By Sara Hodon
Among gift retailers’ various categories of merchandise, jewelry remains one of the most consistent best-sellers due to its versatility, broad appeal to various customer bases, and wide-ranging price points. In other words, there really is something for everyone when it comes to jewelry. As an additional reward that goes far beyond monetary gain, many niche gift retailers interviewed for this article said a simple necklace or bracelet can start a conversation with customers that can lead to a better understanding of different cultures and traditions.
Neville Gardner, owner of Donegal Square and McCarthy’s Red Stag Pub in Bethlehem, Pa., said because he has a strong understanding of his brand (Celtic gifts and clothing) and knows exactly where he fits in his niche, customers know they can always find something different when they walk into his retail operation. Customers browse because they are looking for unique products that celebrate their Celtic heritage or are simply not something you find at other stores; they buy when they find them.
“All of our jewelry has a Celtic theme, whether Celtic knots, Claddaghs, shamrocks …it’s directly related to the British Isles,” he explained. “My biggest tip to sell more jewelry is to know your market and where you fit. Also, have the right price points.” Donegal Square occupies 3,300 square feet.
Ann-Sheryl, assistant manager of Judaica Gallery in Highland Park, N.J., said that, much like Donegal Square, they have a niche, and many of their customers come into the shop looking for pieces that speak to their heritage or meaningful traditions. Others come in simply to browse, because, as Ann-Sheryl explained explained, “We’re a storefront with windows.” She added, “We don’t carry a ton of jewelry, but what we do carry is pretty basic. People who come into our shop looking for jewelry are looking for a specific type of jewelry. Like most stand-alone shops, I think what sets us apart is we provide that personal touch. We let customers try pieces on, hold it in their hands, and we try to get a better understanding of what the customer is looking for. It’s really about building personal relationships with our customers and sharing traditions, whether it’s someone who shares that same tradition, or sharing your own tradition with someone else,” she explained. “The bottom line is, in a small shop, providing a personal touch, building a reputation in the community of knowing your products and providing a service to your community makes an important impact on sales.”
Branding is equally important for retailers with a broader niche. Inger Olsen, owner of Token 249 in Easton, Pa., said, “Token specializes in well priced, quality fashion jewelry. Most, if not all, is under $40. No matter the price, it has to fit our vibe—a little edgy, a little cute, interesting.”
Retailers who carry jewelry with a more mainstream appeal still seek out pieces that are especially significant to buyers, whether it’s a hobby, milestone, or personal role (such as mother, aunt, or daughter). “Bracelets are one of our better sellers,” said Wayne Baker, manager of Kendall’s Hallmark Shop in Washington, N.C. “Our two biggest selling lines are Periwinkle and Ronaldo. Ronaldo is a finer line with lots of handcrafted pieces. There is a lot of meaning in the pieces—each artist puts a meaning or purpose behind each one. For example, some are related to breast cancer, autism, Wounded Warrior …There are a lot of things you can touch on that speak to different people. There’s really something for everyone,” he noted. “My best tip for selling jewelry is to cover some of the major points—the quality of the products and the price points.”
Olsen said some of their best-selling lines include POP Studio Shop, A Tea Leaf, Monstera and Mama’s Little Babies. New to the store is the affordable Oreb Lram line. Token occupies 900 square feet.
Staying current with trends is important for any business owner, but gift retailers who sell jewelry say there’s still a large customer demographic that prefers the tried-and-true pieces.
Again, Gardner said, it goes back to knowing the market and your store’s place in it. “We tend to sell the classic items. If you always sell classic items, they will do well. I don’t know if this would be a trend, but it seems like people are looking for better quality items.” Sheryl said they tend to stick with the classic pieces as well. “People who come into our store looking to buy jewelry are usually looking for something specific,” she said. Baker said he’s surprised by how many customers still buy clip earrings. “We have a lot of older customers who come in, and they just never got their ears pierced when they were little, and they do look for good quality clip earrings,” he said. Although maybe an unusual merchandise choice for some retailers, he added, “We are about variety and selling some different things.” Olsen said she’s seeing interest in “dainty, simple, sparkly pieces right now. A lot of silver. Acrylic tortoise and tortoise with color.”
Retailers choose the pieces they sell in various ways—vendor recommendations, customer requests, and a bit of gut instinct. “I travel to multiple gift shows every year—New York, Atlanta, Philadelphia—and I also source jewelry through Etsy, Faire, and seeking out things I find on social media,” Olsen said.
Ann-Sheryl said ‘community’ is a vital piece of their store’s mission and that extends to their inventory. “We do try to work with local craftspeople. As a store we’re community-oriented; we’re both supportive of local craftspeople and the merchandise they sell. We want to sell their pieces.” She added being able to tell a customer about the artist and/or story behind a piece helps to encourage sales. “When I say to a customer that I have met the artist, for example, that enhances the feeling that they are buying something special and meaningful,” she noted. Gardner said storytelling goes hand-in-hand with merchandising.
“You can have the greatest item in the world, but …you must show products in the best light,” Gardner said. “You have to tell its story—why is it in existence? Put the energy into the item that you want to get out of it.” Top-notch customer service, strong storytelling, and interesting merchandising are the single biggest drivers when it comes to sales.
“If you don’t have the items displayed well to catch the customer’s eye, the customer won’t stop and look at it. You want to draw customers’ attention. Put them where they can be seen, and make the displays well-lit,” Baker said.
Ann-Sheryl said the old saying “less is more” definitely applies when it comes to merchandising. “Don’t overcrowd. People coming into a small shop don’t want dozens of choices. Have a few things out—don’t put out your entire inventory,” she cautioned. Olsen prefers the grouping method when it comes to merchandising. “I think presenting pieces together, making a statement with smaller pieces, always works,” she said. “More importantly, I think customers like being able to touch the jewelry and hold it in their hands. When it’s behind glass, people automatically assume things are expensive. There’s a fine line between making something look important and making it look too precious and inaccessible.”