When Marla Aaron came to the JCK offices two years ago to show me her new jewelry line and tell me she wanted to sell to stores, I told her what I tell many emerging artists: Don’t count on wholesale to pay your bills.
It’s a harsh reality that many jewelry designers know to be true. Many retailers play a sick wait-and-see game with new designers for several years before buying into lines—an expensive proposition that few can afford. And sometimes when retailers do “buy” into lines, they don’t actually buy but ask for memo. So what is a designer to do? Well, for starters, you can build up your business on Instagram like the New York City–based Aaron did.
Aaron, whose jewelry signature is hardware-inspired locks made in gold and silver, debuted her Instagram account @MarlaAaronJewelry nearly three and a half years ago. To date, she has 3,396 followers, and has made a large number of sales direct to consumers on that platform. How many? She won’t say, but she’s pleased, especially considering that retailers were reluctant to buy her new line for resale. That is slowly changing, thanks in part to the consumer awareness that she has built for herself through sales on Instagram. Consumers worldwide have found Aaron by way of her use of #diamonds, #platinum, #sapphires, #gold, #convertiblejewelry, and her signature #lockiton, among others. A contest held around Mother’s Day this year utilized #lockyourmom and garnered 92 entries, driving that much more awareness to her emerging brand. At press time, Aaron had just sold locks and other styles to consumers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Hong Kong; Dubai, UAE; Italy, and others.
Plus, stores—most recently, a chain in Japan—found Aaron and bought into her line as a result of her Instagram account. (Currently, three out of 20 wholesale accounts are memo, which she no longer agrees to.) Editorial also helped: A 2014 mention in The New York Times Fashion & Style section came after a Times editor saw one of her locks in a store. An important point that Aaron learned along the way: “Just because a store or store owner follows me doesn’t mean that they will buy into my line,” she says. “The person might buy one for themselves, but it might not be a good fit for their brand or store.”
For the wholesale accounts she has acquired, all but one thus far have placed reorders, some even doing so weekly. The retailers who found her via Instagram bought into her line, a move not lost on Aaron. “I am devoted to the retailers who buy my line,” she says.
For Aaron, Instagram has become an invaluable tool for exposure. “It’s marketing that I can’t afford,” she explains. “Instagram was and continues to be a key component to building my business. Because of Instagram, I am able to refer business to retailers who carry my collection, and I always do that. In fact, the interaction with my retailers through Instagram is probably one of the most important tools we use together to serve our customers better.”
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