Archive for the ‘Jewelry Buying Mission’ Category

Cue The Trumpets: Sterling Silver Jewelry is Here!

Friday, November 9th, 2012
 

Cue the Trumpets. Sterling silver jewelry is hereby recognized as a viable and dynamic jewelry category by the “Main-Street” jewelry buyer. Just ask Mike Foglesong CEO of SterlingSilverJewelry.com.

“Wait a minute”, says Foglesong, “There’s an illogic here. Numerous jewelry retail channels have already recognized silver jewelry for what it is; beautiful, creative and especially classy.“

Take Tiffany & Co., for example. Over the years, Tiffany has become a retail channel by itself. Their skilled management team pioneered silver styling, (i.e. remember the 3-pronged Tiffany setting), merchandising, branding, (i.e. Elsa Peretti, Paloma Picasso) and pricing. Silver jewelry has become a strong – if not major — part of their product mix. They’ve been doing their silver jewelry homework for decades.

 
Take major department stores, for example. Silver jewelry has become a department store staple. Just check Macy’s, (Judith Jack’s Victorian silver jewelry ‘look’), or check other department stores for popular designer brands. Silver jewelry has become an important showcase profit center.

Take the big TV shopping networks, OVC and HSN, for example. They both have a wonderful eye for combining semi-precious stones, (Malaysian Jade, Lapis Lazuli, Charoite, Blue Lace Agate, the list is endless), with silver. Some stones are even hand carved.

Take the direct sales, or shop-at-home, retail channel, for example. Several companies, selling silver jewelry in the consumer’s living room, have combined sales of an estimated $154 million, (The sales leader is Silpada Designs but new players, like Inspiranza Design and Morgan Dane Designs are not far behind.)

“Dare I say it?” Foglesong goes on. “I’ve developed a strong bias to silver jewelry”.

Cue the Trumpets. Sterling silver jewelry is hereby recognized as a viable and dynamic jewelry category

To be fair, he also owned a large karat gold jewelry manufacturer before it ran into the rather unpleasant Reagan recession – as it were. There were no stimulus packages those days.

He thought it would be interesting to look under the hood and compare karat gold jewelry to silver jewelry. Some of the contrasts may be a surprise. “Which brings us to another point”, says Foglesong, “these are my opinions and experiences. I give you the right to disagree with any of them.”

 Karat Gold Jewelry: With the price of gold now around $1,700 an oz. the gold component has a major affect on price. Obviously, the target customer is, um, older ladies with a higher disposable income.

Sterling Silver Jewelry: It’s no surprises that silver jewelry appeals, in general terms, to the younger consumer. Just walk into a high school or attend a wedding party, (chain link bracelet, disk dangle, silver neck chain anyone?), and it’s obvious silver jewelry is a staple.

Briefly, and in general terms, the customer’s purchase of a gold item can be a hand wringing, time consuming and emotion filled experience. (Uncle Harry where are you?) Whether its price, gold or concept related, the consumer’s decision-making process is profound.

Also in general terms, the consumer’s purchase of a silver design is, usually, on impulse. Gone are the days of wondering if a silver bracelet will turn a wrist green or if an earring will make you sick. Silver manufacturers have solved these problems through improved alloys and product plating.

“One last thought”, says Foglesong, “it should only be a matter of time, before watch companies offer silver watches.”

‘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…. 

 

No Such Thing as a Stupid Question about Silver? (Part 5)

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

To Our Readers,

Thanks for being such loyal and diligent readers of this blog. Over 15,000 of you left comments — some were even positive – and the experts say about 15,000 have read the posts. WOW!

We are simply trying to describe the life of a global silver jewelry buyer without putting you to sleep – trying to make the process, the characters and the countries interesting.

However, some of you, (Robert, Symantha, Yaun and a handful of others), have asked Jan Brassem, (the author),  for more detail. So, with the risk of putting you to sleep, or worse, loosing you as readers, we have decided that the next two or three blog posts will go into the details of negotiating with foreign manufactures for the best price, terms, delivery and quality.

We’ll make this first post a little shorter. The rest will be normal length. We hope you find this entire negotiating process interesting.

We would love to know what you think.

Brassem Global Consulting.

 

 

I arrived in the Peninsula’s dining room at around 7:15 Monday morning. I was ready to do some business.

The Brad Pitt look-alike, Ricardo Mummitti, the somewhat challenged Assistant Sourcing Manager from my office in NYC, arrived a few minutes later.

He sensed my annoyance. “Sorry to be late. I still haven’t adjusted to the time difference. My wife called me at 2AM. Tough getting back to sleep.” I nodded.

“No problem,” I said. “That happens when your wife doesn’t know the time difference.”

“Did you see the sights on Sunday?” I asked.

“I walked the streets Saturday night – couldn’t sleep. Bought lots of junk – er, souvenirs — at the all-night flea markets.”  He reported. “Couldn’t stay awake Sunday afternoon. My body clock is all screwed up – just like you warned me on the plane.”

