It is some funny timing to see this show up. After several years of playing around with online stores and whatnot, I’m officially making the shift back to wholesale this year. I had originally sold in galleries and stores, but as time moved on and the efforts of wholesale crept up while the margins moved down (along with wanting more time with my young kids), I thought it would be better to go the online route. After messing around with it for several years, I have decided that it just isn’t worth the hassle. As others observed, this may not be an issue for more inexpensive goods ($25-500 range or so), but it would seem that as soon as you go above around the $500 mark, sales drop-off dramatically. I’d love to hear anyone else’s take on this, but my experience and interaction with clients/customers has been that a lot of jewelry is just too personal to purchase online. It’s one thing to take a chance on a $250 ring, but no matter how many pictures or videos you have, there’s no substitute for seeing $3000 item in person and this becomes even stronger when you get into artsy-style stuff. It’s different when you are doing basic designs that are more generic in nature (main-stream jewelry, standard engagement rings, etc.), but as soon as you get off the beaten path in your designs, there’s nothing for the customer to reference in their experience. They’ve likely been multiple jewelry stores and can easily envision how that platinum ring with diamond pave`looks in person, but that more “artsy” design. . .? They’ve got no frame of reference and have to rely solely on the pictures/videos and that’s just asking too much when spending that kind of money. Sure, there are outliers, but by-and-large, they’re about as rare as hens teeth.
The one exception to this is if you are also in-stores yourself yet still have an online presence. When I first started, I was wholesale only, then I added in a retail website, then I eventually stopped wholesaling all over the course of probably 10 years. It was when I stopped wholesaling that sales really dried up and I believe it was because no one could see my work first-hand anymore and there was a lack of confidence in buying online. It lends a certain amount of validity to your site if you can show you are in brick-and-mortar stores. People are still skeptical about making large, unique purchases online from moderately-obscure sites like your average independent jeweler. Having a physical retail presence I think gives the customer a lot of confidence that you’re not some fly-by-night outfit that’s going to leave them high and dry once they’ve made a purchase.
Anyway, that’s may basic take on it. Now to head back to the bench to begin revamping my line and ironing out all the details in wholesaling again. Oh how I’m NOT looking forward to contacting stores and galleries and such again. . .
Erich C. Shoemaker