And how to actually go about doing it.
As you expand your collection, there might be a point in time where you start to feel like you have too much work! And when that happens, it might be time to retire a collection. (Or at least a few pieces.)
While there is no magic number for the amount of collections or pieces you should have in your line (it varies wildly based on the types of work you make, your price points, your ability to manage designs, and your ability to help customers navigate a large collection), there are definitely signs it’s time to retire a collection:
1. Sales are slow.
If a collection just isn’t selling, it’s time to cut ties. But don’t be too trigger happy when removing a collection that isn’t selling. Sometimes, it takes a while for new work to gain traction.
I recommend giving any new collection at least 1-2 years before pulling the plug due to slow sales. It can also help to introduce a new collection before retiring an older collection that isn’t selling well. While this may seem counterintuitive, a new collection can add new context to an older collection and help buyers see it in a new light.
But if you’ve given a collection time, promoted it well, and introduced other collections around it, and it still isn’t selling, it might be time to retire that particular collection.
2. You’re tired of making it.
If you’re making your work yourself, there may be a point in time where you’re just sick of making it, and that’s ok. (In fact, I’d argue it’s perfectly normal.)
Before you retire a collection because you’re sick of making it, you first want to make sure that your prices are high enough. But if you’ve raised your prices, the work is still selling, and you just can’t stomach making it anymore, then it’s time to consider retirement.
I know it can be scary to think about retiring a popular collection, but sometimes it’s what you need to do in order to free up space for work you love making more.
3. You want to move in another direction (and it’s holding you back).
Speaking of freeing up space to make work you love, you may also want to retire a collection because it’s holding you back creatively and you want to move in a different collection.
For example, a designer in Artists and Profit Makers recently retired her brass jewelry line so she could focus on gold-filled instead. This allowed her to create more upscale designs without buyer confusion. (Since it was hard to distinguish brass from gold-filled in pictures online.)
And it doesn’t just have to be materials. Sometimes you’re ready to move in a new aesthetic or stylistic direction and an older collection doesn’t fit anymore. If that’s the case, retiring that collection may be the key to keeping your overall brand cohesive.
Once you’ve made the decision to retire a collection, you may still be wondering about the logistics of actual retirement.
Should you announce the retirement or just let it go?
That depends on the reason why you’re retiring a collection and where you’re selling. (Wholesale, online, or retail shows.)
For wholesale, I recommend dropping out old collections when you’re updating your line sheet for the new season. (Which I suggest doing twice a year, in January and July, to coincide with the major trade show seasons.)
If a collection hasn’t been selling well, chances are buyers won’t even notice it’s gone. If you’re sick of making the work, I also recommend just removing a collection (rather than giving buyers a heads up) but having a plan to address stores who still want the work. I typically make those decisions on a case by case basis depending on how good of an account a store is and how truly tired I am of making the work. For a really good account, I might let them order for one more season, though I will put my foot down if I’m completely over a line.
If you’re retiring a collection to move in another direction, it can definitely inspire some goodwill if you give your wholesale buyers a heads up first or allow them to order a collection for another season or two after you’ve removed it from the line sheet. (I’ll often allow existing buyers to continue ordering certain pieces I’ve “retired” but I keep them off my line sheet so they aren’t available to new buyers.)
If you’re selling online, you most likely also want to give customers a heads up if you’re retiring a collection due to slow sales or a change in creative direction. For a collection that’s selling slowly, announcing retirement may give you a temporary sales boost and help clear out excess inventory. (And if it doesn’t, there are still lots of things you can do with old work that hasn’t sold.) And if you’re moving in a new direction, it’s nice to give customers one last crack at the old work.
Of course, if you’re sick of making a collection, announcing retirement can give you exactly what you don’t want – boosting sales of a collection and requiring you to make something you don’t want to make anymore. If that’s the case, I recommend just removing it from your website without any fanfare. Just like with wholesale, you can always decide (on a case by case basis) to make something for a special customer if they ask about it.
One last thing: I don’t recommend announcing that you’re retiring a collection at the same time that you release a new collection. This just pulls customer’s focus and makes them choose, often diluting sales of both. If you’re planning on retiring a collection to make room for something new, break that into two distinct events.
If the collection you’re retiring is a slow seller, launch the new collection first, then, once the buzz has died down from the new collection, you can announce that you’re retiring the slow seller. If you’re tired of making the work or want to move in a fresh collection, it’s better to retire the old collection first, and then move into launching the new collection.
Like I mentioned at the start, there’s no hard and fast rule for when to retire a collection. But as your line grows and you introduce new work, it’s important to start listening to your gut, especially if it’s telling you it’s time to move on.
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Want more help determining when to add and when to retire collections? Need a creative boost to grow your jewelry line? Be sure to check out my new class, Core & Explore: Creative (yet Cohesive) Collection Design for Metalsmiths & Jewelers. This class walks you through the process of developing a signature jewelry line that feels like you! Class starts April 10th, but early bird registration (which is $100 off the regular price) ends next week! Click here for all the details!