Century-old Govberg Jewelers stays current through technology and attention to customer service


Danny Govberg is time-conscious. Whether it’s the high-end watches his company buys and sells or the constantly changing ecommerce environment, the president and owner of Govberg Jewelers keeps his eye on the dial. The company, first opened by Sam and Albert Govberg in 1916, recently celebrated its 100th anniversary in business with a new headquarters, new app and YouTube videos.

Jewels may sparkle at Govberg Jewelers, but watches are its heart. The retailer has two physical locations in the heart of Philadelphia’s Center City and a third in Cleveland. The new headquarters, in the Philadelphia suburb of Bala Cynwyd, features watch repair on the first floor; the second floor houses operations and the retailer’s preowned-watch department. A sales team of “traders” purchases luxury watches from private collections and estates as well as trade-ins with new purchases.

Technology moves this business, with forward-thinking ideas for selling high-end merchandise. To compete with ecommerce, Govberg decided to redefine bricks-and-mortar with his own commerce system to change what luxury retail is today.

“The No. 1 luxury today is time. We put time savings into every piece of our business model. We learn all we can about our clients’ habits and preferences when buying.”
— Danny Govberg, Govberg Jewelers

Educating customers

Govberg knows that his watch customers, of whom 90 percent are men, buy watches from $2,000 and up — Patek Phillippe, Rolex, Omega, Audemars Piguet and other top watch brands are bought and sold at Govberg Jewelers. And he knows that those customers want personal communication about the watches they buy, trade or sell.

One of Govberg’s newest ideas is an app. “Watchbox is designed to be the ultimate watch collector’s toolbox,” he says. The free app concentrates on several areas of interest in timepieces. In designing the app, Govberg Jewelers made it easy for enthusiasts to read about watches by aggregating information from the best bloggers.

Users can organize their watch collections with the app — watches can be priced with the app to determine value on the secondary market and then sell easily to Govberg Jewelers, if desired — and explore all things horological (the study, art or skill of making watches). Watchbox has drawn new customers to the retailer, Govberg says.

Blogs on the Govberg Jewelers website are brimming with information from true watch experts to meet the needs of aficionados; recent topics included “How to Read and Use a Tachymeter.” Another recent venture for the retailer was its acquisition of WatchUWant.com. Once the name is changed, the site will be Govberg Jewelers’s international platform for all preowned watches to facilitate buying, selling and trading.

Building trust

Govberg has designed what he calls “Retail 3.0,” a new way to sell luxury items to customers.

“Retail 3.0 includes four components of omnichannel solutions for luxury sales and reinventing retail,” he says. An integral part of luxury sales is “learning commerce,” consumers learning about products online.

“You can lose customers if you just depend upon the store to educate the customer,” Govberg says. Beyond its website, the jeweler uses YouTube and other social media to help customers learn.

Govberg Jewelers has a complete studio at a retail location in Philadelphia where customers can be on a show produced in-store — a fun place to be, with many events to educate and entertain. “It really creates a buzz when you have a studio in your store,” he says. “Education must be merged with entertainment.”

Learning commerce feeds into ecommerce, or “click and buy.” Govberg says standard ecommerce on its own has been a failure for high-end products such as watches priced at $4,000 or more. Luxury purchases inspire a different level of worry. Customers must have more confidence in luxury purchases than they do when buying a $150 pair of shoes.

“In luxury, we decided to coin a different level between ecommerce and bricks-and-mortar — personal commerce,” Govberg says. “This means the customer can go from education to the phone, learning commerce to a phone call, ecommerce to a phone call.” Once a customer is on the phone, it is much easier to gain his trust.
Govberg Jewelers handles phone sales differently from most retailers. There are no transfers from one salesperson or department to another.

“When a customer calls us, the person on the phone is an expert and can answer all questions,” Govberg says. “We try to eliminate any friction between the client and the store.”

The personal touch

“The No. 1 luxury today is time,” Govberg says. “We put time savings into every piece of our business model. We learn all we can about our clients’ habits and preferences when buying.”

Personal commerce leads to “personal touch,” he says, which is building the highest level of trust with customers. This includes meeting clients outside the store, on the golf course or in a restaurant.

Data mining is another facet of Govberg’s Retail 3.0 practice. “It’s easy to data mine online but not so easy at the retail level,” he says. “When clients come in the store, we’re on the phone trying to find out what other watches they own, what are their hobbies. We find just a couple of things that make it easier to communicate with them in the future.”

If Govberg Jewelers discovers that a customer owns 10 watches, the retailer might call and ask if the customer would like to sell or trade one, providing a reason to engage and get him into the store, a constant aim.

Having good sales data is the least-worrisome part of marketing to customers, Govberg says. “If you educate them and establish their trust, even if you do not get the sale that day, you may in the future.”

Govberg Jewelers has moved from paying its salespeople solely based on commission. Sales associates learn that luxury sales do not just occur on the spur of the moment in stores, they are taught about using social media and they are given their own company pages.

“People don’t always follow brands on social media,” Govberg says. “They follow people. The biggest influencers are people.”

Sales associates become influencers with professionally created shows on YouTube that generate calls from customers worldwide. Customers often call the store to speak with specific sales associates.

“Stores can be local, but you have to think global,” Govberg says. “It works both ways.”

Virginia-based D. Gail Fleenor has written hundreds of articles about retail, technology and consumer research following nearly two decades as a supermarket research manager.


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