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Filed under Christmas Jewelry, Costume Jewelry, Fashion Accessories, Fashion Marketing, Seasonal Jewelry
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The Drive of Christmas Giving that the Economy Can’t Stop

Every time we are in a slow economy when the end of the year approaches, economist release their dire predictions for Christmas shopping. But when Christmas on 34th Street starts playing on TV and Silent Night on the radio, hearts melt and everything changes. Se we can never count Christmas out.

Start with some classy Christmas jewelry especially the pendants that double as a pin and have the look of sterling silver. Do you remember the sterling puffy hearts that were once a rage? A stamping process created the puffy hearts from a thin sheet of silver. They were hollow inside, creating lightweight pieces that were nice size.

The rising price of sterling hindered development of new designs. But an innovative manufacturer picked up the idea using the same process with thin sheets of steel to produce jewelry that looked identical to sterling. The line is mainly pendants and earrings. Most of the pendants have a pin back letting them double as pins. Some of the very classy Christmas jewelry is part of this line.

The Christmas pendants and earrings provide the expensive look of sterling silver in more affordable fashion jewelry. Add some chokers from the choker selection so your customers have an attractive way to wear the pendants. The Christmas pendants have a classy and expensive look for your customers to wear, but they also make a meaningful Christmas gift with the valuable look of sterling silver.

Next Newsletter: What is Hot for the Holidays

The next newsletter will explore all the new items for the Holiday stretch. Your success concerns us. Looking back over the year, the economists’ predictions for consumer buying have missed the target most of the year. The coming upturn has not happened. We are working hard to find the items that will make it happen for you. That is what our next newsletter is about.

Comments (0) Posted by admin on Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

Filed under Fashion Marketing
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What can niche markets do for small business in the fashion industry?  First, let’s begin with the challenges these small businesses face.  Entrepreneurs in the fashion industry are a hardy lot of people.  They face what often seem insurmountable challenges and yet always find a way to move forward.  The economy, competition from the majors, and government regulations are only a few of the challenges.  Yet this special group of people overcomes with drive, imagination, and creativity.

Niche Market Report from ColoradoStateUniversity

A report from the Colorado State University that is actually focusing on agriculture provides idea that apply to all businesses including fashion businesses.  It begins with the line, “Niche markets are an attractive opportunity available to small businesses forced to compete against the scale economies that larger competitors are able to achieve.”  That is an academic way of saying niche markets can level the playing field.


The report begins with a search for like-minded consumers that become cluster groups.  This is a niche market.  A plan to focus on their wants is filling the need with products for a niche market.


Appealing to Consumers with Niche Market Product Line

The report concentrates on the cluster group side of niche markets, but there is a flipside also thatMurano style glass bracelet applies very easily to fashion businesses.  Many entrepreneurs already use it.  That is to draw customers by concentrating on a narrow segment of merchandise.  Reducing this idea to a simple example, let’s think about swap meets or craft shows.  Booth focused on a narrow product line normally draws more customers.  And a gathering of customers usually translates into a crowd of customers that want to see what everybody is interested in.


A booth filled with nothing by beautiful blooming orchids can’t miss.   Recently booths with jellyfish in glass draw crowds.  Glass jewelry booths with the artist using a torch to create a new piece have shoppers standing in awe.


Niche Markets in Fashion Jewelry and Accessories

What are some niche markets in jewelry and accessories that appeal to shoppers?   There are two ways to capture attention with niche markets.  First, concentrating on one particular item in fashion jewelry or accessories that is in demand creates a niche market, especially if it is unique.  The second method will be covered in the following blog.    Here are a few examples of focusing on narrow product lines.



Have you seen booths full of hematite jewelry at flea markets of swap meets?  Hematite has at leasthematite necklace two drawing cards.  First necklaces use pendants to create themes—different pendants to appeal to everyone from teens to seniors.  Second, many consumers credit hematite jewelry with pain relief since it is an iron derivative.  This is widely believed and the lack of support in medical journals doesn’t change the opinion of many.  Normally markup is good with wholesale hematite jewelry retailing at 3 to 4 times markup.


Gemstone jewelry seems to have some magic at outdoor events that draw a crowd.  Semi preciousreconstituted turquoise necklace set jewelry in bracelets, necklaces, and earrings have interesting banding, inclusions, and natural colors.  Stones always have a way to capture interest and they also have lots of stories that can keep shoppers intrigued.  A booth can contain a mix of gemstones or concentrate on one, like turquoise—the most popular semi precious stone.


The music jewelry and accessory niche puts the shoe on the other foot.  So far we have been talkingmusic brooch about product niches—a narrow line of products like all hematite jewelry.  The music theme uses the idea in the report from ColoradoStateUniversity—providing a want or need to a group of like-minded people—a cluster group.


