Spring 2017
Smells Like Tween Spirit

American Jewel

Concept: Patented tween accessories and jewels
Headquarters: Valencia, Calif.
Mission: To make beautiful and functional products at affordable prices
Strength of concept: Markup of 300%; scented and eye-catching products big attention-getters in common area
Number of locations: sold at 3,000 retailers across United States
Website: americanjewel.com

An eye-catching array of jewels and scented personal accessories aimed mostly at the tween market (read, indulgent grandparents) is set to make waves in the common area.

Even before you can see the bright and colorful bags, you are drawn in by their delicious smells. After all the Yummy Gummy bags by American Jewel are meant to delight the senses and their incredible success has proven that that’s exactly what they do.

These treats, targeted at the tween consumer, are such a huge hit at stores that American Jewel has been delighted by the overwhelming demand. And now these scented gummy bags, the patented Yummy Gummy sensations by American Jewel, are poised to take the American specialty retail market by storm as they are set to launch on retail kiosks across the United States.

The beginnings

All great businesses usually start with a simple idea. Sherie Judah had been tired of wrestling with her girls’ long and thick hair for a while but it was in 2012 that she decided it was time to do something about it. She designed a hair tie that would corral it all in place while still looking pretty.

A personal trainer and physical therapist for 25 years, little did she know that this beautiful and functional product would soon be the start of a roaring business. The no-tug hair ties were a hit at the gym where Sherie worked and soon demand built up to a point where she needed three people at home to work on the hair ties. Add in attractive “jewels”—a dazzling variety of baubles from “fruits” to emojis, an assortment of treats, almost anything that could charm a little girl’s heart—and the Judahs had a formula for runaway success on their hands.

Heartened by the initial responses to the hair ties, Sherie and her husband, Saul, decided to launch the business, American Jewel—and they have not looked back since.

Hitting their stride

The timing couldn’t have been better either. By the time American Jewel got going, Saul Judah had been contemplating leaving his previous business selling licensed goods with other business partners and American Jewel’s success seemed serendipitous.

Saul and Sherie traveled to tradeshows in Atlanta, Las Vegas, Dallas and New York and after six or seven months of steady growth, they really hit the jackpot when the tween clothing and accessories retailer, Justice, placed an order.

The Judahs soon decided they needed to move to a bigger location and hire more staff. The small facility that they initially moved into worked for three months before American Jewel ran out of room there as well. Today, with a staff of 33, American Jewel works out of a 15,000-sq.-ft, warehouse in Valencia, Calif and the hair ties are today just one aspect of a business that incorporates all kinds of fun accessories including their best-selling and signature product, the Yummy Gummy bags.

Yummy Gummy

American Jewel offers a dazzling and wide patented collection of assorted jewels or charms that can be mixed and matched according to the wearer’s mood. In the mood for something special and sweet? There’s milk-and-cookie; macaroon; Nutella, sugar cookies, s’mores and more.

Using such a variety of jewels on hair ties had already proven to be a great hit but the Judahs wanted something else to expand their revenue stream. This is when they developed the concept of the gummy bags or wristlets, which also allow for attachment of an assorted variety of jewels. The gummy bags are in fun, candy-shop colors made to appeal to tweens. They too enjoyed the Judahs’ Midas touch and within three months, American Jewel had sold close to 60,000 of these wristlets.

Scented gummy bags were the next logical progression. The Judahs worked closely with their manufacturers to create bags made with food-grade silicone that are also scented. Their proprietary formula bakes the scent—cotton candy, sugar cookie, lemonade, raspberry etc.—right into the bags. “These bags not only look great, they also smell great,” Saul says, adding that the scents remain strong for a period of four to five months.

American Jewel has a license with Jelly Belly so the products smell like Jelly Belly candies. The products carry U.S. and international patents.  Ingeniously, American Jewel has developed a line of sprays that can be sprayed onto a bag to renew the scent. They suggest that retailers offer this service for free as a way for customers to return and make additional purchases.

The Yummy Gummy bags by American Jewel are so popular, Sherie says, that retailers can barely keep up with customer demand. A kiosk owner in Puerto Rico sold out even as she was unpacking her order. “The average order for regular accessories gets about 5-7 turns per year, we are getting about three-four times that number at 16-20 orders from each store per year,” Sherie points out. The magic, she adds, is in the scents.

