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How Louis Anthony Jewelers Pinpoints New Lines

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When you’re out looking for a new designer line for your store, where do you start? What questions do you ask – and what answers do you need to hear? We deal with this question in depth in our upcoming INDESIGN lead story (Mar/Apr issue), but until then, I wanted to share what Amie Guarino and the team at Louis Anthony Jewelers in Pittsburgh are thinking when it comes to choosing new designers.

Guarino says that you have to start by keeping your eye on trends – both in jewelry and the world of fashion. Read magazines, fashion blogs, and follow people in-the-know on Twitter and Pinterest. “We’ll see inspiration trickle up or trickle down,” she says. “We’re in a business where you have to stay current while keeping the timeless classics in mind, too.”

In addition to keeping up with the latest fashions, consider self-purchasers when seeking out a new line, says Guarino. “Self-purchase has become a hot topic in this industry. With denim jeans going for $500 or handbags going for $1500-2000, we’re all part of that luxury market, and jewelers are competing for those dollars.”

Whether self-purchasing or not, women like jewelry that’s versatile, so that’s a high-priority quality in a new line. “I like to look at something that I think, ‘Wow, that could really dress up,’” Guarino says. “We’ve become a much more casual society over the years. My dad’s been in the business for 33 years and rode through the decadence of the ‘80s and early ‘90s, when people would buy things just for a black-tie event or a special wedding. That type of extravagance has definitely calmed down over the years, but people still want something different, they still want precious materials but not in an over the top way. People want something that will stand out with a pair of jeans, leather jacket and T-shirt. It either makes the casual outfit or still looks good when you’re dressed for a formal occasion.”

She says that at Louis Anthony, silver sales continue to be strong, but gold is coming back in a big way. “It still holds a standard in people’s minds, no matter how ‘airy’ the piece,” says Guarino. “Gold is returning as an everyday look. You can definitely dress it up, but it’s coming back in an everyday sense as well.”

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In addition to the look of the jewelry, it’s important to Louis Anthony that the quality of each piece is equal to the style. “The lines we carry hold a certain standard of quality. There are a lot of looks out there that you think it looks nice and has good value, but from a tactile sense, when you pick them up, they have to feel good. Turning a piece around and seeing that the back is finished is important. It’s not enough to just look good from a distance. Jewelry should also feel good when you’re wearing it. It shouldn’t be too light or delicate. There’s something to be said for running your hand over the chain, or the prongs, or the findings. When you touch it, and feel it, and try it on, there may be a reason why this or that is less money than the line that originated the look. We never want to sacrifice quality because it’s a better price.”

In the end, says Guarino, you can never have enough knowledge. Find out everything you can about any new line, but at the end of the day, you may just have to try it out and see how it goes in your store. “There have been lines we’ve believed in and were super-excited about and it wasn’t what the public was ready for. Pittsburgh is a mixed bag, and we’ve launched brands that were 3-5 years ahead of the curve,” she says. “We believed in those lines and stuck it out, and they eventually exploded. You have to hang in there with your market and your customers. Educate them and be passionate about new things. They trust us and they want to know what the latest is. You just have to bow out gracefully once in a while. My dad, mom and I do most of the buying, but we like to get feedback from the rest of our family and our employees. There aren’t too many cooks in the kitchen, but we get plenty of feedback. Bringing in new lines is always exciting, but it’s a risk – but we’re willing to take that. We can’t just offer our customers the same thing every year.”

To hear more from Amie (and get your questions answered!), come to the SMART Show next month and attend our panel session, moderated by yours truly.


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