My artisan jewelry display looks drab!
February 13, 2009 10:55 AM   Subscribe

Crafty girl needs advice on improving her jewelry business

I sell beaded jewelry at our farmer's market on saturdays, which includes a double-sided wooden rung rack of earrings (all $5/pair), a selection of necklaces ($10 each) and whatever other knick-knacks I make (pins, etc). Silver plated wire is what I usually use, to keep costs down (sterling would make me double my prices) My jewelry sales are about $30 - $100 per week, not much but enough for my entertainment fund.

It's just a hobby and a social thing at the moment -- my mother sells artwork in the same stall and we keep each other company. I don't know if I want to scale it up (like through online sales) though, it's not my goal to make this a career. But I am interested in running a better business, i.e. making my displays and selection more attractive to customers, thereby improving my sales.

I'm not concerned with improving my designs, most of what I make sells eventually. I try to do a good job of catering to a wide variety of tastes, try to pay attention to what sells fast, what customers are asking for. I do my best to keep my stock up, introduce new beads into my supply, and try new things. I'm working on giving good customer service - I frequently do custom work on the fly, and repair client's broken pieces (but I don't advertise this). I make jewelry while I'm at the market, which shows people it's my work.

Recently I photoshopped a simple and elegant brand for the jewelry, and printed earring cards, labels to put on my little bags, and a price list. I'm contemplating putting the price list in an antique frame to prop up on the table. There's a large rack with rungs that the hook earrings hang on, and the necklaces currently just get laid out on the table with matching earrings next to them. Post earrings attached to cards are propped up on the table as well. There's also a very nice mirror. I just have a 2'x4' table with a white tablecloth to display my jewelry on, I can't expand.

Given that I want to keep more in the spirit of 'artisan jewelry', what are your ideas and suggestions for making my display more attractive Regarding new displays, I can't rationalize spending much money on it but I can make things. I kind of need something for necklaces in particular.

Sometimes I like a particular necklace design or bead combination and will repeat it a few times, like with a few constant elements but different colors. Someone's opinion was that I shouldn't put them all out, that it's better just to have 'one' of those and have that like my latest creative inspiration, a la 'artisan jewelry' -- when it sells then put another out. What are your thoughts on this, do you think this would create more interest in a particular piece?

Any other thoughts on my artisan jewelry endeavor to bolster sales?
posted by lizbunny to Grab Bag (11 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I work a in a small shop that sells local artists jewelry on consignment, so I suppose I sort of know where you're coming from. :)

It really might be worth it to invest in buying some nice display racks for the jewelry. Often I've found that if something isn't selling well, but I think it's nice stuff that should be selling, I will display it differently and that helps a lot.

Someone's opinion was that I shouldn't put them all out

I disagree. I like variety. And if they're displayed well, then I think it will only help to sell them. But that's just my opinion.
posted by at 11:16 AM on February 13, 2009

Always price one piece off in a corner for $1,000,000. You'll probably never sell it, but you only need one customer...
posted by unixrat at 11:25 AM on February 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

Its been years since I've made jewelry, but I do like buying exactly your kind of stuff--but I bet it'll be much more eye catching against a black background than against a white--the glint of the silver tends to be lost against white.

Maybe line some trays with black velvet?
posted by stray at 11:28 AM on February 13, 2009

As a buyer rather than a maker/seller, I'd say that the thing most likely to get me to part with my money is being able to see the earing "in" my ear with one of those clear perspex earring testers that lets you hold the earing up to your ear without actually trying it on.

Would also second the black velvet background for most jewelry.
posted by ceri richard at 11:44 AM on February 13, 2009

Best answer: My opinion only comes from being a browser/consumer of craft fair goods, so take it as you want. I find that I'm so used to shops when buying clothes/accessories that a couple of things turn me off stalls.

The first is sometimes the lack of choice when a person only has a handful of items on sale. I know you're making them and not a factory, and I know that it is only a stall, but keep a higher stock making it look 'full' and attractive. Only if the items were expensive would this bother me, but at all other times it makes me more willing to browse for a while as I do in a shop. I would put out as much as you have, unless they are exact repeats of a piece.

The second thing is that in a shop I can browse impersonally, sometimes to the point of not engaging with somebody til I get to the counter. A stall which displays its goods flat makes me have to come right up to it in order to view them, which means I'm having to engage with the stallholder before I even know if I like any of the pieces. Allowing people to better see your things from a metre or so away allows them to make an initial judgement before getting closer. An easel like this could be made yourself (and probably much better and nicer), and yet puts your necklaces facing outwards to passersby. Display stuff more vertically and less horizontally.

