Supplier News

OROAMERICA LAUNCHES BRAND NAME 14K JEWELRY

Clothes, watches, cars, food – almost every product category seems to be brand name-dominated these days. Now, branding is coming to affordably priced gold jewelry.

OroAmerica Inc., the largest U.S. manufacturer of gold rope chain, is launching its own branded 14k gold jewelry this month under the name “Beverly Hills Gold.” It is believed to be the first U.S. gold chain supplier to actively promote its own brand name.

The firm also is seeking licensees to produce a variety of other gold jewelry products under the Beverly Hills Gold name.

Filling a void. A number of factors are prompting OroAmerica to make its move now, says Guy Benhamou, chairman, chief executive officer and majority shareholder of the Burbank, Calif.-based firm.

There is “a need for this in the industry,” he says; lack of brands in the gold jewelry business has created “a huge void. In the world of jewelry, you hear names like Cartier or Tiffany in higher-end jewelry, and there are many designers’ names attached to their jewelry collections. But when you talk about gold chains or other gold jewelry like rings, or go into any store in America, there is no single brand which people know.” Benhamou wants to fill that void.

There is a growing allegiance to brand names among both consumers and retailers. “Everyone buys brand names now,” because brands connote quality, Benhamou notes.

The new jewelry line is actually an extension of the Beverly Hills Gold chain that OroAmerica has sold successfully on its monthly show on the QVC home shopping network for eight years. The company’s sales of the jewelry during those years totaled more than $100 million (roughly 1 million pieces, with sales averaging about $100 a piece).

Debut. OroAmerica planned to debut its new commercial jewelry line at The JCK Show in Las Vegas this month in a special Italian-made, eight-foot exhibit. At the same time, it plans to sign up licensees to produce items for the brand in jewelry categories in which OroAmerica has little or no product, such as wedding bands, bridal jewelry, gemstone jewelry, earrings and watches.

The new 14k brand will include about 200 different pieces retailing for up to $300, though Benhamou expects most of the sales activity to be around the $99 price point. Target customers are primarily middle-income women, approximately 25 to 35 years of age.

OroAmerica, which has a licensing agreement to manufacture and market French perfume in the United States, will launch a fragrance, also called Beverly Hills Gold, at The JCK Show as well. The perfume, which contains flecks of gold, will be sold primarily through department stores.

OroAmerica plans to promote the brand to consumers nationwide this fall with a $500,000 ad campaign in People magazine, and to the trade this summer with ads in trade publications and at trade shows. As for retail outlets, “we’re looking at anyone who sells at those price points,” says Benhamou.

Seeking mergers. In related news, Benhamou confirms that OroAmerica is talking with several firms about possible mergers or acquisitions as part of its long-term growth plan.

The firm is looking at other gold and/or silver jewelry manufacturers or wholesalers with minimum annual sales of $10 million. It would consider either a cash transaction or a combination of stock and cash.

Founded in 1977, OroAmerica produces more than 1,800 different styles of gold and silver jewelry products, primarily chain. It also makes gold earrings, bracelets, rings and charms. Its products are sold chiefly to mass merchandisers, home shopping networks and warehouse clubs. (Wal-Mart reportedly accounts for about 18% of its revenues.) It has production facilities in the United States, the Dominican Republic, Bolivia, Peru and Indonesia. The company also produces cigars.

For the fiscal year ended Jan. 31, OroAmerica reported sales of $159.7 million and net income of $6.7 million, a threefold increase over the previous fiscal year’s figures. – William George Shuster

Tecnigold opens New York office

Tecnigold S.p.A., a leading Italian manufacturer of quality machine-made chain, opened a marketing office at 545 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10017; (212) 286-0991. Richard Weisenfeld, a 26-year industry veteran with experience in distribution, manufacturing and retailing, was named managing director for North America.

Tecnigold, based in Borso del Grappa, Italy, operates four state-of-the-art factories and distributes its products throughout Europe, Asia, North and South America. Sales to the U.S. are managed from Italy by Andrea Calgaro, regional export director.

