McAllen, TX—It’s all about the customers. While that is a common saying among better jewelers, Carlos Melguizo and Saul Sanchez, co-owners of Carats * Jewels * Living * Gifts, have implemented some fairly rigorous inventory changes to keep Carats customers interested and returning—often.
“So many things were changing,” said Melguizo, recalling the market conditions of 2012-13. “Prices were changing and we had been focusing on the high end. We wanted to continue offering some everyday items as well. We added niche perfumes, high-end crystal, fancy candles and $30 – $40 perfect gift ideas. We do a fancy giftwrap on all these, wrapped to the max, in the same style as our high-end items. People know when they get the box/bag, that they are getting the Carats brand. Whatever they pick will be a unique gift.”
And is that new merchandise segment growing? “Tremendously,” says Melguizo. “We think of it like a lifestyle. Women come in weekly, have champagne, smell our perfumes and candles and then buy earrings to go with them.” The ‘lifestyle’ items they are now offering is less intimidating to Carats customers creating more visits and purchases along with their usual buying. “We have a great clientele, very loyal; they keep us busy,” he laughs.
Of course, Carats isn’t a successful store only due to its inventory. Melguizo offers Carats customers plenty of events and big fundraisers, such as an annual one for Easter Seals. He also serves on the board of the International Museum of Art and Science of McAllen as well as the Easter Seals board.
“People recognize that we are involved in our local community,” says Melguizo. “They notice and often comment, especially around Christmas when new people come in and say ‘thank you.’ Those are the things we love to hear.”
Carats’ selling space is approximately 3,500 square feet with additional office space. Within Carats is a Roberto Coin boutique. Eight people generally work full time; of those, six are sales associates. Carats offers custom work: there are two jewelers and CAD capabilities on staff. Carats carries 25+ brands for jewelry and watches as well as 18+ in its ‘living’ and ‘gift’ brands.
Carats’ interior showing the gift department.
Marketing outreach. “We do a little of everything,” says Melguizo. “We are super aggressive on social media and do a tremendous business just by postings on Facebook and Instagram.” Sanchez handles the social media for Carats, along with inventory control and other departments.
“We are partners in life as well as the store,” says Sanchez of Melguizo. They have been together for 17 years. Sanchez has a different background than one generally finds in a jewelry store: is an industrial engineer by training and previously worked for a manufacturing company.
Partners Saul Sanchez and Carlos Melguizo
Melguizo started his work life at a high-end department store after college. In a short period of time, he became the number-one sales associate in the jewelry department. When that store closed in 1996, Melguizo decided to open Carats, a move that eventually included Sanchez.
“At some point, Carlos needed help with inventory control,” says Sanchez. “I came to help out for three months.” And when did the three months start? “Well, that was in 2007,” says Sanchez, who clearly has found a new use for his talents. The two work together with their staff to keep Carats a destination for locals. While Sanchez handles inventory and media, Melguizo, who has always been passionate about jewelry, is the creative part. “He does the buying and knows what’s trending, what color is coming in and who are the new designers,” says Sanchez.
“He’s very successful at finding new designers before they are well known. We’ll often see someone we carry in major stores the next year,” continues Sanchez.
“I curate each collection,” says Melguizo of his own ‘cherry picking.’ “Customers trust our taste. We’re picky about our selections and what comes in the store.”
Carats’ customer base is broad. “We appeal to everyone since we started bringing in the lifestyle inventory, perfumes and candles, and the unique gifts,” says Melguizo. “Our female self-purchaser market is growing tremendously. We have a good portion who come in just to see what’s new because something always is.” One new item is toffee, one of Oprah Winfrey’s favorite items.
Sanchez agrees about their inventory. “We have high-end jewels at half a million dollars and new one-of-a-kind jewels from Roberto Coin and high-end pearls from Mikimoto. Our collections from Daum Crystal are wonderful. Two months ago we received a big vase from Dubai to McAllen for one of our customers who needed it.”
Sanchez characterizes the store selection as “From the $50 gift to the ‘I’m sorry gift.’ The store fulfills that need and everything in between.”
And while Carats sells plenty of lifestyle items, they are strongly committed to their jewelry designers such as Roberto Coin. “We’re the only independent store worldwide that he has visited more than twice. We’ve had him for three personal appearances. Whenever he comes, we do special events for him.” Those special events do amazingly well. Because of this, other designers have been motivated to do special appearances as well. This year Marco Bicego will visit Carats for the first time.
Personally and professionally, Melguizo and Sanchez make Carats work. “Even though we live and work together, it’s not hard,” they say. “We get along well and at the end of the day, we make it work. We want to continue our goal to bring the best of the best to the Rio Grande Valley.”
It’s just that simple.
By Caroline Stanley of the Centurion