Rapaport Magazine

How Important is Designer Jewelry to Your Business?

Retail Rap September 2007

By Phyllis Schiller
RAPAPORT... The 4Cs are not the only things that make a piece of diamond jewelry a sales winner. In an ongoing series, RDR explores the “3Ws” — what’s selling, what’s not and why — by going straight to the people who really know — jewelry retailers. Each month, we ask a random sampling of retailers from around the country to comment on the important issues that are facing the industry today. Here is what they had to say when asked: How important is designer jewelry to your business? What criteria do you use in choosing to stock a designer?


“It is important to us to have designer jewelry in the store. But we try to achieve a balance between designer goods and what we call generic pieces, both for margin reasons and because we’re more of a classic jewelry store. We’re not at all fashion driven. Our clientele isn’t coming to us seeking specific designers. We carry certain designers because we like their looks. It’s not like the designers draw the customers; we promote the designers and sell them just because we like them.

“What we look for in a designer, more than anything, is quality; that’s first and foremost. And we look for longevity. Once we spend the time and money promoting a designer, we want to make sure that we’re going to be carrying him for a long time. And also exclusivity. If we’re going to spend money promoting it, we want to be the only ones who carry it.”


“Designer jewelry is very important. I think in this day and age, everyone is a brand. You can just look at what’s going on with the iPhone. It’s a brand and because they know who’s behind it, who’s producing it, people were standing in line waiting for it. I think brands are really important and it extends to jewelry also. It’s an important category for us. We carry Judith Ripka, Doris Panos, John Hardy, Marco Bicego, among others.

“I look at things that I like. I look at things that I think will relate to the lifestyle of my customer. Women today want jewelry they can wear. No longer is it just that they get something really special and they bring it out to wear to a black-tie event. Women do get dressed up but, more importantly, they want things they can wear every day. Now women are buying fine jewelry instead of costume jewelry and they’re realizing it’s as important an accessory as a designer purse.

“We were voted one of the top 50 designer retailers in the U.S. by JCK and I think what’s important about designer jewelry is that it gives the consumer confidence when they know that it’s a brand that’s recognized and they know it’s consistent quality. People look at certain brands as a quality item.”


“Designer jewelry, let’s refer to bridal, I don’t think is as important to the clientele as the quality of the merchandise you’re actually selling to them. I think that sometimes, especially in bridal, women don’t want to have the same ring as everybody else. On the other hand, some of the designer names, if they are priced fairly, would be advantageous not only for the jeweler but the customer. But what I found in the past is that the designer jewelry, because it has a name on it, is quite a bit higher in price and I really don’t see that the consumer is getting a great value from that.

“What I try to do is buy designs that are almost similar — some are identical — but it saves the consumer as much as 40 percent on the price. If the designer jewelry is priced fairly and has a good name, then I think it’s great because people would love to have a designer piece if it’s affordable. For instance, I just took on the John Hardy line. It’s priced right. It’s not as expensive as David Yurman. Yurman is like twice the amount of money for the same type of product. So I didn’t go with it because I didn’t feel I was giving my customer a good value. I went with John Hardy because it’s a very high-quality product and it’s still at a price where I feel comfortable selling it to the consumer.”


“Designer jewelry is important to my business. It’s a large percentage of my sales. I feel it’s not as important within the bridal department and it’s not as important in loose diamonds. In fashion jewelry, it’s important.

“I try to keep designers who are nonconflicting. If I have a designer who specializes in vintage looks, I will use that one and not take sales away from them and try to become an important vendor to that line. So if someone’s interested in color, I will try to push them into color fashion within that designer.

“Customers don’t really come in asking for a specific designer. It’s based on my mix. My customers look to me to find the good things. I don’t carry David Yurman and that would be the only thing people come in and ask for. The name is important and I don’t think the additional price that the designer has to charge is a factor.”


“Designer jewelry is very important to my business, and I would think, to any high-end jewelry store’s business. Some stores are their own brand — look at Graff, that’s a designer jewelry brand that nobody else can carry. Yet, it’s a sought-after jewelry brand. Tiffany clearly is the ultimate in that. For those of us who are not quite as well-known internationally as those two, we get to work with some of the great international designers. I do a lot with Roberto Coin and Kwiat.

“Some brands are brands in that there is an awareness by the consuming public, the jewelry-wearing public; they know the name, they know kind of what it looks like. They have an expectation that that brand fulfills. David Yurman clearly does that. Roberto Coin does that in a completely different way. Kwiat does that with diamonds. But there are a lot of people out there saying they are ‘a brand.’ If no one’s ever heard of you, you’re not a brand.
You’re just a designer line. You might be the unique rare offering that a jewelry store has and that’s a great thing, too, but it’s not to be confused with a brand. A brand means there is consumer awareness before they even walk through your door. A designer line is something special that you have within your own store. I think both are very important to a fine jewelry store.”


“I think the bottom line is that designer jewelry is very important for high-end jewelers positioning themselves in the marketplace as having inventory with fine high-end designer names. It places us in the high echelon of fine jewelers. However, with that being said, the turnover is less than what it should be and the mark-up is less than it should be with designer lines.

“Advertising has a lot to do with demand. Women know lines by Town & Country and InStyle and LA Confidential and Calabasas Statement, which is a very important magazine in our area. That’s where designer jewelry becomes very apparent. They know the names Penny Preville and David Yurman and John Hardy, and we carry all of those lines. So there is recognition, but that doesn’t necessarily equate to sales. The designers have to be on their game constantly improving their lines, balancing stock and making a partnership with their retailers.”

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - September 2007. To subscribe click here.

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