Big thanks to a gorgeous jewelry-industry friend for sharing a Financial Times article by Elisa Anniss called, “Retailers seem happy to let designers take the financial strain.” (You may need to create an FT ID in Twitter to read this.)
The article, which explains the retail practice of selling fine jewelry on consignment, came out in June. I missed it then, or I probably would have large chunks of the text tattooed on my body by now so that I could enjoy reading them again even when I’m in the shower. It’s validating to see that everyone is struggling with the same issues.
I once summed up consignment as, “Give us all your jewelry and we’ll pay you when this sells … if it sells.” The FT describes the practice less bitchily as “where the retailer pays the wholesale price after the sale, returning any unsold pieces.” You can count on those unsold pieces too because, as designer Melanie Georgacopoulos told the FT: “… if the stores aren’t buying, they simply don’t put that much effort into selling.”
This means the current retail model — so dependent on consignment — does!not!work! for the independent jeweler.
That last sentence isn’t exactly true because stores always offer media coverage. But actually coming through with it? Nope. I’ve been offered many “opportunities” in return for “exposure” that never appears — not from the retailers, anyway. I often wind up generating the exposure for both of us, while thinking, “People can die of exposure in more ways than one.”
Gannon Brousseau, the director of the Couture jewelry trade show, offers a little bit of hope. He said to the FT, “I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a shift in the coming years. Quite frankly, there has to be.” He continued:
“With online becoming more important to designers’ success, I believe [that increasingly] they will pick their partners more carefully and only work with those who truly support and believe in their brand.”
Brousseau envisions any consignment being done only in a “mutually beneficial relationship where both parties are investing in one another’s success.” That’s my dream: A retailer who wants to work with me to sell beautiful jewelry! Imagine that!
By the way, much love to my direct customers who buy from my website and in person. You’re the ones who have kept me going.
It makes me very happy to get an email like one I received last week:
“Mad props for my excellent gold skull earrings – I just love them so much. They make my work day feel both elegant and subversive.”
(You can feel elegant and subversive too. Check out the skulls here. And, as always, I appreciate your stopping by!)
Susan Partlan says
I would love for you to find your dream partner too! Meanwhile, as one of your happy customers, I just have to say again how much I love wearing your jewelry, especially my beautiful custom earrings which always get compliments whenever I wear them. I heart you back WendyB!
There was a little blogger meetup in Vancouver this past weekend and Sheila of the blog Ephemera was really working her Wendy B rings. They are more stunning in real life than in your photos. Great advertising.
I had a clothing label for a while which involved a lot of consignment. It was exhausting.
Ugh, so you know alllll about it!
Retailers suck. “Give us your jewelry and we’ll put it on display for people to try on, play with, mess up, drop on the ground… and we’ll eventually pay you, if it sells. Otherwise, we’ll return it to you, in shit condition.” Um… thank you very little.
Don’t forget stepping on it and then pretending I sent it to them in that condition.
I don’t know if it was a consignment issue, but I remember I was having trouble getting a lip earring from a store.
You came through, and I freaking love that earring and wear it ALL THE TIME.
In fact, my birthday is next month, need to check your stock.
The inability to get you a lip earring was an intelligence issue 😉
However that situation was, indeed, consignment, and they made special requests for exclusive designs that I stupidly filled, because the exposure was going to be so great. They sold practically nothing and I got no press at all. It all lived down to my expectations. LOL.