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October 2005 | Vol. IV - No. 10




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The Bead Shop Follows Fashion Trends


"In the store, we see what women are buying and what their daughters are coveting, and the kits are a reflection of what´s happening in fashion."Goldi Miller, co-founder of The Bead Shop
Bored with retail, Goldi and Mark Miller launched The Bead Shop (ToyShow) to design and manufacture girls’ products. But the couple never shuttered their women’s apparel store in Milwaukee, which today functions as a living lab for a business that — after only seven years — boasts sales around the world.

The Bead Shop is best known for Build a Better Bracelet, a line launched in 2003 that supplies all the rhinestone letters and charms girls need to make their own personalized bracelets. Other offerings include craft-your-own kits for such hot accessories as vintage lapel pins, beaded flip flops and knitted ponchos — made more the rage when Martha Stewart got freed from the slammer wearing one she’d made in jail.

“In the store, we see what women are buying and what their daughters are coveting, and the kits are a reflection of what’s happening in fashion,” Goldi Miller, whose store bears her first name, told TDmonthly. “Whenever something happens in our store, we try to figure out if we can turn it into a kit and, about 60 to 70 percent of time, we can. We had a wooden shoe that was blowing out of our store at $170, and we said, ‘wait a second, that’s a kit.’”

Some 5,000 separate stores in the United States carry Bead Shop products, which have won Oppenheim Toy Portfolio awards for creativity. Venues across Europe, the Middle East, Japan and elsewhere sell the ware, said Miller, whose booth made an impact at this year’s American International Toy Fair.

“It was about the size of two booths and seven times bigger than last year,” said Reyne Rice, toy trend specialist for New York’s Toy Industry Association. “They had a lot more product, and it appeals to the younger child, ´tweens, teens and young adults. They have their finger on the pulse of the marketplace.”

Variety has been key to success, agreed Miller, whose company capitalized on the vanity pet business last year with make-your-own pet collars. Much like the brand’s bracelet-makers, pet owners slide rhinestone letters onto collars to spell Fifi or Fido. More recently, Zipper Zack totes made out of sewn-together zippers have kept inventory flowing.

Quality has been crucial, of course. Jewelry-making kits include glass beads instead of plastic, and other elements girls would find in better bead shops. “When they’re done, their stuff looks like jewelry — it is jewelry. We start them on the road to a lifetime hobby; they’re not making crafty crap. Often, you see these big boxes with nothing in them, and the finished product is something you want to throw away.”

Smart in-store marketing has made all the difference. Initially, Build a Better Bracelet offered eight different fonts for every letter, as well as the other icons, Miller said. “We knew we had to have great point-of-purchase displays to make this happen for retailers, to make it as easy as possible for them to display the letters and to show customers all the different ways they could be arranged. So we made all the displays available to retailers at no charge. And that’s what really made us successful from the get-go.”

To read more about this company (now called Fashion Angels), please see A Passion for Fashion.



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Writer's Bio: Zan Dubin Scott is president of ZDS Communications, a public relations, marketing and writing agency specializing in sustainable business, healthcare, arts and entertainment. Zan was a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times for 10 years and continues to report and write for the newspaper and other publications. Read more articles by this author

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