Nine Ways to Escalate Jewelry Sales at Museum Shops

Jewelry is a popular-selling item at many museum shops for a host a reasons. For Susan Ponciroli, retail operations manager/buyer/product development at the Missouri History Museum in Saint Louis, Mo., “Earrings are top sellers because they fit everyone, guests view them as a souvenir of their visit and we carry a wide variety for every budget.” 

Richard Crisman, gift shop manager, Delta Blues Museum, Clarksdale, Miss., said best-selling jewelry items are modeled after instruments and music notes. “They seem to have struck a deep chord in our audience because almost everyone either plays an instrument or has someone close to them who does, or they’re deeply connected to music in some way,” he said. “This theme ties in perfectly with our mission to preserve, protect and perpetuate blues music.”

Senior Sales Associate April Shaw of the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, Miss., assisting a customer. Jewelry best-sellers for the store are modeled after instruments and musical notes.

AT Storrs Wild Pearle jewelry is a super seller for Ann Bronson, associate store manager, Columbia River Maritime Museum, Astoria, Ore. “This line is affordable to most visitors, including most teens; it’s beautiful and comes in its own clamshell gift box,” she said. “We often sell multiple pieces to a single visitor; most likely they are buying them as gifts.” 

For Lisa Perkovich, jewelry buyer, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., top-selling jewelry items include a beautifully packaged set of glass pearl earrings inspired by Johannes Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring” (1665) and a square Murano glass pendant offered in an array of colorways inspired by its Renaissance collection. “These items are small and easy to travel with, are reasonably priced and make great souvenirs,” she said.

Here are nine ways to increase jewelry sales.

1. Use Display Strategies

How you display jewelry makes the difference between a glance and a sale; you have 10 seconds to capture a guest’s eye, said Ponciroli, who offered the following tips. “Keep balance, proportion and scale in mind; highlight your best-sellers at eye level; create visual interest by using props and interesting angles; use proper lighting that shows off displays in the best possible way; and include provenance cards,” she said.

Ponciroli also advised merchandising beyond jewelry counters. “Investigate ways to add jewelry to collections on your sales floor,” she said. For example, for exhibit-themed tables in the shop include a jewelry feature that goes well with a book or gift item. 

Another way to boost jewelry sales is to strategically place mirrors on jewelry counters. “A jewelry collection may look amazing in the display case, but customers need to try it on and admire how wonderful a pair of earrings looks on them,” Ponciroli said. 

For Crisman, signage, placement and presentation are key. “An informative sign can be inexpensive and can go a long way in increasing sales,” he said. “It’s important to list the materials used in jewelry due to skin allergies.”

He also recommended placing at least one jewelry display near the register to encourage more sales during the final moments before checkout. “List any additional options that are available such as gift boxes and chain lengths,” Crisman said. 

Good lighting is one of the most important things to consider when displaying jewelry, Bronson said. Lighting will make metals shine, colors glow and catch customers’ eyes. 

Furthermore, don’t overcrowd jewelry cases. “This becomes especially important with higher-end pieces,” Bronson said. “They are special pieces, and you want them to standout.” The 1,800-square-foot shop generates $575,000 annually.

Perkovich said using appropriate fixtures with jewelry is key. “A fixture that’s too big or too small will take away from the jewelry,” she said. “Using the appropriate-sized neck to display a necklace with a complementing bracelet and earrings next to it works best.”

Lisa Perkovich, jewelry buyer, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Top-selling items at the attraction include pearl earrings and a Murano glass pendant, both of which were inspired by works in the museum’s collection.

2. Provide Good Service

Selling jewelry is directly dependent on how a sales team interacts with guests. “The goal is to start a conversation that will lead to placing a piece of jewelry into someone’s hands,” Ponciroli said. “Encourage staff to tell the story behind the jewelry.” For example, a piece might connect with an exhibit, be made locally or it could represent the latest fashion trend. “After holding a piece, guests are more likely to try it on, make a connection with it and make a purchase.”  

Crisman said that a friendly smile and your undivided attention can do wonders for sales. “Jewelry is a very personal item,” he said. “Therefore, it’s important to provide a personalized shopping experience for each customer. Treat them as if you’re out shopping with them rather than just being someone shopping in a store you work in. People create deep emotional attachments to jewelry; even the experience leading up to the purchase can play a significant role.”

