By Sara Hodon

Jewelry is a consistently strong seller for both apparel and gift retailers. Its broad appeal and versatility makes it a strong add-on to a larger purchase, yet it can generate impressive sales results all on its own. As card and gift retailers continue to evolve and diversify their merchandise, jewelry remains a fixture on many store shelves. When shopping for themselves or a gift for someone else, customers tend to seek out those unique pieces with a story to tell. Once again, whether timeless or trendy, a striking piece of jewelry makes the perfect gift.
Stephanie Shearer, co-owner (with her husband Chris Bacorn) of Soul Haus, a clothing, card, and gift shop in Denver, Colo., said the latest jewelry trends she is seeing are “hand-crafted and small batch. I think customers are feeling a fast-fashion fatigue of hyper-trendy and mass-produced products, so they are jumping off the ecommerce train and hitting the boutiques in search of a more unique, one-of-a-kind statement,” she explained.

A view of the sales floor at June’s Gift Boutique in Amsterdam, N.Y. Pura Vida is a hot-selling brand for the store.

Jennifer Foley, manager of Apothecary Gift Shop in Holland, Mich., said she is noticing something similar. “Right now, leather earrings are trendy in our store, for which we have a locally-made source. It’s nice to have something trendy that can be found locally. Pandora charms are still selling well. Also Dune Jewelry, which contains sand from our local beaches. Pura Vida is a popular line for us. Really, anything that is made locally or has a ‘feel good’ element to it—companies with nice stories behind them and those that give back—are what’s trending for us,” she said.

Brand names continue to be a big draw, and the jewelry category is no exception. Lauren Chatnik, lead buyer and manager at June’s Gift Boutique, a card, gift, and home décor boutique in Amsterdam, N.Y., said, “Bracelets are still our number one jewelry style, with earrings a close second. Pura Vida is one of our hottest brands now, especially with their lower price point; it hits our younger audience. Luca + Danni and T. Jazelle are two of our top meaning bracelets because of their quality and attention to detail. Ania Haie is currently rising because of its lower price point, while still being sterling silver—it’s delicate and gorgeous! Brighton continues to be a strong brand since it has such a large variety of pieces it captures a large customer base.”

And the trend of the large “statement” jewelry seems to have passed, as retailers said they are selling pieces with more delicate structure and subtle, simple styles. “I think the more simplistic looks are popular now because they’re more versatile,” Foley said. “You can get a lot of wear out of them because you can wear them with just about anything.”

Soul Haus Owners Stephanie Shearer and husband Chris Bacorn. Stephanie Shearer said consumers are looking for the types of one-of-a-kind items boutiques can offer.
Photo by From The Hip Photo.

Shearer said she is also seeing a lot of layering. “Layering several different necklaces at varying lengths allows the customer to really express their personality. I even see some of our urban-forward patrons rocking a small classic piece with a medium contemporary statement to achieve their personal look, like a simple strung stone folded under a 3D printed geometric,” she said.

Some jewelry retailers participate in loyalty programs with selected lines. Chatnik said June’s carries Pandora Jewelry for their charm program. “We chose it because of its name brand recognition and variety of charms and styles, as well as its high quality,” she explained.
Buying jewelry is both a visual and tactile experience—customers’ eyes are drawn to the pieces, and their colors, texture, and materials invite handling so the customer can see the item’s construction and subtle elements more closely. Retailers said it’s helpful to make the pieces accessible so the customers can touch and examine a piece to determine if it’s the right choice for them. Buying jewelry is also highly personal as it’s typically among the more meaningful items in a person’s wardrobe.

Foley said one of her most useful selling tips is to put the jewelry in a visible location. “You should have it where people can touch it, because then they are more likely to buy,” she said, noting people appreciate the opportunity to model an item or check their reflections in strategically placed mirrors.

Rings on a custom-made pulley display keep the merchandise safe from theft but still accessible at the Apothecary Gift Shop in Holland, Mich.

