In the current market, jewelry shoppers are increasingly gravitating toward United States-made products like Silver Forest, a handmade line out of Vermont. And with many Americans suffering drops in income, retailers interviewed for this article reported that baubles sell better at lower price points.
From coast to coast, Silver Forest is among the most popular jewelry. “It’s a lightweight earring, and everybody likes it. And they have a great loyalty program,” said Carrie Hitchcock, manager at Amy’s Hallmark, of the delicate, artisan-style drop earrings for which Silver Forest is known.
Hitchcock said the Avon, Ohio, store has increasingly sought out local vendors. A wide variety of brands, with an emphasis on American makers, is the key to selling jewelry right now, the manager affirmed. “Of course, it depends on your market and your space,” Hitchcock added. Amy’s Hallmark is a relatively small shop, but popular lines like Canvas, Scout and Pura Vida more than justify their shelf space. Like many Hallmark stores, Amy’s relies on display fixtures from its corporate headquarters.
Over two decades in the Baltimore retail scene, 2910 on the Square has increasingly moved toward inventory that is handmade in the USA, said Store Owner Stephanie Fleishman. She aims for inexpensive but distinctive and well-made pieces. “I don’t carry things you’ll find at Macy’s,” Fleishman explained. “I buy jewelry because it is my taste, and I like handmade, high quality items.” Much of the selection is sterling silver, often set with semiprecious gems like labradorite, amethyst and freshwater pearls.
2910 on the Square customers especially love jewelry and gifts with a local connection. “Anything with the flag, the shape of Maryland or Baltimore motifs like crabs is hot,” said Fleishman. That applies to both area clientele, who might buy a Baltimore-themed gift for a housewarming or a friend moving away, and for the tourists who want souvenirs.
Curiously, over the years, jewelry has shrunk from the store’s top category to an also-ran with other gift items. “I’m really not sure why,” reflected Fleishman, who locks her baubles in IKEA cases to deter shoplifting. At the 1,200-square-foot, two-story boutique, shoppers gravitate toward items priced under $50, so Fleishman tries to keep the jewelry in that sweet spot. Sometimes, that means educating customers about the slightly higher cost of handmade, American-crafted goods. “These pieces are unusual, and people understand why they cost a little more,” the retailer said.
At many boutiques, $20 is the limit for what most jewelry shoppers will pay. That’s true at Lolly’s Hallmark Shop in Greeley, Colo., where the Silver Forest, Scout and Mud Pie lines are all popular, said Owner Linda Sorensen. “We usually have our jewelry on sale, and that helps sell it,” said Sorensen. Layering necklaces have been favorites this year, she added. Birthstone jewelry and coordinating gifts, like plush and angel figurines incorporating gemstones, also do well at the 4,175-square-foot store.
Attractive displays are also key. “We use some mannequins,” Sorensen said. She groups jewelry by brand and category, using displays provided by the vendors.
At Little Green Apple, a boutique in Clawson, Mich., gemstones “come and go” in terms of popularity, said Manager Joanne Moore. Her shoppers gravitate toward jewelry and gemstones that have some kind of meaning — guardian angel figurines set with birthstones, or bracelets engraved with blessings. “Almost all of our jewelry is faith-based,” Moore explained.
And almost all of it costs $25 or less at the 3,000-square-foot store, one of 25 Little Green Apple locations around Michigan. Customers are drawn to personalized pieces, like the Mulberry Studios “freedom” bracelets and necklaces that bear the wearer’s name and retail for $10-$13. Other favorites include so-called Earth Angels bracelets. Women can personalize them with birthday charms in bronze, silver or gold tone, and they are popular gifts for mothers and grandmothers.
The much coveted Pure Vida line is displayed behind the cash wrap, “where people come up and stare at it,” Moore said. “And Silver Forest is a line that sells itself. We sell a ton of it. It’s reasonably priced, hypoallergenic, and just very pretty.”
Semi-precious stones with healing properties, like amethysts, as well as spiritually oriented lines jewelry lines like Satya and Soulku are the best-sellers at Jacque Michelle, a Boulder, Colo., boutique. “Things that kind of have intention or meaning tied to them are very popular right now,” said Store Manager Heather Radley said. “We also sell a lot of what we used to call costume jewelry” — fun pieces that accessorize an outfit. What do all the popular items have in common? “They’re mostly $20 or less,” Radley said.