Gift shops in a music theater or near one can capitalize on the music theme.  That sounds like a very small number of shops.  But there is another way to capitalize on this market.  That is to go to the event when they allow vendors.  Every kind of music festival and concert is a potential market.  These people love music and are definitely interested customers.  This niche is important enough tht we have a category dedicated to it on our website.

FLEUR-DE-LIS JEWELRYfleur-de-lis necklace set

Fleur-de-lis jewelry mushroomed in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.  Actually, fleur-de-lis jewelry was in our Louisiana tourist line before the Hurricane and didn’t sell very fast.  But what a shock the sudden rise of fleur-de-lis jewelry and accessories was after the Hurricane.


Nine years later fleur-de-lis jewelry is still important enough to be a niche market.  The popularity spread throughout the country.  Since Katrina, fleur-de-lis jewelry


STRAW HATSwholesale straw hats

Hats can always be a niche market, especially in the summer.  However, focusing on one category of hats creates a stronger market—for example, church hats.


For summer events, especially outdoor events, casual hats can be a booth or store that draws.  If you want to narrow the niche even further, think about straw hats.  Straw hats have a range from durable festival hats to boutique quality raffia hats and sewn-and-braid wheat straw hats.

Comments (0) Posted by Michael Gietl on Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

Filed under Fashion Marketing
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Do most small retail fashion businesses slow down in the summer?  That’s a well kept secret.  Little is written about it, but it happens nearly every summer.  I can look at statistics going back five years on our website and see a dip in visitors during the summer months.  Sales figures reflect the same thing.  For most small fashion businesses, summers are going to be slower.  Why does this happen?

First of all, people are going on vacation or doing things outdoors they couldn’t do in winter months.  That means less time shopping and less time in front of the computer.  Also big retail events like prom, Easter, and Mother’s Day are over.


The good news is there are items that have a track record of increased sales in the summer or, at least remaining steady.  While many of the events we look forward to are pasts, there are many that arrive in summer, but receive less fanfare.  Think of all the outdoor retail events that summer brings—swap meets, street fairs, festivals, church picnics, craft shows, flea markets, conventions, garden shows, tourist destinations, and outdoor sporting events.  Opportunities are endless.  We need to change our focus to satisfy consumers’ wants for summer months.


For us, one item surges ahead of all others every summer.  That item is hats.  As someRush Straw safari hat items slow, casual hats pick up the slack.  And there are a variety of hats that sell.  The inexpensive straw hats for festival goers, outdoor workers, and vacationers are high on the list.  Rush straw hats with wide enough brims to provide relief form the sun like safari and gambler hats are big.  Those more interested in looks than shade also like rush straw fedoras.


Women working in their yard or engaged in outdoor events like simple wide brim straws.  Rush and palm straw deliver swinger shapes at inexpensive prices for ladies.

ladies wide brim hat

But when they want something more fashionable, wide brims and super wide brims are the ladies choices.  Upbrims like kettles are also popular ladies summer hats.   And sewn-and-braid wheat straws provide a boutique quality hat inspired by Milan straws.



Besides hats, there categories of jewelry that remain steady or increase in sales during summer months.  Before we get to them, let’s think about the sales opportunities listed above.  Vendors at most of these events have booths and their booths draw customers because they focus on one category of merchandise.  Our business sees three categories of jewelry that vendors chose to make a statement at these events:

  • Hematite Jewelry
  • Gemstone Jewelry
  • Theme Pendants and Earrings



One thing that makes these categories good is they have a story to tell.  Remember aarrowhead hematite necklace decade ago when people wore copper bracelets because they felt the bracelets provided relief from arthritic pain?  Today people believe that about hematite jewelry.  Like copper bracelets, hematite is a mineral.  Many are certain that wearing hematite relieves pain even they will never find it documented in a medical journal.


Another thing about hematite jewelry is all the carved pendants the necklaces have.  These themes pull at the heart strings of many shoppers.  And they are not al themes for gals.  Hematite jewelry also has wolf heads, horses, arrowheads, and other pendants that appeal to guys.  It’s hard to resist this inexpensive jewelry with its steel gray color and high luster.



So many different semi precious stones and each piece unique—you have to love this business.  A booth of gemstone jewelry has endless stories to tell.  These natural stones have banding, inclusions, color, hardness, and a million other things to talk about.


The America Indians used it and probably every culture in the history of the world.  It’s in our blood.  We can’t look down and see an interesting stone without picking it up.  The cold feel indicates it’s real.  If I were doing shows, this would be my booth.



angel fish pendant

Who can resists a booth full of shiny crafted metal dimensionally shaped in every theme imaginable?  That is what the “Best” pendant and matching earring line offers.  This intricately crafted fashion jewelry is the collectibles of the next generation.  Most pieces are stamped from a thin sheet of steel with dimensionally raised shape with detail that is unbelievable.  From motorcycles to flower blossoms and baseball Mom pendants, this line hardly misses a theme.

