This is the 27th year for Accessory Wholesale inc. business. Sometimes we have to stop and ask, have we learned anything over the last quarter of a century in business? Our business is fashion jewelry and accessories plus some really fun items like Mardi Gras and masks. Those familiar with fashion know that it is cyclical. Trends come and go, business build for years and then reverse for years in rollercoaster-like cycles.
How does small business survive that? Our business as a wholesaler depends on the success of small retailers. These are our customers. Some small fashion businesses have found their space in the retail world and are doing very well, while many others may feel the walls closing in with competitions from major retailers as well as taxes, insurance, and everything else including days with problem customers.
Over the last 27 years, we haven’t come up with neat little formulas for guaranteed success, but we have noticed some tactics by successful retailers that seem to work. This blog and the following two will hash out five ideas.
How many times have we heard the three most important things that make a business successful are location, location, and location? Sounds simple enough, right? That is until we try to pin down what is the right location. Most areas have shopping destinations that can draw from 25 and more miles away. This is often a mall like the Acadiana Mall in Lafayette, La. or the White Oaks Mall in Springfield, Ill.
These shopping destinations get plenty of traffic, but leases are through the roof. Small business often feels it is giving all the profit to the property owner. I noticed something as a road salesman calling on small fashion businesses. Many successful businesses were in smaller towns away from the shopping destination. They had desirable merchandise and were conveniently close to their customers. Personal service accompanied by a high level of energy made shoppers feel special as well as energized to buy. They were packed with customers when locals needed gifts for those special days like Valentines Day and Mothers Day.
Location and the price of the lease need to be weighed to determine whether sales volume is going to overcome the lease cost.
2) NICHE MARKETS IN JEWELRY & FASHION
The Christmas shopping season is probably the time when small business feels major retailers cutting into their sales more than any other time of the year. Niche markets insulate small business from the onslaught. Most niche markets are an area where the majors simply don’t go.
A few examples will make the point. Since Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana, especially in New Orleans, fleur-de-lis jewelry and accessories have been extremely popular. It is the symbol of the City as well as on the Acadiana flag. Louisiana has rallied around this emblem since the devastation of the Hurricane and it has been in hot demand by the locals. But the only place to find a nice selection is small business. This is a niche market that small business owns.
CAPITALIZING ON LOCAL SCHOOL THEMES
Think about sports. Local high schools and colleges have a following of avid fans. This is a super niche market, especially high schools. Of course manufacturers are not going to produce lines of merchandise for individual high schools, but that is where the ingenuity of small business comes in.
If this were a recipe, school colors and school mascots would be the main ingredients. Decorating an area with colors and the mascot screams “local high school” to your shoppers. Everything from stuffed animals to jewelry and printed shirts creates the story. In jewelry, chokers, mascot pendants, and school color beads can be offered separately so customer can create their own high school jewelry. School color bracelets are also available to fit into the theme. If mascot pendants aren’t available, simply substitute a sports pendant like a football. That with the school color beads will tell the story. Sounds like a lot of creativity and work? Well, there are some easier choices that can add other niche markets.
MARDI GRAS JEWELRY, GIFTS, AND PARTY ITEMS
In some areas, Mardi Gras is huge and this market belongs almost entirely to small business. If “The Greatest Free Show on Earth” is celebrated in your area, take advantage of the enormous retail business done in Mardi Gras items while other parts of the country are recovering from Christmas. If not, you be the shop that introduces this fun celebration to your area.
What makes up an irresistible Mardi Gras selection for retailers? Of course, beads must be included—not cheap throw beads, but specialty beads that consumers will pay money for. Hand-strung Mardi Gras beads in nice designs and Mardi Gras colors of purple, gold, and green have to be part of the selection. But other colors are often used in beads that have a theme, like crawfish boil, jesters, peppers, seafood, oysters on the half shell, and more.
Novelty hats are also an almost necessary party item. Purple, gold, and green novelty hats again do well for Mardi Gras—headwear like jester hats, sequin tiaras, mad hatters, or crowns. But any crazy hat will be popular for this super party. You need a lot of selection, but not a lot of depth. The market doesn’t end on Ash Wednesday. Festivals, birthday parties, and sporting events are more opportunities for sales in this fun headwear.
Boas are a festive accessory popular with girls—purple, gold, and green for Mardi Gras day, but other colors do very well also. When buying boas, the fullness is determined by weight and a good weight is 55 to 60 grams.
Masks are a major ingredient for Mardi Gras and selection has certainly become more sophisticated over the last few years. Feather masks, both worn with elastic bands and on a stick to be held, continue to provide more breath-taking designs. The sequin mask with a spray of feathers to one side is leading seller year after year. Coque, ostrich, and marabou feathers make a fabulous arrangement in the spray, making these masks extraordinary without being expensive.
The rising star in masks is Venetian style masks. These gorgeous works of art were practically unknown a few years ago and now frequent reality shows, TV, and the movies. The art of mask making had its own guild in Venus during the Renaissance and the growing popularity of Venetian style masks makes it hard to pass up when stocking your store.
Venetian style masks can be affordable with designs like the Arlecchino patchwork patterns of eye masks for men or masks mounted on sticks with lavish ostrich plumes for women.
Exceptional styles include the full-face jester masks in Mardi Gras colors as well as butterfly Venetian style masks for women that are breath-taking. Venetian masks have the history and artistic beauty that will make you proud to include them in your inventory.
Whew! This blog took more time than I expected so we will save two important areas for small business until the next blog—the areas of jewelry for special occasions and seasons plus key niche markets that appeal to a wider audience.