It's not just retailers who need a bright holiday season. Consumers do, too! After holding back on spending and getting by on basics, they are ready to celebrate with gifts that add some sparkle to the season. Buyers may not be ready to pull out all the stops and splurge on items that bust their budgets, but will be on the lookout for gifts that are fun to buy and to give. Nothing fills the bill better than fashion jewelry or a trendy watch, especially when the items represent good value, say suppliers of products in both categories.
Wholesale suppliers are filling their warehouses with units designed to lure shoppers into stores, and help retailers sell through at a good profit. New York's Sterling Forest, as the company name implies, once relied solely on sterling silver jewelry. "Silver is still doing well," says Dinesh Kumar, owner, "because the prices of gold have really shot up, and silver still provides something precious." However, Sterling Forest now also offers stainless steel jewelry, particularly in its men's lines. "These men's pieces are heavier than women's," Kumar explains. "By weight, sterling would be considerably more expensive. Furthermore, stainless steel offers additional advantages. It won't tarnish, and it's easy to maintain."
For the holidays, Sterling Forest has assembled collections of men's stainless steel cuff links, money clips and key chains. "They come prepackaged and make great gifts for men," Kumar says. French cuff shirts are back in style, he also notes. These are in addition to the 350 different styles of stainless steel men's bracelets, chains and rings that Sterling Forest carries. Kumar also suggests that retailers carry silver stud earrings and tiny silver hoop earrings for men.
Men's is a small but growing portion of Sterling Forest's overall business. There are more than 5,000 different items in stock, and a majority are, "trendy and contemporary styles for women," Kumar says. "This represents an inventory of more than $5 million in sterling silver alone," he adds. There are also some stainless steel ladies' units. Sterling Forest shows about 20 percent of its line on its website and also offers two free catalogs. One is 64 pages; the other, 72. These are supplemented by flyers featuring new items. Every week, the company emails a new product feature to retailers who sign up for email alerts.
Among the top sellers are look-alike jewelry, inspired by designers. "These are easy for retailers to sell," Kumar says, "because the designs are recognized by consumers, and we offer them at a fraction of the price of the actual designer pieces." The latter are featured in national ad campaigns, which proliferate during the holiday season. "In sterling silver, a retailer needs to have such basics as designs with CZ, silver studs, large hoop earrings for women and small hoops for men, chains, and a variety of crosses and hearts, which are very popular now," says Kumar. Especially for the holidays, Sterling Forest has added many Christmas charms, including snow flake designs. The minimum order is $150 and can include a mix of anything. As an example of pricing, the wholesale costs for earrings ranges from $3 to $12. "The suggested retail is a 400 percent markup," Kumar notes.
"Make sure there's a selection," advises Roger Stephenson, owner of Judson & Company, a supplier based in Decatur, AL that keeps more than 3,000 different jewelry stock keeping units in inventory at all times. "We encourage retailers to buy width rather than depth," he says, "because customers need to feel like they have a lot of options to choose from. Our goal is to constantly provide top selling products. We have an inventory management system that tracks best sellers, and we are constantly adding new designs and eliminating those that begin showing a decline in demand."
"A similar tracking system would also work for retailers," Stephenson suggests. "Consumers are always asking what's new. It's important for retailers to have new product to show. Furthermore, new designs also excite the sales staff. They are more enthusiastic when they have new product to show." Judson & Company adds new product to its inventory everyday. In addition, it always offers a daily deal. That is, "one new product we feature everyday at a very low price, in order to give our retailer customers a product to promote, or give them something that brings down the average cost of their order," says Stephenson.
Wholesale prices range from under $1 to $20. "We have a two tier discount program," says Stephenson. "Our regular wholesale price is half off the suggested retail, and we also have a second tier. "When an order reaches $400, the buyer can take an additional 25 percent off. That means the net total is $300, and that's a very reasonable size order for many retailers; one that will give them a good display and selection," he explains.
