Fall 2008 Piercing Profits: Body Jewelry Market Broadens
The Feel-Good Feeling
“Body jewelry is a recession-proof item,” says Dennis Moreno, senior vice president of sales at SalesOne International in Norwalk, CT, home of the popular Body Vibe line. “You can buy a piece of jewelry to accent your body to make yourself feel good for only $10.”
If sales are any indication, shoppers love that feel-good feeling. “For eight years, we’ve had an increase [in sales], year over year,” Moreno says. To keep those sales coming, the company is constantly introducing new designs. The Body Vibe line has evolved from 500 SKUs eight years ago to more than 12,000 today. SalesOne now wholesales to roughly 50 carts nationwide and plans to launch a cart or kiosk start-up package by the end of the year for retailers who want to get in on the action but don’t want to start from scratch.
Moreno isn’t the only one in the body jewelry industry who’s seeing blue skies these days. James Weber, president of the Association of Professional Piercers, based in Lawrence, KS, says that when he went to work for a Philadelphia body jewelry retailer in 1993, he wasn’t sure the category had all that much potential. By 1995, he’d opened his own store, Infinite Body Piercing. It hasn’t let up since then,” he says. “It’s only gotten stronger.”
At Culture Craze in Tsawwassen, British Columbia, which operates 18 corporate and four franchised carts and kiosks, sales are up 25 percent over the prior year according to owner Lisa Hayward. Some locations that have grown from a cart into a kiosk are up 90 percent. Based on that success, Hayward plans to offer franchises in the US soon.
Significant sales increases are also reported from Michael Campobasso, managing member of retailer Rockstar Body Jewelry in Plainfield, IL, who adds that body jewelry makes a great year-round concept. Rockstar has five year-round locations (two kiosks and three carts). “Our sales in 2008 are up 13 percent,” he says.
An expanding market
These sales increases are reflective of how mainstream body jewelry has become over the years, says Michael Zysman, owner of Desert Trends Body Jewelry, a wholesaler in Tempe, AZ with more than 2,300 accounts worldwide. “It’s now socially acceptable to have eyebrow, nose or labret piercings that five or 10 years ago would not be permitted by many employers and parents.”
He adds that it’s “more common than not” for those in their late teens and early twenties to have “at least one piercing.” More than 60 percent “get their first piercing during the college years of 18 to 22.”
But it’s not only college kids sporting belly rings, Moreno says. Soccer moms, stay-at-home dads, 30-somethings with no kids-it seems these days everyone is expressing themselves with body jewelry. The body jewelry buyer demographic has gotten much larger over the last ten years, says Moreno, rising from the 18-to-24 age range to more like 18 to 40.
Celebrities sporting a huge range of body jewelry elements are further proof of the category’s acceptance in the mainstream-and help fuel the trend, says Campobasso. And since so many celebrities wear bare-midriff styles of clothing these days, the category is “getting so much more exposure.”
Plus there are a host of new products on the market that are drawing additional customers, including blinking belly rings, monogram belly rings and a host of items that glow.
Ned Harb, owner of Body Arts in Livonia, MI, sells body jewelry from carts in 10 area malls with the help of various family members and friends. Whatever body part is pierced, “we have something to go in it,” he says. Body Arts carts carry an average of 10,000 to 12,000 pieces. “The bottom line is selling the customer the items that are right for their piercing. And we only focus on body jewelry, not regular jewelry like necklaces and chains.
“There’s no one big-seller,” he adds. “It just depends on what the customer wants to buy. We focus on customer service, which means determining what the customer wants, not what we want to sell. Everything sells across the board. I have a hard time keeping the shelves stocked, but that’s a good thing.”
The top-seller at Body Vibe is navel jewelry, and the company offers more than 6,000 styles. Within that category, anything made from surgical steel is hot. “Surgical steel navels are the number-one selling item,” says Moreno, adding that customers seem drawn to cherries, flowers and butterflies.
At Rockstar, belly rings of any kind are top sellers these days, responsible for about 70 percent of the company’s sales. Styles that dangle and those that fill up the entire belly button are especially popular, notes Campobasso.
In Philadelphia, most of Weber’s Infinite Body Piercing customers go for nose rings. “The popular piercing now is definitely the nostril,” he says. A cubic zirconia in a small setting is the most popular nose ring style. In nearby Northern New Jersey, three The Tribal Hut Body Jewelry carts report significant tongue ring sales, particularly barbells.
Whether the accessories end up in the belly, nose, tongue or somewhere else, anything with jewels tends to sell, says Tod Almighty, sales representative for Anatometal, Inc., a wholesaler in Santa Cruz, CA. “People love the bling.”
