This is a special article for all my fellow Stella & Dot stylists…
EEK! It’s time for another Stella & Dot line launch!
Are you excited yet?
No doubt, if you’re anything like me, you’ve watched the webcast, re-watched it, and then watched it again! Now, you’re counting down the days (hours, minutes) to sampling like a kid counts down to Christmas!
You are beyond ready for the newest infusion of completely fabulous, on-trend, and ingeniously designed jewels and accessories from Blythe and her dream team.
You’ve marked up your new line sheet and mentally finagled how you’re going to sell your first born be able to get at least half of the 60 new SKUs!
Because You. Want. It All.
If you’ve been a stylist for a while now (I’m working on my 3rd year), you know you’ve got a problem. If you’re a newbie, don’t worry, you’re likely still in denial.
Stella & Dot product is addictive.
I think we can all agree on that.
It’s a great thing! It’s what keeps us engaged, keeps our customers in love and coming back for more, but it can truly put us behind in our businesses.
Well, it’s time for a sampling intervention!
That’s right! Just think of me as your sparkly, little voice of reason saying, “Don’t sample that, girl!”
This will be my 9th major collection launch since becoming a Stella & Dot stylist, and after making every sampling mistake in the book, I’ve finally learned what it takes to be a smarter sampler!
So, sit down and pour yourself a nice glass of wine, cause this might get a little painful.
But, I promise, once you start sampling smarter you’re going to see your bottom line grow! Which means you get to stay at this gig longer and have less stress along the way!
In this article I’m going to show you:
- how much you should invest in new samples
- the three ways to fund your sampling
- an easy system of ranking your prospective samples with a handy-dandy FREE PRINTABLE WORKSHEET (yipee!)
Download your worksheet here: Smarter Stella Dot Sampling Worksheet
The great news is you still have plenty of time to edit your wish list before sampling opens in a few days!
So, let’s do this!
WAIT! DOES THIS EVEN APPLY TO YOU?
If you’re in this as a hobbyist or you’re a full-time stylist with a strong team, you have my full permission to stop reading this and keep on keeping on! Pass this article on to a fellow stylist or to your downline and sample to your heart’s content!
But, if you’re like the majority of stylists (myself included) who use Stella & Dot as a side business, and flex in and out, over-sampling (or chronically sampling the wrong pieces) can crush your bottom line, quick!
If you are a career level Associate stylist or below, then this article was written for you, so read on!
ARE YOU SAMPLING IN THE PRESENT?
The first step in this intervention is identifying what kind of stylist you are today.
Not who you dream to be, not what you were 6 months ago, not what your Q1 goal rank is, or the fact that you plan on completely rocking it out with 20 trunk shows next month.
What have you done in the last 90 days? Where are you in your business right now?
The answers to these questions are going to dictate how much you should invest in sampling for the new collection.
I advise investing no more than 20% of your quarterly earnings into sampling for the next season. Ideally, you want to be closer to 10%.
Well, since we are 1099 contractors we have to reserve our own taxes. Jessica has recommended 30% of earnings, to be conservative. So, adding another 20% for sampling, leaves us with 50% of our earnings in profit. Which, let’s face it, should be an absolute minimum if we are not treating this as a hobby.
It’s super-easy to find out how much you should invest out-of-pocket (remember there are other funding sources we will be going over too). Just add up your commissions form the last 3 months and take 20% of that number.
EXAMPLE: You earned $350 in commissions last quarter (by making $1500 in sales). 20% of $350 is $70. So, you should invest no more than $70 in new samples.
This needs to be a hard and fast rule if you want to keep your Stella & Dot business profitable!
Here’s where it can hurt for a part-timer: If you sold $1000 last quarter (yay! you earned StyleFix level 1!!), you made a cool $250 in earnings! That means you should only invest $50 into your new samples. Yup, that means your $69 StyleFix coupon should not be used IF you want to remain at that 50% level of profitability. NOTE: If you did go ahead and use it, because it’s a freakin’ amazing deal, after taxes and shipping, you would have invested about 35% of your last quarter’s earnings, bringing your overall profitability down. So, if you’re right on that fine line, be mindful of what it’s really costing you.
