Pearls by Shari serves two attractive locations in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and Park City, Utah, as well as a full-service online presence.
Editor's Note: As statewide rules and regulations continue to change, please contact retailers for their latest store hours and delivery capabilities.
We sat down with Founder Shari Turpin to discuss how Pearls by Shari has navigated 2020’s choppy sea of change.
What does your current business environment look like? Is it different than normal for you?
We’ve had a very busy summer, so it seems fairly normal. We had an influx of people because people couldn’t travel outside the country. Our spring is pretty much our off-season, so when we really went into the lockdown, that’s our off-season anyhow. Then summer, which is a busy time for us, it’s like everybody that could drive here, did, so we carried on. By God’s grace we didn’t close a day, and we’re just very thankful. Business is good, and we’re maintaining. It’s fun to see our clients and fun to catch up and hear everybody’s stories. The only thing that we’ve done of course is make sure that our environment is as protected as possible for the well-being of our staff and customers.
There are a lot of things that are very unnerving, so I think the best thing retailers can do is provide a platform of: ‘We’re still here. We’re solid. We have great things.’ It’s almost like people pulling into a safe harbor for a moment.
What has been the biggest challenge in adapting to this “new normal” the retail world has taken on?
I think the most difficult challenge is not so much business, but relational. We’ve been here for 40 years. We have a very consistent clientele base, and then we get to meet new people from all over the country and the world in our summer months. Because I love to educate about our product, and I really love people to understand this incredible world of pearls, I end up doing a lot of education in my process of introducing our products, so the masks make it very difficult. They’re hard to breathe. It’s hard to talk, so that’s kind of the hardest thing. It just changes the atmosphere. It changes that ability to have a more comfortable relationship.
How has your business adapted to producing digital content and sales?
We began to reach out prior to summer personally to our clientele, and we spent those down months really building out Instagram and looking at different ways to safely interact with our clientele.
What has been your focus while speaking to your customers online?
Because the level of pearls that we have, it’s the top in the world, so we deal with a clientele that’s been educated through the years. What we have to offer is very unique so we went to Zoom meetings, reaching out to our clients that were not traveling, or even if they came to Jackson they were not going to come downtown. So we went to them via private Zoom meetings where we could show a very rare strand. We could show some additional pieces to the collection they already have.
We spent those down months really building out Instagram and looking at different ways to safely interact with our clientele.
Has any content stood out as particularly successful in terms of resonating with your audience? Why has that content done so well, in your opinion?
We did some video of me talking about the pearls. We put that up on Instagram, and that seemed to get a tremendous amount of response. I think people like to hear from me. I have built my business in a very relational way. The way that we provide value to customers is attention to detail. We care very much about their choices. We want them to love their choices, so it’s not really just about selling a product, it’s about having the chance to touch a person’s life, let people know that we care, let people know that they’re of value which is why I’m in the pearl business.
There are no two pearls alike, none, and there’s no two of us alike. We are each absolutely individual, and there’s not another one like us in the world. Everybody needs to know that they’re valued, that they are loved, and they’re unique. I think that resonates, and my message has been consistent for 40 years. People that have a chance to meet me in the store are going to be normally hugged and loved on, and so I think when they have a chance to hear from me [online], I think it’s heartwarming.
What are shoppers looking for right now from Western businesses? Have you noticed any buying trends?
I think shoppers in all venues look for things that make them stand out, and it goes back to value. Shopping [is] because of how it makes us feel, and I think that in the world, there’s a lot of unrest and uncertainty, and so I think that people are buying things that have meaning to them. I think that people need to hear normalcy. I trust in the Lord, and I pray for our country, but there’s a level of anxiety that’s just kind of hanging over people, because we’re not used to dealing with unknowns.
We’re not used to dealing with the word ‘no’ like, ‘no, you cannot travel,’ and so even though people are out and about, every day it changes. This whole thing is not normal. It’s a unique thing to have to deal with, and it just kind of overshadows everything. There are so many things that people had to deal with in the past seven months that are unresolved. There are a lot of things that are very unnerving, so I think the best thing retailers can do is provide a platform of: ‘We’re still here. We’re solid. We have great things.’ It’s almost like people pulling into a safe harbor for a moment.
By God’s grace we didn’t close a day, and we’re just very thankful. Business is good, and we’re maintaining.
Do you have any tips for other Western businesses looking to take their business online right now?
I think if they take [business] online, take it with a very positive upbeat messaging. Get COVID and all of that out of your lingo. That might be pushing you to [go online] but don’t keep talking about it. Just say, ‘Hey, we’re so excited. We’re going to be more accessible. We’re here for you. This is a great way for us to show you new product lines, and you can always pick up the phone. We are here,’ or something like that.
What safety precautions have you put in place for customers to shop safely?
We just keep the store very clean. We wipe everything down. We just try to be conscientious.
Do you plan on attending in-person markets or tradeshows in the next six months?
I don’t do trade shows. Typically I’m out of the country for five months, pearl sourcing, but we have no plans to do that at the moment. I’m usually here at the Jackson store. We have a store in Park City as well, and we’ll be down there some for winter, the peak season.
Is there anything else you want to add?
Like every other business, the supply chain is immensely affected, so I would just say get your Christmas orders in, do your shopping early. We have the two stores, and we have a great web presence.
This interview is part of an ongoing series that W&E is conducting with retailers. Click here to peruse more stories and interviews from the retail industry.