Body jewelry customers are a notoriously loyal group that will come back again and again to check out and buy the latest styles, specialty retailers say. “We have one customer who for three years now has bought five new belly rings every single week,” says Campobasso.
Anatometal is also seeing a surge in microdermal body jewelry, Almighty says. As its name implies, microdermal body jewelry requires an implant under the skin to hold the jewelry in place. For less conservative styles, consumers often stretch their holes to accommodate thicker jewelry referred to as heavy gauge body jewelry. Heavy gauge is the “newest craze in body jewelry,” says Hayward at Culture Craze, which retails many different HG styles, including tunnels, plugs, spirals, machine heads, stretchers, hoops and horseshoes.
There are other styles of body jewelry, as well, to serve these cutting-edge customers, such as nipple rings. Wholesaler Desert Trends has seen a big increase in sales of their nipple shields this year, in particular ornate designs that conform to the shape of the breast and are secured by a single barbell through the nipple. According to Zysman, nipple shields “took off in popularity after Janet Jackson’s ‘wardrobe malfunction’ back in 2004.” For those without the actual nipple piercing, Body Vibe manufactures a line of nipple clip-ons, bendable pieces with charms that are strong sellers as novelty items, Morenon says.
It’s important to note that best-selling styles vary by area. Culture Craze carts and kiosks sell a wide assortment of belly, tongue, eyebrow and nose rings (all with a lifetime guarantee) no matter where the cart is located, but belly button rings are bestsellers in high-end malls and heavy-gauge items sell best in centers with a strong teen demographic.
Naturally, since body jewelry is more noticeable in the summer months, the category enjoys “another Christmas season” during the warmer months. With girls in bathing suits and low-cut clothing that shows off their belly rings, “summer is always best” at The Tribal Hut’s three New Jersey carts, according to owners Amie and David Rothstein.
Moreno agrees, adding that in the south, southwest and western states, navel rings are strong sellers every month. “It’s a year-round business.” In colder climates, after Labor Day, “there’s an influx of sales into nose and ear rings.”
In addition to repeat customers, retailers will find great mark-up potential with body jewelry. The Fleur de Lis belly ring from CA Trading, an importer, wholesaler and distributor of body jewelry based in Houston, TX, wholesales for just $3.35 and retails between $14.99 and $19.99.
At Desert Trends, the majority of merchandise wholesales for $1 or less and retails for $5 to $10, depending on the retailer’s location and local market conditions, Zysman says. “We wholesale basic pieces as low as 14 cents apiece.”
With wholesale prices that low, start-up costs for a complete cart or kiosk are very attractive. At SalesOne, Moreno notes that low start-up costs and high markups are a recipe for success in specialty retail: “For $2,500 you could probably be in the whole category and bring back $10,000 in sales your first month.”
Organic Body Jewelry Trending Up
Along with many products today, body jewelry has gone green. For consumers “looking for the latest ways to not only alter their appearance but also lean toward the growing movement of green-conscious living, with less plastics and more focus on natural products,” organic body jewelry is the answer, says Tacoma Vaught, owner of Brimstone Organics in Sebastopol, CA. “The growing trend for organic jewelry is undeniable,” he says.
Organic body jewelry is made from materials such as stone, wood, animal horn and bone. Brimstone uses, among other natural materials, cocoanut, sono wood, plus more than 24 different types of stone, including azurite, tiger’s eye, snowflake volcanic glass, rose quartz and unakite.
Within SalesOne’s Body Vibe line retailers will find cocoa wood and iron wood (some with mother of pearl inlaid) as well as bamboo, a raw material that replenishes itself in five to seven years, says Dennis Moreno, senior vice president of sales at SalesOne International in Norwalk, CT. He estimates that sales of organic jewelry have increased about 50 percent in less than two years.
There are a host of organic styles now on the market, but heavy gauge rules. “Our niche is to customers with stretched lobes,” says Vaught. “Our best selling jewelry is our extensive stone plug line that we are rapidly adding to,” he says. Rockstar Body Jewelry in Plainfield, IL, sells only heavy gauge organics.
Lisa Hayward, owner of Tsawwassen, British Columbia-based Culture Craze with 22 carts and kiosks, calls organics “the newest trend” in heavy gauge jewelry.
Moreno sees a promising future as well. “Our outlook for this category is very bright,” he says. “We see a continual [sales] increase way into 2009.”
Body Jewelry Display Tips
As a companion article to our Fall ’08 feature, “Body Jewelry: That’s Hot!” Specialty Retail Report asked several leading visual merchandising pros for their tips on how to display body jewelry so your presentation draws in the shoppers and helps close sales.