But don’t worry! There’s still hope…
HAVE A SAMPLE SALE!
Selling off your retired samples can give you extra money to invest in a new collection!
This roll-over from your initial investments can help make up that extra $19 (plus tax and shipping) so you can use that StyleFix coupon guilt-free!
In fact, if you wanted to be a real smart-sampling-bad-ass you would use ONLY the money from your sample sales to buy from the new line.
But this can be tricky when you’re first starting out as a stylist and did a good job of picking SKUs that didn’t retire or if you’re heavily invested with engraveables and best-selling pieces.
So, what if you were a super-smart sampler with very few pieces that retired? Now what do you do?
MAXIMIZE YOUR DOUBLE-DIP TRUNK SHOWS
God love this company! As Stella & Dot stylists we get to have two trunk shows a year where we earn the hostess rewards! Can I get an Amen?
I have learned to use these two shows to supplement my sampling for the major Spring and Fall launches.
TIP: Schedule your two personal shows near or on Dec. 31st and June 31st.
First, these are during Dot Dollar Redeem periods, so you can capture orders from customers when their hostess’ shows have already closed. And, second, these dates are only a week or two away from our major collection launches.
You want to maximize your free product credits. (I usually gift the 50% offs from my shows to my hostesses as an extra thank you). The free product credits can help supplement your sampling for Fall and Spring collections, but remember, you will be buying at retail prices so credits can go fast.
And this is another reason why WHAT you sample matters so much.
If you haven’t already, make sure to download and print out the Smarter sampling worksheet: Smarter Stella Dot Sampling Worksheet
I’ve come up with a 10-point system for evaluating whether to sample a piece of jewelry (no bags) based on what I’ve learned from being in this business for almost three years now.
Remember, this is geared toward the majority of stylists who are part-timers and are Associate stylists or below. You are never going to be profitable if you are an Associate stylist with a Star stylist’s sample collection.
Each of these 10 points are guidelines that I’ve adopted after lots of trial and error. They are meant to help you think about sampling more practically rather than emotionally.
So, let’s tackle these points one by one so you can see that by evaluating samples as a business decision instead of a fashion decision, you’re going to increase your sales, profit and longevity in this business–no matter how big or small your operation!
Would you wear it?
Okay, this is kinda the freebie point.
But, believe it or not, there were a few occasions where I actually went against my gut reaction of “I would never wear that” and sampled a piece that ended up being a dud and retiring early.
Trust your gut, and just because everyone else is talking up a piece on Facebook and Instagram shouldn’t influence your decision!
On the other hand, there are literally only two items I would not personally wear from the Spring 2016 collection.
Come on! Blythe and her team know what they’re doing! Incredible, wearable trends are part of S&D DNA.
This is the first point and, really, the least important point if you follow the method!
Would your customers buy it?
Asking your next hostess whether she likes a $169 statement necklace isn’t what smarter sampling is about!
Price point is the absolute most important factor for the majority of customers. This is the norm. (So, don’t let that time a customer bought a Pegasus and a Stone Sutton from you at the same show skew your grasp on reality!)
I bet you if you tallied up all the pieces you’ve sold since becoming a Stella & Dot stylist into $50 and under items versus $100 or over items, there would be a clear winning category.
Remember, this business is a numbers game in every way: talk to more people to book more shows, have more shows to make more sales…
And here’s a new one for you: have more affordable product on your table to make more sales with less risk (a.k.a. money out of your pocket).
There’s a very good reason we have the selling point: “Half our line is under $50!” It’s because that makes our fabulously designed, luxury pieces approachable and shareable by our customers and hostesses.
Want to know if your customers are really going to buy a given piece, ask these four questions:
Is it less than $100?
Is it less than $50?
Is it less than $30?
Is it less than $20?
So, there is a maximum of 4 points for this category.
Guess which pieces get a perfect 4 out of 4 in this category? That’s right, our Sparkle Studs and Wishing Bracelets, to name a few–need I say more?
Is it a stand-alone piece or engraveable?
This is important to note because you don’t want to over-invest in charms, watch straps or items that have to work with other items (I’m talking to you Versatile Chain!).
Engraveables deserve to get an extra point because they are very popular. I would suggest investing in an ID tag over a charm any day.
