QVC, Vicenza Join Forces

QVC, the world’s largest electronic retailer, and Italy’s Vicenza Trade Fair have joined forces to create the largest, broadest merchandising opportunity Italian jewelry has ever had in the U.S., says Carlo Dolcetta, chairman of the Vicenza Trade Fair Board. The effort also will expand QVC’s share of the U.S. jewelry market and could bring major jewelry trade shows – long the domain of retailers and suppliers – into 60 million U.S. households.

The centerpiece of the joint effort is QVC’s “International Jewelry Fair” broadcasts. The first three programs this year showcased Italian jewelry and each of the three major jewelry trade fairs in Vicenza. Negotiations are under way for future broadcasts featuring international jewelry shows in Basel, Switzerland, and Hong Kong, says John Calnon, QVC’s vice president of jewelry merchandising.

Talks between QVC and the fair began almost a year ago. QVC sought to increase its customers’ appreciation and understanding of Italian jewelry by using the Vicenza fairs as a backdrop.

At the same time, the fair’s operators were looking for a way to link

Vicenza and fine Italian jewelry in the minds of U.S. consumers under the umbrella theme of “Vicenza, City of Gold.” The aim isn’t to simply showcase Vicenza’s shows or goldsmiths, but to increase Vicenza’s recognition factor as the international city of gold and the flag-bearer for Italian jewelry, says Robyn Lewis, president of the Italian Jewelry Guild, the U.S. office for the Vicenza Fair.

QVC – already one of the world’s largest importers of Italian gold jewelry – contracted a number of Italian designers and manufacturers to create exclusive jewelry. In January, QVC sent a film crew – whose expenses were underwritten by the fair – to shoot footage of Vicenza, the fair, Italian jewelry and QVC buyers working with Vicenza goldsmiths to create new jewelry.

What Calnon calls a “partnership” between QVC and Vicenza is “an obvious, if unprecedented, marriage,” says Dolcetta. Italian jewelrymakers lead in design, jewelrymaking technology and innovation, he says, and he sought an equally inventive partner. “QVC, with its fascinating electronic retailing network, has created America’s most innovative way of distribution,” he says. “We know how to make it; they know how to sell it.”

Dolcetta says the partnership has several advantages for the fair and Italian jewelrymakers, including:

  • It impresses “Vicenza” on U.S. consumers as synonymous with Italian jewelry.

  • It provides the Italians with quick market data about U.S. consumers. “The speed of sales indicates what people want,” he says. “Trends that took days, weeks or months to see before can be seen now in a matter of minutes.”

Local jewelrymaking is affected also. QVC’s quality control standards – which Lewis calls “ferocious” – provide incentives for manufacturers to keep up with quality standards and new developments in technology and design, she says.

The results

“International Jewelry Fair” debuted Feb. 13, with Dolcetta as special guest. Between product shots of Italian jewelry selling for $25 to $1,200, on-air host Mary Beth Roe traced the development of the jewelry from original sketches to finished product, interviewed Dolcetta about the training of Vicenza’s artisans and showed films shot by QVC.

Results pleased both sides. More than $1 million worth of 14k, 18k and sterling jewelry was sold to 17,000 callers. Three-fourths of the products sold out, including one especially popular $795 gold bangle with matte and polished finishes.

Bypassing traditional retailers to sell Italian jewelry directly to consumers may not please some retail clients of Italian suppliers. But Lewis and Dolcetta believe the benefits outweigh any problems. “No matter their concern – and I’ve heard no complaints – I’m convinced this project will make the sell-through of Italian jewelry greater for everyone,” says Lewis.

Adds Dolcetta, “We don’t expect any negative impact on the U.S. market,” he says. “Eventually, this will widen the market.”