Profiting From Pearls
Pearls—second largest category to diamonds—give jewelers greater price flexibility, equating to higher profitability that cannot be realized in commoditized diamonds that are easily priced shopped. Moreover, pearls are at the top of their game in popularity, a favorite accessory to fashions for all seasons.
InStyle magazine hails pearls perfect for work, a trip to the market, or a night out on the town. Vogue Italia celebrates pearls as universally flattering, bringing light to the face and adding the right accent to any outfit. Whether chic or classic in nature, pearls today are about freedom of choice. Pearls mix well with a range of metals, diamonds and gemstones, as well as diverse materials from leather and textiles to ceramic and enamel.
Jewelers who position themselves as pearl experts in their community will reap the benefits. As Kathy Grenier, vice president of business development for the Providence, Rhode Island based pearl house, Imperial put it: Money may not grow on trees but it does grow in a variety of mollusks. In today’s highly competitive business climate, jewelers who stand out are those offering unique options in cultured pearls that yield maximum return on the dollar.
Follow the Trends. Fashion and jewelry go hand-in-hand, so it’s important to look at what’s happening on the runways and how jewelry fits into a woman’s evolving style. Kathleen Ross, creative director for Honora, a Richline company based in New York City tracks the runways each season to see what major fashion brands are showing—necklines to hairstyles all play a role in how women style their outfits.
So, what’s trending? According to Rio Grande, part of the Richline Group in Albuquerque, New Mexico highlights in its recent trends report, four design directions as key in pearls: mixing colors (natural and dyed) to freshen up classic looks; adding fine details and filigree patterns on basic pearl findings for contrast; serving as modern earring backs or redesigned studs with add-on jackets; and lots of layering of strands with chain and bead necklaces.
The earring category is super energized with playful styles like front-back pearl studs, pearls with convertible gem jackets, and threader styles on wire or chain, says Dana Cali, marketing and communications for Mastoloni, New York, noting that the brand is re-imagining classics for a new pearl audience. Amanda Gizzi, director of public relations and special events for Jewelers of America also cites open cuffs with pearl accents, bold statement pearl earrings, and long pearl necklaces among the leading trends. Grenier also cites designs with small pearls set like diamonds in styles from eternity bands to hoops.
Merchandising Pearls’ Versatility. There’s a lot flexibility in pearl design, allowing the wearer to create the look she wants—whether it’s altering the length of necklaces with special clasps, changing a mood with various enhancers, adding drops and jackets to stud earrings, or wearing pearls as fashion embellishment, says Grenier, who notes that Imperial promotes pearls as part of a woman’s lifestyle. The brand looks at its collections and how they work for women day to day. Designs that are easy to wear and combine well with other things drive trends, like Imperial’s Luster & Links necklaces and bracelets that transform with connector links and SmartPearls sliding pearls on chain.
Good merchandising helps to tell the story of pearl’s adaptability. “Build vignettes that draw attention to and create interest in pearls by working them into your inventory, revealing the many ways pearls are the perfect accessory with any wardrobe,” says Grenier. “Mix classic with fashion in different price points with other jewelry like gems and chain.”
Use props like mannequins and interesting wall and counter busts for frequent display changes that demonstrate how to layer the longer necklaces that are on trend but don’t translate well in the showcase, says Ross. The goal of good visual merchandising is to inform, inspire, delight, and connect with customers.
Gift Curator & Consultant. Beyond their flare as a fashion accessory, pearls more than any other gem is a gift remembered every time the wearer puts them on, which is why pearls are so popular to give and adorn with for weddings, graduations, and special occasions, says Ross. She suggests pearls be a part of special niche presentations like bridal and bestselling gift displays.
Helping retailers merchandise in this way is a focus for Mastoloni, says Cali. “We’re putting together styles and designs that we suggest jewelers merchandise in their bridal section. We want to inspire jewelers to maximize their wedding sales with other gifts of pearl jewelry to outfit the bride, groom, and wedding party.” Notable for bridal are pearl strands and lariat /Y-style necklaces, studs with jackets and add-on drops, and multi-strand bracelets.
Ross encourages retail partners to create custom in-store events to promote their expertise in pearls and provide an opportunity to show more merchandise. She cites a favorite annual event the brand does with its Atlanta retail partner, Cumberland Diamond Exchange: Prosecco & Pearls where customers sip and shop for their favorite pearls.
Reinforcing the Pearl Position. Many retailers focus their social media posts on diamonds, but pearls offer enormous diversity to celebrate, as fashion’s favorite accessory, must-have wedding gem and heirloom gift. Ross encourages jewelers to work with suppliers to push content to amplify social media engagement for pearls.
Instagram is proving to be the app-of-choice for fashion and jewelry followers, says Cali. What makes the platform so appealing is its ability to build relationships. “Consistent social media posts put your pearls in front of your followers in a way that a physical store cannot achieve.”
It’s not about hard selling the product, Cali reminds, but rather showing pearls in people’s lives—with flowers, food, pets, on the beach, in the office and out on the town. The brand also shares celebrity and runway pearl sightings, pearl articles and layouts, and gift and style guides that include pearls.