Getting to know you

While some jewelry companies assert that they can’t be everything to everybody, New York City manufacturer Frederick Goldman Inc. challenges jewelers to find a consumer it can’t serve.

Incorporating four major subsidiaries serving four different markets, Frederick Goldman is not only one of the biggest ring manufacturers in the country, but also one of the most diverse. From price-point to designer, from fancy to funky, designs are offered with a buffet of targeted and intimately researched marketing materials for consumers.

“We are pro-retailer,” says Michael O’Connor, director of corporate marketing. “We give them all the tools they need to sell our products, then build relationships with them to know their needs.” These tools, which include professionally printed materials and an on-line computer system that manages retailer stock balancing, help the company make jewelry sales as painless as possible.

Frederick Goldman’s success is built around niche marketing, which has developed into dozens of well-researched collections and lines that change from year to year according to consumer trends. Company designers strive to disprove the belief: “If you’ve seen one diamond ring, you’ve seen them all.”

Jewelry for every consumer. Many businesses started in the first half of the 20th century were moms-and-pops, but jeweler Frederick Goldman could afford only the “pop” when he began making jewelry on the lower east side of Manhattan in 1944. His wife, Enid, added the “mom” in the 1950s, and together they expanded the line of plain gold wedding bands to include engraved rings.

Today, the company of more than 500 employees is run by the Goldmans’ sons Jonathan, chairman and chief executive officer, and Richard, president. The company now has four divisions with an array of product lines designed to appeal to the following four consumer demographics:

• High-end designer. Diana® is a division of branded, designer, high-fashion wedding and anniversary jewelry marketed to guild stores. Purchased in 1991 from Krementz & Co., where Diana’s identity was limited to mid-priced goods in 10k and 14k gold, the line has evolved into a nationally advertised collection embracing high-karat gold and platinum. (Frederick Goldman is now the largest jewelry user of platinum in the United States.) The division includes the Diana Ultimate line with two-tone wedding bands in 950 platinum and 18k or 24k gold; Diana Classic with 14k yellow and two-tone bands; and The Steele Collection of modern, matte bands in 14k yellow and white gold.

  • Middle market. Goldman is the company’s division of non-branded wedding jewelry. Advertised only to the trade, the line is intended to let jewelers pick from huge selections of styles, then mix the designs with other merchandise in the store to give every wedding consumer a variety of choices, designer looks and reasonable prices. “There are 2.5 million marriages in the U.S. every year,” says

O’Connor. “Wedding jewelry is not only a luxury market.” The division includes diamond engagement rings and men’s and women’s diamond and engraved wedding bands in 10k, 14k and 18k gold and platinum. Collections include men’s Solid-Back™ diamond rings; 14k gold Prism™ multicolor bands; and 14k gold Comfort-Fit rings.

  • Price-point. The B.F. Hirsch and Chapelfield division markets 10k and 14k gold rings to majors like J.C. Penney, Wal-Mart and Montgomery Ward. Frederick Goldman does not advertise the line or market the collection by name.

  • Alternative. Jewelry for the Orbit Design Studios line was designed “to appeal to the more sophisticated, avant-garde customer,” says O’Connor. “Its tag line is ‘For the real world and all its lifestyles.’” Sold mainly through independents and advertised through OUT magazine plus regional bridal publications, Orbit’s “commitment bands” are all 14k gold, with some two-tone, black rhodium-plated designs or diamond-set styles. The designs are made through a proprietary process that gives high definition to the pattern not possible with traditional casting methods.

Taking the guesswork out of marketing. Frederick Goldman introduces two new lines each year to keep designs fresh and modern. Months of research go into each collection.

“We have a lot of cooks in the kitchen,” says O’Connor. “We study all the angles first. We do research with the salesmen; office personnel often travel with the salesmen to give us feedback. We call our retail customers to find out what their customers are looking for and reacting to. We’re constantly looking at what’s out there.”

Then a team of designers and marketing personnel – some playing both roles – sits down and brainstorms about design ideas and ways to package the results.

“We have a good team of people from all different disciplines,” says O’Connor. “That mix is extremely successful. We don’t have just one viewpoint, but a whole mix of people and ideas.”

“If an idea comes up in a meeting or a product is shown that

doesn’t quite fit in with our plan, instead of simply discarding it, we are much more likely to really examine what can be done with it,” says Jonathan Goldman. This process allows the company to find niches in the market that have yet to be served or could be served better.

The company also taps into focus groups, research by the World Gold Council and Platinum Guild International, and databases maintained by consumer magazines to study the demographics of its potential customers. “We gather as much information as possible before we go ahead with a line,” says O’Connor.

“We have had much success with products and ideas we have taken the time to research,” says Jonathan Goldman. “Through our consistent product development and constant innovations, we often will create a great product or look.”

The merchandise that results not only is pitched carefully toward specific consumer groups, but also provides a hook for clever promotional tools. The firm produces focused materials that help retailers make the sale.

“It’s all pre-packaged; we take the guesswork out of it,” says O’Connor. “Retailers feel it’s value-added because it’s not something they need to spend time and money to figure out.”

Marketing jewelry is more important than ever, O’Connor says. “People used to give jewelry for passages of life. Now jewelry has come into its own, and people are purchasing it for themselves. It’s not exclusively for special occasions anymore. Manufacturers and retailers have never needed to market themselves before, so they’ve never been shown how to do it. We market to them and for them – we tell them what will work for them.”