In 1973, Debbie Tierney was selling jewelry and accessories to her hairdresser for extra money, while her husband was at work. She envisioned growth, but nothing more than simply selling to a few more hairdressers and some local shops. Today it is a family business, with son Gary handling sales, dad tending to the inventory, son Scott focusing on operations, and mom and daughter, Joy (the namesake of the business), handling product development. But they all show up at the tradeshows, which have long been their traditional business model.
"Before computers, it was tradeshows and calling lists on the phone. That is how my mom and dad grew this business; down in the trenches doing it," said Scott Tierney, VP. "We still do forty to fifty shows each year, and that is really the only place our customers can come to see us. We went online to make it easier for them to buy. Now they can come online 24/7, and see everything."
Six years later, they are in a 7,000 square foot building with employees, a web server, and an application server. "Our website is new for us. We are learning as we go, "said Tierney. "We do email marketing; we had to learn what a web server is, then we added business software. Now we have a $50,000 enterprise solution we had to install and learn. It is not easy, but we are doing it. Our success has been through perseverance and determination."
While most of their products come from China and India, for ten years their scarves have been made on premises in New Britain, CT. Joy Accessories buys the fabric, cuts it, and sews it. "We have a cutter cut it with a cutting machine, and then the sewing is done on machines, but they feed them through by hand," said Tierney.
Although the majority of the clients are mom and pops, hospital gift stores, and home parties, one of their clients is Joan Rivers' company. "They give us ideas and scarves. We develop them, bring them back, and they okay it, or tell us to make changes. We're working with them every day. But the designs are exclusive. Our customers can only buy them on QVC," said Tierney. "We have sold to other majors, such as Steinmart and L.L. Bean, but those are one timers. They come in and out."
In addition to scarves, Joy Accessories carries jewelry and handbags to cater to the ever evolving and changing trends, as well as to facilitate business growth and stability. As Tierney said, "You could never do this business with one category, was my mom's philosophy. When jewelry dips, handbags pick up. When handbags dip, you have got scarves to cover you. Everything is cyclical."
Currently there are about 4,000 products on their website. But as one might expect in a trendy market, many of those products change. While pearl necklaces are, "Forever, and come in every millimeter, every length," Tierney said others will surge in popularity before disappearing. "You have got handbags that come in and out in a season. Stretchy, stackable bracelets are our best selling item right now. Y-necklaces also come to mind. They are both lead free. Everything has got to be lead free."
Additionally they have the staple items, such as hoop earrings and rhinestones. They also carry a large number of Jessica McClintock prom and bridal jewelry designs. A few of the aspects of their website that Tierney said the customers like is the amount of products, the low minimum, and especially the number of categories. "They can cover a bunch of different departments in their store. They can buy some jewelry, some hair accessories, some scarves, some handbags. It is one stop shopping."
With a very low minimum of only fifty dollars, new customers do not have a lot of risk. "And once they do that," said Tierney," our stuff sells." The best sellers are boxed in their own category, placed prominently on the home page. And the best sellers really are the best sellers, not simply items the company wants to get rid of. Items which they overbuy or make a mistake purchasing go in the overstock category.
Said Tierney, "We never have to use discounters or jobbers. When our customers come to us they know they are not going to see our stuff in a discount store. My father takes care of the inventory, and watches it like a hawk, because that is money. So if it is not selling he will start to mark it down, and we will move it out."
Even purchased at a mark down price there are substantial profits to be made, because full prices on items run anywhere from $6 a dozen to $75 for an Austrian crystal, rhinestone necklace. The mark up, depending on the store and its location, is usually a minimum of 100 percent. Tierney gave an example. "Some items, if you buy a pair of earrings for $2, you can retail for $9. You have your very high margin items, and you have some items you can just double and that is it."
Tierney emphasizes the customer service, and said Joy Accessories does not lose customers. "Once we get them, we keep them. We are reaching out to new customers to tell them there is no risk to buy from us. Some stores require a $2,000 minimum, but with us, their risk is fifty bucks. And our stuff sells."
Some of the ways in which they are reaching out are email marketing, Google adwords, and banners. "Finding new customers, that is where we are at now. And that is why we are going to advertise in Web Wholesaler; to reach out to new customers, find them, and turn them into actual customers."
As Joy Accessories continues to grow, they are also looking for reps to add to their existing network. "We are always looking to sign more good reps. That is one of our goals. More reps, more orders coming in online, and continuing to grow."
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