To say we are in a challenging economy is not news. Small fashion businesses are cautiously making decisions about what inventory to buy. Searching the internet for statistics on fashion jewelry sales for the second half of this year turns up nothing. So how do you choose?
CURRENT CLIMATE FOR FASHION JEWELRY
First, the atmosphere for fashion jewelry is good. Actually, it is excellent. Let’s contrast it to the mid 1990s. Prada introduced basic colors and a natural look in the nineties and it swept the market. Soon a large percentage of women were into the trend of minimal jewelry or the natural look of no jewelry at all. You can imagine how that devastated the fashion jewelry industry. In 1995, many of my suppliers and manufacturers went out of business or were in bankruptcy. Many of my competitors and customers were also closing or changing their lines. Scary, right? Well 2012 is an entirely different story.
In 2012, the fashion trends are dramatic jewelry. What can provide the bold looks of necklaces, bracelets, and earrings other than fashion jewelry? Doing it in fine jewelry would require a second mortgage on the house. No, the trends are there, but the economy is soft. So what is happening to fashion jewelry this year?
WHAT IS THE CURRENT FASHION JEWELRY OUTLOOK?
Trying to find some statistics on the current state of fashion jewelry is an impossible task. There are no reports on the internet. So we must go by experience and the information from others in the industry. With 27 years in the fashion jewelry industry, we have lots of contacts. We are specifically interested in fashion jewelry sales for small businesses. Putting everything together, I noticed a trend that began with 9/11 and continued to grow stronger over the years. Bling was the thing before the attack. But immediately the mood turned somber and people felt a need for meaning. Classic became the desired look with crystal, gemstone, vintage designs, and Murano style glass jewelry taking over
Some of these categories are slowing as years go by, but the idea of niche markets remains dominant. In other words, even those that think fashion jewelry is so-so will admit niche markets within fashion jewelry are strong. Even many manufacturers think the market for fashion jewelry is soft today, but believe their line is doing well because it is outside the general concept of fashion jewelry. Actually it is. Because it is a niche market. And these niche markets seem to mainly fall into three categories:
- Needed items
- Special occasions, seasons, and needs
- Items perceived outside the fashion jewelry category
BRIDAL JEWELRY IS A NEEDED ITEM
What do we mean by needed items? This is jewelry bought to fulfill a need rather than for a fashion look. The most obvious is bridal jewelry. Bridal jewelry is not an option; it’s a must. When retailers are considering fashion jewelry, bridal jewelry is generally not what they are thinking. But faux pearl jewelry is part of fashion jewelry.
This is the jewelry that sells year round for brides and often bridesmaids. Necklace sets are important as well as bracelets. Designs range from elaborate to simple and no matter what bridal magazines show, simplicity continues to dominate the market.
CRYSTAL AND RHINESTONE JEWELRY FILL A VARIETY OF NEEDS
Crystal and rhinestone jewelry are also used for bridal, but extend beyond wedding jewelry to include a number of other needs. Formal occasions like balls need rhinestone or crystal jewelry. Pageants, dance competition, anniversaries, cocktail parties, teas, luncheons, and some church events all require formal jewelry. When women are involved in these events, rhinestone and crystal jewelry is usually the choice. These are needed accessories rather than a fashionable addition to an outfit.
Our site separates crystals and rhinestone jewelry based on the manufacturing process. The stones are actually the same, but crystal jewelry has handset stones that are usually glued in place. References to rhinestone jewelry before World War II refer to this kind of jewelry only.
During the war, manufacturers in Providence, Rhode Island invented the machinery to produce rhinestone chain. When you look at rhinestone jewelry today, you see rhinestones set in chain that is cut and soldered together to create the designs. This chain comes out of the machine with the stones already set. Look at vintage rhinestone books and you don’t see this look before the War.
Crystal and rhinestone jewelry are niche markets that continue to ring the cash register regardless of the economy because this needed items.
CHOKERS—THE HARD TO FIND JEWELRY
Wire chokers are more popular and have a far greater need than most retailers realize. Hurricane Isaac just passed through South Louisiana and when we returned, the orders included three that were exclusively chokers with plenty of other orders that included some fashion chokers. Why are they so popular? Because the fashion jewelry market has plenty of pendants available, but consumers need a way to wear them.
The problem is chokers are hard to find and individual tastes presents a second problem. Customers not only need chokers to wear pendants, but they often have a look in mind that they want to achieve. So retailers that supply a variety of attractive chokers are filling a basic need in costume jewelry. In addition, they are letting their customers be creative by mixing and matching pendants and chokers. Each combination is a fresh look so a few chokers and a few pendants gives a lot of mileage for tailored accessories that look very classy for career wear.
A soft economy calls for more conservative decisions in retail. Niche markets provide a degree of safety because they play to specific customers that have needs or strong interests in the items.
Our next blog will explore specific niche markets for special occasions that rank highest based on our sales statistics.