In early August, a male shopper visited David Broyles to buy some silver Pandora beads as a 10th anniversary present for his wife, but he ended up leaving with silver and 14k gold styles that cost significantly more.
“I said to him, ‘It’s a special occasion, so let’s add a touch of gold,’?” recalls Broyles, the owner of Calvin Broyles Jewelers in Spring Hill and Hurricane, W. Va.
Upselling bead buyers is one way retailers can turn a higher profit on low-priced lines like Pandora, Chamilia, and Trollbeads. While inexpensive silver beads bring in entry-level customers or those looking for gifts at a price point, selling the inexpensive SKUs can be time consuming, which means merchants turn a lower profit. Savvy retailers know that in order to make more money on a bead sale, they must upsell clients to a pricier bead, stoke add-on sales by promoting complementary pieces, or skillfully segue the sale to a higher-priced piece or line altogether.
The tricky part, according to Emily Lamon Justice, vice president and head jewelry buyer for Lamon Jewelers in Knoxville, Tenn., is maneuvering with discretion. “You have to be careful not to tell customers that that’s what you’re doing.”
Naga Collection 24.4 mm Scale cuff in silver with black and blue enamel; $1,295; John Hardy, NYC; 888-838-3022; johnhardy.com
Justice advises her colleagues to be alert when shoppers enter the store, and to observe what they’re wearing. A year and a half ago, a female customer with a Chamilia bracelet fully loaded with beads in blues and greens was in a shopping mood, so Justice showed her some 18k gold store-made jewels with blue sapphires and emeralds—items that matched the hues of her bracelet. The client bought a necklace that day, and added a ring to her collection within a month. Both pieces totaled $10,000—far more than the $1,200 beaded bracelet. “It is just about paying attention to that color scheme that excites them,” Justice says.
Van Alexander, co-owner of Alexander’s Jewelers in Texarkana, Texas, agrees. Once clients have two or three beaded bracelets, they “pretty much carry themselves to a new product,” he says. At that point, owners of multiple pieces are looking for other things to go with their bracelets, so Alexander leads them to his cases of John Hardy, Nanis, Tacori, and Charles Krypell silver jewelry. “You want to find a piece that lays well with the beads they already have,” he says. “Get them started on another collection.”
Stacking bands in bright white and blackened Argentium silver; $150 each; Stacked New York, NYC; 646-504-8874; stackednewyork.com
Chuck Steel’s go-to piece for existing bead owners is a cable-motif bracelet from Alor, retailing for $295, because it pairs well with beads and is a comfortable price point for most shoppers. “We’ve sold hundreds of those over the years,” says the co-owner of Steel’s Jewelry in Valdosta, Ga.
And though beads are a worthwhile traffic generator, the sale often takes an inordinate amount of time. “You can spend 30 minutes to an hour and a half on a $30 bead sale!” Alexander says. (His solution: Assign one staffer to bead sales.)
Of course, sometimes beads lead to surprising and higher-ticket add-on sales. That happened in May this year when a couple in their 60s came into Alexander’s store to buy a few beads for a Trollbeads bracelet started by their grandchildren. The wife wanted to add on to the sentimental piece to celebrate the couple’s wedding anniversary, but suggested to her husband that he also get a gift for himself. Alexander jokingly suggested a Rolex since he is a dealer, and by the time they left the store with $150 worth of beads, the husband had an $8,500 stainless steel Submariner on his wrist.
City Lights collection ring in silver with 17 mm cushion-cut black onyx and 0.42 ct. t.w. diamonds; $1,840; Tacori, Glendale, Calif.; 800-421-9844; tacori.com
“Just show the product,” Alexander says. “Two or three times out of 10, they say ‘yes’ to the sale, but you have to ask for it.”
The key is to never stop selling—even when customers say they’ll take the bead or beads they came into the store for. Tell clients what else you have; otherwise, they won’t know, and their ignorance could cost you.
This tip is a regularly used tool in the sales arsenal of Steven Petrillo, owner of Jem Jewelers in Warrington, Pa. Early in the summer, a couple came in and bought two Chamilia beads, but didn’t leave before Petrillo showed the wife a pair of $400 14k white gold earrings. “More often than not, that does lead to another sale—though not always right at that moment,” he says. Three weeks before Labor Day, the husband came back to buy them.