MONTBLANC HONORS LA MAYOR

Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan received the 1998 Montblanc de la Culture award for his contributions to the city’s arts and culture. Since 1992, Montblanc, the world-famous pen company, has asked artists from around the world to name patrons who have made the most significant contributions to the arts. One winner in each of 10 countries around the world is honored.

Riordan is chairman of the Riordan Foundation, which helps children acquire basic reading and writing skills, as well as the R&R Foundation, which supports various charities in Los Angeles. He also supports the Los Angeles Music Centre Outreach Program, which enables professional musicians to visit inner-city schools for free.

WGC plans Vegas seminars, raffle

Half of all consumers who walk into a store to buy gold jewelry leave without purchasing, for reasons other than product or price. So says the World Gold Council, which has conducted extensive research on the gold retail shopping experience among consumers and sales associates.

The Council will introduce the results of its research at The JCK Show in Las Vegas. Robin Scheer Ettinger, vice president of jewelry for WGC, says its booth will illustrate merchandising concepts that challenge retailers to look differently at how they present gold jewelry. The booth was designed by consultant Pam Levine using Chippenhook elements.

WGC also will present a seminar titled “A Case for the Future: Marketing and Merchandising Solutions,” at 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 7, in Room 202 of the Sands Expo Center. It will outline research findings and tell how to convert browsers into buyers.

Jewelers who visit WGC’s booth (#N-11 on Level Two) or attend the seminar will be invited to enter a raffle. The prize – a “Case Makeover” valued at $2,000 – includes a visual merchandising consultation and new display elements.

A separate WGC seminar, called “Emerging Trends in the Gold Market,” is scheduled on Friday, June 5, at 2 p.m. George Milling-Stanley, WGC gold market analyst, will speak on global gold demand trends and factors that impact the price of gold.

FREE TV AD FOR RETAILERS

Williams Marketing has created a 30-second TV ad for clients of Yehuda Diamond Co. The ad explains clarity- enhanced diamonds and promotes their advantages. The spot can be tagged at the end with the retailer’s store name. It will be premiered at The JCK Show in Las Vegas and is free to interested retailers.

Yehuda Diamond Co., 580 Fifth Ave., #521, New York, NY 10036; (800) 934-8328 or (212) 221-5985, fax (212) 221-5986.

A. LEVIAN ADDA LINE

Le Vian, a division of A. Levian & Co., has introduced Petite Le Vian, a line of jewelry priced from $99 to $399. The collection debuted in May at J.C. Penney nationwide and Fred Meyer Jewelers on the West Coast. The 14k gold settings incorporate trillion-cut, round, pear, marquise and oval tanzanite with pavé, channel-set or prong-set diamonds. All pieces come with Le Vian’s lifetime guarantee. Petite Le Vian will be introduced to select retailers nationally at The JCK Show in Las Vegas.

A. Levian & Co., 10 W. 46 St., 19th Floor, New York, NY 10036-4515; (212) 575-0318, fax (212) 944-7734; e-mail: eddie@levian.com; www.levian.com.

GIG PRESENTS ITALIAN JEWELRY LINES

Gruppo Il Gioiello, New York, is a marketing company for fine Italian jewelry. The firm currently represents three lines:

  • Fibula, an 18k gold line “with an excellent median range price point” designed for retailers new to Italian merchandise.

  • Bibigi, another 18k line, which GIG calls its “most fast paced and unique collection.”

  • The Gruppo Collection of selected pieces from new Italian designers, which are available separately or as part of a package.

GIG offers a number of support materials, ranging from postcard mailings to a Gruppo boutique, which can include advertising, special events and a custom-built showcase.

Gruppo Il Gioiello, 587 Fifth Ave., Suite 800, New York, NY 10017; (212) 750-0054, fax (212) 826-3863.

