The prevailing trend among Gen Z and millennial customers is not to have just one or two ear piercings, but many, and to use each ear to expresses their creativity and style. However, the options to purchase affordable studs and hoops are limited.
Claire’s — once a mainstream option for piercing services — emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy late last year, while other mall brands that offer piercing services are on the decline. In major cities like New York, options are limited to tattoo parlors and upscale piercing studios.
As a result, direct-to-consumer jewelry brands like Mejuri and Stone and Strand are increasingly offering piercing services in their pop-up stores and retail locations. Others, such as Studs, are banking on entire retail concepts around ear-piercing for younger shoppers, while Rowan — a subscription box for tweens that offers monthly earring shipments and safe piercings — has also entered the fray.
The founders of Studs, Anna Harman and Lisa Bubbers, said they wanted to fill a void for Gen Z and younger millennial piercing lovers. Studs was designed as a space that felt cool and young, but also accessible for customers of all ages. Studs is backed by $3 million in funding, led by First Round Capital, and its first retail concept store opens today on Prince Street in New York City.
At Studs, a single piercing costs a flat fee of $35 for one hole or $50 for two, with piercing jewelry ranging from $30 to $180. Along with its physical location, the company has launched an ecommerce site where shoppers can buy fashion jewelry that ranges from $14 to $175. Anna Harman, CEO and cofounder of Studs, said the company will open more locations across the country as Studs gains traction in NYC.
“Obviously this is not an experience that is going to be digitized in the future. You are never digitally getting your ears pierced and because we have that one-on-one time with you, we should be using that time to get to know you,” said Harman.
Before a customer gets a piercing, they first sit down with a piercing specialist (and a iPad) to discuss piercing options. On the iPad, customers input their email and cell phone number, and answer a series of questions about future piercings that they might want to get. The iPad software also shows different “earscapes,” or pictures of ears with curated jewelry and earring placements to get a sense of the customer’s personal style. Equipped with this information, the company said it then plans to regularly email or text customers to encourage them to buy new jewelry or to come back in for a new piercing.
“We want to create a virtual circle between an in-store and online experience. Retailers are all really looking to create experiences for customers and we are lucky that we have a very authentic one. People have to get pierced in person,” said Harman.
Other DTC brands already in the space are looking to get in on the trend, as well. Mejuri opened a full-time piercing studio inside the company’s Los Angeles showroom this summer. In its New York and Toronto showrooms, a pop-up experience is open one weekend a month. Currently, Mejuri only does earlobe piercings, while Studs offers more specialty options, including inner ear “rook” or “daith” piercings.
For Stone and Strand, moving into piercings was a logical step, said CEO Nadine McCarthy Kahane. The company started doing piercing pop-ups about two years ago and quickly realized there was an opportunity to design delicate, on-trend earrings used specifically for piercing. In September, Stone and Strand launched sub brand Piercings Y’all. It will likely become a key part of the business moving forward, although McCarthy Kahane did not share specifics. The company’s annual revenue is estimated around $2.8 million, with about 80% of sales coming from private label products.
Beyond just launching products, Stone and Strand also offer piercing services for customers. Several times a week the company hosts piercing pop-ins at their own pop-up stores or through partnerships with brands like Bandier. Before factoring in the cost of jewelry, piercings are $15 per lobe piercing and $25 per specialty piercing. Stone and Strand also hosts happy hours for customers, where piercings are free with the purchase of an earring.
“As a jewelry company we make really high-quality jewelry, but when we looked around and wanted to get piercings for ourselves, we found that the earrings that were available weren’t that cute,” said McCarthy Kahane. “People would get their ears pierced and then swap them out with something from Stone and Strand.”