Moving Men’s Jewelry

Traditionally limited to a few pairs of cufflinks and some uninspired rings gathering dust in a corner case, men’s jewelry is the forgotten understudy to flashier, faster-selling jewelry for women. By refusing to relegate men’s jewelry to the far corner of the store, however, some savvy retailers are going after this business. Suppliers maintain that offering a well-thought-out selection of men’s styles and marketing them to appeal to both male and female purchasers are proven ways to stimulate men’s jewelry sales.

Store planners agree with this scenario. For example, Greg Gorman, GMG Design, St. Louis, says he always advises his clients to put the most popular merchandise at the back of the store and push slower-moving categories to the front. He also urges retailers to rearrange stock on a regular basis, so frequent shoppers see a different collection with each visit they make to your store.

His suggestion for increasing sales of men’s jewelry? Either move it to a more prominent location—such as adjacent to the watch department, where male customers tend to go—or highlight a few selected items in a freestanding case immediately visible to all shoppers. This not only tells customers you have a men’s jewelry department but also may encourage them to make that gift purchase at your place rather than at the electronics store, he says.

More choices. Suppliers of men’s jewelry are also doing their part by expanding the range and selection of men’s jewelry items. They report the market is showing stirrings of growth. For example, there’s been a marked upsurge in the sale of cufflinks. Most suppliers have responded with new designs that capture all of the current trends in women’s jewelry: white metals, the combination of gold and silver, the occasional touch of color, and, for the adventurous, the sparkle of diamonds.

Cufflinks, like a stylish tie, are one of the relatively few items in men’s apparel that offer the wearer an opportunity to make a statement of either a personal or a fashion nature, designers say. As a result, many of the new cufflink designs are whimsical, intended to show the playful side of the owner. These conversation starters, including sports themes as well as leisure-time “vices” depicted as cocktail glasses, champagne bottles, and cigars, add a personal touch to a man’s workday wardrobe.

Long dependent on dress-shirt manufacturers, which produce few French-cuffed shirts, producers of cufflinks and studs now say business is better. They say the growth comes from young professionals in law, investments, and medicine, who opt for cufflinks for everyday wear. Another unexpected bonus has come their way in the dress-set arena. Now, men usually buy four shirt studs rather than three. Apparently cummerbunds are “out,” creating the need for an additional stud.

According to Jeffrey Feero, partner at Alex Sepkus, New York, the best-selling cufflinks are rarely the cheapest, but rather the ones that are well-engineered and don’t look like women’s jewelry. “When I do personal appearances in stores, I only have to show our cufflinks to a man. He sells himself by admiring the quality, the construction, and the design,” says Feero. Customers rarely even flinch at the prices, which typically range from $1,600 to $4,200.

Heightened interest. Traditional men’s jewelry suppliers such as A&Z Hayward, Colibri, and Dolan & Bullock also are noting an upswing in interest in men’s styles. A&Z Hayward’s new collection of gold and silver cufflinks, rings, and money clips in the $80 to $300 retail range has been very favorably received, and Colibri’s Dolan & Bullock division, producer of 14k and sterling silver men’s products, has been very successful with its dress cufflinks and with a new bracelet

collection.

Men’s rings are shaking off their staid signet and rectangular shapes and taking on exciting new forms, featuring free-form and asymmetrical designs; intriguing textures; and bold, sculptural details. Beyond the classic diamonds, sapphires, and rubies, new rings are set with turquoise, lapis, mother-of-pearl, and a range of lesser-known colored gemstones.

Completing every assortment of men’s jewelry should be personal and pocket accessories such as key holders, money clips, and belt buckles. Beyond Father’s Day and graduation gifts, men’s accessories are highly desirable as gifts for the wedding party and bride-to-groom gifts. Observes Armand DeMayo, president of Legère, Attleboro, Mass., “The best thing about weddings is they’re not seasonal, they’re year-round.”

‘It doesn’t run on gas and you can’t shoot it’

While some men’s jewelry suppliers report an improvement in business, a JCK poll of 165 retailers around the country has found that the category remains a tough sell. Men’s pieces account for only 3% of the typical store’s sales, the poll results show. And while this percentage grew over the past two years at 16.5% of stores, it declined at 28%.

What sells best? Rings, by far. Some 54% of respondents listed rings as their No. 1 seller in the men’s category. The only competitors are cufflinks and necklaces, each named as a top seller by 15% of jewelers. Ten percent of the respondents said their best seller is bracelets.

When we asked retailers why men’s jewelry doesn’t sell better, we were flooded with reasons beyond the expected, “It’s not masculine,” although one on that theme—quoted in the headline—may have been the most humorous. Reasons cited by respondents included “We’re not open when men can shop,” “fear of breaking it,” and “men don’t like spending money on themselves.”

A few survey respondents blamed the jewelry profession itself for failing to offer a wide selection, or displaying and marketing men’s items poorly. Suppliers would readily agree with these latter points, as the preceding article attests.—Larry Frederick