Professional Jeweler Archive: How to Sell to the Plus-Size Market

October 2003

For Your Staff/When Size Matters


How to Sell to the Plus-Size Market

How much business are you missing by not stocking a variety of sizes?


Fifty percent of American women wear size 14 or larger, and 68% wear 12 and up, according to Grace Woman Magazine. Standard 7-in. bracelets and 16- and 17-in. necklaces are too short to be comfortable and flattering on most of these potential customers.

These plus-size women don’t find the option of custom-ordering particularly attractive – it deprives them of the instant gratification shopping usually provides and makes them feel they are a problem requiring special handling. And unless your return policy is unusually generous, the prospect of having to keep a special-order item is another deterrent.

The solution is to carry a range of sizes, creating an opportunity for significant additional sales. Remember you’re targeting a market the jewelry industry has substantially ignored, so promotion will be key. Promote your expanded selection via advertising, direct mail and newsletters.

I’ve studied with image-consulting experts to learn what makes jewelry flattering to its wearer and integrated what I learned into Apprecia Fine Jewelry, a line of jewelry designed for the full-figured woman. Here are some observations and recommendations for necklaces and bracelets, along with two examples from my line. Next month, We’ll look at earrings and brooches.

Necklaces

Length determines where a necklace lies on a particular individual, depending on the width and length of her neck. Necklaces that are 16 or 17 inches, the lengths favored by manufacturers and designers, generally won’t fit your plus-sized customers, except perhaps worn tightly against the throat as a choker. This style adds a strong horizontal line that doesn’t flatter a short, wide neck. A longer necklace – perhaps 18, 20 or even 22 inches – extends the outside lines of the face and elongates those lines for a flattering effect.

What length necklace should your customer choose? Ideally, it should lie the same distance from the bottom of the chin as the widest portion of the customer’s face lies above that point. For example, if the customer has high, wide cheekbones at the widest part of her face, her necklace should fall a bit longer than the customer whose widest part is closer to the line of her mouth.

As a practical matter, however, the apparel necklines the customer prefers may determine the choice of necklace length. If the customer prefers sweetheart necklines or V-necks, the necklace should be short enough to fall within those necklines. If she likes jewel necklines, she’ll want a longer necklace to overlay the neckline of the garment and create a longer line.

A necklace with a V-shape, such as the Paisley Pears Necklace at the top of the page, presents an elongated line much as a V-neckline does. This shape is almost universally flattering. Full-figured women often have a gorgeous décolleté. The V-shape draws attention to this area in a subtle way.

The amount of design detail in the necklace should relate to the size of the features of the customer’s face. Remember a woman’s overall size doesn’t determine how large her features are. Many full-figured women have relatively delicate features. When a woman has small to average-size features, embellishments that mirror or complement the size of these features are flattering. The Paisley Pears Necklace combines a V shape with pretty detail to complement a face with average or small features.

Conversely, a woman with large, strong features shouldn’t wear jewelry with fussy details. That pairing will flatter neither the woman nor the jewelry. Clean, bold lines will complement her looks.

Bracelets

Wide cuffs are most flattering on women with long, slender bones. However, wide cuffs, especially in solid designs, can hide the graceful vertical line extending from the elbow to the wrist and make a fuller arm appear to be stubby and as wide as the hand.

Moreover, cuffs create an extended horizontal line hitting at about the level of the customer’s thighs, an area few women of any size choose to highlight. I recommend the customer always evaluate the look of a cuff bracelet in a full-length mirror.

A link bracelet that doesn’t hug the wrist tightly can create a different impression. The extra length makes the wrist seem more delicate, even as the bracelet balances the wider part of the forearm. For many full-figured women, highlighting the wrist in this fashion can be very flattering. The Sophisticated Flirt Bracelet, shown here, provides extra length, while complementing fuller arms.

– by Cynthia Sliwa

Cynthia Sliwa, a full-figured woman herself, creates her Apprecia line in Hermosa Beach, CA. Reach her at (310) 980-8954, www.appreciafinejewelry.com

Apprecia’s Paisley Pears Necklace, almost 20 inches, features 0.80 carat of rubies and 3 carats of white sapphires in 14k white gold. Suggested retail, $3,299.
This almost 8-in. bracelet combines 0.80 carat of pink sapphires with 0.70 carat of white sapphires in 14k ($1,999).

Copyright © 2003 by Bond Communications