Smithsonian catalog or your store?

January 27, 2009

Who needs the sales more?

You often see mail-order catalogs that include jewelry. And you know the prices they charge. Sometimes one of us is lucky enough to land a commission supplying that jewelry for a catalog.
But most of the time, most of us need to see some sales now, in our stores.

Why not create and sell the handmade equivalent of the catalog item? You’ll be able to offer it for a much lower price, and still make a nice profit.

I have an example in mind, because I’m looking at a recent Smithsonian gift catalog. They’re selling a hand-knotted (no-clasp) necklace of round lapis beads set off with 6 gold spiral beads, for $350.
A rough estimate from Rings & Things’ online store suggests it would cost you about $24 to make a copy.

(About $18 for lapis beads,

$6 for gold-filled beads,

and a few cents for silk cord.)

That’s less than $20 a necklace if you buy at our quantity price breaks.

You figure out what you’ll sell it for. How will you promote it? “Compare at $350 in Smithsonian gift catalog”? I’m sure you can think of 10 more examples like this.

There’s room here to compete, and profit, and prosper. ?? Grow your business!

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  • sunny January 27, 2009 at 10:50 am

    Nordstrom is also a great inspiration. In the January 2009 print catalog there were many great jewelry inspirations!
    * Connected links to create an elaborate web-style bib necklace!
    * A decadent chunky, multi-strand, turquoise and chain necklace!
    * Darling charm necklaces!

  • Swati January 27, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    That is such an awesome thought! Thanks for writing about it. I never did think in these terms.

  • Dawno January 27, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    Interesting coincidence! I was paging through one of my favorite jewelry catalogs and saw a necklace made with coin-pearls (freshwater, cultured) with gold tube and round beads between them, that I liked somewhat, but *whew* the price – even on sale it was $145 for an 18″ necklace.
    I wondered what I had in my stash that I could use to make something in the same vein but with my own take on it and less expensive materials (like copper tubes and beads instead of gold), and I’ve posted about it on my blog. The total materials cost for my variation on the theme was approx. $7.85.
    I’ll be ordering some coin pearls soon, too, to make another variation, again with copper, but this time using longer curved copper tubes. I’ve stashed all the supplies in my Rings & Things wish list, just waiting for the right time in the pay-check vs. bills cycle to order!

  • Dave January 28, 2009 at 7:23 am

    Hi, Swati, nice to see you here! Your Purple Flower blog is one of my favorite places to find stylish handcrafted jewelry ideas.
    Dawno, thanks for another great example of how to beat the bigger businesses at their own game!
    It looks like a pretty good bet that you can usually copy a big-name design for 1/10 or even 1/20 of their retail cost. Thoughts?

  • erthefae January 28, 2009 at 10:10 am

    I see no problem with copying this sort of thing for yourself, when you can’t afford to buy one. But I’d draw the line at copying them to sell as part of your business. We get up in arms when a large business copies a small designer. I think we should do the same when it’s the other way around!
    I also have no problem with checking catalogs to get an idea of jewelry and color trends… as long as you turn around and incorporate them into your own original designs, and don’t sell them as knock-offs of expensive designers.
    In my opinion, the main appeal of buying from a smaller designer is the sense of “Oh, this is so unique and different!” not “This is just like the one in the Smithsonian magazine, but cheaper.” If people want cheap jewelry, they can go to Target.

  • Dave January 28, 2009 at 10:40 am

    Hi erthefae, thanks for your thoughtful points. The word “knockoff” captures one of the biggest issues. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery (and fashion), but outright copying is plagiarism. Individual designers have to seek the most ethical path for themselves. There’d be a big difference between “Compare at $350 in the Smithsonian catalog” and “As seen in the Smithsonian catalog”! The first is the sort of sentence you see every day in ads, but the second is untrue. The individual designer has to figure out how to stock what people want to buy, without becoming like the guys I remember selling “Bolex” watches on the street in New York.

  • sunny January 29, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    these are very cool… you could use nearly any stone, crystals or even glass in this design!

  • Hutch February 2, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    There is a jewelry design in the 2009 Rings & Things catalog, much like this one: See Page 330.

  • Dave March 13, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    Have your own ideas for growing a craft jewelry business? Visit our new business tips page, and submit your tips for possible inclusion!

  • ChristinaT. August 10, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    I have done this myself HOWEVER I use QVC and HSN as my inspiration because I can throw it on anytime at home while I am beading or surfing the web or whatever…

  • Dave August 12, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    Really good suggestions, Christina — go where the customers are, and work from there.