Friday, March 25, 2011

Displaying your jewelry

Earth Traditions booth by Christi Cramer.
Your festival booth, craft table or store display is your billboard. It is what people see before they ever get close enough to see your earrings, bracelets, rings and necklaces. It's very important to have a clean, attractive set-up. At a glance, potential buyers should say "Ooh!" and not "Ew!" 

If you are just starting out, the thought of filling that first 10x10 space can be overwhelming. Even the prospect of filling a table at a craft show can send a new maker-turned-seller into a fit of panic. Here are some tips.

* Message. Think hard about your jewelry display and ask yourself what you want it to tell your customers. Hanging necklaces across the booth on a string might say "flea market" or "inexpensive." Black velvet might look professional, but black velvet covered with dust and pet hair says "unprofessional." Using a broken toy box as a display says "whimsical" and "unusual" to some people. "Cheap" and "weird" to others. Be aware that every aspect of your display is sending a message to your customers.

* Keep it simple. If you are buying busts and bracelet bars, be consistent. All white, all black, all wood, that sort of thing. If you are going for eclectic or unusual, you should still have a basic theme or guiding principle which ties it all together -- "the color pink," "ocean," "Victorian," "retro," etc. Bonus points if your displays, signs, logo, business cards and website all coordinate. 

Get your jewelry up
and off of the table...
* Height. I've seen many jewelry sellers who, very neatly and in very nice patterns, lay their wares out over a pretty cloth. I've also seen street vendors in Tijuana do the same thing. You really should get your jewelry up off of the table. Putting it closer to the eyes not only makes it easier to see but elevates the perception of value, as well. It can be as simple as sticking a few boxes under a cloth, to raise it up. If you don't want to invest in busts, stands and necklace bars, you might make a tall, free-standing display out of accordion doors, or take some old picture frames and turn them into lovely jewelry displays.

... like this!
* Avoid clutter. In their rush to "fill" the space, some sellers make tons and tons of jewelry, and shove it all out there on cheap metal racks stuffed with necklaces or baskets full of bracelets. "You can't sell it if it's not out," I've heard them say. And you won't sell it if your booth is a mess. Again, this is where elevation pays off because it maximizes space. Get the earrings out of a bowl and up into the air.

* Clean, neat and tidy. Along similar lines as avoiding clutter, don't leave your half-eaten lunch or drippy Starbucks cup on the table with your jewelry. Step out from behind your table periodically and wipe down the glass of your display cases with paper towels and spray. Check to make sure that things are arranged in a pleasing way and that someone hasn't tangled up your necklaces or left a candy wrapper in your ring tray.

* Light. Whether you are outside or indoors, jewelry should sparkle and shine. Supplementary lights are a plus. There are many different options, from expensive display lights and magnifying lamps to cheap battery-operated clip-on bulbs and strings of tiny fairy lights.

* Mirrors are an essential part of your display if you are selling jewelry. People want to see the necklace or earrings ON themselves. Mirrors also help reflect more LIGHT and can attract attention. I have table top mirrors and hand mirrors. I also use mirrors underneath some jewelry items, to enhance their sparkle and draw the eye. 

My friend Linda Searcy, wearing
her own creations and a handmade
name tag while selling jewelry.
* Identify yourself. Have a sign telling people who you are, preferably visible from a distance. Wear a name tag or lanyard identifying you as the artist. Welcome visitors and introduce yourself. This is especially important if you are selling handmade jewelry. Unless you are at an art show (and even then), many people will assume you are just a seller, not the designer and creator. I have a picture frame with a brief description of who I am and what I do, just in case I get busy and can't talk to everyone. Consider having an "artists statement" available on a sign or giveaway postcards. Business cards should be located within easy reach of wherever a customer is standing.

* The lure. This can take many forms, but basically it's something designed to attract attention. It might be a $1,500 prizewinning necklace on a marble bust under a spotlight. Even if you think "no one will ever buy this," that's not the point. They will ooh and aww and then buy something less expensive. The lure might also take the form of a bowl of complimentary candy or a free drawing -- which can also be a great way to build your mailing list, just make sure to give people the choice to opt out because spam will drive customers away. At family-friendly events where I know many children will be present, I put crayons and free coloring pages at the end of a table. This attracts attention and helps keep little booger fingers busy so mom can shop and I don't have to rearrange everything again in 10 minutes.

Other considerations

When I was doing a lot of outdoor shows, I invested in glass cases in order to reduce dust and theft. I packaged my jewelry in clearview boxes with see-through lids, so that the jewelry was visible but protected. This also made them easy to transport, set up, and pack away at the end of the day. Speed and ease of set up, take down, and storage are important considerations when choosing your displays.

For my cohorts in and around Raleigh, I suggest a visit to A & B Fixtures on Capital Boulevard. They have many different display options for jewelry sellers.

Check out my guest interviews to see how other jewelry sellers are doing things!

Jen Hilton makes one-of-a-kind jewelry sold through her website She is the founder of the Triangle Jewelry Makers and is featured in the books "Steampunk Style Jewelry: Victorian, Fantasy, and Mechanical Necklaces, Bracelets, and Earrings" and "1000 Steampunk Creations: Neo-Victorian Fashion, Gear, and Art" available at Amazon and other booksellers.

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