Something I hear from clients often is frustration with buying body jewelry online. There’s a definite lack of quality online vendors, and it can be hard to know who to trust and buy from (as an aside, I have a list of my faves here). Beyond that, many clients know quality brands. However many of those brands don’t sell online directly to clients. And I know this is something many clients find very frustrating and annoying. So I wanted to sit down and explain why many quality companies are wholesale only.
What is Wholesale?
Wholesale is the sale of goods and products to a business who then sells these products to consumers. For example, Walmart isn’t making all the products they sell in their stores. Another company makes them and sells them to Walmart, so they can sell them to you. And sometimes this is a bad system that results in the customer being taken advantage of. But sometimes, this is a system that is actually beneficial. For example, in hair, you often need a license to purchase chemicals used in bleaching, dying, and processing hair. This is because these chemicals can cause serious harm and damage if they are used incorrectly. You need to be licensed to purchase them so they can be sure that the person purchasing these chemicals has the knowledge to use them correctly.
As it is, weaker versions of these chemicals sold over the counter to anyone often cause people to accidentally melt their hair off or worse, burn themselves and their skin. These are serious chemicals that have to be used with training and education. Hence why you need to be livened to purchase them.
But it’s just body jewelry?
That’s the common response I hear. Yeah harsh chemicals and dangerous products like piercing and tattoo supplies make sense. But the jewelry is just jewelry! There’s nothing inherently dangerous about it. Why can’t they sell it to me? And this comes down to a few different factors.
Body Jewelry is Non Refundable and Non Exchangeable
Body jewelry, due to the intimate nature of it, can not be refunded or exchanged. Once a piece of jewelry has been inside if your body it is yours. Many folks may be wearing jewelry in healing or irritated piercings exposing it to blood and bacteria. Even if its’ only inserted for a short time period, that bacteria is still there. And many clients have piercings all over their body. You don’t want a piece that was in someones mouth or genitals. Reprocessing worn jewelry safely is an enormous task already, and that’s just when we are processing it for the same client to wear again. It is not safe or healthy to sell you jewelry someone else wore.
Because of this, if you are purchasing jewelry it’s very very important to be sure of your exact sizing. It’s far more complicated than just small, medium, large. You need to know the gauge and length of any barbells and gauge and diameter of any rings. And that may vary- a larger piece may need a larger gauge to be stable. You may need a different diameter ring for a very decorative piece to fit. As someone who has run online stores selling body jewelry safely for many years, I can say with confidence most clients don’t know the exact sizing they need to order.
As a studio, we have piercers who can work with clients to determine exact sizing. And every week we get dozens of emails from clients who need help determining what size they need to order. Sometimes we can help them online. Sometimes we have to see them in person in order to size them correctly.
But jewelry companies are not piercers. Meaning they often don’t have the education and knowledge in how to size and fit these pieces correctly. They know how to make amazing quality pieces of jewelry, but that knowledge does’t mean they have the knowledge to understand how it needs to be fitted to wear correctly.
In the past when some vendors tried selling online they ended up dealing with hundreds of returns and complaints about ill fitting pieces or pieces ordered incorrectly. Folks who weren’t trained on sizing and placement were trying to make best guesses about fit and placement. Even when companies made sizing charts and information very readily accessible, many folks still ordered the wrong thing. And then said “well no, I didn’t read any of the information first….” It created a nightmare for companies already bogged down in production and manufacturing. And because body jewelry can’t be safely returned, this created a major issue for companies. Not only that but clients started leaving unfavorable reviews, saying the companies jewelry was bad because they ordered the wrong piece or didn’t understand their own size.
Many companies had to make a difficult decision. Offer online retail and spend the time and money staffing this, helping clients determine size and fit, dealing with issues, and processing orders and shipping them. Or don’t, and focus on actually producing and making the jewelry and getting it to piercers. And let piercers- who were trained to deal with sizing and fitting- handle the sales portion. And for many jewelry companies, this was the route they went. It allowed them to focus on what they were good at- producing jewelry that was well made. And it allowed them to spend time creating new designs, refining pieces, sourcing new gems, and offering all of us, piercers and clients alike, a bigger selection of beautiful, unique jewelry.
And, honestly, If clients understood the scale and scope of what goes into making jewelry like this and how much time and energy is needed for each piece, I think they would choose more jewelry too. In fact, I know this. During the worst parts of covid limited staffing and limited supplies lead to jewelry lead times skyrocketing. We saw what it was like when staffing was split and limited. And no clients liked it or were happy about it. Across the board they all wanted more jewelry, sooner.
Fortunately lead times are going back down as covid improves. But the lesson has been learned. It is the better choice for many companies to focus on actually making the jewelry and making it well, rather then spreading themselves thin trying to make it, sell it, size it, and handle clients who often may not know their sizes and measurements.
Knowing how to Buy
Another element of this whole situation is…well….to be honest most folks don’t know how to purchase body jewelry. I touched on it above but body jewelry is all sized very specifically. It’s no different then shoe sizes- every pair of feet needs something different. Wide, narrow, extra insoles, etc. You have to know your shoe size and what your feet need to buy a great pair of shoes. And body jewelry is even more specific. There’s the gauge of the piece, the length and diameter, you have to take into account how old the piercing is, the type of fit you want. The decorative elements you choose can effect how it fits. Honestly sizing a piercing sometimes makes bra sizing look simple.
And many clients don’t realize this is so complex. There’s a massive market for low quality one size fits all body jewelry. And most clients assume this is what all jewelry is. So when they go to purchase their first quality piece and are asked what size they need the response is “Uh…the normal one?” But there’s no normal! Normal for one person is totally different form normal for another person. And without knowing your exact sizing and measurements, it’s very easy to purchase a piece that fits incorrectly.
To counter this, many studios who sell online have spent hours writing detailed sizing guides, tutorials, and offering their services to help clients determine sizing. And while some folks find this to be very useful and educational….many folks simply don’t read it at all. It’s unfortunately common- we don’t want to sit and read about how to size and measure things and then have to get up and get a ruler or tool and try to figure out what size we need. We just want to order the pretty sparkly jewelry! So often folks will skim or entirely skip those things, purchase the first thing they like or think fits right. And when it doesn’t….an angry email or a bad review comes in. This makes running an online store for body jewelry very very stressful. And it’s a huge part of why jewelry companies have opted to leave this for piercers to handle.
It can be frustrating to want to order all the jewelry you want right from the maker. But please understand that there’s a lot that goes into ordering jewelry online and running a successful online store. And make of these companies you know and love would rather make you more jewelry and offer you more beautiful pieces, which you can buy from the large number of piercers who sell online, then try to sell themselves. Hopefully this blog helps explain why that is, and helps you understand why purchasing body jewelry is the way it is!