Archive for the ‘Luxury Product Marketing’ Category

A Quick 2012 Update….

Monday, February 14th, 2011

Hi Everyone,

This is Jan Brassem, (Brassem Global Consulting and MainBrace Partners), …just got back from vacation in Florida and was out of touch for a while. I’m ready to start writing again.

 I was thrilled to learn that over 700,000 of you have been reading this blog and have left more than 230,000 comments – most were useful and constructive.

Many of you like my writing style — and some don’t — but that’s totally okay. Please keep the comments on silver jewelry coming. Your comments — good or bad — help me design a better blog which — I hope — is easier reading for you.  But please don’t use spam — it’s really a waste of time.

Spam can be a problem. As you know, I read each comment. “If you take the time to write a comment,” as the saying goes, “I’ll take the time to read it.”

Since this site is now so popular, we really have to be more critical of spam. So, unless you follow these simple rules, our spam ‘filter’ will automatically delete you comment.

  • Be sure to put you full name, (not company or product name),  on your comments. Unless we get a name we cannot accept the comment.
  • Please be sure you don’t use profane or bad language, (you know what I mean).
  • Please do not refer or endorse a porno site, escort service or any sexual content of any kind, here or overseas.
  • Please do use this blog site to promote products or services, (i.e. mattresses, automobiles, athletic jerseys, viagra, dating services, apartments, you get the idea). Some of these products or services are referred to 10 or even 20 times before we delete them. Please save yourself — and us — time.

Many, (maybe 50%), of the comments belong in the spam folder and have been deleted. It does no good to anyone, (other than maybe you), not the reader, not the blogging industry and certainly not the writer to express views on unrelated products, disconnected thoughts and even political views. Some of you do this repeatedly, (sometimes as often as 20 times a day). It really wastes time for everyone since they are quickly deleted.

On the other hand, some of the comments are wonderful. Evelyn suggested we go into more detail, (we’re worried about boring you). Juan suggested that we install a translation program so people from other countries can read the posts. Paul even suggested that we check spelling, (hurrumph).

Several readers asked for permission to use part of our blog on their web site. Permission granted as long as full ‘attribution’ is made. A few readers asked me to be a guest blogger on their site. For these bloggers I suggest that they email me, (Jan@BrassemGlobalConsulting.com), and I’ll gladly comply.

Please keep your (non-spam), comments coming. We read each one and they are great.

See you soon. We’re on our way to Hong Kong Island on the way to the fair. You’re in for a few surprises…

Jan Brassem

‘The Colonel’ on the Corner: Sourcing Silver Jewelry in Hong Kong: (Part 6)

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011
 
 
Ricardo, (the Brad Pitt look-alike) and I, Jan Brassem, his boss, walked out through Peninsula Hotel’s glamorous front door. Two young, white-gloved, smiling, bellmen wearing smart-looking outfits and the famous ‘cake caps’, (remember the Philip Morris pitchman), wished us a good day. 
 
We were on our way to the famous Hong Kong Jewelry Fair at the breathtaking Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.
 
When you walk outside, the hot, smelly, polluted Asian air can surprise you – as it always does me. From my experience, however, your nose quickly adjusts to the, ahh, unpleasant stink  aroma. 
 
“Not like New York, eh?” I said to Ricardo, err, Brad. He shook his head. He was, after all, a die-in-the-wool ‘Noo Yawker’. When we left the city, only three days ago, it was cold and snowing.
 
I was wearing a light-colored summer shirt, a light weight sports jacket and comfortable slacks. Brad didn’t plan as well. The dark suite he was wearing – with a tie, no less — was the wrong thing to wear in Hong Kong, no matter what time of year. Those were only worn by ranking HK government officials or important businessmen.
 
He probably didn’t know any better. He didn’t bother to Google the Hong Kong climate, or, especially, its culture. Suits are not worn in Hong Kong, by foreign buyers, unless it’s white and extremely light weight. He would learn that soon enough. It may be true what they say about New Yorkers: They can be the provincial.
 
The Peninsula’s versions of taxis — chocolate-colored Rolls Royce — were neatly lined up to the left of the door. Never mind, we were on our way to the famous Hong Kong Jewelry Fair by foot and by the legendary Star Ferry.
 
