I realize that, at the time I'm writing this, Valentine's Day is all but over. I hope that you've all managed to have, at minimum, a non-annoying day and my wish is that you had much, much more fantastic day than that. Today my husband had off of work, and with my 3 and 11/12ths year-old son at his grandpa's house, next door, I took the opportunity to run some errands and actually spend some time with my handsome man.
Of course, at least one of my errands happened to be jewelry-related. I bought a bunch of Swarovski crystals from a local bead store that's going out of business. I do think it's sad that local retailers have so much trouble competing with the prices of online suppliers. Take, for example, that even after a 40% off discount I calculated that I still paid at least a cent or more per bead than the exact same crystals at Artbeads.
When the beadstore where I worked went out of business I remember asking why the distributers and manufacturers didn't try harder to provide competitive pricing to physical stores. You'd think products would sell much better, at the same price, if people could see and touch them in person. It seems like that's not economically feasable. Stores have to cover their operating costs, and manufacturers can't give away the farm, or won't ask online retailers to take on the cost of providing physical samples. So, really, the only alternative is for online retailers to offer products with prices low enough where the perceived value is high enough that people don't mind significantly if something they buy isn't perfect. In the end it's us, the consumers, that are driving this trend. So, tell me, why do you buy your supplies where you buy them?
I do buy most of my metal, gems, findings, stringing materials, and tools online. I usually buy enough that I can get wholesale pricing for a lot of those things. When I'm buying things like gemstones, where I don't necessarily get wholesale pricing, I appreciate that I can shop around fairly easily at a huge selection of vendors. Like most women, I don't just buy things willy nilly. I try to get pictures as true to life as I can find. I look for things like whether I'm getting the strand in the photo. But, you can never be completely sure of what you're getting, so ultimately you need to ask if the price worth it if the strand isn't exactly as you see. For example, before Valentine's Day I was looking for bright red Rubies. I found some that were totally natural Bermese rubies at what seemed like a reasonable, for what I wanted, $10 per inch. When I got them what I had in my hands were very dark rubies. Indeed, when I double checked, the written description did say the rubies were dark blood red. I was frustrated. For seven inches, that was a lot of money to spend on something that wasn't exactly what I wanted. Will I use them? Yes. Individually, and surrounded by lighter stones, they still look pretty good. But it was still a shock, not seeing what I expected. But, despite that surprise, I still feel like I got a decent deal, and I know I could never find untreated Burmese rubies in a retail store at anything near that price. Rubies! Honestly, how sexy would it be to say that there were genuine radient, translucent rubies in your design?! Obviously I think it's amazingly alluring.
I buy most of my seed beads and Swarovski in person. Usually I'm working no a project where I need to color match, and those two things are my go-to products for adding instant, precise color to a project. That I need to see in person. Fortunately I have a local supplier, someone that's been in the business forever - making and selling - and knows how to get the lowest possible prices, and she has a broad selection of all the essentials professional jewelry artists need; she doesn't carry the trendy stuff, just the things she knows we have to buy. It seems like she'd honed on on those things that we're likely to run out of and need to get in a pinch. And while her shop is on a busy street and it's easy to get to, it certainly isn't in an exclusive neighborhood. So it seems like there's a tradeoff between less walk-in traffic and not needing to compensate for outrageous rent. Because she's so, so knowledgeable and her prices are the most reasonable in town, word of mouth keeps her in business, but even then I know it's tough business.
But, there is still a market out there for physical shops. What is it about the local shops you frequent that keeps you coming back?
Thanks for reading!