’Tis the Season to Sell

In May, while driving from Los Angeles to the JCK show in Las Vegas, I decided to make a pit stop at the Tanger Outlet stores located off Interstate 15, on the outskirts of Barstow (a.k.a. Nowheresville). Judging by the six massive white tour buses stationed in the parking lot, I wasn’t the only one with discount shopping on the brain.

While perusing the racks at Ralph Lauren, I was approached by a middle-aged Chinese woman in a white visor. She handed me a pair of socks and, in heavily accented English, asked about their price. I checked the packaging and told her—$3.99—at which point her expression turned quizzical.

“Made in China?” she asked.

I looked back at the socks, and sure enough, there it was: “Made in China.” I said yes to the woman and we giggled at the all-too-obvious irony.

It was an eye-opening encounter. Busloads of Chinese tourists are right now streaming across the United States in search of brand-name, made-in-America goods—but they’re having trouble finding them. For jewelers who are prepared to greet China’s big spenders with the requisite merchandise (well-advertised Swiss watch brands; clean, white diamonds; simple 18k gold styles), the potential rewards are staggering. Learn how to court this fast-growing market in business writer Jan Brassem’s article about the Chinese tourist phenomenon (“Have Money, Will Travel”).

The high-end retailers profiled in senior editor Rob Bates’ feature on the luxury market (“JCK Luxury Spotlight: The Flush Life”) know a thing or two about courting clients. The key to wooing discerning buyers with cash to burn—besides a well-edited selection of unique merchandise that’s priced right? “We advertise a lot, but what really works are things like phone calls,” Ellen Lacy, owner of Lacy and Co. in El Paso, Texas, tells JCK. “Our salespeople will call and say, ‘We have such-and-such in, and we only have one.’ That makes all the difference.”

Luxury marketers say the influx of Chinese tourists is not to be ignored. Neither, for that matter, are affluent buyers; chastened by the recession, they are much more careful about how they shop.

The personal outreach is key, but don’t neglect Lacy’s point about having only one. We can’t say enough about the importance of stocking original, one-of-a-kind jewelry this holiday season—it’s the ultimate carrot for the client who has everything. To find the most hard-to-shop pieces, you’d do well to consider goods made overseas—and we’re not talking about generic jewels produced in large-scale factories where labor is cheap.

Rather, we’re referring to stylish designer baubles with the kind of intriguing international backstories that make high-end clients swoon (for a taste, read up on Britain’s jewelry It boy, Shaun Leane, the subject of our designer showcase). In “Think Globally, Sell Locally,” senior editor Jennifer Heeb­ner explains the finer points of working with overseas vendors such as Leane.

Finally, here’s a phenomenon we don’t have to tell you about: The ­holidays are upon us. Look to the ultimate retail helper—our ­Holiday ­Survival Guide, chock-full of tips to help you weather the fourth quarter with the right products, the right staff, and the right attitude.

Follow our lead, and there’s no doubt you’ll have a prosperous and productive holiday season. We’re cheering you on all the way.