It was a short walk to the Star Ferry dock. The traffic’s hustle and bustle was like New York, except for a few woman who carried  parasols to screen the sun.
 
We passed the city’s famous Tech Center, a few stores, tea shops and a bunch of impressive buildings. (At right, is a typical Hong Kong street at night, just like the one we walked to the ferry.)
 
Further down, on the right, in stark contrast, was a handful of “wanted posters” glued to a stonewall. We stopped to look. “Wanted for Murder” read one. “Wanted for Sedition,” read another.
 
“What’s sedition?” Brad asked. I didn’t answer.
 
We arrived at the pier – kind of a transportation hub. Busses, taxis, bicycles, pedestrians squirmed about. 
 
There it was, on a far corner.
 
 Oh, no, The Colonel!
 
Brad saw The Colonel too. “Can we get some fried chicken and a Coke?” He asked.
 
“We’re in Hong Kong. You can get that in New York.” I told him. ”You can’t be that hungry, it’s just eight in the morning.”
 
This could end up being a long trip.

We bought our ferry tickets, (about $3.50 each), and proceeded down a covered pier. An incoming ferry was not far away – visible through some open windows. In a few minutes it was docked. By now the pier was full of milling people, reminding me of NYC subways.
 
“You must feel right at home here.” I yelled at Brad. “Just like the Q Train at Grand Central.”
 
There was a difference. There seems to be cultural respect for individual space. While on NYC subways, there is pushing and shoving, there was none of that here. I am always impressed.
 
We found an empty bench, rotated the back rest, (so we could sit facing front), and sat close to the railing, near the water. By this time, Brad was sweating. I kinda felt sorry for him…..or maybe not.
 
“Every time I take the ferry I become melancholy.” I was talking to Brad and myself. “…Brings back tough memories.”
 
“Huh?” He was evidentally a man of few words.
“Years ago,” I nodded to Victoria Harbour, “I was a severely wounded Vietnam GI sent to Hong Kong on R&R to recover. My body and spirit were hurting. Thanks, in part, to Victoria’s help , I recovered.”

I wasn’t sure why I was even talking to Brad –  like talking to an open window. “In those days, I must have spent 18 hours on the ferry and the Harbour – back and forth – to get my spirit back.” I was  rambling.

 Enough of that. “Let’s talk business.” I looked at Brad.
 
I told him that we will be dealing with some of the smartest and shrewdest jewelers in the world. We have to be a team. We gotta’ focus on the merchandise that our customers will buy. We have to get it at the right price, at the right terms, at the right quality and at the right delivery schedule.
 
 Not that easy to do.
 We will be dealing with some of the smartest and shrewdest jewelers in the world.
 So, Brad and I developed a clever and innovative  buying strategy.
 
I told Brad to do the initial selection using all the marketing data that we brought along. (He was, after all, the Assistant Merchandise Manager.)  He would purchase no more than US$10,000 per vendor.
 
I would follow Brad to each vendor and negotiate price, quality, payment and delivery terms. If we liked the vendor’s conditions, I would signal Brad, who would then come back and select more from him or her.  If I didn’t like their conditions, I would cancel the order.
 
“Wouldn’t that make the vendor mad at us?”
 
“Better have them mad at us, than to be mad at ourselves.” I said. “Not a great feeling to have over-priced, poor quality merchandise delivered late and already paid for.”  Brad understood, I think……
 
After awhile, thankfully, the ferry landed at the famous Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre. We made it and not a minute to soon.

To be continued next week so stay tuned…. 

 

Sourcing Silver in Hong Kong with Brad Pitt: Part 3

Friday, December 24th, 2010

But wait, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Keep in mind, the bullet-train’s windows only give a few snap-shots of Hong Kong. The history or the city goes deeper. (Duh!)

Don’t forget, I’m on a buying (a.k.a. sourcing) trip for my New York-based silver jewelry company. (That’s right, I’m a Noo Yawka). I’ve asked the company’s Product Development Officer, Susan, to join me. She declined — some lame excuse about being eight and a half months pregnant. She suggested I ask her second in command, Ricardo Mummitti. I asked. He accepted.

Ricardo a young 32 year-old, single guy, looks a little like Brad Pitt but with an Ed Norton brain, (remember Jackie Gleason’s Honeymooners? If you don’t, your Dad will.) There’s another problem with Ed; he’s a New Yorker too, having never been outside the Bronx or Manhattan. When it comes to sourcing, he’s a ‘rookie’ – with a reputation of asking irritating questions.