Buyers of body jewelry appreciate the unusual, these display gurus say, so take the opportunity to make your display bold and unique. But keep in mind that your final display “needs to place importance on the body jewelry, not the fixtures,” says Steve Lippert, visual designer at Any Ideas in Fredericksburg, VA. “Fixtures and props are to showcase the product, not the other way around.”
Here are more tips to make your body jewelry display get noticed.
Tip #1: Avoid clutter
The biggest mistake jewelry retailers make is packing in too much product. “Some retailers attempt to show every single piece they have, which creates visual clutter,” says Lippert (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Display expert Cheryl Campbell (email@example.com) of Display Biz in Qualicum Beach, British Columbia, says that when there’s too much product on display, “the customer can’t focus on anything and as a result is not attracted to stop and shop.” She suggests that retailers “always leave some visual ‘breathing space’ to allow the jewelry to be seen.¬†This negative space is just as important in visual presentation as the positive space of the jewelry.”
“Along those same lines,” Lippert says, “sometimes I see carts with lots of embellishments or wrapping on the columns, but this visual excess only ends up drawing attention away from the product. Focus on using fixtures and props to showcase your product, not ‘decorate’ your cart.”
Display expert Janine Arnold (firstname.lastname@example.org) from Denver, CO adds that clutter can extend to props, too. “Do not over-prop!” she warns. “Body jewelry can be easily and effectively displayed several different ways; sometimes a few frames, pillows and mannequins covered with fun¬†fabric is all you need. Another mistake I see that creates visual clutter is body jewelry retailers who use a lot of pegboard and slatwall, which is way too overpowering for such a small product.”
Tip #2: Use props and fixtures to give your display life
All retailers should use props and fixtures to give their displays life, Campbell says, but “the types of props or fixtures you use need to match your product, your customer and the retail image you want to project.” A body jewelry cart in an urban mall that skews toward younger shoppers might get a lot of attention by using edgy pop-culture graphics, whereas a cart in an upscale suburban mall might land more sales with a focus on fashion.
“When I’m working on a specialty retailer’s display, I always create a theme for the cart or kiosk based on the retailer’s image and the target audience,” she says. “Then I add small display details throughout the unit to create a visual presentation that combines to create one cohesive look. The theme might also relate to the selling season.”
Whatever props you use for your particular market, “they must enhance whatever it is you’re selling. They should never overpower the merchandise you’re selling.¬†The merchandise has to remain the star of the show.”
Props also need to be the right scale for the product. “When it comes to body jewelry and other small products, if the props or fixtures are too large, the jewelry will disappear,” she explains. Not a good plan for retailers who want maximum sales.
Lippert also has a cautionary note for body jewelry displays: “Any type of jewelry retailer is smart to use busts, mannequins or photography to show the product in use, but when it comes to body jewelry, sometimes there’s a fine line between what might be considered artful versus inappropriate. It’s a good idea to drape bust forms for modesty in a mall environment or airport, et cetera. Think about the perceptions of the wide range of shoppers that frequent your shopping venue before you hang up that edgy eight-by-ten brochure from your supplier that really wasn’t meant for the mall environment.”
Tip #3: Activate your dead space
“Lots of cart retailers do a great job of displaying their merchandise but leave a lot of empty space above the product, below the cart’s roofline,” Lippert says. “Often a large bold prop in this area can really activate the dead space and focus the shopper’s eye on a focal point while adding a lot of visual excitement to the display as a whole.”
From the central prop, “you can create multiple levels with pedestals, shelving or even by suspending items, to keep the shopper’s eye moving. The more you can get the shopper to take in your full display, the higher your chances of landing a sale.”
Lippert likes mesh wire screen, “which is easily cut and framed for accenting jewelry sets. It works very well for display earrings. Abstract body silhouettes can be cut from foam-core board, which is easily pierced to hold jewelry. Paint the body forms in bright, solid colors and place them in a group of three for more impact. Repetition with props, fixtures and products is a great visual approach.”
Tip #4: Add color
“Shopping should be entertaining, so don’t be afraid to use bright colors in your cart display,” urges Lippert. “Coordinated props, signage and bottom pads or fabric treatments can really make a cart standout and strike a bold, colorful statement that establishes your presence.”
“Color is one of the main attractions of any cart or kiosk,” Campbell agrees. “When choosing fixtures and props for jewelry retailers, I always pick and stay within a particular color scheme” that matches the retailer’s product, image and target customer. Jewel tones are perfect for some products, primary colors for others, and the latest fashion runway colors for others. “The color palette follows from the product, the retailer’s image and the target buyer.”
