Supplier News

DOING BUSINESS IN AMERICA: GIVE VALUE, MEET NEEDS, KEEP PROMISES

Italian jewelry manufacturers got an in-depth look at the U.S. market in a seminar titled “Doing Business in the U.S.: What Italian Manufacturers Need to Know,” presented during the VicenzaOro I trade show in Vicenza, Italy, in January.

The seminar was sponsored by JCK and GEM magazines, the JCK International Jewelry Show, the World Gold Council and the Vicenza Trade Fair Board. It was moderated by JCK Publisher Charles M. Bond and featured a panel of U.S. jewelry buyers and industry consultants.

“Americans want to conserve time,” advised marketing consultant Ben Janowski. “You must be prepared to capture their attention in five minutes. In five minutes, a buyer can assess whether you understand his needs.

“You also need to prove value. What are you offering beyond just your product? The buyer needs to have a sense that the total package you offer is worth the added problems of doing business overseas. If your presentation meets the buyer’s expectations, the door is open.”

The rewards can be great. The U.S. consumer market for gold jewelry is the largest in the world, said John Calnon, director of merchandise planning for the Americas for the World Gold Council. “American women are almost as hungry for gold as Italian women, but there are many more American women.” Calnon also stressed that not all Americans buy gold jewelry from jewelry stores, citing discount outlets as the fastest growing outlet for gold jewelry sales.

Carolyn Kelly, fine jewelry buyer for Saks Fifth Avenue, said Saks and other high-end specialty stores comprise a very strong market for high-end fine jewelry and that consumer perception of Italian jewelry is very high. She looks for collections and concepts in jewelry, not just individual pieces. And she seeks jewelry that suits a younger affluent customer with a slightly more casual lifestyle than in years past. The jewelry must have a tailored look for daytime wear, but still be dressy enough for after hours; it must be contemporary, streamlined and easy to wear, she said.

It’s important that manufacturers of high-end jewelry limit distribution to give the product more cachet, she said. Stock turns may be slower, but margins are higher. She also advised manufacturers to offer marketing assistance and to listen to the U.S. client’s understanding of his or her market.

Understanding a U.S. client’s expectations is critical. “Know your capacity and do not promise what you cannot deliver,” she said. “And deliver what you promise. Late delivery is as bad as no delivery at all.” Finally, she advised, be patient. The longest relationships are often the most profitable.

Scott Sedlacek, vice president of merchandising for Ben Bridge Jeweler in Seattle, Wash., gave an overview of the middle market, the key to which he said is diversity. “American consumers are overwhelmed by choices of where and how to spend their money,” he said. “We consider our biggest competition to be electronics and travel businesses, not other jewelers.”

He also stressed value-added programs over product price. “The middle market is diverse and so are the retailers serving it,” he said. “Take the time to understand each retailer you approach and establish what his needs are. What’s a value-added option to one may not matter to another.” Ben Bridge, for example, focuses on selection (quality and uniqueness as well as variety); communication (quickly, concisely and in English); price (can you give quick calculations of cost and labor per gram in 14k, 18k and so forth); guarantees of quality, workmanship and adherence to fineness stampings; and delivery.

“You have to approach the American buyer the way we approach American consumers,” he said. “It’s not enough to have a beautiful product at a good price. There are 1,000 companies at VicenzaOro I. You have to explain why we should buy from you.”

WHICH IMPERIAL PEARL?

Recent reports have noted that Imperial Pearl Co. filed for protection from creditors in November under Rhode Island receivership laws. These reports have caused some concern among customers of Imperial Pearl Syndicate, which notes that while both firms are located in Providence and have similar names, they are quite separate.

Imperial Pearl Co., the firm in receivership, is located at 25 Manton Ave., Providence, R.I. 02909. Imperial Pearl Syndicate Inc. is located at 795 Waterman Ave., East Providence, R.I. 02914.

TAG HEUER ADDS SPONSORSHIPS

TAG Heuer has added two new competitions to its array of sport sponsorships: the UCI World Mountain Bike Championships in Vail, Colo., and the Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston, Mass.

During the bike race this past fall, Gotthelf’s, an authorized dealer in Vail, invited consumers to try on a TAG Heuer watch and earn a chance to win one. Store owner Paul Gotthelf said he sold three times the normal number of watches during the week-long promotion.

At the regatta, also in the fall, TAG Heuer sponsored a reception at Shreve, Crump and Low, the brand’s newest authorized dealer in Boston. TAG Heuer also developed a week-long promotion with Alpha Omega Jewelers in nearby Cambridge.

NURSE WINS TIMEX CONTEST

JoAnne Gay, an aeromedical nurse from Fremont, Ind., won the $5,000 first prize in Timex’s Bright Idea Contest.

Entrants competed by explaining a unique and creative way they used a Timex watch with the Indiglo night light feature. Gay related how she and other nurses nationwide rely on the Indiglo to check everything from patients’ medication to respiration support as they are transported by helicopter from rural hospitals to urban trauma centers.

Twelve finalists were chosen from more than 600 entries. The other finalists received a wardrobe of watches from Timex. Their stories included a concert oboist who lit her Indiglo in the bell of her oboe to help find and fix a tiny leak moments before a recital; a “tooth fairy” who used her Indiglo to find a tooth under a pillow without waking the child; and a mother who signals her children to their seats in a movie theater when they return from buying snacks.

SUPPLIERS ON THE GROW

Nishi, a pearl distributor, moved to Scotia Tower, 1002 Sherbrooke St. W., Suite 2525, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, H3A 3L6; (514) 287-1951, fax (514) 849-0983.

Holzer Watch Co., distributor of Christian Bernard and Fontenay watches in the U.S., moved to 425 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10017; (212) 752-4848.

Nordt Co., a manufacturer of gold tubing and ring blanks, celebrated the 10th year of its relocation from Cedar Grove, N.J., to Roanoke, Va., by recognizing 31 employees who have been with the company for at least 10 years. Roanoke Mayor David A. Bowers, guest of honor at a picnic for employees, presented the Nordt family with a plaque recognizing the occasion. Nordt Co., P.O. Box 14166, Roanoke, Va. 24038; (800) JC-NORDT or (703) 362-9717.

Hugh D. Mason bought the remaining family interest and assumed sole ownership of Mason Box Co. He has been associated with the company for more than 25 years and has been president since 1988. He now is also chief executive officer and treasurer. Mason Box Co., P.O. Box 129, North Attleboro, Mass. 02761; (800) 225-2708 or (508) 695-9381.