Back to Hong Kong. Without going into too much detail, Hong Kong was, until recently, a British possession. So, English is the ‘second’ language, after Chinese Cantonese. Mandarin is the other Chinese language, but only spoken on mainland China.

Nevertheless, the city has a wonderful mix of Chinese and British culture. Many British investment banks, and their English executives, keep the ‘old-school’ British traditions alive – lunch clubs, three-piece suits, lawn tennis and all that.

All told, Hong Kong is clean, orderly and modern.

But, the Chinese culture still has the upper hand. The appearance of the streets is clearly Chinese, (see the picture on the right). As a matter of fact, tea, the Chinese version of American soft-drinks, is sold in tea parlors on almost every corner. They remind me of New York’s pizza shops.

There are even some subtle signs of American culture. McDonald’s – believe it or not — has a large restaurant near the Star Ferry Pier, a landmark in Kowloon.

All told, Hong Kong is clean, orderly and modern.

 On the train, we were sitting next to jewelers from Mumbai, Istanbul and Vietnam, all headed to the fair.  

No matter how hard he tried, Ricardo’s head was spinning; his eyes couldn’t keep up with the sights — the train was moving too fast. After a while, he lost interest or he got a headache – or both. He started with the questions.

“What’s on the other side of the harbor?” He asked.

I answered as simply as possible. Hong Kong is really divided into three parts: Hong Kong Island, (called Hong Kong), Kowloon and New Territories. People mainly live in Kowloon, along with some stores, small factories and hotels. My favorite institution, The Hong Kong Museum, is in Kowloon too.

New Territories is full of tall apartment buildings to accommodate the flood of people arriving from mainland China.

Hong Kong is an Asian center for banks, brokerage houses, foreign embassies and such. Government offices and the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centreare there too. There’s a lot to do and see in Hong Kong Island but, I told Ricardo, explore the sights on your own time.

Ricardo chimed in. “I’d like to email my babe”, (New York translation: girlfriend). “ What hotel we staying at?”

Although there are hundreds of marvelous hotels in the city, I told him I had made reservations at the world-famous Peninsula Hotel. The place is very expensive, but arguably the best hotel service in the world. Among other things, each floor has a butler so chances are your bags will be unpacked before you reach your room.

“If the hotel is so expensive why not go somewhere cheaper?” he asked

Well, during WWII, Hong Kong was occupied by the Japanese. My uncle was a Dutch soldier, captured and interred, (and died), in The Peninsula — then a Japanese POW prison.

Staying there makes me – err, emotional. Maybe the room I’m staying in will be the cell he died in.

“Okay Ricardo”, I said in my deep executive voice, “No more questions. Let’s start thinking about the fair and what you’ll be doing there. Let’s make the company some money.”

“Now starts the business of sourcing globally,” I told him. “You might even learn something.”

To be continued…

A Little Housekeeping….

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

I really appreciated the 9,500 comments you have written on this blog – that’s not counting the thousands of spam comments I  deleted. I’m not sure how many have read the blog but I assume it’s more than 7,500 – I hope.

As most of you know by now, I  am Jan Brassem, a silver jewelry-sourcing guy, who likes to write. But, now I’m not so sure. I might just be a writer who happens to be in the silver jewelry business.

I started writing professionally about 2 and a half years ago and now write for seven global trade journals, (you guessed it — on jewelry, duh.)

 Please keep the suggestions coming. We all benefit and the posts will more fun to read.

Of all the writing I do, writing for this blog is the most fun. I also enjoy reading your comments, even the negative ones. Many of your suggestions are great – especially the ones requesting more pix’s and videos. Will do!

A few of you have suggested that we get into more sourcing detail when dealing/negotiating with factories. We’ll start doing that with the promise you don’t fall asleep while reading that process. It can sometimes be booooring!

Anyway, we thought this would be a good time to respond to your comments and so we’re all on the same page..

• Please keep the suggestions coming — I read ‘em all. We all benefit and the posts will more fun to read.

• Please don’t forget our goal: To write about the life of a global jewelry – or any product — buyer. The job is not always peaches and cream. There are risks, sometimes even life and death risks. (Mexico and Bali are good examples.)

