Posts Tagged ‘Luxury Products’

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…. 

 

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.

A Note from the Writers: A Brief Intermission on Silver.

Saturday, October 30th, 2010

While we’ve been blogging for only 90 days, almost 900 people have left great comments, (although we erased a few that weren’t so great – for one reason or another).

This positive reception was very unexpected and deeply appreciated. I, Jan Brassem,  now consider them as part of our Blog-Family. We’ll write a fresh blog every Sunday for them and post it Monday.

You could make the blog even easier to read — and more fun — if you could give us your thoughts on making the blog better. Nine-hundred heads are better than say, four, if you get our drift.

Just a few days ago, for example, Rob left a comment that we should make the blog titles more interesting and enticing. Without missing a beat, we’ve changed most of the titles. Thanks Rob.

While we’ve been blogging for only 90 days, almost 900 people have left great comments

Also, please don’t forget to read all the blogs – especially the older ones. (Click on “older entries” listed on the bottom of the last page), or different ones, (click on one of the many “Categories” listed on the top right of the first page).

The next installment on Susan and John’s buying trip adventures — or misadventures – to Mexico follows above. Find out about Cottage Industries.

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…….

“The Bulge”: Silver Jewelry Sourcing in Mexico: (Part 1)

Monday, October 11th, 2010

Susan, (the silver jewelry buyer) and I (the owner) had just arrived at the Mexico City International Airport for our first silver jewelry buying, (a.k.a. sourcing), trip to Mexico.

Compared to buying trips to Bali, Italy, Hong Kong or Bangkok, the three-and-a-half -hour trip was a piece of cake. Our driver, (who reminded me of a shorter and older version of Bret Favre) and our bodyguard (gulp!) met us at the arrival gate. I ask the Tony Soprano look-alike if he was ‘packing’ and nodded in the affirmative. He pointed to the bulge in his jacket.

We were under the direction of our agent –  Hong Kong based – who made arrangements, including hotel reservations. I had ‘Googled’ the impressive silver jewelry scene in Mexico a few weeks ago but neglected to check the crime/security situation. My bad!

Our agent had made jewelry appointments for us in Mexico City and Taxco. Taxco is arguably the best — and most active – silver jewelry design city in the world. More on that later.

On our way to our fancy hotel – Susan forgot to tell the agent that we were on a budget – we got a run down on Mexico City from Brett and Tony. Both now sitting in the front.

The city, as Tony explained it, was experiencing a flu epidemic so much of the Mexican City population were wearing facemasks as a form of protection.  Susan and I looked at each other, accusing each other, without saying a word,  for the terrible timing.

The city was colorful and beautiful, just like in the movies. On some sidewalks, vendors were selling sterling silver belt buckles, silver boot toes, silver goblets and a whole line of sterling dinnerware.

• Mexico City is notorious for kidnapping. Unless you know your way around and speak Spanish, do not take a taxi. They have a habit of locking you in, unless you pay the kidnapping ‘fee’ which could be as high as US$10,000 or as low as US$35.

• All taxi’s – at least while we were there – were green VW Beetles from the 60’s – 70′s. There were thousands in the city driving like crazed ants, (see the picture on the right).

• Many – but not all – street corners had machine-gun toting soldiers instead of policemen. Bret said the cops were corrupt and not to be trusted. The President of Mexico decided the Army was more to his liking.

• There were no apparent traffic regulations. If there were, no body paid much attention to ‘em.

• The city was colorful and beautiful, just like in the movies. On some sidewalks, vendors were selling sterling silver belt buckles, silver boot toes, silver goblets and a whole line of sterling dinnerware. Tony told us – as Americans – it was too dangerous to stop.

We arrived at the high-end, and expensive, hotel. The bellmen took our bags while we checked in. I noticed the two plain clothed men, with bulges under their jackets, standing on each side of the entrance.

I told Bret and Tony that we would meet here at 7 AM for breakfast. We would plan the day then.

To be continued…..