Marlene Richey has a 35+ year career in the jewelry design business from running a wholesale business, retail gallery and exhibiting in hundreds of craft and trade shows. She has served on numerous boards of directors—Society of North American Goldsmiths, Contemporary Jewelry Design Group, and Maine Craft Association.  Marlene consults with emerging and not-so-emerging artists, teaching seminars and classes and writing articles for jewelry/craft publications. Her award-winning book called Profiting by Design is about running a small jewelry design business. She also had a regular column in Art Jewelry Magazine called “Business Savvy” and many articles in Rio Grande’s Blog.  For more information or advice with business and/or marketing please visit Marlene Richey’s website.

Here is a great article by Marlene on how times have changed and the challenges facing jewelry designers today.

After attending two back-to-back jewelry/craft wholesale shows I walked away with the feeling that things have changed so much in this arena. First there was the ACRE show under the new management of Emerald Exposition and then the American Craft Council show in Baltimore. Both venues focus on the stores which purchase crafts. Most of the time these are not your mother’s doily shows, but sophisticated, fashion-forward markets.

Below are some of the things/trends I personally observed changing in the markets and the way people are conducting business. What have you noticed? Please share with me:

1. Trade shows and venues across the board are getting more and more expensive to do. Exhibitors can’t gamble with the costs of participation.

2.  Stores want consignment. This is great, but a designer can’t afford to bankroll more than just a few of these stores. They have to pick and choose which will be the best options. This has been going on for a while, but is more wide spread than ever before.

3.  Retail jewelry stores are closing at a huge rate, approximately 1,400+ a year and that has been going on for the past 4-5 years. This could be because of slow sales or the greying of the baby boomers who own the stores or just plain retail burn out.

4.  So if jewelry stores are closing, where do wholesale designers go to sell their product? The internet? Craft galleries of course is an answer. Open up their own stores? Do more retail direct-to-the-customer craft shows?

5. Anyone notice the internet has changed everything from doing business to marketing to customer service to…well you name it. It is wonderful as well as a challenge to keep up with and a huge time commitment.

6. Attendance at the two wholesale shows seemed sparse and slow. Of course, some exhibitors had good shows as with all shows.

7.  If you go to a craft show the largest part of the exhibitors are jewelers, by a long shot. We are competing in a very crowded field. How do we each make ourselves stick out and get noticed in such a large field. This is the challenge.

8.  Where do makers as well as galleries put their energy and resources to get the most out of it? Is it in to expanding their collections or marketing or spending the day on Facebook or Instagram? Is it in customer service or retail craft shows? Where? What? When?

9.  I did see some very creative solutions to the above dilemmas. Without getting into specifics, there are designers out there who are uncovering whole new markets by chance or strategic planning. I did walk away with the knowledge that many designers are rethinking their market, their goals, and what they want from their businesses in new and exciting ways. And some of them, I feel, will be hugely successful.

10. The “Gig Economy” is here to stay. This is perfect for me, because that is what I do. I write. I teach. I lecture. I consult. They all work together to form a nearly perfect union for me. Others are doing the same. Some wholesale shows, some retail shows, some internet sales. Maybe some repair work or set and/or sell gemstones or teach beading classes or host jewelry parties. They all work beautifully and effortlessly together.

One thing I learned was that with some of my clients, we will take a hard look at where they have been, where they want to go and how can we achieve our goals by maybe even implementing a new strategy or business framework going forward. This is going to be a very creative and fascinating process.

So there it is folks. The times they are changing! Correction…Have changed! You can’t look back! Focus on the future!

Source: Marlene Richey



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