• Several of you have commented on our RSS Feed which doesn’t always work. That’s simply because – being tech-challenged – every time I edit a post and open WordPress, the RSS gets goosed and in turn, messes your Feed. Sorry!

A little late, but I’m simplifying the editing system.

• Many of you asked if I like the blog system we use. WordPress is great and especially simple to navigate.

• Several have asked if it’s okay to use part – or all – of one of our a posts. The answer is a resounding YES. Please just mention the site (BrassemGlobalConsulting.com) somewhere.

• Others have suggested we place ads on the site. Great idea…..but how do we do that?

• Finally, we are not sure what you like better: The serial posts, (i.e. Bali and Mexico) or the single-topic posts, (i.e. Hong Kong, China, silver). Please drop a comment and we’ll adjust.

Okay, the housekeeping is done. Now, on to Thailand. See you in Bangkok next week.

Silver Sourcing in Mexico: Brooklyn in Taxco: (Conclusion)

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

We were back in Brett’s (the Brett Favre look alike), big black Mercedes. Instead of the open road, we were now driving in Taxco’s dusty, narrow and crowded streets. There were no street signs – not that a street sign would have made much difference.

A Map of Taxco

Our Asian-based agent scheduled an appointment with Santiago Manufacturing and Wholesale. SMW was supposedly Taxco’s largest (and only? I asked myself), silver jewelry manufacturer.

The agent ‘told’ me — via email – the factory is owned by a Brooklyn emigrant who moved to Taxco 20 years ago. At last, someone to talk my language. I am, after all, a Noo Yowka from the Bronx.

SMW looked promising. A Taxco silver jewelry factory, owned by a man from Brooklyn, seemed a little incongruous, but stranger things happen.

After about ten minutes, Brett started talking – in Spanish – to our flirtatious bodyguard, the Tony Soprano look-alike. Both were in the front seat. After about 20 minutes, it was obvious we were lost. Both were pointing at street corners and shouting. Susan muttered something about Abbott and Costello.

We passed a big open lot. Two police cars with several people were milling around in a far corner. “What’s happening over there?” I asked. I knew the answer but didn’t really want to know.

“You’re not going to like the answer. Probably another killing,” Tony said to Susan and me. Brett had seen this before.

Susan exhaled, saying something intelligible. I rolled my eyes and swallowed. “Was that on the itinerary?” I was trying to be funny.

Brett yelled, “Echar una Mirada a.” He pointed to a large, castle-like house perched on a hill about two miles away. Tony looked at a map and agreed. They – seemingly – had found the SMW. Finally! Susan rolled her eyes.

The extremely narrow – a cliff on one side, a steep embankment on the other — rocky, dirt road led to the front gate. An armed security guard, checked his clipboard, let us in.

 

We drove into a tiled circular driveway with an ornate fountain in the middle. The entrance was breathtaking. Colored tiles, pink stucco walls, palm trees with a hacienda right out of a Hollywood western. Is that John Wayne?

The Mercedes stopped at the hacienda’s entrance. Out walked Harvey Goldbloom, attached to a big, ferocious-looking Doberman Pincher. Uh ho, Susan was scared of dogs – especially Dobermans. Brett got out and opened the car door for Susan. No one held the door for me – humph.

Harvey looked – to me anyway – like Mark Twain – big white mustache, white shock of hair. You get the image. Mark tried to calm us, especially Susan “Don’t let Arisco fool youse. Once he accepts youse, he’s like a puppy.” Arisco started sniffing me – satisfied – and moved to Susan. He sensed her fear but after a growl from Mark, slinked away.

“Welcome to the Goldbloom Hacienda. Youse must be Susan and Jan,” Mark stuck out his hand. “I is glad your Hong Kong agent suggested you stop heea. I’m sure you’ll like our silver jewelry collection.”

Oh, I forgot to mention, Mark’s grammar was awful, like most people with a third-grade Brooklyn education.

“We’re glad to be here.” Susan responded.

“May I introduce my wife, Regina,” He pointed to a young, attractive Mexican woman. “We gonna have lunch, you wanna join us?” I assumed Brett and Tony would wait in the car or join the guards in the kitchen.