Some are epoxied with color, but most have a high polished silver plated finish that can’t be distinguished from sterling silver.  The pendant numbers begin with PD.  If you change the PD to FS and put the code number starting with FS in the search on the site, it will bring up the matching earrings and you can make sets.  For the utmost in craftsmanship, it is hard to beat this line in fashion jewelry.  A booth of this merchandise draws a crowd.



Everyone knows summer is vacation time, but it is also a time when many organizations have their conventions.  What are the major conventions that assemble during the summer months?  Church conventions, Veterans groups, and Masonic conventions have to be among the most numerous.  Certain items see a sharp increase in sales because of these conventions.



white church hats

At church conventions, many congregations require their members to wear a white dress hat on a certain day.  This increases the demand for white church hats at a time when many wholesalers are out of dress hats.  We try to be long in white church hats to prepare for the summer demand.  Sinamays, organzas, pillboxes, and satin braid hats—nearly everything your customers will want in white church hats is still available on the site.


Scarves are also important for these conventions.  Church conventions like scarves inReligious scarves religious themes.  These are not easy to find.  We do our best to keep as many designs as possible in our selection of scares to fill this need.


Since many of these conventions are gospel music workshops, music scarves also do well.  Even if you are not a convention vendor, many of these items will sell in your shop for your customers going to conventions.



American flag tie

Men’s ties that have themes are important items for summer conventions.  Our site has a category for Masonic ties, religious ties, and American flag ties.  These categories fill the needs for Masonic conventions, Church conventions, and Veterans conventions.  Again, if your shop is near the convention center or your customers are going to attend, you have an excellent opportunity to move this merchandise.  Summer is the best time of the year for these theme ties, mostly because of all these conventions.


This is the tip of the iceberg for items that increase in sales during the summer months.  So we can feel better about summer business.  In the seventies, our business concentrated on American Indian jewelry and we did a lot of festivals and outdoor events.  In those days, summer was the best time of the year and I hated to see it end.

Comments (0) Posted by Michael Gietl on Friday, June 21st, 2013

Filed under Dress Hats, Fashion Accessories, Fashion Marketing, Hats, Scarves, Uncategorized
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Black Friday sales were up a whopping 6.6% according to a Bloomberg article—a shocking surprise that sent the stock market up over 300 points.  The article, basing its results on ShopperTrak data, reports this is the biggest increase ever.  The figures are relating the success of major retailers, but what is happening with small business? 

This year we have seen a push to make consumers aware of supporting small business in their Christmas shopping.  While this will provide some help, the most important draw small fashion businesses have over the majors is in retail areas that they own—areas where consumers trust small business far more than the majors. 

This blog and the following two will cover twelve categories of fashion jewelry and accessories in which small business excels. 



First, consider dress hats, especially church hats.  How rare it is to find an excellent selection of dress hats suitable for church in any of the majors. Church ladies simply do not trust department stores or the majors for headwear that they are so particular about.  Furthermore, they don’t want to see anyone else on Sunday morning wearing the same hat they have.  Small business owns this fashion category. 

Small retailers not only have the selection with variety and styles to please these ladies every season, but they are also there with personal service to help the client pick the perfect headwear for a suit or Sunday dress. 

Is this important for Christmas?  Absolutely!  This is a meaningful gift for Mom if she wears hats to church on Sunday.  These gifts are usually winter dress hats created in felt.  Design ranges from simplicity to extravagant for the many personalities the headwear must please.  Small businesses specializing in dress hats will have the color and style assortment that leaves the scanty selection of department stores and majors far behind.  



Fads in headwear can nearly pop up over night.  As we headed into winter, animal hats suddenly were the rage.  Almost out of nowhere, nearly everyone from youth to adults fell in love with the cute designs in animal hats.  They came mainly in two styles—knit and plush.  Knit animal hats had faces of cats, pandas, koala bears and more weaved into the winter hats with buttons often used for eyes and noses.  

The other style is like the plush of stuffed animals.  These cuddly animal hats come in bears, wolves, moose, pandas, and more.  This is a great boon for small business because they can react almost instantly.   The majors placed their orders for winter goods months ago and have scheduled deliveries.  Anyone that wants these trendy new hats will have to shop small business. Yes, and plenty of people will be looking for it for Christmas gifts considering how fast and strong this trend popped up.  This is one example of how small business can take advantage of fads that suddenly appear.  They have the jump on the majors.    



Scarves can really make a fashion statement when added to an outfit.  However, selecting the right one and how to wear it is an art in itself.  Think of the last time you were in a department store or major retail location.  How hard was it to find a clerk?  Scarves are retuning as an important fashion statement, but retailing them takes a personal touch. 

