CSA Exclusive: Piercing Pagoda expanding as demand rises

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CSA Exclusive: Piercing Pagoda expanding as demand rises

By Marianne Wilson - 11/24/2020

The country’s largest specialty kiosk retailer sees plenty of opportunities to expand — even amid the pandemic.

Piercing Pagoda plans to open 15 new kiosks (with strict safety protocols in place) by the end of December, giving it a total of 525 locations across the country. Most of its locations are in malls.

“Despite the challenges of operating in a pandemic, we are seeing a terrific response from our customer base,” Kecia Caffie, senior VP and general manager, Piercing Pagoda, a division of Signet Jewelers Ltd., told Chain Store Age. “They are purchasing for themselves and are very much in to self expression.”

Founded in 1969, Piercing Pagoda’s target customer falls into the 26- to 35-years-old range. It attracts both males and females. 

“We skew towards the older side of Gen Z and younger millennials,” Caffie said. “At the same time, we’ve seen a halo as young as infants and as old as grandmas.”

Despite its name, Piercing Pagoda is about much more than ear piercing.  While earnings make up more than 50% of the company’s sales,  other categories — the merchandise assortment also includes 10K and 14K gold chains, charms, bracelets, rings and earrings and a variety of silver and diamond jewelry — have fared well during the pandemic. Piercings accounts for a “decent” percentage of the business, Caffie said.

“Chains have been amazing and are our fastest-growing department,” she added.  “Diamonds are on fire this year, second to chains.” 

Following pandemic-mandated lockdowns, Piercing Pagoda reopened its locations in the spring, initially without offering piercing. 

“We were very cautious about layering piercing back in,” Caffie explained. “We wanted to make sure everything was in place to make for a safe experience. “

As part of its commitment to providing a safe and clean piercing environment, Piercing Pagoda enhanced its already robust, multi-step piercing checklist. It added, for example, a 30-minute interval in between appointments for a deep clean of the piercing station and tools. The brand’s protocols also require the piercing specialist to wear a face shield and a face mask, which is also required of customers. 

In addition, piercings are now scheduled and are by appointment only — something that will continue as long as necessary, Caffie said. And every customer goes through a health assessment that includes a temperature check and health screening quiz.

“It was a slow ramp-up,” Caffie explained. “But piercing is now about where it would be historically as part of the overall percentage of business.”

From a piercing standpoint, Piercing Pagoda has no national competitors. Its average piercing customer is their early 20s, a much older demographic than the other national chain associated with ear piercing, Claire’s. 

Piercing Pagoda kiosks run about 160 sq. ft., running 10 ft. by 16 ft. on average. The model works well for the retailer, even allowing it to successfully operate multiple locations in one mall. 
“Customers find our kiosks very approachable,” Caffie said. “And they work as theater in the round for our team members.”

As to next year, as Piercing Pagoda sees opportunities in various malls, it will continue to expand. 

“We see Pagoda as a growth vehicle for the company,” Caffie said. 

Along with its brick-and-mortar presence, Piercing Pagoda is also growing online. In recent months, the retailer has updated its e-commerce platform to allow for more customer interaction, including one-on-one virtual styling sessions for shoppers. They can also schedule a virtual follow-up following an ear piercing. 

In a new live chat feature, customers can talk with a customer care agent for help with existing orders, placing a new one or other issues. It’s also rolling out buy-online-pickup-in-store nationwide.