Local retailers are hoping new products will entice shoppers

Even in an industry as old as jewelry making, new ideas can still make a big difference during the holiday shopping season.

Case in point, the Dancing Diamond, a piece of jewelry from what’s called the Heartbeat collection, one of the new items being sold at Castiglione Jewelers in Gloversville.

“It’s really ingenious that none ever really thought of the way they have this diamond set in there before,” Castiglione President Andy Castiglione said.

Castiglione explained that in the past, necklaces similar to the Dancing Diamond would have been made using a laser to drill a hole in the diamond, through which a platinum wire would be strung.

“However, the diamond is harder and sharper than the platinum, so when they wiggled the diamond would cut through the platinum wire, and people would have problems with that,” he said. “Whereas with [the Dancing Diamond] the diamond is within a setting itself and has four prongs holding it in and then has a wire going across, kind of like a rivet wire, and it pivots on that wire. The diamond is suspended in the pendant and it looks like it’s floating there and it will actually wiggle back and forth, so that whenever the girl who’s wearing it moves it will move with her, which makes it sparkle and shine from every angle.”?

Castiglione said so far this year, his business has been up over last year, but not in November, which he said has been slow. He’s hoping products like the Dancing Diamond will turn things around for the holiday shopping season.

For Amy Karas, owner of Johnstown furniture store Ruby & Quiri, it isn’t a new product so much as a new business within her business that’s she’s hoping will draw in new customers this season. Karas said she’s carved out a 12 by 24 square foot space within her furniture store for a new clothing and crafts store called “Peg’s Boutique at Ruby & Quiri.” Karas said her mother Peg operated a women’s boutique out of their home in Glen for years, which inspired her to create this new venture. She said she’s hoping it will bring in more female customers to the furniture store.

“We’ve tried to include hard to find items in this area to help keep people shopping local,” she said. “We have leather hand bags. We have five or six local artist’s work, from sculptures to paintings on canvas to jewelry. We have flatware and hand-blown wine glasses. We have one woman who paints on glasses. We have scarves and sweaters. It brings women into the store. It’s a fun little boutique.”

Ted Potrikus, the vice president of the New York state Retail Council, said many retailers are in a similar position this season, seeing delayed shopping because of the late Thanksgiving and bracing for the possibility of bad weather.

“I think, nationally, most of the analysts are pegging this season for a 2 to 3 percent annual increase over last year, and I don’t see why it should be any different here. So, I would say modest increase, if the weather cooperates,”?he said.

Potrikus said bad weather always has the potential to drive customers indoors, where they will shop online.

“It used to be shopping would migrate to the catalogs, but now you can get next day shopping right up to the very end, it’s a little bit harder for bricks-and-mortar retailers to get back those bad weather days,” he said. “People are also so busy this time of year they can’t get out to go shopping until 11 p.m., which is why the stores stay open later, but by that time people are in their pajamas and shopping at their computers.”

Patty Locatelli, the manager of local bookstore Mysteries on Main Street in Johnstown, said her business has switched to holiday shopping hours and has online shopping options at its website Locatelli said Mysteries on Main Street also sells e-books, books that exist only in digital form, through a system called kobo. Kobo is an e-reader system aimed at providing small independent book stores the same e-book capabilities as the big box book sellers, as well as online giant

But Locatelli said the vast majority of Mysteries on Main Street’s customers want physical paper books, particulary books by local authors like Don Williams and Bob Cudmore.

“We try to keep all of the local history stuff in around this time of year, which is a challenge because those among the hottest sellers here because we’re one of the few places that sell things like that.”?

Potrikus said earlier this year the Retail Council started a “soft launch” for a website called “”, aimed at helping independent retailers use technology to compete with the large chain stores.

“It’s an ambitious task on our part and we’re committed to providing this as a place where people can find local retailers. The website’s operative now, but we’re looking forward to expanding it during 2014,” he said.