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Mark Loren Designs: Experiential Retail For a Cause

Learn how this custom jewelry store provides a one-of-a-kind experience while giving back to great causes.

Personalized experiences. Eye-catching designs. Pieces that tell a story. Today’s fine jewelry customer is looking for something that feels unique to them. They want something they’ll want to wear over again for years to come. 


I’ve felt for a very long time that standing out in the retail market will depend on a business’ ability to create a memorable experience for their customers — one they will talk about with others and want to have again. Experiential retail is all about making each and every customer attach all those special parts of the buying experience to the actual purchase. For example, think about meeting a character at Disney World, building a stuffed animal at Build-A-Bear, or singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch at a baseball game. All these pieces of the experience factor into the value of the purchase and stay in your mind. 


Click here to read Experiential Retail: Tips to Making a Memorable Sale. 


Over the years, custom jewelry designers with Mark Loren Designs discovered that this is exactly what was needed as they used their jewelry to raise money for noble causes. By offering a personalized Jeweler for a Day experience in charity auctions, Mark Loren Designs has been able to increase the amount of money they have raised for charity, provide donors with a once-in-a-lifetime activity, and create new customers for the future. 


Let’s take a look at their story as a custom jewelry design store, how they have given back to their community over the years, and the lessons they have learned along the way. 

A Personal Touch

Originally from Chicago, Mark Loren began his career in the jewelry industry after attending Gem City College, where he learned about jewelry design, watchmaking, and repair. In 1982, Mark relocated to Fort Myers, Florida, where he opened a trade shop that would soon become a custom jewelry design retail store. 


Mark Loren Designs has gained international attention in their nearly 40 years in business as well as a host of awards, including being named one of America’s Coolest Stores by INSTORE Magazine. Other than custom jewelry that Mark or one of his team of talented bench jewelers work on, they offer a full range of services, such as appraisals, consignment, repair, and more. 


The team at Mark Loren Designs take their time with every customer to provide them exactly what they need. Creating these relationships and educating their customers along the way is how they have invested in the customer experience over the years. This set a foundation to their unique brand of community involvement. 

mark loren designs

Charitable Giving With a Unique Sparkle

Since 1982, Mark has made Fort Myers his home and he has worked hard to give back to his community. Like many jewelry stores, Mark has specially designed pieces for years that appear in charity auctions that raise money for the causes he believes in — namely organizations that dedicate themselves to children, families, and community building. 


Cameron Pelle, vice president of Mark Loren Designs, sat down with me to discuss their approach to giving back. 


“We noticed experienced-based packages at charity auctions were drawing larger donations for the charity,” he said. “So we decided to do the same with Jeweler for a Day.” 


Their Jeweler for a Day auction package includes a $2,500 gift certificate to the store, an initial consultation on their ideal custom piece, and a customized hands-on experience. The experience is all up to the customer and they can be as involved as they want in the process. For example, they can melt gold, roll metal, assist in welding, make cuts, and more under the supervision of a bench jeweler that helps educate them on the process of making custom jewelry. 


Participants have created a range of pieces. Some choose to bring in heirloom pieces for a redesign, such as a customer that wanted to convert her diamond line bracelet into a cuff. She was able to help shape the bracelet with her Jeweler for a Day experience and put a piece of herself into this new style. Other customers start by looking at their vast collection of loose diamonds and gemstones and use that as inspiration for an entirely original piece. 


“The Jeweler for a Day experience shows participants the value of the piece and the work that goes into it. It also gives them a sense of pride having worked on it themselves,” says Mr. Pelle. 

Major Takeaways and Lessons Learned

Along with increased donations to the charities they support, Mark Loren Designs has seen a couple of other results of their Jeweler for a Day experiences. 


First, they noticed that many participants want to spend more than the gift certificate, so they end up making some of their money back. Secondly, they noticed participants have become repeat customers and often return to their store because of the relationship that was formed. 


As a business, their biggest takeaway was that education-based experiences and events should be invested in. Not every interaction needs to be sales-based. By providing educational experiences, they’ve become a resource in their community and people feel comfortable going to them because they trust their knowledge. 


With that in mind, they began incorporating other educational events into their calendar. One of these events involves going to nursing homes and servicing watches for the residents. They are not only able to visit with residents and connect with their community, but they are able to provide education on care and maintenance for jewelry to others. 


“We are here not just to sell jewelry, but to educate our community,” says Mr. Pelle. “We don’t just want their money; we want them to feel good about making a purchase.” 


This is a valuable lesson to all who work in the jewelry industry. In the end, we serve our communities by helping them better understand and care for their greatest treasures. By creating a retail experience that brings the customer into the process, we can expand general knowledge and increase the overall value of our industry. 


Taylor Dizor

Staff Writer

Taylor holds degrees in Political Science and Communication from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette as well as multiple certifications from GIA. His years in the wedding industry and love of fashion trends helps him write content for the on-trend and creative jeweler.