For the holiday season, Judson & Company has added packaged sets of bracelets and necklaces. They come in an individual gift box with a clear cover. "Most wholesale for $2.50 to $5 and have a suggested retail price of $5 to $10," Judson reports. In addition, Judson & Company has added licensed collegiate jewelry, packaged with sunglasses. The selection includes necklaces, bracelets and earrings, along with the sunglasses. "We now have 12 different colleges, including the country's landmark football teams," says Stephenson, "and we'll soon have 20. The jewelry is inlaid with a vinyl insignia of the school colors and logo. We're also obtaining the popular dog tag style designs," he adds. As for current jewelry trends, Stephenson says, "it's all over the map. There's no single big hit, but the peace sign is strong, as are inspirational, message themed pieces."
In 1990, about a dozen years after Alan Koehring founded Tidepool, his wife, Sabine, began designing sterling silver jewelry that is exclusive to the company. "We now have about 800 different designs," Koehring says. "All are handmade, not cast, and the majority are in contemporary style. They include rings, pendants with a black silk chord, necklaces, bracelets, earrings and hair ornaments. Many include semiprecious stones."
In addition to sterling silver pieces, Tidepool also carries Sabine's exclusive designs of jewelry made from the Tagua Nut, and from Dichroic Glass. The Tagua Nut comes from palm trees that grow in the South American rain forests. It is a vegetable that looks like ivory, and like ivory, can be carved and sculpted into many different intricate designs. "Because Tagua Nuts are harvested and keep the tree intact," Koehring explains, "it becomes profitable to retain the forests." Among the Tagua Nut designs are frogs, Buddhas and the lotus. Every piece carries a tag that explains what Tagua Nut is, where it comes from, and how its use is helping to save rain forests.
Dichroic Glass was developed by NASA for optics and light filtering. It joins natural glass and metals to create intense hues that reflect and refract light. The number and combination of fused metal layers determine the color, and no two pieces are exactly alike. Tags on all Dichroic Glass pieces also describe the origin of the glass.
All of Tidepool's 800 pieces are shown on the company website, and all can be ordered online. In addition, the company will send a 26 page catalog to retailers. There is no minimum order. "A retailer can order one, just to take a look," Koehring says. The wholesale prices range from $10 to $80. "The average," he says, "is in the $10 to $20 range, and the suggested retail price is typically double wholesale." Koehring and his staff will help retailers choose a mix of best sellers.
People don't have just one watch today. They have, or like to have, watch wardrobes: different styles for different activities, or just for a change and a chance to put on a current style. Among these newest are fashion bling bling styles, according to Robert Chestnutis, owner of RC Jewels in Columbia, MD. "These styles for men have big, 50 millimeter faces with stones around the bezel," Chestnutis explains. "We carry about 200 different designs and all come with a change of bands, including metal, leather and rubber." Wholesale prices range from $6 to $9, and suggested retail is typically $19.99 to $39.99, which makes them affordable for consumers and profitable for retailers. While the majority are for men, RC Jewels also carries about a dozen different ladies' styles. They are somewhat smaller and feature different bright colors. The wholesale and retail pricing parallels the men's.
RC Jewels also has more than 60 styles of diamond watch selections in its Super Techno and JoJino brands. These feature a dozen diamond chips around the bezel, and have wholesale prices ranging from $49 to $89. "On some collections, the tag carries a suggested retail price of $490," says Chestnutis, "and on another line the suggested retail is $100 to $150." These come in a display box and include two extra bands. Like the company's other lines, the majority of styles are for men. However, there is a ladies' heart face design in the JoJino line.
The minimum order is $200, and can include a mix of styles. RC Jewels offers free shipping in the U.S. "We will make up sample packs of best sellers," Chestnutis says. "Selection and display are important," he adds. He suggests showing the designs against a black background, which makes the hip hop styles really pop out and attract attention.