Chatnik said one of her best tips for selling jewelry is to get to know the customer. “We promote getting to know the customer and whom they’re shopping for,” she explained. “Our staff is well educated with our product lines and is able to show our customer multiple options as well as matching pieces. We are also consistent with social media and our loyalty program to capture our full customer base.”

Shearer said she and her staff encourage customers to try something new and mix and match between materials and styles, inspiring looks they may never have considered. “We try to merchandise out of the box looks, break all the rules, and show our customer how to mix and match between the trends,” she said. “Like, we might match a desert-inspired half moon, with a raw citrine on a single strand and a laser cut geometric. And don’t forget the coordinating bracelet and earrings! We are back to the days where our customers will splurge on the whole look, and end up buying all three—necklaces, the bracelet, and the earrings.”

Because buying jewelry is so personal and relies so much on visual elements, merchandising and creating interesting, eye-catching displays is critical. “You have to be able to showcase each piece, especially the smaller items,” Foley said. “We have some spinner displays, earring trees, and necklace ‘busts’ that we use in the displays. We also use multi-tiered tables. We’ll also dress some of the mannequins with the jewelry to show how different items might look together.”

Lauren Chatnik of June’s Gift Boutique with the store’s mascot Jackson. Delicately structured jewelry pieces in subtle, simple styles are selling well at the store.

Chatnik said their displays are clean, organized, and nice to look at. “Customers are able to see what we have, making it easier to sell the product,” she added. Good lighting, interesting display pieces (such as natural elements like tree branches, stones, and flat rocks) add some dimension to a display and, depending how the pieces are arranged, can showcase each item’s most unique qualities. Natural display pieces can work well with various gemstones to highlight various colors and shades in a stone.

Store Manager Ina Gasich, left, with staff member Jane Stewart, of Soul Haus in Denver, Colo. Handcrafted jewelry items sell well of the store.

Shearer said the most effective displays tell the respective stories of the items in it, from the materials used, the brand’s corporate philosophy, the artist/designer’s background, or the meaning behind each piece. “In our shop, whether the piece is $24.99 or $179.99, we merchandise it like it is the Rockefeller Sapphire. Our customers want to know about the artist, the materials and the inspiration of the piece, so a good merchandiser is able to tell that story visually,” she said. “If they love the story, they will love the line—and then each piece becomes a wearable souvenir of a great story that the wearer will treasure.” Shearer said her approach to creating displays is to “envision creating a shrine to each piece with all the supporting elements. A great display will visually express to the customer all of the benefits of the piece. Can you ‘dress it up and dress it down’ – then a truly effective display will show it both ways. I think a great display creatively conveys the feeling that a wearer will exude when they brandish the piece.”



Charms and Stackable Bracelets

Elizabeth Engle of June’s Gift Boutique in Amsterdam, N.Y., photographed with a Pardora display. Bracelets are the number one jewelry style for the store.

Any retailer will agree that trends are cyclical, but some have more staying power than others. In the jewelry category, trends such as charms and the stackable bangle, namely Alex + Ani, continue to do well in some markets, but other retailers say their customers have moved on to other brands or styles. Manager Jennifer Foley said they sell stackable looks at Apothecary Gift Shop in Holland, Mich., but not quite like the Alex + Ani brand.

Co-Owner Stephanie Shearer of Soul Haus in Denver, Colo., said many of her customers seek out some new looks rather than the lines which have become staples within the online marketplace. She said some may have “unintentionally punctured holes in their bottom line by making it about price comparison versus piece identity. Our customers are looking for lines that are more-layer and less-stack, more hand-crafted and less mass-made,” she explained.

Lauren Chatnik, lead buyer and manager at June’s Gift Boutique in Amsterdam, N.Y., said, “I think they [charms and stackables] are still in, as both reach different audiences. But what our customers are looking for are quality pieces that will be long lasting. Our customers are looking for meaningful items and because of that, they’re willing to spend a little more money on well-made products. We have customers who will mix and match a variety of lines, creating a unique stack.”