First of all, the choices can be overwhelming for a consumer.  One style that seems to be timeless in scarves is the polyester oblongs that have a light and airy look and feel of silk.  Available in solids, prints, or themes, these scarves can make an outstanding addition to an ensemble, but the shoppers often need help in making choices.  That’s where the personal service of small business becomes essential.   

Another type of scarf that has enjoyed overwhelming popularity in recent years is pashminas.  The feel is very soft because pashminas are weaved with the undercoat of pashminas goats.  The first herds resided high in the Himalayas, but herds were successfully raised in Mongolia, which is where the wool comes from for Chinese pashminas. 

Originally, the pashminas came in an array of solid colors, but they soon evolved into prints which really have that exotic look of far away lands.  These are definitely boutique-type accessories with a high fashion look.  Yet they are very affordable.

But choosing, coordinating, and how to wear the scarves usually takes some personal service, and how can you get that in a department store when you can’t even find a clerk? Scarves make wonderful Christmas gifts and we can chalk this accessory up as a winner for small business. 


These ready-to-go gift sets were originally a darling of department stores, but these major retailers seem to have a short attention span.  The popularity continued long after the department stores dropped out of the game.  Small business can offer more variety, restock faster, and offer the gift sets cheaper than the department stores that seem to have abandoned this accessory. 

How can you be cheaper than the majors with their huge buying power?  Walk into one of those gorgeous retail locations with oodles of square footage in the high rent district.  How would you like to have their overhead?  While most small business doesn’t have that kind of foot traffic, their overhead is not sending them to the poorhouse. 

Now what is new in these ready-made gifts this year?  First there are some sets for men that include a scarf and stocking cap and are super warm. This is practical gifts that you can retail below $15 for your customers that need a gift for friends, office parties, or relatives. 

Also, a cute new set for women has a heavy cable knit scarf with matching knit cap decorated with knit flowers on one side.  Available in a variety of fashion colors, these instant gifts will sell themselves.


Other choices have faux fur trimmed fleece hat, scarf, and glove sets or the same combination in herringbone.  More are still coming so you can keep adding variety to your selection to please customers. 

Part II will follow shortly with a look at how small business can excel in fashion jewelry.

Comments (0) Posted by admin on Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Filed under Bracelets, Earrings, Fashion Jewelry, Fashion Marketing, Necklace Sets, New Orleans Accessories, Pendants, Religious Gifts, Religious Jewelry, Religious Jewelry & Gifts, Wholesale Jewelry
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 We are in July, it’s hotter than blazes, and consumers don’t want to get out of the air conditioning.  When it comes to fashion jewelry, what in the world are retailers going to sell?  This two-part blog covers just that.  The first part covered needed jewelry for bridal and formal plus gemstone that remains popular season after season.  But we saved the best for last.  Now we are going to cover the two categories that we have to reorder more than any other in the summer months.  The first is niche market jewelry. 



Niche market jewelry—what does that mean?  Well an example might explain it.  In New Orleans, fleur-de-lis jewelry has been huge since Hurricane Katrina.  It is the symbol of the City and a rallying point for citizens that faced a serious disaster.  Still, six year later, women from New Orleans never tire of fleur-de-lis jewelry.  For Accessory Wholesale, it is an item that requires constant reorder, even in the summer.  This is fashion jewelry with more powerful sales than even items in the latest trends. 

The point is niche markets are a huge answer to getting customers to buy in the sultry heat.  Think about your area and the niche markets for your customers.  Football is coming and some states live and die by their college teams.  High school teams also have a passionate following.  In Louisiana, LSU reigns and licensed LSU jewelry will always have a market. 


Other niche markets include the growing number of caring people involved with breast cancer awareness.  Still other markets are the fun loving red hatters

Human nature plays into the niche markets that are selling.  Right after the 9/11 tragedy, there was a return to values and inspirational jewelry reflected the thoughts and feelings of consumers who gave more thought to a Higher Being.  In fragile economic times that have a high unemployment, the same feelings return, perhaps making us feel guilty as fair weather friends.  Nevertheless, inspirational jewelry and gifts are on the upswing.  Combining inspirational jewelry and gifts in display tells a story in your shop that will capture the attention of shoppers.  This is a niche market that can be uplifting for your clientele. 

Study your own customer base and local area for niche markets that work.  This is where you have a great advantage over the big box stores that do not have your local input.      


“Best Brand” manufactures a superb line of pendants and earrings plus the chokers needed to wear the pendants.  Themes are endless in this line that has superior metalwork unchallenged in the fashion jewelry field.   

Why does this line keep selling over and over again?  Three main reasons—themes, quality, and uniqueness.  First, themes are special because they touch the hearts of the buyer.  Even a shopper that is not in the market for fashion jewelry cannot pass up a Yorkie pendant if their Yorkshire is dear to them.  The same is true for nearly every theme from gardening to motorcycles.

