Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Your Jewelry Business and the Recession

The recession is on everyone’s mind these days. There is not a day that goes by that we don’t hear more bad news about the track our economy is taking. People are looking for ways to cut back for what may be the first time in a decade. History shows us, that in tough times like these, luxury items are one of the first things to go and jewelry is a luxury item. Any crafter’s first instinct is to cut back as well but, the opposite is true.

It is also a proven fact that more businesses were started during or immediately after the Great Depression and, a large percentage of those businesses are still in operation today. Those businesses were the vision of people that had the courage to take a very bad situation and turn it into something good.

Many years ago, during the oil crisis of the seventies, my family owned their own architectural design business. I remember my father telling me, “People buy when things are good and, they buy when things are not so good.” At the time, my young mind couldn’t grasp that idea then, as I grew older, I began to understand what he was telling me. It was his philosophy and how he operated his business. Now, it is how I operate my business.

When business is good, I always make sure I have plenty of stock on hand, replenishing as needed. If things are slow, then I change my mind set and purchase stock that I know people will buy. People will be more reluctant to buy so I need to trim costs as much as possible by offering them what they want at a good value. This may mean making items that are set at a lower price point, but still made with the same high standards that my regular customers have come to expect from my jewelry. This could be something as simple as offering more sterling silver items and less gold items. Or, how about offering copper? That is a relatively inexpensive metal and makes a really warm and rich looking piece of jewelry. If you follow the fashion trends, you will see that copper is gaining in popularity. These small changes give customers the chance to still have a quality, hand made jewelry piece but made with a more, cost efficient metal.

In my experience, I have found that both the lower and higher priced items are going to sell a lot better than if most of my items are priced in the mid range. This is due mainly to the fact that a majority of the people will be looking for a lower cost item. As for the higher end items, a large portion of customers are more selective on where they invest their money. Jewelry is an investment for these people. They are making an investment in precious metals and gemstones.

A hand crafter must always explore various and new avenues, they should never slow their pace. In my case, my new avenue this year is teaching jewelry classes. This has worked out rather well for me. It has given me the opportunity to get to know the people at my local bead store plus, I found that I really enjoy it.

I make sure my name and product is out there more. I give out business cards at every opportunity, in the grocery store, restaurants, etc. and I wear my jewelry items almost always. Believe it or not, wearing your jewelry is a great way to sell items and I have literally sold pieces right off my body. For the most part, people are impulse buyers and if they see something they like, they want it right then. If they wait, chances are they will change their mind.

I also give loyal customers great deals. I not only give my regular customers discounts, I also offer a buying club for all customers. For each piece they buy, depending on the amount of that piece, they get so many “jewelry bucks”. Once they reach a level of purchase, say $50.00, $100.00 or $200.00, they get a free item valued at X number of dollars or that value towards an item of their choice. This seems to work really well for young girls. They love buying earrings and when they reach $50.00, they get a free pair. You just have to do your homework and make sure the value of your regular sales cover what you give away. This is just one of many ways to affectively market.

Another thing I will be doing at the shows and craft fairs this year, I will be combining all my items; my jewelry, soap, and hand painted ceramics and pottery. I believe the jewelry will work very well with my ceramics as many have a fantasy theme and a lot of my jewelry has that whimsical feel. I will be using many of my ceramic and pottery pieces as jewelry displays. It will enhance the appearance of my jewelry and if a customer likes the display as well as the jewelry item, they can buy both. I will also give them a discount if they buy both at the same time. I am not sure how I will work my soap and toiletries in with the other items, but come time for the shows, you can bet I will have a plan.

A hand crafter should never back off during the slow times because when they do, they open up room for others who are willing to work hard with lots of flexibility and creativity. This is going to move these people to the forefront of the hand crafted business while those choosing to wait for the economy to improve will lose out on some great opportunities.

While the economy may be struggling, there are still many ways to move ahead in the hand crafted industry. You must always know what your customers want. By keeping that in mind, you are sure to have items that sell.

These are my ideas and I hope they help get you motivated to find those new and creative avenues for your own hand crafted items. Remember, this doesn’t just apply to jewelry but to any hand crafted item you may sell.

Here are a couple of great articles on marketing during a recession. You can also do a search on marketing and the recession and you will find lots of articles about this topic, basically telling you the same thing, now is the time to get your product out there.

The recession is not good for any of us but it just may be a time that will put you ahead of the game when the economy does turn around.

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