How, as a jewelry designer, can you get a foothold in the most popular stores and sales sites that attract millions of visitors? Taking on a sales agent is a profitable strategy.
The role of the sales agent is enable access to the most prestigious independent boutiques such as White Bird in Paris, Twist in Portland or Jill Wolf in Geneva, American department stores such as Bergdorf Goodman and e-commerce sites such as Net-à-Porter or Threadsstyling. Guaranteed access to millions of buyers and extraordinary visibility! “It can have a snowball effect because buyers in Asian shops are very inspired by their selections,” says Malika Benshila Hutin, founder of Pink Heater. Her pool includes JEM, Adeline Cacheux, Ofée and Gaya by Garnazelle.
Everyone wants to be listed in the world’s top 20 stores, including, until very recently, the Parisian concept store Colette. “I tried everything to get Sarah Andelman’s attention, but it took the intervention of a mutual friend to get her to select them,” recalls one designer. Without a network, the chances that you will be able to get into these shops on your own are very slim. The places are expensive: over the last twenty years, the number of brands has exploded: “As a buyer at Lane Crawford, I received 150 to 200 emails from brands every day,” recalls David Kwok, who now specializes in developing points of sale in China. Since the spaces are finite, the rule is “one brand in, another brand out.”
For buyers, the sales agent is a guarantor: they put together the initial selection of bankable designers. “Many have been had their fingers burnt by designers who were not ready,” says Malika Benshila Hutin. The agent must investigate the legitimacy of each person, their true talent and involvement.” They must assess whether the designer is able to produce an order within a given time frame, to adapt their product to make it more commercial or even sometimes to relocate part of their production to avoid prohibitive export taxes.
Consignment is not inevitable
More than ever, the agent is also there to avoid pitfalls for their pool of designers, such as consignment or jewelry deposit, imposed by buyers in recent years. “This involves an extremely expensive capital investment in inventory,” explains Valery Demure, a London-based agent. For designers who can’t afford it, this has triggered a desire to reach out to the customer directly.” For the past few months, Valery Demure has been bypassing boutiques by developing a private clientele via “Objet d’exception” : in particular, she presents her designers at the PAD, an art fair open to the general public.
Doing without an agent?
To develop their clientele from scratch, designers are also often tempted by the opening of Facebook, Instagram and an e-shop accounts. But be careful: setting up an e-shop without a patiently developed traffic based on quality digital partners is the equivalent of opening a boutique in the middle of nowhere. Similarly, the pop-up store, an ephemeral store that allows you to take the pulse of the market and meet your customers, is one solution, but one that remains expensive. JEM experimented with it successfully, but this did not prevent her from also turning to Malika Benshila Hutin. In the broad mix of these strategies, the agent remains a major asset.