Many of her retail peers consider Holly Wesche, owner of Wesche Jewelers in Melbourne, FL, a leader in garnering, selling to and retaining female self-purchasers, a dominant and persuasive consumer group with incredible spending power and purchasing influence.
“I see this trend only growing, showing no signs of slowing down,” says Holly. “It’s a cultural thing that is worldwide and has many interesting dynamics to it, for women of many walks of life, both single professionals and married women alike.”
As Holly was transitioning from her family-owned Florida strip mall jewelry store in 2003 to her current location that opened in 2006, she wanted to make sure that her top clients were specially taken care of during the bumpy transitions.
“In 2003, it was all very anecdotal for us at the time, but we noticed that many of our top customers were female self-purchasers,” says Holly. “As we moved toward opening our 15,000 square-foot store three years later, we began targeting this demographic, and have been at it ever since. I estimate that this group now makes up about 40 percent of our annual store sales.”
The “she-conomy” started to simmer in the early 2000s, reached a rolling boil by 2012, and will remain a hot customer group for many years to come. Global spending by women is expected to reach $18 trillion in 2018 (that’s up from $13 trillion in 2013). US women will make up roughly 25 to 50 percent of that global spending.
Also, it’s estimated that 80 percent of daily consumer decisions are currently made by women (that’s products for both men and women). Through a combination of buying power and influence, women drive $28 trillion of the global $35 trillion economy.
Holly and her staff have simplified this consumer group down to three categories of women. Topping her female self-purchase groups are the “socialites,” women with immense purchasing power mainly through marriage.
The classic examples are wives of high-powered doctors or big corporate CEOs, or women that have inherited large sums of money when a spouse or family member dies. Ages of this group typically range from 45 to 65 or older.
Holly’s number-two group is “professional working women,” those with upper five- to six-figure salaries working professional jobs, ranging from lawyers to small business owners. The final group is the “aspiring” women, those that are either younger or on the lower-end of the corporate ladder (entry-level to mid-management office jobs) to working class women (nurses, educators, and non-professional occupations). These women like jewelry and aspire to own nicer pieces.
“What’s interesting is that there is a wide range of spending in each of these categories,” says Holly. “We might have a female stockbroker in the professional working women category that spends $60,000 annually with us and another female stockbroker that spends only $10,000 with us annually. However, as we court stockbroker #2, we build the relationship with her and we often find that her annual spending increases.
“Also, we may have a young woman in the aspiring woman category that only spends a few thousand dollars with us, but as she gets promoted in her job and gets married, her spending power increases. She may even move into one of the other categories due to a change in her circumstances. Professions, spending power and tastes develop and change over time.”
When addressing the topic of attracting and maintaining female self-purchasers, Holly often repeats the same words – “courting,” “recruiting” and “cultivating.” Holly’s “courting” phase, from 2003 to 2006, started with mailers specifically targeting her store’s female self-purchasers. These would range from event invitations and new collection announcements to informal stop by store invites as well as purchasing day reminders (birthdays, anniversaries and the like).
Initial steps meant modest measures. Holly and her staff courted, recruited and cultivated the female self-purchase market with cost-efficient wine and cheese events. “These are so easy, inexpensive and quick to organize,” says Holly. “This is one way retailers can start or do more for this group of women customers.”
Small wine and cheese parties morphed into other women-centric gatherings for Holly including an annual Ladies Night. But when she moved into her 15,000 square-foot store in 2006, she decided to go all out for her annual holiday season Ladies’ Night party and it quickly became one of the most popular social events of the year in Melbourne. For more than a decade, this formula worked well for Holly. The huge size and scope of the event, however, didn’t allow her and her staff to have more one-on-one time with leading customers and party-goers.
Starting this year, Holly and her staff have been hosting smaller groups of women. Spa-like events with a local nail salon giving manicures and pedicures, as well as intimately sized dinners have worked well this year. They held a seminar in the store where Holly talked about the latest fashion trends in jewelry and then the women enjoyed learning how to apply these trends to their individual lifestyles. In 2019, renting out small movie theatres for “chick flick” nights and bringing back wardrobing events are already penciled in the books.