Yehuda offers Ideal cut stones

Yehuda Diamond Co. planned to introduce Ideal cut, near Ideal and excellent Russian-cut clarity-enhanced diamonds at The JCK Show in Las Vegas. It offers a full selection of in-stock Ideal Cut AGS (0) diamonds in sizes of one-half carat and up. The diamonds are set in platinum heads.

Diascience Inc./Yehuda Diamond, 580 Fifth Ave., Suite 521, New York, NY 10036; (212) 221-5985, fax (212) 221-5986.

People

HONORS

On May 28, the Anti-Defamation League’s Fine Jewelry Division was to pay tribute to Benjamin Kaiser, the late chairman of Baume & Mercier Inc. The event, to be held at the United Nations, honored Kaiser’s many years of active support to ADL from within the jewelry industry. Cochairing the tribute were Ralph Destino, chairman of Cartier Inc., and Michael C. Barlerin, CEO of the World Gold Council.

Jeffrey Comment, chairman and CEO of Helzberg Diamonds in North Kansas City, Mo., was honored for his professional achievements and his humanitarian activities at a dinner in New York on April 8. The dinner was the culmination of an industry campaign that raised almost $1 million to benefit the United Jewish Appeal-Federation of New York. Comment runs a program called “Santa is the CEO,” dressing as Santa Claus at Christmas time and visiting terminally ill children in hospitals. Chairman of the dinner was Terry Burman, chairman and CEO of Sterling, Akron, Ohio. Event co-chairmen were Matthew Fortgang, president and CEO of M. Fabrikant & Sons, New York, and Robert Kempler, senior vice president of Samuel Aaron International, Long Island City, N.Y.

Fred and Carol Levinger were honored at the 26th Annual Rhode Island National Jewish Medical and Research Center Humanitarian Award dinner April 23. The Levingers were recognized for their leadership and involvement in the jewelry industry as well as the Rhode Island community. Fred Levinger is president of the Colibri Group in Providence, R.I., a jewelry and gift company that employs 650 people. He is also a member of the 24-Karat Club of New York and the Manufacturing Jewelers and Silversmiths of America.

LKI PROMOTES 3

Marcee Feinberg was promoted to marketing director of U.S. operations at Lazare Kaplan International Inc. She will oversee, review and coordinate all communications with the media and customers as it relates to marketing Lazare Diamonds. She has been with the company since 1974.

Kevin Reilly was named director of customer relations. He has been manager of LKI’s telemarketing department for 10 years. He will direct the day-to-day sales administration and customer service operations of the company.

David Schwartz was promoted to director of the jewelry department. He will be responsible for product development and expanding the Lazare Diamond Jewelry Collection worldwide, as well as working with industry and fashion designers. He has been with the company for four years.

APPOINTMENTS

Joe Buttross was named vice president of the newly created diamond and gemstone division of Stuller Settings Inc. in Lafayette, La. The division was formed from the company’s diamond and colored stone department, of which Buttross was the director.

Lowell Walters was appointed president of the independent jewelry store division of Jewelmont Corp. in Minneapolis. He will be responsible for development and expansion of the company’s national sales force as well as the strategic planning and operation of the division.

Ron Dean, formerly with the Diamond Promotion Service, joined Seattle-based Gem East Corp. and Gem Center Northwest as vice president of sales. In addition, Thomas C. Barrigan, chief financial officer, was promoted to vice president of finance for the companies.

Anthony Marciano was named senior vice president of sales at Metal Marketplace International in Philadelphia. He will be in charge of U.S. and international sales and will coordinate the company’s marketing and advertising. Marciano previously was senior vice president of sales for the wholesale/excess division at Michael Anthony Jewelers. Frank Nawalinski is now senior vice president of operations and will oversee purchasing, inventory management, order processing and management information systems. He previously spent 15 years at Michael Anthony Jewelers as vice president.

Nancie Samet was appointed senior vice president of sales and marketing at Lagos Inc. in Philadelphia. She will report directly to Steven Lagos, founder and CEO of the company. Samet spent the last 12 years as an executive at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York. Most recently, she was senior vice president and general manager of Saks’ Folio division and managed the Folio catalog business.

