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What's new in various product categories; monthly update.

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An Eyewitness Report on the Jewelry Phenomenon, Pt. III

Where this new enthusiast buys, and from whom.

by Mike Hartnett, (December 4, 2006)

(Note: The previous installments in this series are available by clicking on the titles in the right-hand column.).

For more than a quarter of a century, I have been dragging my wife, Barbara, into our stores, thinking something would eventually tickle her fancy and she would get hooked on one craft or another. If the industry is going to grow, I assumed, we need the Barbara Hartnetts of the world to get involved.

Finally, jewelrymaking cast its spell and Barbara was hooked. But it hasn't worked out as I thought it would. The problem? Barbara has purchased very little in our stores, chains or independents. As soon as Barbara decided to sell her creations, the math quickly changed, and so did her buying habits. The less she pays for supplies, the less she can charge, and therefore her jewelry should sell more quickly.

So where does Barbara buy her supplies? A variety of sources:

1. Bead shows. Barbara has bought the majority of her beads at the Bead & Button show in Milwaukee in June. She has also attended much smaller shows in Chicago (because we were there for the weekend) and Bloomington, IL (only 30 miles from our home).

2. Fire Mountain Gems. This remarkable company has tens of thousands of SKU's with a catalog the size of a mid-size city phone book. Everything Barbara has ordered has been delivered quickly and the order has always been accurate. She has purchased numerous stones from Fire Mountain, but also most of the items she has used to display her wares.

3. Wal-Mart. No, not from the bead section but from the readymade jewelry area. Occasionally she has seen necklaces with beads she liked; the jewelry is so cheap, she buys it, takes apart the items, and uses the beads for her own creations.

4. Antique shows. She has bought old jewelry pieces, taken them apart, and used some of the beads. She also inherited some old jewelry from her mother, which she disassembled and used the beads to make new jewelry for relatives; that way nieces and grand nieces have something from their grandmother/great grandmother.

5. Our stores. She always checks the bead department at Michaels, Jo-Ann's, Hobby Lobby, and Wal-Mart, but something really has to catch her eye or fire up her imagination to inspire her to pay retail prices. As for the small bead shop where Barbara took her first class, I think she has more beads in her bead room in the basement than the store has in its entire inventory.

A Hobby Lobby puzzlement.

At the Hobby Lobby in nearby Pekin, IL, half of the Blue Moon line was locked in a glass case, which killed any potential sales. You couldn't see the stones through the glass and the packaging, and the thought of wandering around the huge store looking for a clerk, who would no doubt have to go find the key, was too much.

The products in the locked case cost no more than the other half of the Blue Moon line which was not in the case. So why the lock and key?

I told folks at Blue Moon about it and months later we returned to find the case was still there, but unlocked. I'm sure Blue Moon sales increased since the case was unlocked.

The vendors.

Barbara has purchased beads at our stores from virtually every bead manufacturer who exhibits at our trade shows but the bulk of her purchases are online, in catalogs, or at consumer shows.

The consumer shows are filled with small importers and glass artisans, many of whom haven't a clue how to sell to retailers of any size; that provides independent retailers a great opportunity to stock inventory that the chains do not carry. (At the 2006 Bead & Button show I ran into three CLN subscribers who are independent retailers. They were delighted by what they found at the show.)

Consumer bead shows are mushrooming around the country, much like consumer scrapbook shows popped up a few years ago. There's probably one near you sometime in 2007, although I believe the biggest continues to be the show in Milwaukee. Visit www.beadandbuttonshow.com.)



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