With smaller groups, Holly’s key female self-purchase words are better communicated and conveyed – courting, recruiting and cultivating. Not only by Holly and her staff, but her customers, what she calls the store’s “glam-bassadors.” “At these smaller events, we invite women who are long-term, loyal Wesche fans and female customers that we’re courting. This mix of ladies works out well because our long-term loyal ladies tell the other ladies who are newer with us how wonderful we are.
“Ultimately women at these smaller events talk about and show the jewelry they’ve purchased from our store, and they share the fun store experiences they’ve had with our mainly female staff,” says Holly. “It’s incredible when our customers are doing the courting, recruiting and cultivating for us.”
Sharing good customer experiences and creating store brand ambassadors is part of the fierce loyalty dynamic of female self-purchasers. Be it word-of-mouth at work, running errands or at the gym, women readily share good experiences with their favorite retailers. In the age of peer review websites (Yelp! and Google) and social media (namely Instagram, Pinterest, Snap Chat and Facebook), this group of female consumers is a business owner’s best digital marketing friend.
When a woman finds a product, service or business that meets her needs she’s fiercely loyal to it and readily promotes her appreciation. And, given this deep sense of loyalty and influence among family and friends, the market research saying of “win her, you win them all” makes the female self-purchaser not just a good customer but a persuasive marketing messenger.
But the real trick is attracting this customer, then meeting and exceeding her expectations with a memorable shopping experience she’ll share with others. For jewelers that have been trying to initiate or gain a better market share of female self-purchasers, Holly has 15 years of experience that might help.
Being a fashion expert is incredibly vital. Holly suggests routinely reviewing both the trade publications and leading fashion magazines, including Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Vanity Fair, In Style and Women’s Wear Daily.
Maren Rosen, Stuller’s vice president of merchandising, agrees. “If you want to reach and effectively sell to this consumer group you have to stay on top of fashion trends. It’s vital to your success in catering to the female self-purchase market.”
For the last 10 years, Stuller has seen a growth in this consumer group. For the last three to five years, the company has been actively developing and designing jewelry pieces and collections specifically for female self-purchasers. At this year’s JCK Las Vegas Show Stuller launched the 302 Collection.
“We’ve executed various identities within the collection,” says Maren. “Designs are created, and curated for each of the identities, which are Sage, Ruler, Rebel, Seeker and Innocent Collections. Reaction from retailers to the overall collection has been phenomenal – for the jewelry, visual merchandising and marketing assets as well.”
Reinforcing a store’s fashion expertise can be done inexpensively. Take a page from a fashion magazine, frame it, and arrange jewelry items in showcases and towers that closely match the fashion trend. “Some of the way the trends are shown in the fashion magazines are a little ‘out there’ but it’s our job to show our female consumers how to take that hot trend and wear it in a way that blends with their individual style and budget,” says Holly.
Retailers don’t have to convert their store to suit this group. Some basics that work include a clean, accessible store where fashion jewelry can be easily seen. Avoid overcrowding displays with jewelry. And, display trends in groups within a showcase.
Being current on trends can start simply with PANTONE’s Color of the Year. Ultra Violet was the color for 2018 with teal an early favorite for 2019. Display amethyst or sea-foam tourmaline. More importantly, make sure your staff walks the fashion jewelry walk and talks the talk as well. Designate a female staff member, preferably 32 to 45, to be the store’s fashion maven and expand from there.
Host team meetings with time dedicated to current, developing and breaking fashion trends and apply these styles to your applicable inventory. Also, be sure your female staff dresses the part. “Your staff must look professional and be wearing at least some fashionable jewelry if you expect to appeal to many self-purchasing women,” says Holly.
For sales associates who are budding fashionistas but are on a budget, Holly suggests having them buy some fashion or costume jewelry at local retail outlets to be worn with her store’s fine jewelry. Don’t forget many designers and jewelry makers have spiff programs for sales associates to earn free or deeply discounted jewelry.
Additionally, have some edible luxuries women will especially enjoy. “We always have dishes of Dove’s chocolates and a great beverage bar,” says Holly. “We offer wine, sodas, coffee, bottled water, and for events we have a signature cocktail.”
Finally, when it comes to events for female self-purchasers, gift bags are a must. “Women love gift bags,” says Holly. “Try to create an event theme and have the gift bag’s contents reflect it, down to the smallest detail. I’m militant about the little details. So should you be when catering to this group because they’ll buy from you, remember your store, talk about the experiences and help bring in new customers.”