Business Report

Some hot “real estate” in the jewelry industry is up for sale, though you may not know it, since it’s happening online.

Internet addresses—called “domain names” or “URLs,” which serve as a company’s location on the World Wide Web—are being sold off rapidly. Internet marketing experts believe that virtually every business, including jewelers, will need a Web address within the next few years. Now’s the time to get one. It’s cheaper and easier to secure those rights before bidding wars start.

Web addresses are available through Network Solutions Inc. in Herndon, Va., at (703) 742-0400, www.networksolutions.com. This is an Internet service firm that registers domain names on a first-come, first-served basis. The price is $70 for two years, and renewals are $35 a year. Within minutes you can search to see whether the address you want is available and make your purchase online. Some addresses have already been purchased by domain name speculators who then sell or lease them to others.

A jeweler who wants to purchase a permanent global address on the Internet also needs to hold the trademark for the domain name or else runs the risk of getting embroiled in litigation and having to forfeit that name in the future. See Network Solutions’ Web site for details; click “help,” then “legal questions.”

To protect yourself from trademark disputes for a domain name, even when it’s available for purchase, you may need to spend as much as $1,000 to clear and secure your trademark rights. Network Solutions doesn’t provide this service, but Government Liaison Services Inc., (800) 642-6564, a private firm that primarily serves attorneys, does. For $290, it will conduct an Internet trademark search. For another $216 it will file a trademark application, but the firm requires that this document be reviewed by an attorney. The U.S. government’s trademark filing fee is $245. Another firm providing trademark search services, Trademarkers, charges $175 to conduct a search and has served many jewelry clients. Trademarkers’ telephone number is (301) 229-7777.

Holdouts risk looking outdated. Within the next five years, consumers are likely to insist that jewelers conduct at least some portion of their business online, says Rich Goldstein, president of iJeweler, an Austin, Texas, Internet marketing consultant at (512) 444-8070, www.ijeweler.com. “Jewelers who don’t have a ‘dot-com’ address that’s specific to their business will look as antiquated as someone who uses a party line for their business telephone,” he says.

Goldstein suggests that you purchase a domain name that incorporates your store’s name as soon as possible. Or, if another firm has purchased your company’s name as a domain name, and you don’t want to initiate a dispute, find a creative alternative based on a product or service that your company is known for. “Either way, you need to market the Internet address,” he says. “It’s just smarter to have your company name than not.”

Examples of this type of generic, jewelry or service-related domain name include www.watchparts.com, www.wholesalegems.com, or www.finejewelrywholesalers.com—all of which were available at press time through domain-name speculators who had acquired them. This type of address can serve as a stand-alone Web site, or it can be used to pour traffic into another site. For instance, www.ruby.com links to the Kay Jewelers Web site.

Generic jewelry domain names are available through Network Solutions or from firms that have purchased these names already. One such firm, www.DomainGems.com, is a sideline of Maxam Magnata, a drusy mineral wholesaler in Tucson, Ariz., at (520) 622-1964. DomainGems has purchased close to 200 generic jewelry-related domain names and is offering them at prices ranging from $2,000 to $12,000. Leases are $25 to $10,000 a month. As of late May, the firm’s principals, Maxam Magnata and Abigail Harris, said they hadn’t sold or leased any of these addresses.

Twenty domain names were also available at press time from Dan Cononico of Danz Web Adz, a jewelry store investor and marketer in Canfield, Ohio, at (330) 533-1736, www.danzwebadz.com. The price is $2,500 per name, and leases start at $150 a month. Cononico says he has sold three Web sites at $5,000 each.

Goldstein advises against buying generic domain names already owned by a third party. “I don’t think the price will be consistent with the value for the retailer,” he says.

Also, don’t let your uncertainty about how you would use a Web site deter you from buying a domain name. It makes sense to warehouse the Internet address you want before someone else purchases it.

Poll Reveals Jewelry Buying Habits of Affluent Customers

Two of three affluent consumers polled by USA Today said they’d likely visit a jewelry store to purchase fine watches and jewelry. Other favored shopping venues for those with deep pockets include department stores (cited by 62%), discount/outlet stores (57%), and watch retailers (54%). Duty-free shops (26%) and catalogs (23%) rounded out the list.