But it is not just the theme; it is the exceptional metalwork that delivers the jewelry that is immediately recognizable with intricate detail.  The process of “Best Brand” is unique in the fashion jewelry industry.  Most pendants and matching earrings start with a thin sheet of steel that a stamping process presses into a dimensionally raised shape, loaded with detail.  Then they cut a back and solder it in place so the pendant or earrings are hollow and lightweight, borrowing a page from puffy sterling silver jewelry.  Finally, the jewelry is plated, sometimes epoxied with color, and polished.  The manufacturer is proud enough of theses creations to stamp their name on the back of each piece.  Retailers are buying the jewelry of future vintage collectors.

Not everything is theme.  “Best Brand” also creates fashion designs that follow the trends in jewelry.  Geometrics, animal prints, inlays, Southwest inspirations, Murano style glass, and classic patterns—it’s all here in this fabulous line. 


Now retailers need chokers and chains so customers can wear the pendants.  “Best Brand” answers that challenge with one of the most extensive lines of fashion chokers.  Stock several with your display and price each component in this line separately.  That way the customer gets to create their own designs and they may want more than one choker to give different looks to the same pendant.  Also the customer can build their own sale that will fit their budget.  Whereas, combining pendant, choker, and earrings can elevate the price and put it beyond an impulsive buy.    

Make a statement in your shop with this line and you have something unique with practically no competition.  Look around online and in brick and mortar shops and you will probably not find this sensational line or anything like it with such high quality.  One final reason why customers are constantly reordering this fashion jewelry—the look with pendants on chokers is tailored, a classy accessory for career wear, and it is timeless, never going out of style.  This is the line we reorder more than any other.  You have hardly any competition in it.  So try out this fashion jewelry and see if it helps your summer sales like it is helping other retailers carrying it.

Comments (0) Posted by admin on Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Filed under Fashion Marketing
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Where did Valentine’s Day come from?  Did the card companies make it up?  NO! It dates back too far for that.  A mix of history and legend dates back to 496 A.D. as the beginning of Valentine’s Day when Pope Gelasius added the feast day of St. Valentine to the Roman Calendar of Saints. 

Most of what we know about St. Valentine comes from Legenda Aurea (Golden Legend), rather than from the more reliable Acts of the Martyrs.  The legend says that St. Valentine was a priest in Rome during the reign of Claudius, who put out an edict that Roman soldiers could not marry.  St. Valentine secretly performed wedding ceremonies for the soldiers and eventually Claudius found out and had him arrested.  St. Valentine’s jailer was aware of the gift of healing attributed to the Saint and asked Valentine to heal his blind daughter.  The girl regained her sight and became devoted to St. Valentine. 

Claudius tried to convert Valentine to the Roman gods and, in turn, Valentine tried to convert Claudius to the Christian God, which resulted in Valentine getting the death sentence.  The jailer’s daughter suffered a great deal of grief as Valentine waited in prison for his execution.  To bring some relief, St. Valentine asked for pen and wrote a note to the cured girl that simply stated “from your Valentine”. 

A more likely association of the Saint to romance can be found in the 1400s when many in England and France believed that birds picked their mates on February 14th, the feast of St. Valentine’s.  From this grew the custom of exchanging handmade cards or gifts.  In 1847, Esther Howland manufactured the first Valentine’s cards in the United States—so there goes the theory that card companies started the custom of exchanging Valentines. 

Today, Valentine’s Day has become a huge event—bigger than we imagine until we look at what days generate the most activity in giving.  Mother’s Day is the biggest day for flowers, Easter for candy, and Christmas for cards, but the special day that is number two for all the above is Valentine’s Day.  This is why Valentine’s Day can be important to shops in the fashion industry. 

Add-on gifts are a wonderful keepsake that constantly reminds the receiver of the warm feelings associated with the special day.  Candy, flowers, and dining out are the most popular gifts for Valentine’s Day, but they are not lasting.  The little add-on gift is there long after the flowers wilt and the candy is gone. 


Valentine’s jewelry rates high for add-on gifts.  This season sees new heart pins with sparkling crystals that will stir warm feelings every time this special gift is put on.   Fresh designs are available this year so your Valentine jewelry selection can get a new look. 


Grouping Valentine’s jewelry and accessories in one display gives impact to your selection and adding some decorations stirs the spirit.  Do this for every season and occasion and soon your shop will be the go-to place for special gifts. 

 I noticed this when I called on shops as a road salesman of wholesale fashion jewelry.   When a special day came that called for gifts, some shops had a steady flow of customers that depended on them for the just-right item.  The shops were so busy; I had to rush through the jewelry presentation whenever the buyer could take a break.  What made these shops so special?  They prepared for every holiday or event with a display dedicated to the season and stirred interest with decorations.  Of course, this will not be immediate success, but starting and persevering will eventually pay off.   