We followed Regina to the stunning dining room. Heavy carved wooden furniture here and there, tiles of all colors on the walls. Orange tiles covered the floor. Large indoor plants in the corner. Wow!

And huge open windows – the Taxco version of air-conditioning.

Susan and I sat across from Mark. Regina and a cook/maid/baby sitter served us. Susan and I pretended we were accustomed to the cultural differences.

Mark started the conversation “Me fadda started da business 20 years ago but he missed Brooklyn so he moved back ‘bout 10 years ago.”

“So you own the business now?” Susan asked. It was nice to hear English spoken without Spanish or Brooklyn accents.

After lunch, Susan started working. When she saw the line, she was speechless. She placed the largest order of her career.

“Yeah, but I goes back three of fur times a year to take care of da money. Nothin safe in Taxco, banks, dis place or your life.” He got my attention. “Very expensive not good,” he continued. “No matta how many guards, always problems.”

“We do good”, he continued, “Cause we da only factory in town. All dem designers come to us to make their stuff.”

Evidentially, SMW manufactured all the styles the wonderful creations of Taxco’s world famous designers. Mark gave them a small royalty for every piece SMW sold. What a great business model, I thought. No wonder Mark is rich. All designers are afraid to start a factory in Taxco – too much crime and bribery.

“Kind of a one-stop shop”, I suggested. No one laughed.

After lunch, Susan started working. When she saw the line, she was speechless. She placed the largest order of her career. We took a quick tour of the well-controlled factory and saw other silver products SMW manufactured – plates, statues, awards, buckles. If it’s silver, they make it. Oh, don’t tell my wife, but I bought a silver watch for her birthday.

 We left Mark and Regina later that afternoon. There was an illogic there. The Goldblooms are nice people in an unusual position of being wealthy but in an expensive prison.

From now on, Susan said on the way home, I just want to see the SMW line once a year. That works for me, I told her. Less expensive and safer. The trip to Mexico might pay off after all.

Silver in Mexico:Our Guy Noir Bodyguard: (Part IV)

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Susan, the professional jewelry buyer, glanced at me over her shoulder. By her expression, she was saying – pleading really — why don’t you negotiate with her. Susan seemed intimidated.

Whether it was Sangria’s good looks, the unusual merchandise, (that’s one of her earrings at right), her smarts or whatever, Susan wanted me do the heavy negotiating. Let’s be honest, Susan won’t be invited to join Mensa any time soon, but she has been buying fine jewelry for years.

But to be fair, I don’t think she’s ever found herself in such a complicated buying – sourcing – predicament as this. Here’s our dilemma.

A)  The seller – Sangria – is a talented jewelry designer without a manufacturing facility.

B)  Her styles – per Susan – would be a big hit in the US as long as the designs are “priced right” – (as they say in the trade).

Holding her powder blue cigarette between her thumb and middle finger, she said she appreciates the wonderful order. “I happy you like my styling,” she continued.

C)  One of the major reasons these beautiful styles haven’t reached our competitors stores — and web sites — is most US retailers can’t — or are afraid to — order small quantities from designers like Sangria. To be sure, they don’t want be out-of-stock of any style, especially during an important buying season.

D)  Sangria would simply give Susan’s US$50,000 order to a motley bunch of local factories.

E)  Having the styles manufactured by 20 local factories can – and usually does – turn into a fiasco. It leads to nothing but unanswered questions. Will Sangria handle quality control? Who checks on delivery schedules? You get the picture.

F)  Will Sangria’s company, handle all these administrative details? Her firm, don’t forget, has just seven employees.

G. Oh, did I mention, the labor cost in Mexico is among the lowest in the world.

I stood up to stretch my legs. I glanced at our Guy Noir bodyguard, the Tony Soprano look alike. He had taken off his aviator sunglasses and lasciviously eyeing Sangria’s assistant. So much for tight security.

To save Susan any embarrassment, I told Sangria I generally handle the shipping and financial details for my company. (Our logo, a cheap plug for my company, is below, on the left.) She turned her attention to me. For some reason, I felt like an Acapulco Cliff Diver ready to take a plunge. I sat down.

Holding her powder blue cigarette between her thumb and middle finger, she said she appreciates the wonderful order. “I happy you like styling,” she continued.

I told her that I’m not sure we will place the order. We want to work with one factory, not twenty.

