A Growing Population

Like fashion retailers, jewelers run the risk of falling for what’s trendy, without taking their customers into consideration. To avoid that pitfall with one market segment, consider this: As of 2000, 19.8 percent of the U.S. population can be categorized as obese, and the number continues to rise. In 1991, 12 percent of the population was obese, according to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. The obesity rates vary little by region, with the lowest being in New England (17 percent) and the mid-Atlantic states (18.4 percent). The East South Central region had the highest ratings, with nearly a quarter (23.1 percent) of the population defined as obese.

What does this mean for jewelers? Well, in a world where more than half the population wears a size 14 or larger, the tiny, delicate jewels sported by petite celebrity icons like Sarah Jessica Parker may not cut it for the average woman. Plus-size customers—who already face the difficulty of finding appropriate clothes in a size-0-obsessed culture—often find no relief at the jewelry store.

The key is to have items in stock for this customer to try on in the store. Special orders can turn the customer off and lose the sale forever. Jewelers can either look for appropriate items from their existing suppliers or work with a specialty supplier, like the Hermosa Beach, Calif.-based Apprecia Jewelry, which specializes in designing and manufacturing fine jewels for the plus-size market. According to company president Cynthia Sliwa, she serves this market by producing wider and longer bracelets (8 inches, instead of the standard 7), longer necklaces (18¾ inches, rather than the standard 16), and dramatic brooches.

Considering the number of potential customers in this demographic category, retail jewelers would be wise to consider the tips at right for serving the plus-size customer—and building a long-term relationship with her.

  • Look for necklaces and bracelets that are longer, with more sizable elements like pendants or links.

  • Stock brooches that are larger, to balance face and body sizes and shapes.

  • Interpret trends for the plus-size market. Linear earrings, e.g., don’t have to be stick thin.

  • Consider expandable rings or larger-size samples in the store.

  • Ultradelicate designs worn in multiples offer a substantive look. Layering jewels is also a hot trend.

  • If, despite suggestions, the customer still is drawn to small dainty pieces, remember, she’s the wearer.