3. Know Your Jewelry

Be aware of which materials are used in jewelry pieces. “This can be more difficult for fashion and costume jewelry,” Bronson said. “It you don’t know, be honest about that.”

For jewelry made by an artist, know something about the person—where they’re from, what materials they use, what techniques they use and so forth, Bronson said.

Susan Ponciroli, retail operations manager/buyer/product development at the Missouri History Museum in Saint Louis, Mo. Ponciroli said earrings are top sellers for the museum.

4. Wear What You Sell

Bronson’s staff buy jewelry for themselves, and wear it while working. “There’s no better testament to the quality and desirability of a jewelry piece when your staff can’t resist buying it,” Bronson said. As an added bonus, you have a built-in enthusiastic salesperson who believes in that particular line.

5. Offer Various Price Points 

Museum visitors represent many different income levels. “By offering $5 to $500 pieces, everyone can find a special treasure,” Ponciroli said. 

Along these lines, Perkovich said it’s important to have something for everyone. Her jewelry pieces range from a $10 lapel pin which tourists often buy to $1,000 one-of-a-kind amber necklaces that attract repeat customers. 

6. Polish Silver

Have polishing cloths (like the Sunshine brand) available for staff. “They are quick and easy to use, and really perk up tarnished silver,” Bronson said.

7. Know Your Demographic

Understand who your customers are and listen to them. “Take a chance and use this opportunity to offer a jewelry collection that is outside your comfort zone,” said Ponciroli, who noted that the museum welcomes between 400,000 and 600,000 visitors annually. Special exhibits and events are key drivers of attendance.

Kenyon Smith, a staff member at the Delta Blues Museum, restocks a jewelry display. The store uses signage, placement and presentation to increase merchandise sales.

8. Use Social Media

Take advantage of marketing opportunities. “Encourage local jewelry artists to use their social media platforms to promote that their items are available in your store,” said Ponciroli, whose shop boasts 2,500 square feet. 

9. Provide Appealing Packaging

Complete the sale right by packing purchases in quality boxes, and using tissue paper and a branded sticker, Ponciroli said. Include artist information, the story behind the piece and care instructions so that the buyer will enjoy their purchase for many years to come. 

Exhibit-Inspired Jewelry:
Most Unique Pieces

Exhibit-related jewelry has a story to tell guests. Ann Bronson, associate store manager, Columbia River Maritime Museum, Astoria, Ore., said the honor of the most uniquely inspired jewelry by an exhibition goes to Criffin Designs. These artesian quality pieces are made from material salvaged from vintage aircraft. 

“The pieces dovetailed nicely with our World War II themed summer pop-up store, since the various jewelry pieces bore names inspired by the war’s nose cone art,” she said. “The pieces are striking and modern; even large pieces are lightweight and easy to wear.”

The Missouri History Museum’s Watershed Cairns exhibit drew attention to places in the state where land is collecting water, cleaning and conducting it to streams and ultimately sending it to major lifeline rivers. “I discovered a local artist who was repurposing glass she collected from Missouri rivers into works of art,” said Susan Ponciroli, retail operations manager/buyer/product development at the Saint Louis, Mo., museum. “We collaborated on creating a jewelry line specifically for my shop. The older shards had a great patina which was beautifully set into sterling silver earrings and necklaces. This intriguing jewelry was immensely popular with guests because it directly tied into our exhibit and was a wonderful memento. The jewelry also presented a way to open a conversation about how to clean rivers and use debris in a new way.”

Lisa Perkovich, jewelry buyer, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., said her most unique purchase for an exhibition is a selection of one-of-a-kind pieces from designer Amy Kahn Russel. The pieces feature animals in relation to its current exhibition, “The Life of Animals in Japanese Art.” One pendant, which can also be worn as a pin, includes a crab carved out of opal with quartz accents and a sterling silver setting. Another piece features carved jade with an antique Japanese sword component called Menuki, also set in sterling silver. 

“These pieces have been successful because they are so closely related to the exhibition,” Perkovich said. “Having a shop for special exhibitions is a great opportunity to feature items that you normally wouldn’t carry, which may help when planning future purchases.” 

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