of all sacred cows, and the shift in culture allowed Wellman to execute a vision for Helzberg from the ground up—even the infrastructure of her construction and development team changed, becoming more comprehensive. “[Now], my team is responsible for every visible or tangible item in the store, with the exception of the actual merchandise and the marketing,” she says
Wellman was uniquely suited for the challenges of Helzberg’s new look. Growing up, she was surrounded by art, design, and, most importantly, retail branding strategies. Her father, Richard Roeder, a pioneer in store design in Houston, blended aesthetics and architecture with merchandising principles, and his ideas had a profound impact on Wellman’s professional development, teaching her the importance and the nuances of syncing merchant motivations with client needs. After graduating from the University of Texas–Austin with a degree in architecture, Wellman took her love of art and design and applied it at a series of retail-design firms, working on everything from department stores to boutiques.
In 2010, Wellman led the launch of Helzberg’s redesign at multiple locations, including the company’s flagship store in the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri. The new redesign template, referred to as the Beryl Prototype, brought recognizable brand elements to the fore.
One crucial element that Wellman sought to improve was lighting. In the past, it was merely functional and not seen as a key player in the selling of merchandise, but Wellman understood what was missing. “We needed to demonstrate the magic of what occurs when light passes through a quality gemstone with a quality cut,” she says. “The new lighting elements send the implicit message that our diamonds are of superior quality.”
In conjunction with this, Helzberg’s redesign team looked for new avenues of consumer engagement, including the implementation of additional customer touch points in the brand’s relatively small footprints. A collaboration with the Helzberg e-commerce team, the effort included introducing web and technology components to create easier access points.
Helzberg is also exploring opportunities with cell phones and tablets so that customers can interact with the jeweler’s products beyond its brick-and-mortar stores. An example is Proposal Pro, an award-winning mobile app introduced in 2012 and billed as the “complete guide to popping the question.” It helps customers select the perfect ring, gives advice on how to propose, and even offers tips on winning the blessing of parents.
While innovation is a big part of Helzberg’s growth, it also owes its continued success to its customer-service focus and its reputation for offering exceptional value, exclusive designs, and timeless jewelry. All that, along with a company-wide American Gem Society certification, sets the jeweler apart from its competitors.
Most rewarding to Wellman’s team is the proof that its efforts are paying off: customers have responded positively to the completed store redesigns, and more are now in the works. And as they go into development, Helzberg already has its sights set on the next generation of stores—and the continuing challenges of merging the traditional shopping experience with a virtual one.