Money on the Table

Recently, a group of JCK‘s sister publications at Reed Business Information gathered to share ideas and market information. We talked about issues common to all of our industries, such as consolidation and foreign competition, and we talked about issues peculiar to our individual markets. The editor-in-chief of TWICE (This Week In Consumer Electronics) said a critical topic for his readers is learning how to sell electronics to women.

Not a big surprise. Electronics have a reputation for being a “guy thing.” But when I said the jewelry industry faces the same challenge, our colleagues were stunned. Clearly, they assumed that because women are the predominant end-users of our product, they would be the primary buyers of it. They were amazed to learn that our industry is still heavily focused on male gift buyers as the primary driver of jewelry sales.

Make no mistake: Male-to-female gifts still generate the highest-ticket sales and the lion’s share of our dollar volume. Nobody, least of all I, would ever advocate abandoning or ignoring it. But jewelers who don’t make a concerted effort to reach female self-purchasers are leaving a lot of money on the table. Consumer research across a broad spectrum of categories has repeatedly shown that women make approximately 80 percent of all buying decisions in the United States. If you can capture even a small segment of that, it’s a serious boost in your own sales and will help jewelry capture a larger percentage of Americans’ discretionary dollars.

Clearly, we’ve made strides. When I was JCK‘s fashion editor, audiences for any fashion seminar I gave were almost exclusively female. Today, senior fashion editor Carrie Soucy’s trend presentations are filled with men frantically taking notes. And at The JCK Show ~ Las Vegas, AGTA’s Doug Hucker told a standing-room- only audience that selling colored gemstone jewelry isn’t about gemology; it’s about fashion. He showed pages from popular fashion magazines and he explained how to understand current fashion trends and how to relate colored-gemstone jewelry to those trends. Of course you have to disclose treatments, he said—but don’t get hung up on the gemology. The customer is there to buy a fashion accessory, not get a science lesson.

TWICE, the consumer electronics magazine, explains that female shoppers will strip even the fanciest gizmo of all its jargon and cut right to the chase: How useful is it?

Whether it’s a flat-screen TV or a tanzanite pendant, female shoppers are focused on both the shopping experience and the product’s end benefit. She wants the TV with the best-looking picture and the necklace that makes her skin glow.

She also wants to be treated with the respect due her power. Too many women are treated as though they’re not serious customers. They’re told to come back with their husband or boyfriend when they start looking at expensive pieces of jewelry, flat-screen TVs, or stick-shift automobiles. That, as Andrew Carnegie might say, is not the way to win friends or influence customers. If you don’t understand fashion or you’re not comfortable selling jewelry as fashion, do what Hucker suggests, and hire someone who is.

Women buy jewelry for different reasons than men. Men buy jewelry to express an emotion, but women buy it because they like the way it looks—the same reasons they buy a pair of shoes, or a sweater, or a handbag, or a scarf. And like I’ve said in this column before, if you want to sell jewelry to the customer who buys designer shoes and bags, it’s important to have a selection of jewelry that falls into the same fiscal category as designer shoes and bags.

JCK has been tracking the relationship between fashion and jewelry for a while. In this issue we take an in-depth look at the myriad ways the relationship keeps evolving and moving closer. Senior editor Carrie Soucy looks at the increasing number of top fashion designers producing fine jewelry, senior editor William George Shuster looks at how interchangeable watch straps reinforce the idea of a watch as fashion accessory, and contributing editor Randi Molofsky talks to an interesting group of retailers: owners of high-end clothing stores that also sell fine jewelry. The success that these stores have with selling fine jewelry proves that a fashion customer thinks of jewelry as a fashion purchase.

This month also sees the launch of the JCK Pavilion at the MAGIC apparel show in Las Vegas. MAGIC is to apparel buyers what The JCK Show is to jewelry. Approximately 100 fine jewelry designers whose products are suitable to be sold in both jewelry and boutique stores will be exhibiting in a special pavilion in the accessories segment of the show.

Fashion + jewelry = sales that grow like magic!