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The jewelry accessory category is one for which the demand has been growing. For independent retailers, it's an easy, add-on business, and stores love it. Suppliers like E'arrs Inc. even offer a spinner display unit that makes the products hard-to-resist, impulse buys. It's also a non-seasonal fashion category, which sells just as well all year round, and is not color-related. Unlike other fashion items, the line doesn't have to be changed periodically throughout the year.
Back in the late '70s, Mike Bow of E'arrs Inc. patented a small, low-density polyethylene sleeve, that goes over the post of an earring to protect the skin from the metal. At that time, the vast majority of earring posts had a lot of nickel in them, and roughly 30 to 40 percent of people exposed to nickel have some type of contact dermatitis reaction to it.
Needless to say, Bow had great success with the item, and subsequently branched out into many other products, including polyethylene earring backs, ring sizers and liquid plastic to coat jewelry.
"We've got between 45 and 50 items now," says Bow. "Our line of items consists of what we call jewelry accessories, rather than jewelry. While we do import some sterling silver earrings, our main business is in the jewelry accessory category."
It's a small niche, but a lucrative one. The items are inexpensive, so it requires a high volume of sales to turn a healthy profit. But Bow explains that the nature of the products and their placement make that less difficult than it sounds. There aren't too many suppliers out there selling these accessories, but the number is definitely growing. E'arrs Inc. alone supplies many of the major chains, including a private label for the Claire's stores. Bow's product is also in many department stores, and he sells to a lot of distributors in the United States. "We sell to people who may have ten or twelve sales reps out every day working," says Bow. "So we're in a lot of retail stores that we aren't even aware of."
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