TIP: Don’t sample in multiple metal finishes for the same kind of engraveable. Engveables typically can’t be sold at sample sales, so don’t over-invest.
Is it versatile or a wardrobe staple?
If it can be worn more than one way it gets a point.
Even the Twilight necklace can be flipped over for two different looks, so that counts!
No extra points if it can be worn more that 2 ways (I’m talking to you Suttons!).
“Wardrobe staple” is a little bit more ambiguous. My definition of “wardrobe staple” are pieces that are highly wearable. Think of this: no matter what your customer is wearing, could you put this piece on them and it would work?
Sparkle Studs, layering delicates (like the Aurora necklace). New items like the Cage Cuffs I would also consider part of this category.
Just make sure you decide what constitutes a “wardrobe staple” to you and stay consistent.
Is it likely to sell at a sample sale?
This covers point 8 on the worksheet: Is it a ring, earrings, bracelet or delicate necklace?
I have found a clear correlation to these types of items and the probability they will be sold at a sample sale.
Again, they are typically lower price-point items. People feel more comfortable buying them as samples because it’s lower risk to them, since there are no returns, replacements or exchanges.
Statement necklaces over $100 do not fair well at sample sales. In my experience, to sell them off you have to offer more than 50% off retail.
Is it a statement necklace less than $60?
Even though statements do not fair as well at sample sales does not mean that a well-priced statement wouldn’t!
As stylists, we also want to have “pretty” and colorful displays with “fun” things to try on, which is why this deserves a point when sampling.
In my opinion, our $59 and under price-point statement necklaces should be the only ones on our tables! Again, this keeps everything approachable for the majority of customers and makes hostesses more willing to share the style with their friends.
I mean how many Somervell necklaces have you sold? I’ve sold a lot!
Some examples from the new line:
- Wanderer Necklace in Silver, $39
- Eden Fringe Necklace, $49
- Essential Fringe Necklaces, $59
- Arc Pendant Necklace, $59 — this could be a delicate to some but I feel it also works as a statement
Is it a best-seller, giftable or part of the Chic Boutique?
Again, smarter sampling, especially for part-time stylists is all about maximizing the impact of your quarterly sampling investment.
I know these aren’t the sexy statements that we all love and drool over, but these are the things that are selling and will continue to keep on selling for you!
Give your customers what they want, have it ready to try on at your table, at a great price-point, and you will make that sale!
This is another point where you get a little leeway to decide what a “best seller” is. We definately know what past best-sellers are, but how can we predict a future best seller?
Start with any new pieces that came out in a new metal (like the Marlin earrings just came out in silver). The new Wanderer necklace in Silver and Wanderer cuff are other examples. Also, pieces that come from the same “family” as past popular products (like the new Relic Studs).
Whatever you decide upon as indicating a future best-seller, keep it consistent.
Chic boutique are our best sellers and any new items in that line deserve an extra point!
Now that you know what each point means, its time to go through the worksheet and tally those scores!
This can be really helpful if you’ve narrowed your sampling down but still need to make some edits to meet your budget.
If you have an extra-tight sampling budget, aim to only sample pieces that score 7+ points. There are no perfect 10s.
If you can afford to be more liberal, you can add in one or two pieces with a score of 5 or 6. Especially if they will add some color and interest to your display.
Reserve pieces that score under 4 points as business incentives for yourself. For example: if you earn the 2nd level of StyleFix this coming quarter, you will sample it next collection!
I know you’re reluctant to go through your line sheet and wishlist and start crossing all the fabulousness out.
It hurts! Oh, I know it does!
The good news is the gorgeous jewels just keep on coming! Wait till the Summer 2016 launch! Everything you thought you just HAD. TO. HAVE. from Spring, will be yesterday’s news!
RESOLVE TO SAMPLE SMARTER!
So, let’s start the new year off right with our businesses! Let’s resolve to make sampling a business decision instead of a fashion decision!
You’ll get a lot in return:
and less stress (like those painful conversations explaining to your hubby about the $250 charge from Stella & Dot on your credit card)!
Stay sparkly my friends! xo, Kristen
Did this help you? I want to know! Please leave a comment below, I love getting feedback!