Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A 15 Point Guide for the Independent Jewellery Art

by Damien Zielinski

Materials and Accounting

1. Keep your overhead low. You don't need a studio and can't afford to pay for one when you're just starting out your jewellery business. If your apartment has a spare room, or even a big dining room table, it should be enough to get you started.

2. Buy jewellery supplies from local wholesalers. Do not travel further than a bus token's distance for jewellery components. Time and cost are both important to consider.

3. Keep your jewellery inventory as low as possible. Jewellery stock is expensive; do not order too many jewellery components at first. Buy very low volumes while you test the market power of your jewellery designs. When you become more confident about demand for your accessories, order more, but remember to always keep as little inventory as you can. Try not to ever order more than you're sure you can sell.

4. Buy parts from a jewellery wholesaler who offers low minimums, and start with the lowest. If you buy quantities any smaller, you will have to get middle-manned by stores or jewellery businesses that cater to hobbyists. If you go bigger, you risk unsold stock, and may not break even with sales.


5. Find out what retail stores are looking for, what they sell a lot of, and who's buying it. It is very important that you spend a lot of time on groundwork and preliminary research. The more you know about your intended market, the more informed your jewellery designs will be. Talk to people and develop a thorough understanding of what your design strong points are, how to build on them, and how to tailor them to the demands of your target customer base.

6. Keep up with the changing world of accessory fashion and be flexible. Staying informed about what people are wearing on the streets and the runways will inform and inspire your work. Quickly adapt to new trends and styles-- being able to do this is a major part of your advantage as a small scale jewellery manufacturer. Avoid ordering parts from far away or keeping old stock.

7. Think about the role of each jewellery design in your portfolio of accessory lines. If all of your jewellery is generic in style, then it will only be a matter of price for your potential customers, and as an independent you don't have a prayer competing with big companies who import cheap Asian materials. On the other hand, if all of your designs are show-stopping runway pieces, they will garner attention but not profits. Stores like to put showpieces in windows to attract curious shoppers, but the jewelry they actually sell a lot of is going to be the kind that people can wear in a variety of social situations with a variety of outfits. Try to incorporate a handful of distinctive showpieces, but make sure your lines have something for everyone, and aren't too fashion-forward that they scare off the majority of your would-be customers.

8. Be flexible and dynamic. Demonstrate a ready willingness to customize your designs for stores and individual clients. Make use of your advantage as a small manufacturer who can change production and redesign things at the drop of a hat. Cooperating with the customer's desires is important to developing a good working relationship, and leads to sustained repeat business.

9. Value people who give you constructive input, and learn from it. Treasure those who give you helpful ideas, and learn to take criticism with grace. Remember that you're running a business, and what you think is great might not be exactly what stores or people want. You're not trying to sell jewelry to yourself. Build on strengths, expand on what is well received, and get rid of unpopular or unsuccessful design ideas immediately.

10. Guard your designs. They are your most precious commodity and there is not much in place to protect them from copycats. Show them only to people you trust, customers, and potential customers.

Selling your Jewelry

11. Calculate your cost. It is crucial to figure out how much each jewelry accessory costs you to make, and how much time you spend making it. Your markup should be 2-3 times cost for wholesale or 4-6 times cost for retail.

12. Be opportunistic about sales prospects, and carefully weigh the pros and cons of each. Selling to people directly is great for profit margins, but is very time consuming and may not worth your while. Jewelry conventions, shows, festivals, and other gatherings might be good times to set up a booth and personally connect with each customer. Just remember that time is one of your most precious resources. If you manage to get your jewelry accessories into boutiques, they will sell your product for you on their time, and provide a venue for showcasing your jewelry on top of any events you may personally go to.

13. Avoid selling your jewelry on consignment at all costs. Consignment means that a store will not buy jewellery from you outright, but rather keep it at their store on a sort of 'loan.' If items are sold, the store will take a percentage of the sale price, and you will get the remainder. The store has little motivation to push your jewelry, and if they have other accessories bought on wholesale, they will almost definitely try to sell those pieces before yours. With wholesale the jewellery is actually purchased up front by the store, and the onus is on them to either sell the items through or incur losses. For more information on differences between consignment and wholesale, please see our more in-depth exploration of the topic.

14. Develop positive and lasting relationships with your jewellery customers. Retail stores will want to see that you are reliable, consistent, and responsive. Drop by fairly frequently to see how your jewellery is selling, and talk to the store owners and employees to get feedback on what they like about your jewellery designs, who's buying them, and how they might be improved upon. For the sake of following up easily, you'll want to avoid selling to stores that are inaccessible or far away.

15. Do not take jewellery orders from stores that are too big for you to handle. Mathematically, one order should never exceed 10% of your yearly sales. Put another way, the outstanding debt of one customer should never exceed an amount you are willing to lose. If you do take big orders then be incredibly careful and make sure you're going to get paid. Even large department stores can be very fickle and prone to changing their minds. If this happens you could be put under by one big order that falls through, leaving you in debt. This tip is part of an important guiding philosophy: build up slowly and don't bite off more than you can chew.

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