Man-Am Creations Ltd. of Tappan, N.Y., and Neil Amrani Platinum have hired two New England sales managers, Elaine C. Bradley and Jack Letscher.

Matthew J. Ulizio was appointed controller of Wittnauer International Inc. in New Rochelle, N.Y. Ulizio has been with the company since 1996.

Steve Feldman joined RLA Creative Inc. in Cresskill, N.J., as vice president. His marketing and advertising company, In-House Marketing, will be absorbed into RLA and will operate as part of its marketing division. Feldman has worked in jewelry marketing and advertising for 15 years. His previous positions included associate publisher of National Jeweler magazine, vice president of sales and marketing at Rocket Jewelry Box Co., and vice president of sales and marketing at Chatham Created Gems.

Jeffrey Sadowsky was named product acquisition director at Gordon Brothers Corp. in Boston. For the past five years, Sadowsky has been president of Preferred Jewelbrokers Inc., a New York-based surplus and closeout fine jewelry wholesaler. Previously, he was general manager of Jewel Cash Inc., the wholesale division of Silverman Jewelers Consultants in Mount Pleasant, S.C.

Roman Research, a manufacturer of hypoallergenic jewelry based in Plymouth, Mass., promoted Dale Southworth from vice president to president. Southworth joined Roman Research in 1978 as chief financial officer and has been involved with all phases of the company’s operations, including finance, inventory, manufacturing and marketing. He also is president of Roman’s catalog company, which he created in 1983.

TRADE SHOWS

Jewellery, Watchmaking, Silverwork, Goldwork, Machinery and Related Services Exhibitions, the show will include the Nova Joia Jewellery, Silverwork and Watchmaking Trends Exhibition and the second Jewellery Congress International Meetings in Barcelona. For information, call (34 3) 233 22 69/71, fax (34 3) 233 22 72.

Ambiente ’98 brought together 5,040 exhibitors and 129,000 international trade buyers during its Feb. 14-18 run. Visitors from outside Germany accounted for 25% of the show’s attendance, which increased 5% over last year. More than 30 countries were represented for the first time. A new feature of the Carat trade fair was the concentration of high-quality designer jewelry in the Carat Creativ area. The next Ambiente will be held Feb. 19-23, 1999. Messe Frankfurt Inc., International Trade Fairs, 200 Galleria Pkwy., N.W., Suite 790, Atlanta, GA 30339; (770) 984-8016, fax (770) 984-8023.

RETAILER NEWS

FRIEDMAN’S POSTS SALES GAINS

Friedman’s Inc., the third largest U.S. jewelry retailer, posted net merchandise sales of $150.2 million for its fiscal half-year (ended March 31), up 19.3% from a year earlier. Total revenues for the Savannah, Ga.-based retailer rose 20.4% to $168.9 million, while net income grew 6.7% to $16.6 million. However, comparable store sales fell 2.5%.

For the second quarter, Friedman’s net sales were $46.8 million, up 29.4% from 1997. Comparable store sales rose 3.4%, while revenues totaled $56 million, up 29.6%.

Operating profits for the quarter were $4.1 million, up 2.7%. They equaled 7.3% of total revenues, down from 9.2% last year. The company attributed the decrease in margin largely to higher labor and occupancy costs and non-recurring transitional expenses (mainly relocation and recruitment fees) for some members of Friedman’s top management team.

Friedman’s, which added 62 stores, operated 446 in 22 states at the end of its first half, compared with 335 at the same point in the previous year.

Richard Ungar, chief executive officer, said Friedman’s expects to have about 500 stores in operation by the Christmas season.

MARKS BROTHERS EXPANDS

Marks Brothers Jewelers will expand its store base by 16% this year, according to published reports. The company plans to add 32 stores to its current 191 outlets in 24 states, reports the Chicago Tribune.