Chapter 8 - The Jewellery

The most important decision you will make as a jewellery retailer, and one that you will find yourself making again and again over the course of your career, is what jewellery to stock. Choosing the right jewellery is a make or break decision - one on which the success or failure of your business depends.

Most jewellery businesses fail, and this is the point at which that failure begins. Without the right stock, it doesn't matter how pretty your shop is, how well presented your stall, how well attended your parties, or how highly ranked your website is with Google. Without the right stock, you will fail. By all means, spend a lot of time perfecting your displays, researching your market and your locations, and preparing elegant business cards, but the bulk of your time and energy, especially when starting out, should be spent examining different styles of jewellery and deciding what to carry and what to pass on.

Reality Check: Don't follow the herd. If you make your stock decisions based on what you see in other jewellery shops and stalls, you'll only ever be one of a crowd, and many businesses in that crowd are not doing well. You need to stand out from the crowd. You need to be different. Look at pictures of celebrities in magazines and on the television. What styles are they wearing? Because this is where the styles that will be popular on the street tomorrow come from.

What sort of Jewellery should I invest in?

Let's assume that you are not opening a high end jewellery shop selling diamond rings and Rolex watches. Let's assume that you are planning to cater for ordinary women buying jewellery for ordinary social occasions. Women buy jewellery these days the same way they buy a new jacket or a pair of shoes. The market is huge, and is not getting any smaller, and it is this market that most start up jewellery businesses enter. So what options are open to you?

1. Costume Jewellery

Sometimes known as fashion jewellery, costume jewellery is the mainstay of most small jewellery and accessory businesses. Suitable for all occasions and spanning every conceivable price range, this jewellery should and no doubt will form the core of your business. Costume jewellery is made from non precious metals, beads, glass, and at times, plastic and other synthetic materials such as cubic zirconia (fake diamond). It includes necklaces, bracelets, rings, and earrings.

The pictures below are examples of what constitutes costume jewellery, and highlight the variety open to you as a retailer. Every one of these was a top seller in 2010/2011 for Nirvana Wholesale.

Costume Jewellery
Costume Jewellery
Costume Jewellery
Costume Jewellery
Costume Jewellery
2. Sterling Silver

While most precious metal jewellery should be avoided due to cost and the expertise required to correctly identify its calibre, this is not the case with sterling silver jewellery. Compared to gold, silver is relatively cheap. The retail prices of a silver necklace and a fashion necklace made from synthetic materials are often quite close.

Why should you stock silver jewellery?

Customers like it. It's simple, elegant, and unlike costume jewellery, rarely goes out of fashion. Silver rings set with cubic zirconia are timeless, as are plain silver bracelets. Additionally, silver jewellery is immensely popular with customers who have nickel and other allergies, as there is no danger of an allergic reaction - something that is often cause for concern with costume jewellery.

Silver Jewellery
Silver Jewellery
3. Watches

Ladies watches are now treated as just another item of jewellery. Where once women owned one or two watches, shoppers today view watches as a fashion accessory and often have as many different styled watches as they do bracelets.

Reality Check: Be careful when sourcing watches from suppliers, as poorly built watches are common. My advice is to stay well clear of low priced watches, and enter the market at the mid price level. If you're paying less than £5.00 wholesale, then chances are you are going to have a problem. Customers are quite comfortable spending £20-£30 on a new watch, so aim for this segment of the market.

When starting out, stay away from children's or men's watches. There is always a temptation to try and capture a piece of every market, but the reality is ladies watches and jewellery out performs men's and children's by a huge margin. Trying to cater to men and children will only dilute your displays.

Ladies Watch
Ladies Watch
4. Hair Accessories

Walk into any accessory shop on a high street and you will find more hair accessories than jewellery. And most of what you see on display could be charitably described as cheap and tacky. Do not attempt to compete with these shops on this level. The dumbing down of hair accessories is one of the great travesties of the jewellery business, but it is one that I believe will not last.

There is a major gap in the hair accessory market, and it is in quality items. Walk into any bridal shop and you will be faced with a different selection entirely, priced at a much higher level. This is the market segment you should be focusing on if your intent is to make money and improve your business.

The £2 pack of five hair bands is for dummies. There is no money to be made here, and attempting to do so will sap your will. Look instead at the £20-£50 retail price range, examples of which can be seen below.

Hair Accessories
Hair Accessories
5. Handbags

Many jewellery sellers also sell handbags, and there is a reason for this. Customers who buy jewellery also buy handbags, and they do so when in the same frame of mind. Should you enter the handbag market?

My advice would be yes, but not straight away. Build up your jewellery, watches and hair accessory collections first. Get this right, and then consider branching out into handbags.

6. Gold and Precious Stones

No. Stay away from gold, both the precious metal kind and the cheaper gold coloured fashion jewellery kind. When selling gold, platinum or diamond jewellery, a whole different level of expertise is required, and that is not something you can pick up on your own.

Summary

When starting out, you should not be putting your fingers into too many different pies. Keep it simple, get each step right first, and then move on to the next. Start with a strong selection of costume jewellery, preferably lines that nobody around you is selling, and add some tasteful sterling silver rings, bracelets and necklaces. This is the core of your business, and you should compliment it with only a small selection of quality watches and hair accessories.

And then you should stop and take a breath. Build up these four areas until you are confident that your stock is right, and that your suppliers are up to scratch, and only then consider branching out further.