Add some accessories to the display as well.  Valentine scarves make a soft and feminine statement with a gift that is very affordable.  Affordable is important when thinking about add-on gifts because they are not the main event.  They accompany something like dining out that can be costly.  Still a Valentine heart pin can make the evening far more meaningful. 

If February is cold and snowy, many retailers are looking for ways to generate more income.  Give serious thought to special events that can draw customers for Valentine’s Day and draw them back again for Easter and Mother’s Day.   Become the go-to place to find gifts for occasions.

Comments (0) Posted by admin on Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Filed under Fashion Marketing
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 RETURNS.  FOR RETAILERS, THIS just isn’t a nice word!  But it is an increasingly important one, invariably rated a top consideration on customers’ lists of consumer services they most value. A common statement from buyers is, “If I can’t return it, I won’t buy there.” 

   — But believe it — there is more to it then just being able to make a return. The big questions include “For how long after purchase can the customer bring the product back?”  And, “What documentation will the customer need?” 

Retailer policies on products that customers bring back to the store are always in a state of flux.  Senior “Editor Tod Marks of Consumer Reports calls them “a moving target,” advising customers to always read the fine print.  

Apparently, Americans expect to spend at least one hour waiting in lines to return holiday purchases this year.  And, according to Consumer Reports, almost 20% say they expect to return at least one gift.  That adds up to a lot of returns, and refers only to those returns that might be called “legitimate”!




                                                 Fraud Protection

BEYOND THAT, THE National Retail Federation reports that the retail industry will lose about $3.68 billion this year in return fraud, up $2.7 billion from last year.    To try dealing with this, 10% of retailers report that they have tightened holiday return policies. Only 5% said they were loosening them up.

Which, you might ask, means what?  Well, Macy’s has gone the lenient route, removing time restrictions on when most items can be returned with a receipt.  Kohl’s promotions include the promise:  You can return any item, anytime, for a full refund without restriction. Such easy returns don’t bode well for small retailers, as they give the big boys added sales power that is hard to compete with.

Most large stores have different return policies for different product categories.  Target has a 90 day return policy on most products, with a receipt required unless purchased by credit card, debit card, gift card, or check.  Many prepackaged products can’t be returned at all if opened unless defective.  For electronics, there is a 15% restocking fee.

Sears has a 90 day return policy, but only 30 days on jewelry and watches.  A receipt or e-mail confirmation and original packaging is required. 

If you are going to try competing head-on with any of these major stores, you’d better have a return policy relatively lenient or you’ll be in trouble.  Admittedly, consumers generally do not expect smaller retailers to offer the same customer-friendly terms as big stores, but they still do expect eased service restrictions, especially during the present economic turn-down.

Some stores require approval by the manager for returns. Others will only refund online purchases with a merchandise credit. Understanding what your competition is doing about returns helps you write a store policy that is as lenient as necessary for your own protection.


                                          Marketing Strategy

V. RUMAR, A PROFESSOR at the J. Mark Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University has found that if consumers know they can return an item more easily, it will make them more likely to go to that store to buy.  They will also be more likely to refer friends and family to the store.
Rumar adds that lenient return policies “communicate and build trust in the minds of consumers through the assurance of either cash back/store credit if the product has to be returned.”  He contends that return policies can be used as a strategy to bring in future sales.

Obviously, good customer service is becoming increasingly important for shoppers.  Sales and deals are still seen as the most important consideration for buying, but that number is surprisingly on the decline.  It has dropped from 43.3 percent last year to 41.8 percent this year.

On the other hand, customer service as the most important consideration rose to the highest percentage since 2002!  Retail analyst Patricia Edwards says that while people are still value-conscious, “the shopping experience is becoming a bigger consideration now.”




Big box stores compete with return policies to lure customers, but small business can go broke by trying to play the game.

Comments (0) Posted by Mary McGarry on Friday, January 7th, 2011

Filed under Fashion Marketing
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FAST KNOCK-OFF:  Remember what we said about the rush to copy the engagement ring given by England’s Prince William to Kate Middleton recently?  Well, QVC is already selling a copy of the ring for a low-low $39.64.  The QVC ring has been designed by Kenneth Jay Lane and is available on qvc.com. Just ask for the Kenneth Jay Lane Princess Simulated Sapphire Ring and you’ll be living the life of royalty.

TREND CHECK; BOUDOIR SHORTS:  Just look at some of the sexy new shorts coming onto the market!  They make yesterday’s hot pants look mild by comparison.  Not that these shorts are in any way crass; oh, no!  They are as refined and dainty as anything could be, making them all the sexier! But for the living room, or your favorite restaurant?  That’s right!