Sangria chimed in. “My firm will take care of all the quality and administrative details.” She went on, “We normally do this for several of my European customers.” (I didn’t see that as much of a positive endoresement.) “It seems – in some ways – business in  US differ from Europe.”

No surprises there.

I had a thought. I suggested to Sangria that we break the order into a few smaller units, say five orders, each 20% of the total. Once we have tested Sangria’s quality and administrative systems on the first one, we will release the rest in sequence  – one at a time. “Good things happen in phases”, I told her.

“Once we have established a confidence level,” I said, “We will visit you in Mexico often. By that time, we should have developed a strong relationship.” A little incentive for her could benefit us all, I thought.

Will this system work? Your guess is as good as mine. But please stand by.

After Susan finished working on the five orders, we gave Sangria our red QC Manual and what we expect for delivery, communications,  yada, yada.

We were ready to leave. By this time, Tony Soprano was in deep conversation with the homely assistant, (see pix at right.) Seeing that we were ready to leave, he apologized for not being more attentive.

“Fuhgeddaboudit,” I told him. (Yes, I’m from Noo Yawk).

After a friendly good-bye, (a kiss on each cheek), we were on our way to the next appointment. Mexico was growing on us, indeed.

Silver Jewelry in Mexico: Don’t touch Anything: (Part 3)

Saturday, October 30th, 2010

Susan – the buyer — and me, Jan Brassem, – the owner — were sitting in Sangria’s (the shop owner), spacious and sunny combination office, showroom and living room. (Sangria and her smile is on the left.) The room was decorated with a decidedly female flair – frilly curtains, pink walls and pretty pictures of horses and hearts. The room smelled, er, ‘flowery’.

Everything on the tables and breakfront was porcelain and apparantly very delicate so I didn’t dare touch anything. I was big and somewhat clumsy. There was no evidence of computers anywhere.

Susan and I sat across from Sangria at her over-sized desk. The Tony Soprano look-alike, (our bodyguard), still wearing dark sunglasses, was reading a magazine, guarding her door. I was not sure what he was guarding. (In case you don’t remember, the original  Tony Soprano’s picture is on the right.) An assistant stood, almost at attention, next to Sangria waiting for instructions. Our driver, Brett, was across the street, watching the girls and guarding his big, black Mercedes.

Since the styling was beautiful, unique and imminently saleable, Susan would have to use her professionalism and figure out a way to solve the difficult problem(s).

Without a word, Sangria nodded to the assistant who quickly brought in  jewelry in pink and powder-blue trays. Susan gasped. She had never seen so many beautiful styles merchandised so carefully. In fact, she told me later, she had never seen such beautiful trays.

Susan started working. Within an hour, she had pre-selected 90 styles, which she quickly whittled down to 45. She asked Sangria if it was okay to change the stone configuration of a few styles. Sangria told her that since production was an issue, changing stones – from ruby to emerald, for example – would slow down the production process. Susan would use the stones shown in the samples.

She reached into her briefcase and, writing feverishly, prepared a Purchase Order. (A “PO” is music to a  salesman’s ears). Susan would order 50 pieces of some styles and 100 of a few others.

Sangria smiled.

Susan asked her how quick she could ‘deliver’. Sangria replied that since she only has five jewelers working in her shop – most of those used to make her designs — she would have to ‘farm-out-the-order’. She could have the order ready for shipment in the normal six weeks, she said.

When a professional buyer – Susan – hears the phrase, ‘farm-out-the-order’, mental bells, whistles and sirens sound a warning. As it turns out, Sangria’s company was not a jewelry manufacturer at all, but rather a design shop – although a good one.

Sangria would send out Susan’s order to ten, or even 20, small factories in and around Taxco’s colorful streets, (see the picture below), – the perfect definition of a ‘cottage industry’. As a matter of fact, we learned later, many of Mexico’s famous designers operate using this cottage industry ‘model.’

Under this purchasing system, quality becomes a major issue. In addition, production communication, payment terms, pricing, responsibility and a host of related issues can quickly lead to disaster.

Since the styling was beautiful, unique and imminently saleable, Susan would have to use her professionalism and negotiate a way to solve the difficult problem(s).

