Designing an In-Store Line, Part 1: The Key Factors

A growing number of retailers are designing and manufacturing specific product lines for their stores, providing them with a niche in their marketplace, an exclusive for the products enhancing their own brand, and a product category to generate new revenue.

Designing a product line for the store isn’t the same as designing a custom order. With a custom order, a customer requests an article of jewelry with his or her personal reflections in mind. In designing and selling a line of jewelry for a store, it is necessary to research a broader base of information in greater detail before the mechanical design process begins. Here are the most important considerations:

  1. Determining demographics and your target customer;

  2. Selecting the jewelry categories to be designed;

  3. Characteristics of potential materials to be featured in the line;

  4. Desired design features of your profiled customer;

  5. Price range of the finished product;

  6. Manufacturing the product.

In the first of this two-part series, we’ll discuss these key factors in designing a line of jewelry featuring moissanite created by Charles & Colvard Ltd., hereafter referred to as moissanite. Next month, in Part 2, we will review the design process. Although here we focus on moissanite, the core principles apply to any material.

On target. The first step in designing a line for any product—moissanite or otherwise—is obtaining a profile of the customer to whom that product would appeal. For example, research for the target market for moissanite has been conducted repeatedly since 1998, and results consistently reveal that its primary customer is a woman 30 years old or older who is:

  • upwardly mobile.

  • a self-purchaser who knows she’s earned it and will buy for herself.

  • an independent decision maker with her own money.

  • a smart and savvy shopper.

  • proud of her achievements—big, small, personal, and professional.

  • influenced by style and fashion conscious—e.g., reads fashion magazines, watches Sex and the City, and knows trends.

When asked, most women said they reward themselves with something special when they receive a promotion or raise or experience a career accomplishment. Included among their potential rewards were a vacation, a day at a spa, or a piece of jewelry.

Women purchase more than 75% of all moissanite jewelry sold, and they buy larger jewels: More than 60% of all sales are for jewelry set with moissanite stones that are 1.50 cts. or larger. Over 60% of all moissanite jewelry sales are rings.

Selecting the categories. Research will be a valuable tool in deciding the most salable categories of jewelry for your in-store line. In addition to choosing the categories of jewelry, you also must specify the number of styles in each category. For example, let’s say the majority of your business is from local clientele and your research indicates that sales of rings (other than wedding/engagement sets) represent 74% of your business. You may decide to offer a line of 16 pieces of jewelry—10 rings, four types of earrings, and two pendants.

The material world. When reviewing candidates for the gems, metals, and techniques that will be used in your designs, think about the characteristics that make each one unique and how those qualities may add to the impact of your product and its promotion. As you plan your store-brand merchandise categories, it may be useful to identify manufacturers and suppliers who will support your marketing efforts with co-op advertising or prepackaged marketing materials.

Moissanite represents a new product category for most retailers. Its visual characteristics and the story of its origin make it a fascinating jewel to feature in a line that builds on your store brand. Moissanite is hand-cut to specifications and has measurably more fire (dispersion), brilliance, and luster (refractive index) than a diamond (or any other gemstone). And it’s available at a much lower cost, which can mean a potential profit increase through faster turnover and higher margins. Present it as neither a diamond simulant nor substitute, but rather a unique jewel that can stand on its own merits, enabling the jeweler to create an additional customer base and a new stream of revenue.

Since the gemstone of choice will be prominent in your collection, it is advisable to zero in on the details, which will make the process of design and production run as smoothly as possible. Be sure the stones are readily available in the size, weight, shape, consistent color, quantity, and price range you’ll require. Also make sure they can be purchased by the parcel or individually. Ask if stones can be color-matched for pairs, suites, or replacements, depending on your anticipated needs.

Consider your selection of metal, including color, applications, and other elements of design that will distinguish your in-store line’s theme. Using our example, a jeweler might want to advertise “hand-engraved 18k gold jewelry featuring moissanite.” The designs also should be distinctive in a way that builds on your store brand: “Thornton’s Jewelers introduces its exquisite line of moissanite and platinum jewelry!”

What do women want? Based on information you’ve gleaned about your profiled client, you may have decided to create a collection of jewelry to reward her achievements. Your goal will be to design pieces that incorporate symbols of success and reflect the image of your customer profile.

Jewelry for this client must be a prominent, important, visible reward, though not extravagantly priced. The style should be simple, classic, and versatile—designs that transcend fashion and are appropriate for both casual and formal attire. The pieces must be comfortable, wearable (i.e., gems protected, moderate in profile, snag-free), secure while worn, yet easy to put on and remove. You’ll want pieces that feature sound construction and secure settings for stones. They also should be easy to care for and service. A beautiful indulgence with lasting value is very important to this customer.

Pricing the product. Whatever the price range you decide upon, it should be reflected in each type of jewelry. Of the 10 rings, six might represent the higher end and four the medium price range. Matching earrings and pendants also should be available in the same ranges. (One design advantage in working with moissanite is the ability to create a high-end look for your jewelry at a more affordable price for your customer.)

Manufacturing notes. Whether you manufacture in-house or job out the production of your pieces to a manufacturing company, you must take responsibility for monitoring quality control and design integrity on each piece that bears your store’s brand. It’s also a good idea to establish a follow-up system for care, maintenance, and service of jewelry in the line.

Speaking from experience. Jerry Forrest, CGA, custom jeweler and owner of The Jewelry Forrest, an AGS retailer in Dallas, has designed, manufactured, and sold a line of moissanite jewelry in his store since moissanite first became available to the industry. His line consists of rings, stud and dangle earrings, pins, pendants, and in-line bracelets. Also included are a few wedding ring designs for the bridal market. Forrest offers his line of moissanite jewelry in 14k, 18k, and platinum. (The moissanite is always set in white gold or platinum.) He also is a member of the International Society of Appraisers and has earned his ISA CAPP.

New customers are constantly inquiring about the line, says Forrest, because the store is listed on the Charles & Colvard Web site as a platinum-level moissanite retailer. He agrees that his best customers for this product category are women buying for themselves, but he’s quick to mention that he also sells to men who are buying for women. However, Forrest notes, the women usually are with the men when the jewelry is selected, and it’s the woman who drives the purchase.

Forrest’s line is priced from $500 to $5,000, with the bulk of his sales falling into the $2,000 price range. “For $2,000, you get one hell of a look compared to diamond products in the same price range,” he says. “Moissanite provides another option in my store and is a super product. For this category, I’m pleased with the level of sales, margin of profit, additional revenue, and quality of the product.”

Phillip Minsky, recently retired owner of Wayman Jewelers in Stoughton, Mass., agrees: “We had good success with moissanite from the very beginning because it appealed to the many levels of society composed of people with different social, cultural, and economic status. The product filled a niche and was desired for various reasons.” Upon his retirement, the American Gem Society honored Minsky with the title of Emeritus, Certified Gemologist Appraiser.