Affluent Americans—defined as those with household incomes of $70,000 or more—are one of the country’s fastest-growing sectors and now number some 51 million.

The survey found that quality, value, and price are the attributes most important to well-heeled consumers in buying fine watches and jewelry. Store name and location count for less. These shoppers have mixed feelings about buying off the Internet. While 43% agree that “shopping online is a great idea,” only one in 10 is likely to go online to buy luxury watches and jewelry.

The survey, based on 600 responses earlier this year, was a joint project of USA Today and Messe Basel, the parent firm of the annual watch, clock, and jewelry fair in Basel, Switzerland. The results were released at Basel 1999 in late April. USA Today will update the findings annually and present them at the fair, says Linda Mallin Quigg, a USA Today senior director.

The poll shows that the new affluent market “is changing dramatically,” says Quigg. Today’s nouveau riche are thrifty and less ostentatious than older ones. “Practicality is a virtue,” she says. “They’re confident and comfortable in their purchasing behavior. They’ll go to a discount store or have lunch at a fast-food outlet in the afternoon, shop for a fine watch later, and dine at an expensive restaurant in the evening.”

These consumers are well-informed watch buyers and “brand-conscious,” says Quigg. In shopping for a timepiece, they told USA Today, they know which watch brands they want to buy. They comparison-shop before buying, but they look for value, not cheap discounts. The survey found that the average price of the last watch purchased was $729.

Newspaper and magazine ads, consumer reports, and sale literature for watches and jewelry are useful in their buying decisions. Almost three of four say information in ads helps them decide what to purchase. Two of five also go to the Internet for information about a product or retailer. “If you have a Web site on the Internet,” Quigg says, “think of it as your store window.”

The poll also found that affluent consumers are little swayed by recommendations from others or advice from salespeople. They have “personal confidence” in their own choices, says Quigg.

Not surprisingly, most affluent consumers (80%) say they buy watches that reflect their personalities. They’re also a generous bunch: Four of five buy watches or jewelry as gifts for loved ones. Only 19% say they buy to impress others.—William George Shuster

Where Jewelry Sales Are Highest

The Northeast ranked tops in the nation for jewelry sales, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 1997 Consumer Expenditure Survey, the latest one available. The average annual outlay on jewelry in the Northeast was $223. That figure eclipses average sales in the West ($156), the South ($121), and the Midwest ($93), the only region where jewelry sales declined from the year before. Nationwide, 11% of households surveyed reported purchasing jewelry.

The annual survey involves personal interviews at a rotating sample of 5,000 households throughout the country. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics cautions that a few large jewelry purchases may slightly skew the data, the agency says the regional trends are valid.

Key Stats

48% – Of jewelry ads in consumer magazines contain an Internet address, compared with 15% of ads from all industries.

56% – Of jewelry ads list a toll-free telephone number, compared with 34% of magazine ads across all industries.

50% – Of Americans are currently online, compared with 43% of Europeans.

56% – Of men have Internet access, compared with 46% of women.

71% – Of people age 18 to 24 are online, compared with 55% of those age 25-34 and 54% of those age 35-54. Only 20% of the 55-and-over population are online.

63% – Of people going on the Internet use it to research products and services.

26% – Actually use the Internet for shopping.

8% – Of Americans reported purchasing gifts online last Christmas.

25 tons – Of gold will be auctioned off during each of five separate auctions to be held by the U.K. Treasury during its 1999-2000 fiscal year. The auctions, to be conducted by the Bank of England, are said to be the first stage of a plan to reduce the United Kingdom’s gold holdings to 300 tons from the 715 tons it previously held in reserve.

39% – Increase in the sale of platinum jewelry to Chinese consumers in ’98.

70% – Increase in fabrication of platinum jewelry in China.

620,000 oz. – Demand for platinum jewelry in China in 1998.

Sources

(Numbers represent order of data presented)

1,2 Response Marketing Group, “Toll-free Numbers in Magazine Advertising”; 3,4,5,6,7,8 Arbitron and Edison Media Research, “The Arbitron/Edison Internet Study II”; 9 Futures World News; 10 International Platinum Association (the Shanghai-based equivalent of the Platinum Guild International); 11,12 Johnson Matthey “Platinum 1999.”