Take for example Mark + James’ gold sequined shorts, recently photographed by a major fashion publication over a tiny silk blouse and Marlene Dietrich – style marabou bolero. What a fabulous look!  Or, choose a blousy, little top and shorts outfit over a brown crystal fox stole.  Another fabulous winner. 

  These new shorts are anything but retro, even though they’ll surely be pegged as such.  These are a brand new look, shorts made out of lace, silks and sequins, looking suspiciously like panties or bedroom attire, worn with gossamer blouses and au natural colored, shiny fishnet hose. Like Bruce II’s leopard patterned, cotton and linen lace shorts or Contrarian NY’s gunmetal sequined high waisted silk shorts worn with a cummerbund.  

What would you wear with these fancy shorts?  First, think in terms of dressy fabrics and sexy shapes. Pointed, radically high sandals maintain the updated trend.   Then add delicate jewelry, like long classic, Chanel chains, and silvery bracelets, preferably.




BRANCHING OUT ALL OVER: We’re supposed to be in a recession, but you’d never know it from the way hot retail stores are opening around the world.  Now Forever 21 is making news with its aggressive expansion agenda.  The store has just opened a 45,000 square foot unit on Fifth Avenue in New York City – albeit for a temporary, 6-month stint – saying it hopes to be on Fifth Avenue permanently. 

     Overseas, Forever 21 has leased space in numerous upscale neighborhoods, such as Oxford Street in London.  The firm has also opened units in Birmingham and Dublin.  A 50,000 square foot unit will open next year in Hong Kong, and another in Tokyo.  “We plan to open in one of the major cities in China over the next year,” said Larry Meyer, Forever 21’s senior vice president. “Next year, we’ll open in Vienna, Brussels, Antwerp, and Barcelona as well as France.” See what we mean? 

    In addition, the company is in no way skimping on luxury in its new stores.  Even though it is a lease, the store on Fifth Avenue sports conveyor belts hanging from the ceiling to give apparel a spin.  Vintage motorcycles exaggerate the stores’ young, edgy look. Rich materials such as marble, along with wood herringbone floors, original moldings, and coffered ceilings further the firm’s reputation for globally sophisticated style.

    Accessories in the new store have been given a Fifties-style bakery environment, with products displayed with fake treats like chocolates.  Designer and daughter of the founder, Linda Chang, explains the design, saying, “I like it to be a grabby experience.”

IGNORING THE BASICS:  Swarovski is expanding into eyeglasses and rings as part of its lifestyle brand.  The looks are interesting, with many innovative ideas that will doubtlessly characterize future collections if this one is as successful as planned.  The sunglasses are being produced by Italy’s Marcolin, and an unexpected aspect to the glasses is that most of them do not feature crystals as a dominant design factor. 

I wanted to pay attention to the message that this is an entirely new area for Swarovski, said creative director Nathalie Colin. “Rather than going the easy route with stones and sparkle, I was inspired by the architectural language of crystal.”

   –Of course, you can’t expect total change overnight.  There are still a number of crystals in the temple design of the eyeglasses, thank heavens.

The ring collection, which includes 12 styles retailing from $360 to $495, also uses enamel rather than crystal.  “We have focused on a cleaner, purer interpretation of brilliance,” Colin said.  But, hey, this is Swarovski!  What is going on here?



Comments (0) Posted by Mary McGarry on Monday, December 6th, 2010

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  THIS IS GREAT STUFF! The Jackson family, after a long hiatus out of the prime fashion picture, is making strong moves to get it on and get things jumping again, a la the late Michael Jackson himself. 

Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marion and Randy – the Jackson Five – will soon join with the Michael Jackson estate in launching an exciting new fashion line to be marketed under the famous name, the Jackson Five. 

Starting with apparel, the line will include T-shirts and jackets for both men and women and will feature images of what was once known as the first family of music.  Then, the line will broaden out, and include accessories, such as footwear and eyeglasses. 

   –Hey, and what about that famous glove?  And the fedora?  Oh, we have a lot of excitement headed our way! 

The brothers say they are hoping their new venture will be successful. We wonder:  How can it be otherwise?  Big brother Jackie Jackson, who got the whole idea really rolling in the first place, says he doesn’t have any reservations. 

“I’VE BEEN IN THIS BUSINESS for a long time and our name is known around the world,” he declares.  Jackie also says he has wanted to do this for a long time.  “I’ve seen other friends be successful with their lines, like Puffy and Sean John.”




                                          Iconic Michael Jackson Jackets

STEVE BOHBOT, WHO OWNS THE L.A.  showroom International Sales, and which reps a score of high profile name lines, is working with the Jackson Five on the new venture.  Belmont Apparel will manufacture J5 collection, which will have an extensive line of Ts on the market this spring.  The firm will also be ready with a collection of the iconic leather jackets Michael Jackson wore in the “Thriller” and “Beat It” videos. 

