What sells online? Part 1

13 August 2020

Q and A

These are some of the questions we have been asked about starting to sell on-line so we thought we’d share our experience with you.

The UK ‘leads the world’ in online shopping, with over a third of consumers buying online multiple times a week and, with the emergence of Coronavirus, e-commerce and online stores are more important than ever before. Many on-line traders are thriving and budding entrepreneurs and traditional jewellery retailers are looking to add e-commerce to their traditional physical shop sales.

Online sales in the UK tend to attract the more fashion-conscious buyer than with traditional retail. It really is down to what is in demand. If you can keep your finger on the pulse with what’s trending, you’ll be more likely to catch the attention of new customers. On the other hand, also having a stock of timeless products will help to keep the same customers coming back to you. Sometimes it can take a fair amount of time from catwalk to demand! We’ve certainly been caught out by being a bit ahead of the trends, discontinuing lines only to find that the item has then come into mainstream fashion. Traditional retail shops who also venture into online sales will have the advantage of loyal customers seeking them out.

1. How do I decide what to sell?

Vintage? Ethnic? High fashion? Gold? Amber?

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No easy answer here but our best advice, based on experience, is be original – copying other successful brands will only take you so far – what is your unique selling point? By all means study your competitors but don’t copy exactly. We have a huge variety of goods, so make original choices even if on a similar theme. In part 2 we offer some suggestions for selecting collections with a definite character.

2. How often do I need something new?

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[Star and lightning stud H4020, Chain drop H3980/S]

Keep stock original and changing. Our ‘What’s New’ is the most visited section of our website. New items stimulate interest and we now find that trends turn over faster than they used to.
However, the good news is that fashions have a tendency to reinvent themselves, so often items that have been out of fashion can be repackaged at a later date. The trend for layering for instance has allowed a new life for pendants that may have fallen out of favour.

3. What’s the mark-up?

Mark-up on jewellery can be considerable but it’s a competitive world and will depend on your overheads.

For instance, CME sells one item at £6.69 +VAT and it is variously sold across retail internet sites for £16, £19, £29 and £49. Sold packaged in all cases but different set-ups and different overheads!

4. Will customers expect fancy packaging?

It’s lovely to receive a beautifully packaged gift but customers are also much more environmentally aware these days and some traders find that customers like the choice of simple packaging if the items are being purchased for themselves or the option to splash out if it’s for a gift. Think recycled materials – it’s on everyone’s agenda. Take care to ensure that any packaging protects the item through mail processing.

5. How do I manage returns?

Make sure to include this in your pricing structure – you will get returns and need to process these. Make sure you know consumer rights laws and have a policy on dealing with returns. There are times when you will receive items which you know have been misused but with Google ratings being so important these days it can be easier and cheaper to throw in the towel. Remember you can always refuse to sell to a repeat offender!

6. What about photography?


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[Men’s bracelet H4198-21, Turquoise bracelets H3444/T, H3445/T, See ‘Brooches’ in the Women's section]

Good photographs create a story and encourage people to buy. As a wholesaler our photos aim to showcase our goods accurately without too many frills to let our trade customers assess goods accurately. Our retail customers tell us that good lifestyle shots are attention grabbing and promote sales. We have splashed out on some lifestyle shots for our own website to illustrate the trends that we see. CME customers are permitted to use our stock images (right click, copy and paste) but please do not use our lifestyle or model shots.

7. How do I describe the products?

Carefully and honestly, and put in the size and materials – this will save on returns. Check out all of the legalities with regard to consumer rights and particularly ‘The 1973 Hallmarking Act’. Did you know that silver items under 7.78g do not need to carry a full hallmark?
As wholesalers we keep our descriptions simple (and it can be tricky to come up with something other than teardrop shaped!) as we know we are dealing with professionals who have trade knowledge, but some retailers choose to be more descriptive to magnify their customers desire to buy by describing the value of their goods by appealing to customer’s aspirations, lifestyle and story. You may prefer a more subtle approach depending on the look and feel of your sales platform.

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[Pendant H2915/S]

Described by us rather basically as a ‘Large Mother-of-Pearl Tree-of-Life disc with cubic zirconia rim’ (including all dimensions), but may be described in retails as:

‘This eye-catching pendant features an enchanting tree of life set on a beautifully iridescent natural mother of pearl disc with a surround of cubic zirconia for a dash of sparkle. The ideal gift for all ages offering a blend of symbolism and nature combined with the elegance of precious 925 sterling silver’.

It’s up to you and the character of your brand!

