Q: Is the bead trend over?
“The bead trend is definitely down. It’s not a sharp decline, but we’ve seen our bead business at about one-third of where we were at in the peak of bead sales with PANDORA about 10 years ago. At this stage we’re selling enough bead jewelry to hold on to it as a product category. In our market we don’t have a lot of direct competition for bead jewelry, so we’re in a good position there. We also benefit from summer tourist sales with bead jewelry and other types of jewelry. Tourists tend to buy bracelets and add beads, while regular customers are more about just adding beads. We’re not sure how much longer the bead trend will continue – it could be another two to three years, who knows. For now we’ve decided to be careful about investing in bead advertising and inventory. Our bead business is pretty much running itself just fine right now, but there is still a lot of work that goes into maintaining it. We do offer other price-point jewelry similar to that of bead jewelry, but even Alex and Ani jewelry sales have leveled off for us. Like other jewelers we’re getting back to basics with selling fine jewelry with an emphasis on diamonds and bridal. This has been a big focus for us for the last two to three years now. We want to be known as a diamond and bridal store that also offers other jewelry essentials.”
Jeff Guntzviller, general manager
Miner’s North Jewelers
Traverse City, MI
“Bead jewelry sales have been slowing down for us over the last 12 to 18 months. Customers have never verbalized as to why they’re not buying it, but I’d say that people are a little burnt out on it and that the bead look has less interest in general. We entered the [bead] game a little late – five years ago. We started with Halia beads, a line of bead jewelry with very little name recognition. That didn’t last long for us and then we got into Chamilia. As far as bead jewelry goes, Chamilia offers better quality product, has more name recognition, and, as far as vendors go, are very good to work with. Then we added Endless Jewelry to our bead offerings. They signed up a lot of jewelers with flashy endorsements with Jennifer Lopez. Personally, I’ve never liked the bead business. It’s not my cup of tea and it’s not the jewelry that I grew up with in the jewelry business. But I intend to keep the relationship going until it no longer makes sense.”
Wayne Rhodes, owner
Albert F. Rhodes Jewelers
“The bead business, for us at least, is done. Sales and interest in this product category slowed down to a point where we liquidated all of the bead inventory about two years ago. When I was making the decision I asked a lot of retail jeweler friends how beads were selling and none of them were increasing their bead sales: they were only reporting decreases. This indicated to me the downtrend was happening for a lot of retailers. We got into beads about 10 years ago, first with PANDORA for six years and then Chamilia for four years. When the decision was finalized, I held a going away party for the bead jewelry inventory. We promoted the event on just about every format, from e-blasts to social media. And, when customers came in to the store we explained what we were doing. Then we held progressive discounts until I got to the point when I could sell my remaining bead inventory to another authorized Chamilia dealer. These days we might get one bead customer a month asking for the product. But that’s about it. For us it wasn’t seeing the price point go away, it was the jewelry category. We were one of the first retailers to take on Alex and Ani. In and around that price range for fashion and costume jewelry we also carry Bourbon and Bowties, Moon & Lola, and Gorjana. With regards to bead jewelry, we got in it at a good time and out of it at a good time. Our philosophy, don’t be too good for any type of inventory, and don’t be afraid to get out of it when you need to. Make the trend a good ride while you can, stay current and identify the incoming trend early and adapt.”
John Carter, owner
Jack Lewis Jewelers
“We sell Chamilia bead jewelry and I can tell you the bead trend is not over. Jewelers know they’re not going to make a fortune on bead jewelry, but not having this jewelry category for people that want it, wear it or give it is a conversation stopper that will make customers go to another jewelry store. It’s a retail jeweler’s responsibility to have the jewelry people are asking for, no matter the type or price point. We’ve found all sorts of good reasons to stick with bead jewelry, starting with add-on sales. It’s easy to complete wish lists specific to the bead jewelry. By virtue of selecting certain beads, you get to know customers quickly by establishing names of family members – namely children and grandchildren, personal and professional interests, sports, and even favorite travel destinations. Customers of all income levels either wear or give bead jewelry. Bead customers slow down long enough to look at other merchandise. And, if you don’t have it [bead jewelry] then the discussion with that customer ends there and you don’t get a chance to further the conversation about anything else in your store. I can think of many customers that started with us as bead jewelry buyers that now have a great relationship with us and make other jewelry purchases. Finally, for us, those that are trying to sell bead jewelry customers on jewelry at similar price points are missing the point. Bead customers, be it PANDORA or Chamilia, want a specific product type. An Alex and Ani bracelet, for example, may be in the same price range, but it isn’t what the customer wants, which may give them another reason to shop elsewhere.”
Luke Keys, co-owner
Brynn Marr Jewelers
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