After a big buffet breakfast, (we wouldn’t have much time for lunch – and the food is very expensive at the Exhibition Center), I told Brad what I wanted to accomplish at the fair.

“Susan, (Brad’s boss in the US), made our first appointment with one of the best silver jewelry manufacturers in the world; Pointers Manufacturing. They have a sales office in Hong Kong and a big plant in China. Probably 2,000 to 3,000 workers.”

“How did she make the appointment,” Brad asked. (I told you, dear reader, that Brad is somewhat challenged.)

“She emailed our contact at Pointers for the appointment. Mr. N’gai also happens to be the owner,” I replied. I was trying to be patient with Brad. Patience, as you may have noticed, is not my strong suit. (The picture on the right is Mr. N’gai.)

Before we start looking at Pointers’ silver jewelry line, I told Brad, we will discuss – in detail — next years’ merchandising and growth plans with Mr. N’gai and his GM Bonnie Lee.

Since their merchandise appeals to our customer base, our two companies have become very close. We trust them and they trust us.

Pointers comes out with about two hundred new styles four times a year, so there should be plenty of samples to select. Since Susan thinks the ‘big-n-bold’ look will be “in” this year, we will look for that kind of styling.

I asked Brad to help in the selection process as long as the styles, after our required mark-up, meet our customers’ expected price-point.

I would mention to Mr. N’gai, confidentially of course, that we will be opening several new stores next year. Since we will probably be placing a bigger order than normal, I will carefully ask him if he could extend our payment terms for thirty extra days. He will quickly agree.

We left the hotel and walked to the Star Ferry that will take us to the Exhibition Center. We are entering the world of global sourcing on a grand scale.

See you on the Star Ferry in Hong Kong’s famous Victoria Harbour. As you can see from the picture, (on the right), we’re already on board waiting for you.

Brad Pitt & Frankenstein. Sourcing Silver Jewelry In Hong Kong: Part 4

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

(more…)

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…

Victoria Harbour: Sourcing Silver Jewelry in Hong Kong: Part 2

Monday, December 20th, 2010

It’s tough to describe the agony of the 21-hour, non-stop flight from NYC to Hong Kong. If you’re flying Business Class you’ll have good – but not great — leg room. The flight attendants frequently offer meals, drinks, hot towels, newspapers, you get the picture.

You try not to get bored, (difficult), try not to get into conversations with strangers, (easier), try to do some office work, (easy), try to keep hydrated, (drink lots of water) and get some exercise, (walk around a lot).

So, after the movies, (three), meals, (four), naps, (a bunch), snacks, (two), reading and day-dreaming for hours, you’re finally landing in Hong Kong.

A bit of a Hong Kong history. I was a US soldier, (Captain Jan Brassem they used to call me), on R&R from the Vietnam war, when I first visited the city. In those days the airport, Kai Tak, was one of the scariest and most dangerous in the world.

To land a Boeing 747 the pilot had to fly so low, you could (almost) read the street signs. One wag told me he could read  the headlines of newspapers sold on street corners. That might be an exaggeration, but take a look at the video, (above), and you’ll see, in those days, landing on Kai Tak was a white-knuckle, terrifying event.

Now, thank goodness, there’s a brand new  Hong Kong’s International Airport, which is one of the most modern and efficient in the world. Here’s a good example.

After you’ve arrived and glide through passport control and customs area, (there’s no, “Please Open Suitcase”  here), you enter the huge terminal lobby. This is a good time to get local currency – the Hong Kong dollar – and make a hotel reservation. (Shame on you if you haven’t  made reservations from home.) More on Hong Kong hotel scene later.

Now, it’s decision time. Since the airport is about 50 miles from the city, you have the option of  taking an expensive taxi or the inexpensive speed, (repeat speed), train. Take the inexpensive train, (duh!).

The train is about one hundred feet from the lobby. After buying a ticket, you walk to — and into – the clean and sleek train – like walking into a jet plane. Your luggage is carried on board by female porters, who do not accept tips. (Since I’m from Noo Yawk, I’m flabbergasted).

The train is fast – about 100 MPH – or so it seems. It travels along spectacular Victoria Harbour – the signature sight of Hong Kong. It also passes the frenetic Hong Kong docks, giving you an idea of the city’s economic power. No evidence of a recession here.

Through the train’s big picture windows, you get a few clear ‘thumbnail’ views of Hong Kong. This sourcing/buying trip will be a great opportunity to combine business, (sourcing) with the beauty and activity of a world-class city.

Please stay tuned…
                                                                                      _____

Did I mention that we love to write. Just email us (Jan@BrassemGlobalConsulting.com) and maybe we can write for you too.

Also, if you looking to place an ad here, we’ll do that too….we’re cheap. Just email us.