Oh, and definitely have a pricelist out! I feel uncomfortable having to ask, because it reveals my thought processes to the seller in a way that could be shaming. I ask the price because I like the piece, but I walk away because I think you're charging too much or I'm not willing to pay that. That could be more of a culture-specific thing, but I think that sellers who withhold prices do so because they know that you'll be shamed into buying something once you've asked.
posted by Sova at 11:44 AM on February 13, 2009 [3 favorites]

Seconding the black velvet (or just plain black fabric of any type)--it makes shiny stuff even more eye-catching.

Do you have access to power at your table? If you do, get some small lights and shine them on your jewelry. I've seen a lot of cute little bookshelf lights at Ikea that would do the trick for under $10. It'll help draw the eye from far away, and make the pieces look more polished when customers are up close.

Try to break up your display with vertical space to make it more interesting. This would be pretty easy to accomplish by getting some cheap wire shelving (like you would use for kitchen cupboard organization), and draping your black fabric over it.

One idea for displaying necklaces would be to cover a letter-size sheet of cardboard with fabric, then pin the necklace to it. You could stick the matching earrings on there, too, and then prop it up so it can be seen from a few feet away.
posted by tomatofruit at 11:54 AM on February 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don´t know what things are like where you live, but your prices strike me as too low unless you are selling plastic or paper jewelry. Try raising them a little bit and see if your $ amount of sales goes up. Sometimes people will perceive lower priced items as being less desirable.

Earrings generally look better on cards, and generally people put prices on each individual item. If you want to have a price list I would not have it propped up while most of the jewelry is flat on the table, you want the jewelry to be more prominent.

Black velvet makes a nice surface to display jewelry on, you can buy some at a fabric store. Boxes can be wrapped in velvet to display things at different heights.

If your mom is selling non-jewelry art, have her wear some of your pieces.

On the off chance you haven´t heard of etsy, check out if you want to dip your toe into online sales.
posted by yohko at 1:03 PM on February 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

How is the table angled? If it's flat against the outside of the stall, it's easy for people to walk on by. When you move the table to angle, it pulls people into your area.

Also, if the display surface is currently flat, try sloping the it at bit. It allows better viewing of the objects. Next time you stop in a jewelry store look at the displays - the items are usually not sitting flat.

Last, why not make a few pieces in sterling and display those. I wouldn't buy silver plate, but I'd happily pay for sterling. You don't need a lot of sterling items and it may pull up the overall perception of quality.
posted by 26.2 at 2:44 PM on February 13, 2009

When I sold candles at craft fairs, I would have a large, eye-catching item at the end of the table with a "register to win!" sign and a clipboard. Everyone likes free stuff, and it got a lot of people to stop and sign up, even if they didn't buy anything. Most often, though, they would sign the list and then stop to look at my items.

I always intended to develop a mailing list from the names I collected, but I never did.

You should also have business cards with your contact information available, too. People that like your stuff will indeed track you down again.
posted by Ostara at 3:33 PM on February 13, 2009

i have spent a lot of money at craft fairs and etsy over the years.

i think a very nice-looking way to display necklaces is on tree branches. get some bare branches and superglue them to a base, and you can hang all your necklaces over it, even some of the hook earrings maybe? all glittering in the sun, you'd see it from across the market. i think it's more interesting than black velvet or what not, though fabric might look nice wrapped over a cork board or some surface that you could hang the stud or post earrings from (on cards, w/a cute logo, uncoated paper, url). a price list in an antique frame would be good if most of your pieces are the same. i.e. all earrings are $5 and all necklaces are $10. but if you branch out and start having more variety, i would put individual price tags (handwritten, tied to the pieces with a little string, easy to read). i agree you could charge more for your stuff. i would also endorse moving to sterling silver, as many people have allergies to the cheaper stuff. and you could call out that it's sterling on the price list? i am also a paper fetishist, so i would want very nice paper everywhere. business cards in a little display thingie, tags, everything. the packaging is what will seal the deal and make people think of you and come back for more. oh oh! and have a cute mirror so people can look at themselves when they try on your jewelry. get something ornate and/or antique-looking.
posted by apostrophe at 6:46 PM on February 13, 2009

I'm in the same boat as you, so I don't have any advice other than that black velvet does tend to get a lot of dust and fibers on it, you do have to keep up with lint-rolling it if it's going to be in bright light (it also photographs really bad, but that's not what you're talking about anyway).
posted by fructose at 7:25 PM on February 13, 2009

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