Archive for January, 2011

‘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

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