Overseas-based manufacturers are betting on the maturity of U.S. consumers to give their brands a boost
For a while there, America looked like it was going to be a long-term pariah on the international stage. It was 2008 and the floor had just fallen out of the U.S. economy. Overseas brands that had once staked their future growth on the American consumer had grown disillusioned with the national credit crisis and the spectacle of mismanagement it revealed, and instead set their sights on consumers in more promising luxury markets abroad: China, India, even Brazil.
But then, the presumptive narrative took a twist. During the past year, growth in the United States—while by no means blockbuster—has been slow and steady. Coupled with a downturn in the Chinese luxury market and continued troubles in the euro zone, the relative strength and reliability of the U.S. market has again forced brands promoted by overseas manufacturers and distributors to get back into the American game. Several European companies are debuting brands in the United States this year; others, meanwhile, are stepping up efforts to expand their distribution.
“The market in the U.S. is eager for trendy innovative styles at the right price points,” says Emmanuelle Feildel, area sales manager at Hong Kong’s Aurostyle Ltd., the international distribution subsidiary for the France-based Christian Bernard Group.
In 2013, the Christian Bernard Group—which produces and promotes jewelry for several high-fashion brands, including Guy Laroche and Cacharel—is introducing a new brand, Jeell, in the United States. “The market here is ready for this type of jewelry,” says Feildel, who describes Jeell’s pieces as combinations of black and white ceramic with gold and diamonds with an entry retail price of $500. Jeell also includes a wedding ring collection in ceramic and gold or platinum with solitaire diamonds (starting retail price: $5,200).
Fifth Season by Roberto Coin Stingray necklace in sterling silver; $849; Roberto Coin, NYC; 800-853-5958; robertocoin.com
“For U.S. distribution, initial targets are retailers in New Jersey, New York, Las Vegas, Detroit, Chicago, and North Carolina,” says Feildel. The Christian Bernard Group is also bringing Guy Laroche to the United States, she adds, beginning with ceramic designs that start at only $65 and gold styles starting at $270.
Similarly, Italian jewelry brand Roberto Coin recently introduced its lower-priced silver line, the Fifth Season by Roberto Coin to the U.S. market. Manufactured in Vicenza, Italy, the collection includes woven silver jewels plated in a variety of colors and electroformed designs with a composition of tiny silver beads for a stingray leather effect. Brand manager Cristina Cavinato says retail price points range from $110 to $1,540.
International pearl companies are excited about their prospects in the States as well. Euro Pearls in London, for example, is stepping up sales of its Yoko brand, which it has been promoting in America since 2011. “The U.S. market has the potential to become our largest market due to the high number of luxury jewelry stores that fit the Yoko profile,” says director Alan Hakimian.
In 2013, the company plans to debut new designs for existing retailers in both the basic Yoko Essentials collection and the more rarefied Yoko One of a Kind range. (Best-selling price points for Yoko Essentials range from $2,000 to $5,000, while the One of a Kind collection starts at $7,000, with a few exclusive items topping the $500,000 mark.) Among Yoko’s most popular items are South Sea pearl and diamond bangles and unusual South Sea pearl necklaces, such as those in graduated shades of color, from white to grey to black.
Not to be outdone, South Sea pearl producer Jewelmer, based in the Philippines, is not only expanding U.S. sales with new unbranded commercial lines destined for home-shopping channels and online venues, but also increasing sales of higher-end necklaces and other jewelry designs from its branded collections. “The U.S. market has started to grow over the past year,” says assistant managing director Pierre Fallourd. “We are targeting a 30 percent growth in the U.S. in 2013 based on current sales and new relationships with retailers.”
Bangles in 18k white and yellow gold with white South Sea and black and grey Tahitian pearls and diamonds; price on request; Yoko, London; 44-207-025-0700; yokolondon.com
TV home-shopping sales, in particular, are growing, says Fallourd. “Price point is the most important consideration and the sweet spot is for items around $500, but occasionally a $5,000 strand will sell,” he says.
For its branded collections, pieces from the Tropics, Via Rosa, and Rosonne collections, in price points from $2,500 to $5,000, are resonating with customers, says Fallourd, as are higher-end necklaces—particularly long necklaces that retail from $10,000 to $20,000.
Meanwhile, Australia’s legendary South Sea pearl brand Autore is launching new collections in price points tailored to American consumers. “We have enjoyed good sales since the second quarter of 2012, and we are adding a mix of price points and increasing designs in the Essential and Boutique Collections, which are doing very well,” says international executive director Philippe Poix. “Retail price points start from $1,500, but high-end, one-off couture pieces are doing well too.”
With all this new promotional activity from overseas brands, American retailers can look forward to a range of trendy, innovative branded products with price points designed to suit their customers, starting from as low as $65. International pearl brands, too, are aiming for American retailers’ sweet spots—from about $1,500 to $5,000—and if current sales trends are an indicator, 2013 should augur well for both sides of the retail equation.