Oxidized sterling silver and pavé diamond Sun Ray necklace; $955; Renee Sheppard at Empesar Showroom, NYC; firstname.lastname@example.org; 212-244-7273; reneesheppard.com
Broyles’ signature move, meanwhile, is bringing out the two-tone silver and 14k gold beads. When the pieces are in front of the client, the upgrade happens virtually on its own. Plus, the price goes up a little—Pandora silver beads start at $20, while the silver and gold ones start at $40—but not enough to discourage a price-conscious shopper. Steel, too, will push for gold, but he prefers all-gold pieces instead of two-tone: “The gold makes a richer statement.”
Store floor plans can also play a role in purchasing decisions. Consider the merchandising in Steel’s Jewelry, where shoppers must walk past pricier product—pieces ranging from $75 to $400—to arrive at the Pandora bead boutique. And while Steel concedes those small sales can be irksome, he advises his fellow retailers to embrace them because the patience will pay off. “Beads help you build relationships,” he says.
Petal Strength earrings in sterling silver with black onyx, ruby, and emerald, and Chevron pattern detail; $2,272; Kaura Jewels, Los Angeles; 818-441-6995; kaurajewels.com
Case in point: a woman who started buying beads from Steel in October 2006. After purchasing about three bracelets’ worth as well as a necklace full of beads, the woman branched out to the Galatea pearl line in 2008 (her first purchase was a $1,000 blue topaz and gold piece). After that, she bought other jewelry—her most recent purchase was a pair of diamond stud earrings at $12,000—and today she is one of the store’s best customers. “Her purchases now average $5,000 and up,” Steel says. “She became comfortable with us, so she started buying other things.”
Even retailers who don’t carry beads concede their power. “That’s the magic of those lines—you can spend very little,” notes Bret Morris, owner of A.R. Morris Jewelers with stores in Wilmington and Greenville, Del. Morris carried Nomination five years ago, but has never bought into Pandora, Chamilia, or Trollbeads. He routinely converts Pandora-seeking buyers to other higher-priced pieces when they are open to suggestions. In January, for example, a man looking for beads to add to his wife’s silver bracelet, purchased for her by her children, opted instead to buy a 14k gold, garnet, and diamond pendant necklace from Dabakarov for $400, thanks to Morris’ power of persuasion.
Sometimes, the store itself makes the switch to more sophisticated silver when customers start shunning beads in favor of higher-ticket items. That happened to John Voelzow, owner of Pavé Fine Jewelry in Bend, Ore. He carries Trollbeads, but the line’s in-store space has been minimized to make way for Lilly Barrack and Toby Pomeroy, among other designer lines.
“We moved into upscale silver simply because that’s what our customers are requesting,” Voelzow says. “It is not so much about a price point as it is about a look.”
Top: photograph by Greg Sorensen, styling by Brooke Magnaghi
Earrings in silver and 14k gold with green jade, $1,295, Anthony Camargo; Aria waterfall necklace in silver and 14k gold with diamonds, $2,600, Mabel Chong, San Francisco, 415-885-0198, mabelchong.com; skull ring in silver with diamonds, $4,500, Jessica Kagan Cushman, jessicacushman.com; cuff in silver with 18k gold and diamonds, $938, Rene Escobar, escobarjewelry.com; Strength cuff in silver with 18k yellow gold spears, $1,720, Kaura Jewels, Los Angeles, 818-441-6995, kaurajewels.com
Here’s another tactic for bringing more silver to your shoppers: Buy into the Silver Salutes the Service collection from the Silver Promotion Service. All the designers included in the collection have earmarked a portion of their proceeds for the Jewelers for Veterans Foundation, whose mission is to help returning U.S. troops find (and train for) jobs in the jewelry industry.
|Sterling silver and 18k Signature Link bracelet with removable blue sapphire Maltese cross charm; $875; Ariva Living in Fine Jewelry, Cranston, R.I.; 401-946-2104; arivafinejewelry.com|
|Sterling silver Bamboo bangles with white topaz, square faceted blue topaz, and Mozambique garnet cabochons and white topaz; $195–$225 (sold separately); Thistle & Bee, NYC; 212-594-0418; thistleandbee.net|
|Sterling silver pendant with American flag motif made of crushed gemstones; $225; Samuel B. Collection, Great Neck, N.Y.; 516-466-1826; samuelb.com|