Posts Tagged ‘watches’

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…….

Beautiful Silver Jewelry in Bali : Meet Barney Fife, (Part 4)

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Within a few minutes, the Factory Manager, Mr. Sanadrij Dong, appeared.  Wearing the male version of the colorful Bali sarong, Dong (first names are last and last names are first in Asian culture), bowed instead of shaking hands. Another element of Asian tradition. (Dong is pictured on the left.)

Dong sat down next to Barney Fife’s look-alike (the factory owner), and faced Susan and me, Jan Brassem,  from across the table. He smiled. He was a short man, (5’2” I would guess), with a well-traveled wrinkled face. With 580 jewelry people working for him, he must have been a skilled and experienced jewelry manager.

Turning to Barney, he said something in Bali. Evidentially, Mr. Sanadrij doesn’t speak English. Barney would have to translate.

Working with translators, has a few important features. First, since the conversation goes through a third party, everything, obviously, takes twice as long, allowing you more time to think. Second, since longer sentences have ‘fuzzier’ meaning, they quickly become shorter. (It’s amazing how precise people can be when they have to be.)

Finally, it is important not to interrupt when sentences are being translated (That was hard for me, since “interrupting” is one of my irritating habits.)

After both Barney and Dong signed our formal Nondisclosure Agreement, I handed the blue lapis sterling silver iDesign — a watch – to Dong. The watch was one of our simplest. (It’s pictured on the right, below) He turned to Barney with the surprised look that Susan and I had seen before. I asked Dong, via Barney, if his people could design a series of those – but with the same technology.

“The person who came up with this idea is either crazy or a genius,” Dong said.

Dong was going to look under the hood — so to speak. He held the lapis  iDesign watch in his gnarled fingers and studied it. Deep in thought, I waited while he studied. Wait! Wait, I told myself, Dude, let him think.

Dong asked a few technical questions, (What’s this and why’s that?), while absorbing and processing the answers. Every time he understood something, he smiled. “…very clever.”

“The person who came up with this idea is either crazy or a genius,” Dong said. “I’m not crazy,” I said in a huff. Susan said she wasn’t sure. I wasn’t smiling.

“Yes, we can design a series of these and simplify the internal movement a little,” Dong said. “It’ll be fun and challenging for me and my jewelers. …something different after all these years.”

Barney asked if we would supply some watch movements and the “Patent-Applied-For” tech-components. Susan said she’ll ask the factory to FEDEX enough pieces for the six-each samples, plus a few extras.

Susan reached into her briefcase and handed Barney a copy of our bright-red formal Quality Control “Movement Tolerances and Delivery Standards Manual.” For the second time today, Barney was surprised. “There is no point,” Susan told him, “In making great designs without perfect quality. Without excellent quality, everyone looses.”

To Be Continued…….

It was suggested that some of our hundreds of readers might agree, disagree or even augment this — or our other — posts. She was so right. We would love to hear, (er, read), your constructive comments.

Also, please be sure to read all our posts. Just click on one — or all — of the categories on the right side of the page. You may find the post on China, Hong Kong, silver jewelry, etc. interesting as well.

Bali: Cue the Trumpets. Introducing Our Silver Styles. (Part 3)

Friday, September 17th, 2010

After two hours of analyzing, fine-tuning and buying over 80 samples, Susan was mentally exhausted. In her best New York accent, she asked one of the pretty assistants for a cup of tea.

She turned to me and gave me an approving nod. So, in her professional opinion, this factory had good styling and quality. Since Susan didn’t want any second-guessing on her final selection – not a word from the ‘peanut gallery’, (Another harrumph) – I was getting bored.

It was finally my turn. The boss, Jan Brassem, gets his turn.

The factory owner – kind of a grizzled Barney Fife look alike with cigarette stained fingers – turned his attention to me. Now came the tricky part.

A few years ago, we had developed an extremely popular silver jewelry brand. We were wondering, I asked Barney, if his factory could design and produce a few, (two or three), original designs for us. If successful, we could potentially sell thousands. They would have to be exclusive to us and made from scratch.

“Of course. We would love to,” said Barney.

Cue the trumpets. Our brand, known as Eclipse iDesigns, contains a unique, small, micro-mechanical component.  The brand’s name shortened to iDesigns, allows the wearer to change the silver style’s look, color even character – with only the slightest touch.

