What happens when sisters-in-law Leora Tapper and Marla Tapper Young meld their college degrees — art history, graphic design, graduate gemology, and an MBA — into a retail business? Against a backdrop of selling diamond necklaces and gold rings, two years ago the duo opened Marlee’s by Tapper’s, a fashion jewelry store in the center of Twelve Oaks Mall in Novi. Located on the second level, the 1,500-square-foot store is actually five outlets in one, with different areas featuring color, sparkle, and precious items (many priced below $100).
The store has offered its owners a lesson in smoothing out the peaks and valleys of a typical jewelry purveyor. “Holiday shopping is a key part of our sales, whether it’s Christmas, Mother’s Day, or Valentine’s Day,” says Tapper, chief stylist of the store. “The goal is to operate a steady, year-round business instead of being driven by the ebb and flow of the holidays.”
To even out sales, the pair has tapped into a number of standard and new retail concepts such as pop-up stores, where jewelry cases are set up temporarily at an elegant charity event or a country club. They also create unique events to draw shoppers to the store, hold trunk shows, or invite well-known designers to make personal appearances.
“Straightforward marketing programs and social media are key aspects of our business,” Tapper Young says. “We follow up with phone calls, e-mails, and texts, and try to be a key part of our clientele’s lives. We remind them about their milestone events and offer gift ideas.
“We also have a points system and mail gift cards to encourage people to come back to the store, and we became experts in stylizing people. A client can come in with a dress and we can help put together a complete look, from head to toe. Relationships are so important. We’re one of the few fashion jewelers who has a deep knowledge of fine jewelry.”
Tapper Young is the daughter of Howard and Susan Tapper, who founded Tapper’s Diamonds and Fine Jewelry in Southfield in 1977. The store was eventually moved to West Bloomfield, and new locations were added at the Somerset Collection in Troy and Twelve Oaks Mall.
“As we opened Marlee’s, we started off attending fine jewelry shows, because that’s where we thought we should be, but we quickly switched to fashion jewelry shows to get the right merchandise mix,” Tapper says.
To test the waters, the pair set up a small area for Marlee’s merchandise inside the Tapper’s stores in West Bloomfield and Troy. “It’s a family business, at the end of the day, and we decide on all of the key business decisions as a family,” Tapper Young says. “Once we’re comfortable with the business model (of Marlee’s), we’ll look to expand it to other locations.” db