Industry / Retail

Piercing Pagoda Changing Name To Banter, Adding Non-Kiosks


Piercing Pagoda, the mall-based kiosk chain that has become a star performer for Signet Jewelers, plans to change its name to Banter by Piercing Pagoda and open dozens of non-kiosk stores.

As of Aug. 2, about 40% of locations in the 500-store chain will bear the Banter rebrand. At some point, the name Piercing Pagoda could be phased out, and the entire chain may bear the name Banter Jewelry and Piercing, says brand president Kecia Caffie.

The rebranding stemmed from consumer research, Caffie says.

“We did not start with the expectation that we were going to change our name. We wanted to modernize our logo, and through that process we did some consumer-based research and found that the name Piercing Pagoda did not resonate broadly with our current customers. And as we looked at attracting a new consumer base, we just saw less resonance with our current name.”

The rebranding explored “tons of names,” she says.

“We kept putting names in front of our current customers, as well as the customer that we wanted to attract, and found that Banter resonated the most and had a good amount of acceptance from our current customer base.”

But how does the word banter relate to ear piercing?

“We’ve defined it is as, and [the] Merriam-Webster [dictionary] defines it similarly, as a ‘friendly exciting conversation with friends,’” Caffie says. “And that’s what we’re going for.

“We want to have an open conversation and dialogue with our customers. We don’t want to force things on them. It’s really about self-expression and making sure your customers feel comfortable and fearless in their self-expression. We think Banter really hits that.”

The name change carries with it a certain risk, Caffie admits, given Piercing Pagoda is a recognized brand. But that recognition mostly exists on the East Coast, she says.

“We have about half the brand awareness as our sister banners do,” she says. “We’re not as top of mind as our other banners are. So while there’s some risk, there’s risk in everything, and I see it as being relatively minimal.

“We feel that now is actually a wonderful time to make a change. We had an amazing first quarter.… With the wind at our back, it’s actually a good time to do this.”

Plus, the Piercing Pagoda name isn’t completely going away, at least for now.

“We’re not committing to [eliminating it],” Caffie says. “We need to ensure that our current customer has come along on the journey with us. Over time, there’s a good possibility we’d switch to Banter Jewelry and Piercing. But there’s no timeline on that, and we’re not going to rush it.”

So far, results from the first rebranded kiosks have been good, she says.

In addition, Piercing Pagoda—or more accurately, Banter by Piercing Pagoda—will open up about 100 locations over the next year. In another notable shift, approximately half of those locations will be inline stores—meaning a standard brick-and-mortar store, rather than Pagoda’s standard kiosk format. While Piercing Pagoda already has nine inline stores, most of them are over a decade old, and this will be a new format, different from past executions.

The inline stores are a “real opportunity to expand the types of locations where we can meet our customers,” says Caffie. “It opens us up to be in lifestyle centers, in outdoor malls, as well as in some malls that don’t currently have kiosks.”

In addition, the larger formats will allow greater privacy, so the brand can expand services like belly and facial piercings.

As far as why Piercing Pagoda has done so well, Caffie says it’s because it emphasizes “style, not fashion.”

“What our customers have told us is that they want to build a jewelry wardrobe. So, while there might be some things that are trendy that we’ll carry, [overall] we are about being able to pull together multiple looks to create something that looks correct and fashionable and, for lack of a better word, trendy, but the individual pieces may not be trend-forward.

“So it’s not about the trend, it’s about the look. We want our customers to buy something and hold on to it, and when you get into trendy, it becomes disposable. And that’s not where we want to be, and not what our customers are telling us they want.”

(Photo courtesy of Signet Jewelers)

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By: Rob Bates

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