Interview with a Jewelry Sales Rep

by Jo-Ann Gibbons.
Thinking about hiring a jewelry sales rep to sell your work to shops and galleries?


Recently I had the opportunity to interview Jo-Ann Gibbons, an experienced jewelry sales representative, to find out what this type of selling arrangement is like from the rep’s perspective.

Specifically, I wanted to know:

What can a jewelry artist do to help the sales rep sell more jewelry?

After all, the better you equip and support your sales staff, the better they can do their job for you.

Jo-Ann was very generous in her answers – and our interview resulted in a fascinating inside look from the rep’s perspective.

Special thanks to Jo-Ann Gibbons (formerly with Fifth Avenue Collection) for taking the time to share her insights and experiences with us!

Interview with Jo-Ann Gibbons
by Rena Klingenberg

How does a sales rep promote and sell a jeweler’s products?

A sales rep introduces new lines by calling on existing customers (shops), as well as new customers. Also, through public shows such as trade shows, fashion and accessory shows, at the jeweler’s expense. If the rep is a seasoned veteran and representing more than one line, he/she may include the new line at the trade shows etc. at their expense.

How is a sales rep’s commission usually structured – and how does the commission cycle work between the jewelry artist, the rep, and the retailer?

It’s structured on the total wholesale purchase of the customer, excluding taxes, shipping and handling charges.

The jewelry artist is where the cost begins (including production expenses and the jeweler’s profit).

The rep takes orders for the jewelry at wholesale prices created by the jeweler. And that’s what the sales rep gets paid on – anywhere from 10 to 18% of the wholesale price. I was paid 15% of my total wholesale orders. If I were to hire an associate, he/she would earn 10% and I’d get 5%.

Many retailers will probably do their major shopping at trade shows or accessory shows – whereby the rep will receive commission from these sales, even though he/she may not be at the show. If you want a HAPPY REP, one who’ll stick with you, then do a good job of looking after him/her.

If you have retailers who buy directly from you – make sure the rep receives that commission and information on the buyer, so the rep can follow up on the sale and service that account. Or refer that buyer directly to your sales rep in his territory, so the rep can take the order directly.

Remember, A HAPPY REP will produce for you! 🙂

What challenges or problems do sales reps encounter when working with retailers?

Challenges or problems encountered include the retailer’s schedules – keeping appointments with the reps, which is difficult sometimes as the buying customer must take priority. Some retailers treat sales people like second class citizens – and have no consideration for them.

Therefore, the jeweler should have “Big Shoulders” to hear out the rep and be very supportive. It’s all in a day’s work – so I’m told! 🙁

But on the most part, retailers are very happy to see you, especially when you have a very saleable product.

What challenges or problems do sales reps encounter when working with their suppliers (the jewelers)?

  • Lack of product – which creates back orders, especially when a “set” of jewelry is involved.
  • Dealing with irritated retailers because the jewelry is taking too long to ship.
  • Not having any marketing tools.
  • No guarantee on the product quality – lack of quality control.
  • Incorrect invoicing, totally confusing the customer.

What marketing materials do sales reps typically need from a jeweler whose products they represent?

  • Preferably a hard-cover catalogue or brochure displaying the jeweler’s products, as well as a very updated website, which is an excellent tool in today’s world.
  • A nice cross-section of real samples. There are many buyers who want to see, touch and feel their products before purchasing.
  • Easy access to a decision maker within the Company.
  • And someone to answer the phone and take messages when the jeweler is busy producing.

What can jewelers do to help a sales rep sell more of their jewelry?

  • They could have a contest and give awards to top producers within their company. The reps should be made to feel very important.
  • Food for thought – If production is up, increasing your profit margin, share a bit of this with your reps in a way of annual bonus. This really impressed me for sure! 🙂
  • Sales reps’ commissions should be paid each month on time! 🙂
  • Provide a website for each sales rep. Failing that, the alternative would be to have each sales rep mentioned on the parent website with an 800 number to call that particular rep.
  • The jeweler should constantly refresh their inventory at least two to four times per year. And above all, KEEP IN TOUCH WITH YOUR REPS! There’s nothing worse for a sales rep than feeling that the company you’re representing is no longer in business, due to lack of communication.

