Archive for the ‘Hong Kong Trade and Development Council’ Category

‘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…. 


A Silver Buying Trip to Hong Kong’s Famous Jewelry Fair

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

Not that long ago, I, Jan Brassem, escorted a bunch of American jewelers to the awsome 80,000 square ft. Hong Kong Convention and Exibition Center. (The Center, with its wing shaped roof is in the background in the picture at left.) It was March and the jewelry ‘Fair’ was in town.

The Fair, and the beautiful Centre, has grown to be the largest jewelry show in the world (so they say). This was my 15th trip and it was obvious – to me anyway — that the extravaganza gets bigger and better every year.


I had been guiding a group of American  jewelers around the Fair — and Hong Kong — on a “Sourcing Mission” — as I do from time to time. Their first impression of Hong Kong was shock enough, but nothing compared to their ‘wide-eyed’ astonishment of the Fair.

I even arranged for several jewelers to meet with manufacturers, outsidehk-street (1) the Centre, in an effort for them to develop a few long-term vendor/supplier relationships.

It was time to fly home. We picked up our custom made suits and shirts — and other oriental “souvenirs” — and headed for the airport. The Hong Kong Airport Express, by the way, is one of the best and, hold on to your hat, fastest in the world.

I was in my American Airlines seat, not particularly happy to sit — in one place — for 22+ hours during the flight home. Fortunately, I was sitting next to Bill, a second-generation jeweler from northern Michigan. We had an airline meal (tasted like a Brillo pad), saw a movie, read a magazine and had – sigh — only 19 hours to go.

Bill took out his laptop and started writing a Trip-Report to his Dad. When he finished, he let me read it. I thought you may find it interesting too.

                                                      INTEROFFICE MEMO

To: Bill, Sr.
From: Bill, Jr.
Subject: Hong Kong Sourcing Mission, March 4-7
Date: Martch 8.

Our first effort in buying direct form overseas was, I think, quite successful, (but very tiring). I will email you this Memo during my stopover in LA. I’ll go into detail when I get to the office next week.

Here are the some points.

1. The jewelry styling was wonderful. I never realized that each geographic region has a different design look. I thought Bali, Middle Eastern and Indian styling was especially noteworthy.

2. I spent a good deal of time with seventeen manufacturers. I bought 42 samples which will be FEDEX’d within 2 weeks. Of those 17, I had lunch with five, who could fit into our future.

3. The prices here are generally terrific — not surprising since these are manufactures’ prices. I saw several styles that we carry and, as far as I can tell, are about 45% below what we now pay.

“The prices ..I saw…here are generally teriffic….about 45% below what we now pay”

4. I also met with six smaller factories who were not exhibiting at the Fair. They seemed more innovative and eager.

5. I gave the fifteen drawings and ideas, that Sue developed and gave me before I left, to several factories. The designs will be a great nucleus for our new Brand. The factories will design them from scratch via their CAD system as soon as possible. They will be ours exclusively.

6. I know you expressed concern about their quality. I gave them our Quality Control Standards Manual. They also showed me their customer list and even some of the styles they were about to ship to the States. I don’t think quality will be a problem.

I’ll fill you in on their invoicing, payment and delivery schedules when I get back. Now that I know my way around here, this should be quicker and cheaper next year.