In an interview with Retail Details, Honora director of national sales Lloyd Berger discussed the pearl company’s new store-in-store, or VRP (Valued Retail Partner), program for retail jewelers, which will be rolled out during the Centurion Show (Jan. 28–31) in Scottsdale, Ariz. The new program is part of Honora’s ongoing branding effort to build name recognition with consumers through select retail jewelers.
For Honora, this new program is all about timing. “Our Pearl Pod program has played a major role in this initiative,” says Berger. “Pearl Pods were created so retailers could easily ‘create their own case’ by selecting from packages that had already been visually merchandised for them. The VRP takes it to the next level by actually offering them with the case as well.”
A drawing of the Honora vertical wall unit (image courtesy of Artco Group)
External factors have also made timing of the VRP program opportune. After an extended recession and now a slow economic recovery, people want to spend money on jewelry—just not as much. And while spending thresholds have dropped (on average bridal customers are spending 25 percent less on their jewelry) diamond and gold prices have shot up, with precious metal prices at historic highs.
Still, as many in the industry like to say: Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and milestone moments will continue to be celebrated with a jewelry purchase. And barring supply and demand fluctuations, pearls are recession-proof, providing a tremendous jewelry value for the dollar. This has placed pearls—namely freshwater goods—squarely in the price point–friendly category alongside silver and (to a lesser extent) charms and beads.
“Women self purchasers, driven by more fashionable, more affordable pearls, has also been one of the largest drivers of both our business and this new model,” says Berger.
This perfect storm of economic, market, industry, and company conditions got store-in-store discussions going for Honora in recent years, with the VRP program talks reaching critical mass stage shortly after the June 2011 JCK Las Vegas show. Currently VRP is in “beta testing” phases with select retailers.
“Again, timing was everything with VRP,” says Berger. “The main considerations were creating higher-end, custom-built vertical wall units with Honora branding [signage, logos, and visual merchandising elements] for a price-point product that retailers could easily fit in to their existing floor plan.”
The post-Vegas discussions included talks with Artco Group, the Miami-based store planning, designing, and display manufacturing company contracted to produce the vertical wall units for Honora.
An actual Honora wall unit in the Artco Group workshop (image courtesy of Honora)
“Right now we have 12 units completed and will deliver them shortly after Christmas so our VRP retailers can get started first thing in 2012,” says Berger.
But one VRP retail jeweler has already started Honora’s store-in-store program without the dedicated wall units. Floyd & Green Jewelers, an Honora client for seven years, was an early adopter of what is now Honora’s VRP program, based on the store’s branding efforts with the pearl company, dating back to 2004 when the Aiken, S.C.–based retailer began carrying only Honora goods.
“We do a steady business with pearls,” says Floyd & Green president Steve Floyd. “Pearls make up roughly 5 percent of sales and 5 percent in inventory [1–2 percent in actual inventory with a 2.5 turn]. We’re fast to reorder given our turn rate.”
Floyd & Green Jewelers has a large 10,000-square-foot store. When Floyd and his staff did some rearranging of displays to accommodate other incoming brands, they found themselves with a sizeable open space in the showroom.
Floyd & Green Jewelers’ pearl island (image courtesy of Floyd & Green Jewelers)
The store’s pearl island (21 linear feet of display space) was installed in the summer of 2010 to better utilize that open space. In branding terms, Floyd & Green has also been a strategic partner with the company for many years. But in the fourth quarter of this year, Floyd was asked to be part of Honora’s VRP program early on with the pearl display infrastructure in place. Bringing it up to VRP status required visual merchandising elements to brand it Honora.
“Honora learned a lot about visual merchandising from their store in New York City,” says Floyd. “Much of what they have in that store we have in ours, such as logos, specialized displays, and display case floor boards—even the large glass Magic bowls.”
In addition to the usual vendor support of co-op ads and the like, Honora works with Floyd & Green to keep their visual merchandising fresh. “The company sends out a specialist every six to eight weeks to change up the four corners of the pearl island—the usual times of the year, namely Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and so on.”
Visual merchandising elements help brand the pearl island (image courtesy of Floyd & Green Jewelers)
Reis-Nichols Jewelers is another Honora VRP retailer. The Indianapolis retailer just started carrying Honora pearls in September. With the ink barely dry on the vendor contract, director of merchandising Jennifer Demmary agreed to become a Honora VRP retailer with a second store soon to open.
“Although the floor plan was established for the second store, there was some flexibility to bring in the Honora case,” says Demmary. “It helped that the case was a vertical wall unit, which doesn’t take up that much space.”
With the Honora unit soon to be delivered, Demmary is looking to leverage her Honora VRP retailer program status to usher in more price point–friendly jewelry customers. “Reis-Nichols is a high-end retailer,” says Demmary. “We want to attract a broader customer base with lower price points. And the store-in-store with Honora is a good way to do this with quality pearl jewelry.”
Adds Floyd: “Since putting in the pearl island and the Honora branding elements, the pearl island has become a real traffic generator.”
As Honora takes its first steps with its new VRP in 2012, the first round of retailers will be set up in plenty of time for Valentine’s Day sales. “We’ve locked in the beta partners and have a number of additional retailers that have expressed serious interest,” says Berger. “We’re also exploring the possibility of working with high-end salons, boutiques, and couture-level clothing accessories stores. These types of retailers are also in line with the Honora brand.”
For now, Honora is ready to deliver the display units, get their VRP retailers ready for Valentine’s Day sales, and prepare the industry for their big rollout next month at the Centurion Show.