Finally, if you have specific questions about the technology we use, just email us and we’ll fill you in.

Let’s be honest, any advice you can give us, is great. We have received 3,500 comments and an estimated 10,000 reads. (3,500 are better than one).

We have also installed an anti-spam program. In addition to the 3,500 comments we have also deleted – manually – an additional 1,200 spams.

Like a Jail Break: Jewelry Sourcing in Hong Kong: Part 1

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

Here we go again. Every time I go on a buying — ‘sourcing’ —  trip and step into a car – or a beat up taxi, (like this one) –   I feel like I’m taking my life in my hands. First, it was Bali, then Mexico and now New York City.

We were on our way to Kennedy Airport. It was snowing hard, (slush everywhere), during the Friday evening rush hour — and almost dark. Kind of a cattle stampede, a gold rush and a jail break – rolled into one.  I was nervous. And adding to the confusion, our driver didn’t speak English. He was yelling, occassionally spitting, into his cell phone in some indistinguishable language.

“Take Queens Midtown Tunnel,” I told him.

“Heo ejje hirr wer Treborgh Brid,” he answered.

“Kennedy Airport,” I told him, an octave higher.

He nodded appreciatively. Evidentially he lives in Queens. A short ride after dropping us off.

Hong Kong is arguably one of the most interesting and entertaining cities in the world. Great food, wonderful shopping, gambling in Macao, a rich history, Chinese culture….

But wait, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Since our jewelry buyer was on maternity leave, I asked her young, eager assistant, Ricardo, to join me on a buying trip to Hong Kong. We were in the office lobby, suitcases in hand, waiting for our cab to drive us to Kennedy. The Delta flight would take 22, (gulp!), hours.

The world-famous Hong Kong Jewellery & Watch Fair – a must for any modern jeweler looking for new designs and fresh ideas – was opening in a few days.  The Fair’s efficient organizers  anticipated more than 2,700 exhibitors from more than 55 countries. About 35,000 jewelers from around the world would be in town for the event.

Over the years, I had escorted US-sourcing missions to the show. I was looking forward to going back.

Globalization, shrinking margins, the Internet, competition, a lousy economy and who knows what else, forced many jewelers to think globally for growth and profitability. Nothing new here; I’ve been writing about Global strategies for years.

Ferry in Hong Kong Harbour with Convention Ctr in background

The Fair, an event really, thanks to the beautiful Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre, (seen behind the harbor ferry in the picture), has grown to be one of the largest jewelry shows in the world (so they say). This was my seventh trip and it was obvious – to me anyway — that the extravaganza gets bigger every year.

The range of designs, the diversity of the visitors and the size of the building, (from a distance The Centre looks like a small bird with big wings), can be intimidating and – at the same time – exciting.

One more thing, Hong Kong is arguably one of the most interesting and entertaining cities in the world. Great food, wonderful shopping, gambling in Macao, British history, Chinese culture….I could go on. But, more on that later. The goal now, though, is to get there in one piece and on time.

A yellow cab pulled to the front of our building. Other than being filthy, with a loose rear fender, cracked front window and coat-hanger antenna, the taxi looked, er, safe — kind of. The driver, wearing a dirty golf shirt and khaki shorts, (it was late February and snowing), got out, forced open the trunk and flung in our two bags. He closed the trunk with a slam.

The ride to Kennedy was uneventful, except for the driver’s gesticulations, screaming and mumblings. Evidentially he was a ’challenged’ guy with a wide personal space requirement. It would have been more effective, nevertheless, if he had opened his window before cursing at the next taxi….easier on my eardrums too.

The check in at the Delta counter was like feeding-time at a turkey farm. We eventually checked in.

Once we were in our Business Class seats, not particularly happy to sit — in one place — for 22+ hour flight, I checked to make sure I had…

• My travel documents, (passport, credit cards, identification, emergency home numbers, etc.)
• My light reading books and magazines: 
• My company’s sales records and analysis: 
• My company’s price-point analysis: 
• My company’s inventory balance report: 
• My company’s next years merchandising plans: 
• My company’s list of popular styles by type and category: 
• List of companies whose products I liked and want to visit: 
• List of companies to discuss our expansion plans: 
• List of my company’s contacts and friends in Hong Kong: 
• Names and numbers of US Dept. of Commerce officials in Hong Kong: 

This was a long flight so if I had trouble falling asleep, I could simply read one of these dry, computer-generated reports. I would be asleep in no time.

I was familiar with the rules of long flights. Be sure to ‘hydrate’, (another way of saying to drink lots of water), move around when you can, set your watch to Hong Kong time, (11 hours behind) and start sleeping when it’s night in Hong Kong.

The pretty Flight Attendant handed out our first meal (smelled and tasted like a sweat sock), saw a movie, read a magazine and had – sigh — only 19 hours to go. Gimme some of those reports.

Hong Kong here we come.

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.