Bling bling and hip hop styles are also an important component of top sellers for Any Time Wholesale, based in Thorndale, PA. "We have 500 to 600 styles in stock at all times," says Michael DiLeo, owner. "All are designed to look similar to other brand names," he says, pointing to Paul Jardin. Any Time Wholesale offers a lifetime warranty, "which builds customer confidence," DiLeo points out.
Wholesale prices range from $3.95 to $6.95, and the suggested retail range is from $12.95 to $29.95. "Despite the economy, watch sales have remained strong for retailers that carry them," DiLeo reports. "This is especially true for these fashion watches. "They are impulse buys," he says, adding, "the more they are on display, the better they sell." The company offers a variety of sample packs, including a package of 25 top sellers. "We'll put together different packages for different kinds of merchants, and many of the packages include free shipping."
The minimum order is 25 watches, and can include a mix and match of any style, including just a single unit of a design. Among the company's packages is an offer that combines watches and sunglasses. "They are not matched sets," DiLeo says. "The retailer can sell them separately, but they raise impulse appeal among customers who are looking for low cost fashion accessories. The combination also tends to raise the retail ticket," he points out. "Put watches in an easy to see location," DiLeo advises. Any Time Wholesale offers a variety of displayers, from single piece boxes to free standing fixtures that hold up to 72 watches. "Make sure the displays are well lighted," he adds. "Make very large attractive signs that indicate the price. Price is a big draw, and pricing from $12.95 to $19.95 is within the impulse range."
Jim Balasny, owner of James Irwin Co. in San Antonio, confirms the importance of price, especially in the all important holiday selling season ahead. For that reason, his company is offering closeouts of more than 400 watches, including some pocket watches. "We're offering them at a wholesale price that is 40 percent off the regular wholesale price," Balasny says. "That puts the wholesale at from $3.50 to up to $15 to $18 for brand names. Among the brands are Timex and Casio. There's no minimum, and it's an excellent deal," he notes, "that allows the retailer to sell in volume and still retain a profitable markup."
Among the more popular pieces, according to Balasny, are designs that feature hot air balloons, ballerinas, horses, fish, animals, musical instruments, religious figures, flowers, dice and crap games. "The wholesale on these was $12, and now it begins at $7.50. He also sells watch heads that allow the retailer to add a unique band, such as a craft strap. "Selection is critical, and display sells," he advises, echoing others. "You need variety to attract a broad customer market." Balasny suggests a minimum of three to four dozen different designs, "in order to make a nice display, even in stores that sell other items, such as apparel," he points out. "At these price points, people have an incentive to add to their own watch wardrobes. Pocket watches are a great gift for men this season."
To help with display, James Irwin Co. offers several pilfer proof countertop displayers. One holds 48 units and another holds 60. Also offered are plastic jewelry pads to showcase individual watches. The company's full line is shown on the website, and retailers can order online. Orders are shipped within two business days. Balasny and other watch wholesalers also advise retailers to add such watch supplies as batteries and band openers to their watch departments. These help draw added traffic, and give the new watches on display greater exposure.
By adding a rich selection of glittery fashion jewelry and watches, retailers bring some dazzle to stores, lifting the spirits of customers and salespeople alike, while also ringing up added holiday sales.
The following were interviewed for this article:
Michael DiLeo, owner
Any Time Wholesale
55 North Bailey Road
Thorndale, PA 19372
Toll Free: 888-333-3722
Jim Balasny, owner
James Irwin Co.
2507 West King Highway
San Antonio, TX 78228
Toll Free: 800-823-9787
Roger Stephenson, owner
Judson & Company
3440 Valley Avenue Ste. D
Decatur, AL 35603
Toll Free: 866-615-8247
Robert Chestnutis, owner
8775 Centre Park Drive # 322
Columbia, MD 21045
Dinesh Kumar, owner
New York, NY 10001
Toll Free: 888-925-6255
Alan Koehring, owner
P.O. Box 151454
San Diego, CA 92175
Toll Free: 800-748-5790
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