Your inventory doesn’t include wearables—so what? Follow these guidelines to feature smart jewels, or anything new, in your store.
How many people are truly in the market for a wedding band made entirely of rubbery silicone?
Jeff Dennis, owner of Jeff Dennis Jewelers in Gardendale, Ala., recently learned the answer to that question—and it’s a definitive “plenty.” Earlier this year, the fine jewelry retailer began stocking QALO (for Quality, Athletics, Love, Outdoors), a unique collection of ultra-detailed silicone wedding bands priced from $11.95 to $24.95. To promote the line, the retailer posted a photo of boxed QALO rings on Instagram and Facebook. The post’s straightforward caption: “QALO bands now in stock!” Within the first 45 days, the store sold 140 units.
The anecdote illustrates one of the central tenets of successfully integrating a new product or product category into your store: Know your audience and what kinds of products might pique their interest. (Dennis certainly did.)
If you’re thinking of branching out with a new category or an off-the-beaten-path product, bear these expert tips in mind.
1. Study your shopper
Before you invest in any new merchandise, make sure you have a good beat on your clientele’s desires and product predilections.
Integrating new collections or categories “is all about the specific product and the market,” says Mary Moses Kinney, director of the Independent Jewelers Organization, which represents QALO. “In the case of QALO, it was an instant response from Jeff’s customers.” What’s the best way to gauge if a product or category will be a good fit? “Simply ask your customers,” says Pamela Scott-Lie, a freelance merchandising and diamond consultant who previously headed up Amazon’s jewelry division. “Run the idea by them—see how they respond.”
2. Assess a product’s relevance
Pinpointing high-interest products is only the first step. With nearly every consumer item imaginable now available online, any new merchandise you introduce should manifest a high degree of social currency and relevance within your community.
Smartwatches, for example, have a ton of social currency; most people would consider them a cool gadget. But if your customers aren’t interested in counting their daily steps—or in showing off how tech-savvy they are by sporting a wearable—sales of even the coolest connected watch will be sluggish.
3. Embrace trends early
That said, your chances of successfully introducing a new product category get exponentially better if you’re first to the table on a cresting trend.
John Carter, owner of Jack Lewis Jewelers in Bloomington, Ill., the first-ever retailer to carry QALO, says taking risks on trends is sometimes the only way to maintain relevance in the marketplace. “The year 2008 taught us our preconceived notions about what it means to be a fine jewelry store should be thrown out the window,” Carter says. “Beads and gold-buying saved a lot of stores during the recession, and no one would have expected that. You have to be quick to recognize an opportunity and be smart enough to take it.”
4. Make a splash in-store
And when the time comes to actually stock items that diverge from your typical inventory, “don’t crowd a new or different product into a case with a bunch of jewelry and think it will sell itself,” Scott-Lie says. “Really showcase the product.” If a description or explanation is needed, make sure that info is within eyeshot of the actual product, she adds: “If I walk up to a wearable and I have no idea what it is or what it does, I’m going to lose interest right away.”
5. Market with panache
Of course, getting the word out through savvy, innovative marketing is essential. Beyond advertising, Carter and Scott-Lie rely on Instagram almost exclusively when marketing online. “Since it’s a primarily visual platform, you can really make meaningful, impactful campaigns,” Carter says. “Instagram wasn’t made for our industry, but it might as well have been.”
6. Be your own billboard
Another effective way to promote a new product is for you and your sales staff to demo the item. This technique is particularly helpful for showcasing the high-tech functions of wearable devices. “There’s almost nothing that sells a product faster than actually wearing it,” Scott-Lie says. “Get it on you, get it out into the world. If people like it, they’ll ask you about it.”
Did you know?
Retail experts agree that it usually takes repeated exposure to a new product for a consumer to begin to take an interest in it.
(Illustration by Cozy Tomato)