One of the major retail trends of the last 10 years has been the shrinking size of retail spaces as consumers show less interest in shopping in vast stores with the ambience of a warehouse.

For jewelers, who have always squeezed a lot of productivity out of small spaces, that trend hasn’t been such an issue.

What is interesting is that what they are doing with their space appears to be changing. Five years ago, 36 percent of small stores – those operating in less than 1,000 square feet – described themselves as full-service jewelers, meaning they provided everything from custom design and fabricating to repairs and case sales. Now, according to our latest Big Survey, 57 percent of the stores in that segment are offering all these services. It also suggests jewelers are cramming a lot into pretty tight conditions, especially if that “full service” includes 3D printing, casting and other manufacturing tasks.

2016 Small Store Identity data

Interior designer Ruth Mellergaard, a principal at interior design firm GRID/3 International, says that such a small space should be fine if “every inch” is being utilized effectively and product is being displayed in the newer walk-around or walk-up wallcase/showcase styles.

“Our mantra has changed in the past few years,” she says. “We used to say retail, retail, retail; squash your support space and expand your retail. No more, because jewelry retailing has changed — stock, custom, repairs are all important facets of jewelry retailing and need support space to perform properly. We keep pushing jewelers to display less product and turn it more often.”

Mellergaard recommends that if you do have such a small store you still dedicate at least a desk for custom work and possibly a small semi-private space for discreet or very high-end sales; install a work station or two on the floor so that all of the staff don’t huddle at the cash; have more than one POS area; and consider a repair center that is separate from the payment area.

She also urges jewelers to examine where their strengths and weaknesses are and play to those, “which may mean replanning, rearranging and possibly replacing some fixtures.”

David Geller, author of the Geller Blue Book, says from what he’s witnessed at stores across the country, “more and more jewelers are getting by with custom and Cad/Cam” but are probably reluctant to acknowledge they offer less than a full range of services.

“I think most do not want to not be called a ‘full service’ jeweler,” he says.