How does a sales rep display or show new jewelry designs to a retailer?

Through samples carried in a carrying case or rollups.

It’s not always possible to carry each and every sample, but you should have the best-selling items available for the buyers to view. As far as samples go (costly investment, but necessary) – some companies actually charge a rep for their samples. I personally would not rep a company if I had to purchase my samples.

Instead, a rep can sign an agreement with the jeweler to be responsible for the samples. That’s what I did.

Many reps now have laptop computers, so they can show the whole line if a buyer wishes! 🙂

What should jewelry artists know about packaging and labeling their jewelry for retailers?

If the products are new or the jeweler is new to the public, I suggest a laminated Introduction Card introducing the jeweler, nicely displayed among his/her jewelry. Also an introduction to the jewelry itself – discussing the stones and other materials used, the quality, free of nickel and lead, etc.

This takes the pressure off the selling clerks, and describes the jewelry for sale.

Earrings should be mounted in earring cards with company logo if possible.

Coding of the jewelry should be consistent and easy to follow, as many retailers enter their inventory in their computer – and this makes for user friendly stock controlling.

What should a jewelry artist consider when choosing a sales rep?

Enthusiasm, attitude, and a people person. Ideally, you want a sales rep with these qualities – as well as a track record in the business, with a number of existing retail accounts.

For this you’re looking for a seasoned veteran in the industry.

They’d expect all the marketing tools mentioned above, and they’d expect to get paid at least once a month – on time and probably would demand top commission! This might be worth it, for your production would take off faster I’m sure. It’s a little like real estate – location, location, location! Pay for a great location (an established sales rep), and it’ll pay you dividends in return! 🙂

Starting out repping “cold” (introducing a new line of jewelry to new customers) is not all that easy – speaking from experience. Many customers are so hung up on what’s already working for them that they hesitate to try a new line.

And speaking from experience, a sales rep should have at least 6 to 10 lines to make a good living. I started with 1, then ended up with 4 or 5 – but not all companies are great to deal with, so I dwindled it down to 1 – and would have practically starved if it wasn’t for my husband.

The company I stuck with was so professional that I judged all my lines that way, but it wasn’t to be. Even though I had the enthusiasm and excitement and was very professional in my approach, I really needed more than one line to make an average living.

To all jewelry artists, please take heed. You certainly want a new rep to succeed. Hiring a sales rep would be a considerable expense – preparing a professional website, catalogues, and brochures, not to mention the cost of Trade and Accessory Shows. And it may not be feasible for you at this time.

A less-expensive alternative to hiring a sales rep is to put your jewelry on consignment at various stores that cater to jewelry artists. As a rep, there’s no way these places would entertain our business. For example, there’s a place in Granville Island – Vancouver, B.C. that is strictly jewelry artists with beautiful displays of their jewelry – all strictly consignment.

I hope this helps you wonderful jewelry artists. I wish you Good Luck and Much Success in your search for your new rep.

Note from Rena:

Jo-Ann, thanks so much for sharing so many helpful tips with us! Understanding the jewelry sales rep’s side of the arrangement makes it much easier for a jeweler to create a win-win relationship with the rep.

We wish you all the best with your new ventures!

Related Article:

Hiring a Jewelry Sales Rep
Hiring a jewelry sales rep can be a good way to get your work into shops and galleries – but do you really need a rep? Here’s what you need to know before hiring a sales rep for your jewelry.

Author Jo-Ann Gibbons formerly represented Fifth Avenue Collection.

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  1. Is it true that commissions are just 10-18%. What if you only rep one brand which sells several lines yet sales are less than $100K per year? How to make a living? And a big question I have is payment on commissions. Does a rep get paid at the time of writing the order or when the customer pays? A customer (wholesale) could pay in 3 months even though we try to get them to pay at shipment. What is standard? We produce our goods in Mexico? Thanks for your feedback.

  2. But how do you find great sales reps?

  3. Hi Elise and Galya!
    Thanks for asking. You’ll find answers to your questions in this article I linked to at the bottom of the post above:
    Hiring a Jewelry Sales Rep.
    Wishing you all the best!

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