So popular are the Yummy Gummy accessories that “one of our stores in Nashville Tennessee in front of a crowd at the Atlanta Gift Show told everyone that she was able to pay her rent in the store for the entire year with just the sales from American Jewel,” Saul says.

Boomer bait

While the demographic who wears and uses these accessories is primarily tween girls, grandparents are the primary buyers, Saul says. This is of special importance to specialty retailers because Boomers, many of whom are now grandparents, comprise a large percentage of the buying demographic. In 2016, as per the Pew Research Center, the United States had 74.9 million Baby Boomers (ages 52-69)

What’s more, 70% of the disposable income in the United States is controlled by Baby Boomers, according to Nielsen.

All this is good news for specialty retailers looking to pick up American Jewel: the consumers who buy American Jewel are not only high in numbers, they also spend more. This is borne out by anecdotal evidence on the sales floor, says Sherie. “The tweens, they see it, they go crazy for it but when we set up our kiosks it’s like grandma’s world. They come in and just buy, buy, buy,” Sherie says, “and they don’t just stop at the bags. They’ll start with the bag, then add a wristlet, and a brush. By the time it’s all said and done, they’ve spent about 60-70 dollars,” Saul adds.

Common-area sensation

The range of American Jewel products are so attractively packaged that upselling is a breeze for specialty retailers. “It’s all really well-packaged and the grandmas and aunts and whoever else buys from us are happy to pick up entire lines because the brush matches the wristlet, which matches the backpack,” Sherie says.

Everything is Pantone-matched and looks cohesive and bright and colorful. “At the kiosks the way it looks, it makes people want to get the whole kit at the same time.”

American Jewel products are made for the common area because they meet one of specialty retail’s biggest challenges really effectively: how to grab customer attention in a matter of a few seconds. “First of all it’s a very bright display with colors that attract a lot of attention,” Sherie says, “but if that’s all they did, even that would be great. But what makes these really compelling is that when you walk within 30, 40, 50 feet of the kiosk, customers can start to smell the fragrances like bubble gum and cotton candy.” It smells like a candy shop and that seals the deal for customers.

The treat to the senses makes the line a sensation in the common area and from all indications, customers can’t get enough. American Jewel sells its products at around 3,000 retailers nationwide and also has kiosks in Santa Monica, Calif. and in Panama, Puerto Rico and Israel. Specialty retailers don’t need to expend extra effort in demonstrating the product; in fact, they can’t stock inventory fast enough, Sherie says.

Tailored for specialty retail

The many varieties of jewels and product lines combined with the appealing price point (between $5 to $50 MSRP) keep customers returning, as do the visits to recharge the luscious perfumes in the bags.

American Jewel offers turnkey packages to specialty retailers at 300% markup and encourages retailers to check out their products at the upcoming show for the specialty retail industry, SPREE RECon. The product lines are constantly being added on to and new packages for every occasion are rolled out so the mall cart or kiosk is never boring but always fun and inviting. For example, American Jewel’s back-to-school backpack collection includes a Rockin’ Candy backpack with matching lunch boxes. And the products are not just for girls either. “We have a new line coming out called Frogskin which is great for guys and girls and these bags are meant for hiking and related activities,” says Sherie. There are diaper bags for parents and also gym bags for all ages.

What’s more specialty retailers appreciate American Jewel’s investment in training talent that includes stay- at-home moms. The company is very family-oriented and donates to many charities including American Heart Foundation; Give a Life Foundation; and campaigns to increase thyroid awareness, and fight breast and pancreatic cancer.

At the end of the day, the patented American Jewel products stand out for how vibrant and colorful they are, how squishy they feel and how great they smell. Equally important, these are functional products, Sherie says, and environmentally friendly. “Parents and grandparents they love our products because they’re functional and look great and don’t break the bank, and kids just love them because they’re so fun and come in such vivid assortments.”

For specialty retailers, selling to the tween market is a huge plus, she adds, because tweens always have to have the latest stuff. “Tweens always have to have what the latest color is, the latest designs. Even though aqua might have been popular last summer, well guess what, it has to be neon pink this time. We have customers who have bought 15 bags because their daughter has to have one in every color.”

Such demand is indeed good news for specialty retailers who stock American Jewel’s candy shop of delights and who are looking for eye candy in the common area.

Poornima Apte

Poornima Apte is a Boston-area freelance writer and editor specializing in retail and the book publishing industry. Learn more at wordcumulus.wordpress.com.
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