AGTA's chief exec talks about merchandising and selling color.
TUCSON — Tucson is in the jewelry industry spotlight and on many jewelers' itineraries this time of year, which means colored gemstones are top of mind, too.
So I spoke with Doug Hucker, CEO of the American Gem Trade Association, Saturday during the AGTA GemFair Tucson about merchandising and selling color.
Hucker reported a 20 percent increase in show traffic this year and a planned expansion next year, when designers will move up to the ballroom to accommodate more gemstone dealers on the waiting list.
He also told me why he believes retailers who aren’t already selling a variety of colored gemstone jewelry are missing the boat.
What should retailers knew about selling colored gemstones?
The thing I hear most often from retailers is that “My customers don’t buy color." And I think that can be an indication of a number of things. But if you don’t have any color in your store, it’s no wonder your customers don’t buy color. Most recent research shows that women would like to see fewer men in the store; they’d like to see more women (sales staff) and more color. Women know that color is attractive, fashionable, hot. If they can see more of that regularly at department stores, jewelers are going to have a hard time catching up. It’s time for jewelers to start saying, "My customers may not have bought color in the past, but they will in the future." You can start cautiously — there is an educational component to it and we have online education. But you have to take that first step. Then as you become more sophisticated you need to integrate color into your outreach. There’s not a product that lends itself better to social media than color.
How can selling color help retail jewelers?
One thing that jewelers want right now is more customers. You have to differentiate yourself. You can either search for the unique little designer line that’s going to take off for you, or you can add color with a huge range of price points. There aren’t a lot of other options.
What would you do to start phasing in color?
I’d buy a broad range of color and put it in your front cases. It’s not rocket science. And it doesn’t have to take away from your bridal. If color is an impulse purchase, get it up front where people can see it. Take what color you have, add a little bit to it, bring it to the front of your store and you’re going to increase your sales. That’s just merchandising 101.
How do color and custom design work together?
Loose gemstones are a way for a jeweler to make better margins and with any category product, whether diamond or color, if a jeweler can manufacture on their own they can see some savings. The introduction of CAD has changed things considerably. It used to be a more time consuming process.
What would you say to retailers who say they can’t compete with online sales?
Get on the internet yourself, and especially social media. Either you understand social media or you hire someone who does. It’s like, if I moved to Quebec and I am going to have to learn French or I am going to hire French speakers. If you don’t know social media, I recommend that you hire for it. It’s so visual, immediate and impactful. And a lot of young people today don’t even look at websites.
Were there any surprises in last year’s AGTA Spectrum Award entries?
I can’t say there were any dynamic trends. There were a lot of oranges and blue is always the favorite color. Over the years, the use of crystal and rough materials have come to the fore; there might be one polished face on a rough crystal. There are rugged and chipped materials and big slices of gems.
How influential are fashion trends and Pantone color of the year announcements on gemstone jewelry?
Fashion is directing the way we go. The color palette that comes out is influencing all of the accessories. In the past 10 years I’ve seen the jewelry industry and jewelry designers catching up to the announcement of the colors of the year. There’s less of a delay. Now that you have instantaneous information that is changing things considerably.
What color trends are you seeing?
Blue is always the most popular gem color ever single year. The morganite craze is still there, but not as heavy as it was. Everyone wants to talk about spinel in its range of colors. Unfortunately padparadscha is the hot stone but there’s not much padparadscha around. If you have it, fantastic, but if you don’t have it it’s a problem. Ultraviolet is the color of the year for Pantone, which offers lots of price points and possibilities, and yellows and greens are complementary colors.
Why should retailers put the AGTA GemFair on their annual itinerary?
The product is here, the people are here, the training is here, the technology is here. Everything you need to improve your business is here. You can see a bench demonstration, learn about setting techniques, take a class about marketing. There’s more color inventory here than you’ll ever see anywhere else. The trick is you have to be ready to make purchases here, because next week it’s going to be gone.
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