Diamonds are supposed to be forever and a girl's best friend, but lately they are a tough sell. While many of my retail jewelry store customers are still looking for ways to increase their wedding and engagement ring sales, there are plenty of other opportunities for with designer lines of jewelry that could attract a new audience to your store.
The New Jewelry Designer
Since 2013 I've been networking more and more closely with my contacts at MJSA, the Jeweler's Resource Bureau, and Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City. Through these associations, I am constantly introduced to young jewelry designers that have a fresh perspective on design, and are struggling for their first placement in a retail store.
Sadly, many of these young designers don't have the experience or confidence to shop their line. Those who do have the confidence, are faced with rejection with excuses like "I have no open to buy" or "my customers won't like your product."
It breaks my heart when I talk to some designers who have tried for so many months and soon years to place just a few pieces in a retail jeweler, but they can't.
Many of these new jewelry designers don't yet really understand the industry they've entered into; they also don't understand why you wouldn't love their jewelry as much as they do.
They will eventually learn.
Great Deals with Designers
We all want to make money and get paid, but as you know, sitting on inventory you paid for is the worst. It's bad for you, and it's bad for the designer.
It's bad for you because you need the cash flow to turn our inventory over. But retail jewelers often overlook the fact that a new designer is also tying up a lot of money in that same inventory. I've even met a few that used their life savings to buy the precious metal and gemstones to manufacture that first wave of inventory.
In fact, I even know a few that had inventory stashed in their basement for more than a year while they tried to sell it.
When it comes to sales and financial management, new jewelry designers are usually taught that they should not place items in stores on memo or consignment. I agree with this, however, I also understand that it's better to get inventory out there so there's a chance it will be sold.
Designers struggling to make a mark might agree to any terms you offer them, including memo. Please don't get me wrong, I'm not saying this as an invitation for the struggling retail jeweler to take advantage of the struggling jewelry designer. Indeed, I'm suggesting a "lets-make-a-deal" scenario as a way to revitalize both of your businesses.
If you do deal with young designers, please have some compassion for their plight and inexperience. While you obviously have standard monthly overhead for running your store, some of these young designers right out of college are struggling to buy PB&J while all their money is tied up in the cost of the inventor they memo to you.
Remember, the inventory is very valuable to them, so when you do sell one of their items, please pay them early, not on time, and certainly not late.
The One of a Kind Jeweler
Now that I've covered some fine details about how you could work with new jewelry designers, let me give you some reasons what's in this for you, the retail jewelry store.
When sales of traditional jewelry, like diamond rings, are slumping, you need to find something else to sell. It's not that no one has money to spend; they just don't want to spend it on what you're trying to sell. So change things up!
Remember at the beginning of the Great Recession how so many jewelers had to change out their lines of gold jeweler for silver, and then start buying scrap gold off the street? That's what needed to be done to survive. But the survival game is not over yet.
Many new jewelry designers can't afford to use precious metals in their styles and have introduced several new materials into the market. Don't be afraid of these materials; in fact, you should be promoting them as lower cost, yet high end designer jewelry.
As a marketing strategy, a retail jeweler could dedicate several feet of showcase space as the "Designers of the Month Collection." Assuming you can find a few new designers who are willing to memo, you can rotate that inventory every 30 days.
Furthermore, if you have 4 new designers on display every week you can rotate one designer out every week. Having something new every week means you have a reason to continue to send weekly emails to your list and promote new inventory through your bog and on social media.
Eventually your store will be known as one that provides a new, unique set of jewelry every month. Maybe you won't sell anything this month, but you can advertise your store as a place that always has something new.
Take some chances with new designer lines, even if you think they won't sell. You'll never know unless you try. When you do find a good designer line, make sure to move it into a permanent location and restock the inventory regularly.
Finding New Designers
Every trade show has some designated area for new designers or first time show exhibitors. Spend some time there and talk to the designers. Don't just breeze by.
I often review Cindy's TrendTracker published on National Jeweler. You can find it here.
Cindy Edelstein also runs the Jeweler's Resource Bureau where she helps support the growth of jewelry designers. You can get in touch with JRB here for some help reaching new designers.
Lastly, you can contact me directly for introductions to a few designers I know and work with as well.
If all this seems a little farfetched, let me just remind you that if the same old products and marketing are not helping your slow recovery from the recession, then it's time to rethink what you are doing and try something new.