Body jewelry “is very popular among teens but also can be worn by an older consumer if the visuals are right,” Arnold says. “Using bright colors will not only attract attention but will be more customer-friendly. Stay away from blacks and the Goth look, especially with this type of product. I’ve seen many¬†body jewelry displays for that one type of customer only, usually very dark, like walking into a tattoo parlor. Keep in mind you want to attract a wide range of both male and female customers, which can be done very well if you use the right display elements.”
She suggests retailers might try “several eclectic frames painted in cool colors with multi-color¬†fabrics mounted inside. Attach to the framed fabric colorful¬†narrow ribbon in rows¬† from side to side to hold the jewelry. Use larger hanging frames for the center focal point and smaller ones on shelves, which the customer can pick up to take a closer look at the merchandise. Embroidered pillows can also be a great way to display several pieces.”
Tip #4: Use lighting wisely
“Lighting is a prime consideration for any specialty retailer, but it’s especially important when it comes to selling any kind of jewelry, since the right lighting can add a lot of sparkle to the product,” Campbell says. “Lighting can also help you highlight your display’s focal point, draw the shopper’s eye and guide it to where you want it to go.”
Arnold says “fun, colorful hanging lamps can be great for adding the extra light needed for body jewelry.”
Campbell cautions that retailers who “do makeovers or demonstrations sometimes direct their lights away from the cart to light up the demonstration, but they end up leaving their product displays in the dark,” she says. What they really need is more lighting. “In this case, more is more.”
Tip #6: Seek inspiration
Lippert and Campbell suggest these resources for great ideas on innovative displays you can create for your business:
- Catalogs from jewelry/body jewelry retailers or suppliers
- Body jewelry boutiques and jewelry stores in your area
- Body jewelry websites (retailers, suppliers, blogs, etc.)
- Display and fixture manufacturers (go beyond jewelry to find fresh ideas!)
- Jewelry shows (public and trade)
- Festivals and other event markets (lots of lightweight, portable fixtures)
- Business supply stores (lots of containers for organization)
- Mass discounters, container/organization stores
- Global goods stores (stores like World Market have great props!)
- Fabric stores (low-cost to luxurious materials)
- Home improvement stores (lots of unique fixture materials!)
- Craft stores (eye-catching materials of all kinds)
Those last two resources have paid off over and over for Lippert over the years. “I’ve found a lot of innovative fixture materials at home-improvement stores and craft stores,” he says. “A lot of items they stock can be transformed into unique, eye-catching props. Sometimes all it takes is imagination and a can of spray paint.”
Five Religious Body Jewelry Products
Are your body jewelry customers hunting for religious items for the holidays? Check out these five items-from a simple cross nose ring to a blinged-up cross belly rings galore.
Cross CZ Gem Sterling Silver Nose Pins/Bones
- .925 Solid Sterling Silver
- 23 Gauge (0.57mm), 6.5mm length shaft.
- Each pad has 20 sterling silver nose pins.
APM Body Jewelry
Cross Dangle Belly Rings Super-Mix
- 100-piece 316L surgical steel assortment
- 14 Gauge, 3/8″ (10mm) bar.
- Includes CZ, red CZ, long dangles, gold plated, more
99 Cent Body Jewelry
Handcrafted Austrian Crystal Pearl Angel Belly Ring
- Artisan-crafted body jewelry
- 14 Gauge, 7/16″ (11mm) bar
- 316L surgical steel, .925 sterling silver
- Swarovski crystals, faux pearls
Fancy Cross Dangling Belly Ring
- Charm is 925 Sterling silver
- 14 Gauge, 10mm bar, 5mm top ball
- Direct from Thailand
Dangle Belly Button Ring Triple Heart Angel Wings
- Triple hearts in quality gems
- 14 gauge 316L stainless steel bar, 7/16″ long
- Orders accumulate points for discounts
Top 20 Body Jewelry Display Fixtures Suppliers
A & A Jewelry Supply
F & B Displays
Gems On Display
SLS Store Displays
Association of Professional Piercers/Infinite Body Piercing
Desert Trends Body Jewelry
Rockstar Body Jewelry
The Tribal Hut Body Jewelry
14K Gold Earrings Wholesale
50 Cent Body Jewelry
99 Cent Body Jewelry
AGB Body Jewelry
APM Body Jewelry
Focus Body Jewelry
Grace Body Jewelry
Hollywood Body Jewelry
J. Good-In, Inc.
Real Steel Body Jewelry
Scream Body Jewelry
Wholesale Jewelry Direct
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