Founded around old oil wealth, the 100-year old Miss Jackson’s uses its charms to strike it rich with new generations.
Miss Nelle Sheilds Jackson might be long gone but her legacy is alive and well-dressed. Back in 1910, three years after the Glenpool Oil Strike, the Pittsburgh native came to Tulsa to strike it rich—in luxury fashion retailing. Nelle Jackson retired in the 1950s and the store was sold a few times over, but the local community continued its love affair with the retailer. A century later, the luxurious Miss Jackson’s has become a Tulsa icon, catering to women who patronized the store with their mothers and now shop with their own daughters, if not their granddaughters.
To celebrate its 100th year, Miss Jackson’s has been hosting a string of elegant events to thank its loyal customers and open its arms to future generations. Accessories spoke with Judy White, Miss Jackson’s general manager, about the 100th anniversary festivities and how the store is working to balance targeting both well-heeled “ladies who lunch” with younger, more contemporary shoppers.
People must love that there actually was a Miss Jackson.
She started with just a lingerie shop, featuring European designs. There was a lot of oil money back then and she was a successful milliner and corsetiere. In 1918, she started traveling to Europe sourcing items for specific customers. Miss Jackson’s had a strong personal shopper focus and still does. Personalized service remains one of our hallmarks.
Even now that you’re owned by a big corporation?
Helmerich & Payne, a major drilling corporation and the owner of Utica Square, Miss Jackson’s current location, purchased the store in 2001. But while we’re part of a big corporation and have shareholders to answer to, we haven’t sacrified our original standards—to provide ultimate service.
Who is the Miss Jackson’s customer today?
We started with all that old oil money, but Miss Jackson’s has reinvented itself. We still have the ladies who lunch but now we have professionals too. We carry contemporary brands like Juicy Couture to cater to the younger customer.
What have been the highlights of the 100th anniversary?
We started in April with our anniversary gala. Then we had a series of trunk shows, featuring more contemporary designers like Claudia Lobao and Rebecca Minkoff. In fact, we have a heightened trunk show schedule for the rest of the year. This summer we have a 100 Noteworthy Years event, which is a music-inspired Fall Opening event, featuring various trunk shows for handbag lines Badgley Mischka, Inge Christopher, Whiting & Davis and Eric Javits.
Is your customer always on the hunt for new designers?
Of course we have a certain clientele who likes what she likes, but we also pride ourselves on being a trendsetter in the community. Our trunk shows really help us introduce new designers to the store.
Would you consider opening another Miss Jackson’s elsewhere? Or is its hometown roots the key to its success?
The people in Tulsa don’t want the store to leave Tulsa. They support the store. It’s what got Miss Jackson’s through The Great Depression in the 1930s. Tulsans have learned they can trust Miss Jackson’s to take care of them, look after them, even shop for them.
What makes the store so special?
Our buyers are “selling buyers”—they spend a lot of time on the selling floor. They have strong relationships with our customers, are are in touch with the community and know what social events are coming up. Customers aren’t afraid to have us bring things in for them.
Not too long ago a customer had a special request: her son was getting married and she asked us to look for a special dress for her. We kept her in mind while we were in market and we brought in the perfect dress for her. Since we are just one store we can do that.
Whenever new pieces come in, we always say, “so and so would love that!” We’ll call them up and if they can’t come in, sometimes we’ll even send it to them to look at it.”
What percent are accessories (excluding shoes) to store total?
In dollars, about 32% of our inventory is fine jewelry, fashion jewelry, handbags and fashion accessories. Our fine jewelry is part of the store, not a leased department. None of the accessories are private label—it’s all branded.
What type of brands does Miss Jackson’s carry?
To name just a few, in jewelry we have Konstantino, Me & Ro, Miguel Ases, Stephen Dweck, Citrine by the Stones, Gerard Yosca, Judith Jack, Sibilia, Tarina Tarantino; in watches, Alfex, Philip Stein, Toywatch; in handbags: Kate Spade, Lockheart, Lodis, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Rebecca Minkoff, Franchi; other accessories: Echo, Safilo, Colette Malouf, Eric Javits. Not including fine, jewelry prices can go from $40 to $2,000. Handbags start at $100 for small coin purses and reach to $2,000, with the highest-end brand of Burberry or Valentino.
What’s selling for spring and trending for fall?
Cross-body handbags in purple, orange, yellow, and this silhouette will definitely continue for fall. In handbags, python and hair calf are strong and we are excited about that teal peacock color for fall. We have some military on the floor now—some great looks with chains. For fall, lots of jewelry layering and tons of burnished brass. We also have some infinity scarves.
I understand gift wrap is very important at the store.
Yes, not just a box with a bow but really beautiful wrapping. We offer free gift wrapping for everything, whether it’s $16 or $10,000. These little touches make all the difference.
How important are community and social events?
We’re very involved with fashion shows, both in the store and outside. We just had a big one for the Salvation Army and we always donate something from the store for the event as well. We also have committed events in the store, like the fashion show for the Tulsa Opera Guild. They raised money for membership and we got new customers into the store. We’re also hosting an evening Go Red kickoff event for the American Heart Association.
Are you a Tulsa native yourself?
Actually, I’m from Brazil! I met my husband—who is from California—in the Brazilian Amazon and we ended up here! It’s a crazy story.