All trades and professions have their own technical language and it is useful for those whose background is not jewellery to know some of the technical terms for lines, especially where customers may use search engines to source particular products.

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[Rub-over setting H3106/L, Cushion-cut H4027/Y, Slider bracelet H3931/C]

8. Will you always have stock when we need it?


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[Hanging sloth H2972]

As a silver wholesaler it’s our job to hold stock of items and we usually have good stock levels of most items but cannot always guarantee to have the stock you want at all times on all 5,000+ lines, especially if sales of a particular item unexpectedly take off. For instance, we were a bit taken aback when we first introduced our sloth necklace and we just couldn’t get enough of them to meet demand! Customers deal with this in different ways. Some hold a small stock of items and replenish these, giving them a lead time, whilst others place an order in response to their own orders coming along, although this can be more expensive on postage. Don’t promise super-fast delivery if you do not hold stock. As your business grows and you order in larger quantities, it is also possible that we could hold stock of favoured items for you. We aim to continue to develop our website to show which items are in stock.

9. How do I get started – do I order a lot of one product or ones of lots of different lines?


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[Textured hoop H3961/Y, Chain hoop H3964/Y, CZ decorated hoop H3201/Y]

Some customers start by trying a lot of single items to judge the best-selling lines and others specialise. The good thing about silver and gold jewellery is that it always has a scrap value if you get left with some lines. Beware of the fluctuating metal prices and currency exchange rates as they can affect your ability to make a profit, especially with gold, which is responsive to every political and economic uncertainty!

We hope it helps that we have a small initial minimum order value of £150 and repeat order of £25. These amounts can be made up of a number of single items with no minimum order for single items.

10. Should I buy all types of jewellery?


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[Amber dragonfly ring H3768/B, Satellite chain H4123-46, Trusted heart drop R9447]

This is a FAQ for us so we have added sashes to the goods on our website to help customers identify those items that are new, discounted, trending and those that are dependable sellers (Trusted) over time. You can also tell on our website how long our products have been selling by looking at our code number. Those with no leading letter are the earliest products — then L, R and, last of all, H. When starting out it is safer to avoid items which require lots of sizes and therefore lots of stock, such as rings, unless they are adjustable. If you do not have a great deal to invest when starting out you could consider just offering certain sizes of ring, or offer just two lengths of chain. For instance, 41cm and 46cm for ladies and 46cm and 51cm for gents. Earrings are the failsafe and you will learn which are the best sellers

11. There seems to be a lot of the same jewellery around?


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[Small yellow-gold plated bee H4045/Y, Amber bee H3655/B ,Black CZ-set bee H3215/Y, Plain silver bee H2565, Yellow gold-plated baby bee H2687/Y, Rose gold-plated bee H2504/R, Baby bee H2505/S, Rose gold-plated honey bee H2449/R, CZ-set bumble bee R7190/C, Mixed amber bee H2500/M]

Bees are popular so pick the style for your collection from our 10+ designs. We try to offer a great variety of goods, many designed by our in-house team, and add to our range constantly so that customers can create their own unique collection from the emerging trends without having the same as everyone else.

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[Birth flower H3060/I, Birthstone H3524/G, Initial H3067/Y, all on slider chain H3067/Y, H3883-43 Double-strand necklace]

Combining pieces into ‘looks’ and ‘styles’ or personalising for customers can lift sales. Some of the most successful online retailers also add their own twist, creating something unique by tweaking ‘off the shelf’ items. For those who can order in quantity talk to us about sourcing or creating your own unique adaptations or designs

12. Should we discount?


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[CZ mini huggie-style hoop H3357/S, Layered necklace H2620–50, Vintage-style disc H3693/Y]

Everyone likes a bargain and our special offer section is a very popular area of our website. If you are using our special offer pieces to create a promotion ask us about stock levels before you commit to photos. Often we have good stocks of items which have been over-orders from multiple retailers but become very good special offer sellers – phone or contact the chat line if you need information about a line you like.

13. I have a retail shop – will I sell the same goods online?


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[2x Ear-cuff H3578/C, Hoop H4017/S, CZ Chain stud H4012/S]

We’ve often heard that the same retailer with shops in different positions in the same town sell different items so it will be no surprise to retailers that online sales demands can differ.
Shop-based retailers tell us that loyal customers seek out goods online from them as their favourite physical shop but don’t be surprised if online sales also offer some surprises. Online sales often attract the more fashion-conscious buyer than with traditional retail, perhaps an age demographic, but this will change as the world becomes increasingly digital whatever your age! So perhaps step outside the usual and evaluate the effect.