Net Profits: Selling Jewelry at a Private Hotel Showing

With juried craft shows getting more prohibitive and less profitable, many jewelry artists are finding other ways to sell their work. One option that’s gaining traction, especially among established goldsmiths, is to rent a luxury hotel suite for selling jewelry at a time they know their customers will be in town.

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They rent out a suite with other jewelers or a partner, send out invitations to core customers, and host a private showing for a couple days. Instead of competing for attention at a booth, customers can try on jewelry with the maker while chatting, sipping wine, and nibbling hors d’oeuvres.

Many studio jewelers do these private shows quietly every year — same time, same place. Customers begin to expect the invite and schedule the party into their calendars just as they scheduled a stop at the jeweler’s booth during a show. In fact, these private showings often start as an alternative to a show. Designers tend to host them in conjunction with an event such as New York Fashion Week or an upscale art or craft show.

Jewelers Selling Jewelry in Hotels

Lilly Fitzgerald held her first private showing in a luxury hotel in Manhattan two decades ago. She holds one every year now for two days in early December. It’s become her favorite way to sell. She shows up with her sister bearing food, wine, and jewelry displays. Customers attend a private party in a well-located private setting, sip champagne, and try on jewels with the designer in a cozy, luxurious setting. Not a bad way to launch the holiday season.

Devta Doolan is another jeweler known to sell her jewelry at private hotel showings in addition to the American Craft Council shows and, since 2016, her own gallery in Deer Isle, Maine. And like others who sell this way, she, too, works in high-karat gold and her prices run into the thousands.

“I don’t think people like to buy things in front of other people at this price point,” says goldsmith Judith Kaufman, who put on a private showing at a luxury hotel in Washington, D.C., in April. She’s held trunk shows in private homes in Martha’s Vineyard during the summer, but this was her first hotel show.

“I resisted this for the longest time,” Kaufman says. “I didn’t think I had enough of a mailing list to make it worthwhile. But it turns out, it doesn’t take that many people, just your core customers.”

Finding the Right Hotel

Ideally, the hotel should be a five-star venue in a posh neighborhood, easy to access, with a discreet and attentive front desk willing to call the suite to announce guests as they arrive. Expect to pay for the privilege. It’s not unusual for luxury hotels in prime locations to charge $2,000 or more per day for a suite.

You may have to call around a bit to find the right hotel for selling jewelry. “Many hotels don’t let you do this,” Fitzgerald says.

As Kaufman discovered, it only takes a few loyal and well-heeled customers to make a private showing pay off. Once customers experience the difference between trying on your jewelry at a private party in a luxurious hotel versus a bustling public show, they may bring their jewelry-loving friends next year.

“This doesn’t work for everyone,” Fitzgerald warns. “You have to take the risk of doing it once or twice. It costs money, but when you figure how much it pays to stay in a hotel during a show, not to mention the show itself, the expense comes out about the same.”

NET PROFITS is a regular feature about using the Internet for selling jewelry of special interest to those with a home-based jewelry business that appears in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist. Learn more in “Suite Sales” in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, September/October 2019.

CATHLEEN MCCARTHY has written about jewelry and business for Town & Country, Art & Antiques, Washington Post, and her own site, The Jewelry Loupe. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.

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