To be continued…

Silver Jewelry at 110 MPH: (Part 2)

Monday, October 18th, 2010

The next day, the four of us, Susan, (my silver jewelry buyer), our driver, (the Brett Favre look-alike), our body guard, (who reminded me of, yikes! Tony Soprano), and me, (the silver jewelry company owner), were having breakfast at our over-priced hotel in Mexico City. As the owner, everything seems overpriced – part of my job description.

We were on our first buying, (sourcing), mission to Taxco, the Mexican city known for silver mining and an abundance of extremely talented jewelry artisans.

The trip to Taxco would take about two hours so we ate quickly. Susan and I climbed into the rear seat of Brett’s big, black, lumbering Mercedes. Once out of Mexico City’s congestion, we were on the open road.

Susan and I started looking at truly beautiful, delicate and unusual silver designs displayed in big class cases. For Susan to be impressed — she was, after all, a world-class silver jewelry buyer — was notable.

The 2-lane highway – the Mexican version of a super highway, I guess — was straight and clear. Brett opened up the Mercedes and we were soon doing 110 MPH.

When I die, I was telling myself, I want to die like my grandfather — peacefully in his sleep. I do not want to die screaming — in a highway accident, without seat belts — in the middle of Mexico.

I took a breath when Brett slowed down — he almost stopped — to pay a toll. I opened my eyes to see two or three uniformed guards with Thompson sub-machine guns standing in a shadow near the booths. Very scary. I tapped Tony on his shoulder and pointed. He had seen them too. Keep driving fast, he told Brett.

I was sitting behind Brett. I had a partial view of the speedometer and the on-coming left lane. After an hour or so I had composed myself. I even spotted a few classical Mexican burros on the side of the road.

But, things got worse. Bret was now tailgating, (by 4 feet or so), behind a big green, lumbering truck. He turned to me and asked, “Do you see any on-coming traffic – is it safe for me to pass?” I gurgled something to the effect my glasses were dirty.

We finally reached Taxco.

By any measurement, Taxco is a picturesque town. Light colored houses and buildings of all descriptions surrounded a small mountain – a hill really – that is reportedly the main silver mine. The mine has been in operation for centuries so one wonders if sooner – or later – the hill will collapse. “Not a problem,” reported Brett.

Brett parked and stayed with the Mercedes.  Tony accompanied us to our first appointment our Hong Kong agent had made for us. We walked into a bright, sunny showroom – Tony stood near the door. Susan and I started looking at truly beautiful, delicate and unusual silver designs displayed in big class cases.

For Susan to be impressed — she was after all a world-class silver jewelry buyer — was notable. Maybe the trip to Mexico was worth it.

A woman came out of a curtained room and, without speaking a word of English, offered all three of us a cup of tea.

After about fifteen minutes, just enough time for us to see the entire line, the designer came out. As we learned later, she was the company owner, salesperson and designer. She reminded me of my daughter Julie.

An attractive, blond and delicate woman of about 45, she led us to her spacious office. Tony followed and sat on a chair near the office door.

Susan enthusiastically started to work. It would turn out to be a difficult process for her.

To be continued…….

China: For the Silver Jeweler it’s Time to Pack Your Bags

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

Today there are over 250 million jewelry consumers in China, (there will be 583 million by 2025), including the voracious Chinese version of Gen Y. In 2014, China will be poised to overtake the US as the world’s largest manufacturer. China’s currency. (the yuan), has been rising versus the dollar for over a year.

There’s more. Goldman Sachs predicts that by 2050, China will most likely have the largest economy in the world, followed by the US and Japan. Even more remarkable, by 2050 China, and its manufacturing partner Japan, will be the world’s dominant supplier of manufactured goods and services.

China offers an important long-term growth opportunity with implication on your long-term future.

Here are some examples of the Chinese appetite for silver jewelry: The dream-china-us_86204111Chinese economy will grow by 10.1%, compared to an estimated 3% in the US. The Chinese consumer will have plenty of disposable income thanks to the Chinese government’s economic policies.

Jewelry Industry leaders seem to agree and are scrambling to get a foothold. The International Colored Gemstone Association, (ICA), is developing colored stone promotions in China. Not to be undone, the Indian diamond manufacturing association is opening offices in China.

Even non-jewelry companies are going great guns. GM, says Jan Brassem, struggling in the US, had a 2007 sales increase of 35%. China is one of McDonald’s fastest growing markets. Wall Mart is scheduled to open 100 stores in 2010.