Bohbot says he has been after the family to produce a line of apparel for a long time.  “I reached out to the Jackson management and have been very persistent,” he says.  “A week after Michael Jackson’s funeral in July 2009, Jackie came to visit my showroom and the whole thing took off after that.”

T-shirts will retail for between $32 and $58.  The jackets are expected to run about $600.  Jackie Jackson was so excited by the jackets when he saw them, saying “They are just incredible. They are a real tribute to Michael.  They represent everything he stood for, and everything he has done for this industry.”

                                               Web Site Up and Running

ALL KINDS OF THINGS are already happening.  Several top retailers such as Urban Outfitters and Pac Sun have picked up the line.  A Japanese distributor has been named to handle accounts in that market.  And an e-commerce site has been launched at J5collection.com.

But just listen to this about the images that will be on the apparel! All together there are 24 of them, from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – from the Sixties when the Jacksons were just kids to the 70s with their famed Afro Period.  They also include their triumphant Victory Tour in the 80s! 

     –Illustrations to die for!

Jackie says when he first started going through the things he had saved, there were so many images and objects, it was almost overwhelming.  “But I am so glad I saved it.  I think it is really going to work, what with what’s going on in fashion, and people looking for things that are authentic.”



Comments (0) Posted by Mary McGarry on Friday, December 3rd, 2010

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  THE JEWELRY IS FANTASTIC!  The prices are remarkably modest.  And the ladies who promote the collections are a glorious 60 years and older, a long way from the skinny young things the Fashion Industry is most used to. 

But….we are talking about Alexis Bittar, that designer extraordinaire, who doesn’t believe in doing things like everybody else and has thus forged a maverick but wildly successful career in the world of jewelry making.

BITTAR TOOK THE Accessories of the Year Award at the Council of Fashion Designers of America earlier this year and now, here he is in the classy Saks Fifth Avenue Emporium in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, presiding over a trunk show of his unique jewelry, the same that nabbed him the Award in the first place.  Bittar takes it all in his stride.

                                               Modest Start

THE 42-YEAR-OLD Brooklyn-born designer started his business in 1990 in a one-bedroom apartment and has moved up the fashion ladder at a breakneck pace. His jewelry runs from handsculpted and handpainted hinge bracelets (part of his Lucite collection) to oversized floral brooches handpainted the color of pomegranates. 

Trendy gold hoops and teardrop earrings are remarkably popular, along with rings, such as one that is crystal encrusted, chunky, gold…and simultaneously classic and wild!

Bittar appeals to an older audience of buyers.  “Is she going to be buying my jewelry?” Bittar asks, pointing to a picture of a teenage model. “Probably not. The woman who (is going to buy my jewelry) is probably going to be 60 years old, And that is a reality.”

Bittar’s advertising reflects that demographic.  The star of his next ad campaign will be 66-year-old Lauren Hutton.  And she is a full decade younger than his most recent advertising celebrity:  Joan Collins. 

“In the advertising world, you always try to be provocative,” Bittar declares. “Isn’t it amazing that you could use a mature woman and that’s provocative?  People all over the world noticed that ad and talked about her age.

















                                            Surprising Prices

BITTAR IS BEST KNOWN for his exceptional Lucite jewelry, which sells for as little as $45 for a thin bangle.  His Dew Drop Lucite earrings are just $90. He has three distinctive collections, including Miss Havisham, which is a mix of punk and Art Deco pieces.  Elements uses semi-precious stones plus 60s metal smith work with inspiration from sculptor Alexander Calder. This grouping also shows the influence of painter Gustav Klimt.

Lucite is perhaps his most popular collection.  Here, Bittar fuses the techniques used to create Bakelite plastic jewelry of yesterday with the present day glassmaking art of Lalique crystal. The Lucite is initially made by some 250 American artisans in Brooklyn who cut and sculpts it.  Then, Bittar takes it through another six steps, gilding and painting it so that it reflects light.

Bittar is in the process of opening four stores, which will bring the number of Alexis Bittar boutiques to seven. And while he talks about the 60-plus ladies who wear his jewelry, the fact is, just about every age group is turned on by his work. 

Alexis Bittar jewelry is worn by the First Lady, along with celebrities galore.  Even young girls on their first jobs wear his jewelry, because some of the pieces are priced low enough for their budgets.   

But whatever the price, Bittar’s interest is in creating and selling what he calls “special pieces,” pieces that could be considered collectible.  “I went into the business thinking that way,” he asserted, “understanding that if I was handsculpting a piece out of Lucite, which no one was doing, then it would be collectible.”







Comments (0) Posted by Mary McGarry on Tuesday, November 16th, 2010