It doesn’t take a crystal ball to see the future market opportunity for the silver jeweler, or for any luxury product for that matter. China offers remarkable growth, not unlike the US economy did in the late 50’s and 60’s.

Warning: Silver jewelers that don’t take a vigorous approach to China will face a threat to their very long-term existence. But, how can the uninitiated independent jeweler navigate the bumpy Chinese landscape? What quick and reasonably efficient marketing/sales defensive strategies can the silver jeweler develop? There are many and here are just a few.

“Warning: Silver jewelers that don’t take a vigorous approach to China could face a threat to their…. existance.”

• Web Site. As a first step — a start — one of the easiest and least expensive is to design a web site that appeals to both US, and Chinese, consumers. Have the site translatable to English and both the Mandarin and Cantonese languages. (These ‘Translation’ programs are readily available.) Don’t forget to use a credit card that accepts the yuan.

• Joint Venture. Through any number of Chinese trade associations, (HKTDC, China Trade Center, many others) contact a trade representative (via local call or email) and ask her to put you in contact with a Chinese-based retailer for possible alliance or joint venture. Be sure to do your homework and carefully outline the type, size, region, language and product mix of the potential partner.

• Jewelry Industry Buying Group. Like many diamond and colored stone associations, open a Jewelry Industry Buying Group Office in China or Hong Kong may lead to both sourcing and marketing opportunities, not to mention market intelligence. One US-based Buying Organization has already started the process.

• Attend Chinese Jewelry Trade Shows. Several Chinese jewelry trade associations hold at least seven shows in major Chinese cities annually, (My favorite is the Hong Kong jewelry exhibition). Attending one of these shows may lead to contacts and alliances.

Finally, doing business in China is no longer an exercise in clashing cultures. In reality, working in China is more like doing business in the US than in Japan. Here are a few pointers – a primer of sorts — of doing business in China.

• Chinese politics and politicians are less corrupt than the old days. Technocrats who are smart and well trained now run the government.

• Chinese consumers love foreign brands (including silver jewelry brands), but when it comes to digital technology they still prefer the local variety that caters to local tastes. This was an expensive lesson for Google.cn

• China is diverse, decentralized and fractured. Local retail development means local opportunity – not national. There are few large retail companies so think local joint ventures.

• Lawyers and accountants are required. Since the 1980’s a cottage industry has developed of ‘selling’ relationships. This is an outdated concept no longer needed.

Now that you have embraced the internet, accepted modern marketing and is comfortable with merchandising concepts, it’s time to look east and adjust to an eastern culture.

China offers an important long-term growth opportunity with implication on your long-term future. Developing business relationships in China could be an interesting and enjoyable personal experience. Pack your bags.

Teen Girls love Silver Jewelry almost as much as their cell phones.

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

In 2009, nearly half of all teen internet users bought goods such as apparel, jewelry, books and music online, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project. And they buy lots of it….into the billions of dollars.

This represents a 17-percentage-point increase in penetration over 2000. An even higher percentage would have made such purchases had they more spending money and access to a credit card.

teenagers_jumping“Several payment alternatives like debit cards and student accounts not only enable teens to buy on the web but also let parents set spending limits and monitor payment activity,” said Jeffrey Grau, eMarketer senior analyst and author of the new report “Marketing Online to Teens: Girls Shop with a Social Twist.” “Yet rather than offer these options, many retailers seem content to drive online teenagers to their physical stores.”

When it comes to what teens buy online and offline, the largest spending category by far is fashion—consisting of clothing (taking 22% of total teen spending), accessories/jewelry (11%) and footwear (9%). Fashion represented 43% of North American respondents’ spending plans in spring 2010, Piper Jaffray reported in its 19th semiannual survey of teens.

Fashion translates into social shopping for many teens—especially girls—who frequently seek approval from close friends or siblings about considered purchases.

Retailers that use innovative tools to bring that experience online, suggests Jan Brassem, will do best at attracting teen customers.

 
“New online tools are emerging that mimic the way teens like to shop in eclipse12371stores,” said Grau. “Some enable teens to shop online and instantly get feedback from peers about a considered purchase. Other help teens mix and match fashion outfits. Online retailers that are seriously interested in building their teen customer base should put these tools high on their list of web development priorities.”