Each design contains a self-contained ‘movement’ – much like a simple watch movement. Many of the movements have patents pending. “Simply put,” I told Barney, “iDesigns combines two current and big-time consumer appeals, beautiful silver jewelry with simple technology. … never been done before.”

Barney gave me that ‘deer-in-the-headlights’  look. Susan smiled — she had seen that before.

The brand, known as iDesigns, allows the wearer to change the silver style’s look, color even character – with only the slightest touch.

To make it even more confusing, Susan chimed in with some more details. “The wearer can’t see the movement, the cost of the style doesn’t change and you don’t need a crowbar to make it change.”

“It was developed with ‘outside-the-box’ thinking,” she continued.

By this time, Barney was thoroughly dumbfounded, even mystified. I reached into my briefcase and pulled out three popular iDesigns. The first, a silver lapis bracelet that transforms into a watch. The second, a silver filigree pendant that converted from onyx to turquoise. The third was an earrings that changed from puffed heart to blue topaz.

Oh, did I mention, I told Barney that the iDesign ‘technology’ uses bearings, hinges, computer codes and algorithms as well as other tech components under extremely close tolerances. Most factory managers find iDesigns challenging and enervating — especially after working in a  tedious jewelry factory for years, generations.  Just ask your factory manager,” I said. 

Barney, amazed, took a deep breath, and asked one of the assistants to get his factory manager. She ran to the phone.

To be continued…

Bali: Buying Silver Jewelry (Part 2)

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

The sun-lit room smelled like Orchids. My buyer, Susan, and me, Jan Brassem, were sitting next to each other along side a long dark wooden table facing the factory owner.  One assistant was standing behind him while the other rolled in a cart loaded with trays. Each tray must have held at least 100 jewelry styles.

Our first day in Bali was nothing more than a paid vacation. It was finally time to get to work. Susan took out a raft of computer generated sales, profit, style/type reports. She had done her homework.

Like many jewelry buyers, she was under the gun — so to speak. It was time for her to apply her taste, design knowledge, manufacturing know-how, cost breakdown, experience, negotiating skill, financial knowledge, you get the idea. Her work could spell the success or failure of my jewelry store’s season.

Concentration was key. She had to analyze each design, its cost, markup, quality, customer tastes and who knows what else. She asked me – I was just an observer now – not to talk or banter with the owner or flirt with the pretty assistants. Hummphhh.

• She knew what styles, types and price-points our customers preferred.

• She knew what kind of designs, (basic, fancy, ornate, etc.), our customers bought.

She had to analyze each design, its cost, markup, quality, customer tastes and who knows what else

• She knew what margins, (at least keystone), we had budgeted for the season. Susan would look at each style she had ‘pre-selected’, (these were put in a special tray), and once she went through their entire line, she would ‘review’ the pre-selected tray to be sure each design could ‘carry’ the necessary retail price. If it couldn’t it was returned to the cart.

• Known for its special designs, (she had done her homework here too), she selected styles that had the Bali ‘look’. There was no point in selecting styles that could be bought in other parts of the world — or even in the US. We were, after all, trying to differentiate our store from the competition.

Bali styling was indeed unique. Whether due to the island being remote, the silver jewelry artisans having special skills or who knows what, Bali jewelry had two special features.

Classical Bali Chain Bracelet

The first was Bali’s hand-made rope/chain look. Highly labor intensive, (machine made rope/chain jewelry looks like, well, machine made jewelry), the man-made designs were beautiful and unique to Bali.

The Bali artisans were also skilled at carving faces and animals on small semi-precious stones. These faces were then set in silver creating beautiful pendants and brooches. Almost one-of-a-kind works of art.

When Susan finished, (all her choices were now in one previously empty tray), she would total up the cost of her selection. Since she had budgeted a certain dollar amount for each of the four factories we planned on visiting, she could add a few pieces to the tray or take a few out.

The buying process, however, was far from over.

To Be Continued……

Bali: Silver Jewelry & Kites (Part 1)

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

dreams-kiteA while ago, my silver jewelry buyer and me, Jan Brassem, left New York on a sourcing junket, er, mission, to Bali, Indonesia. We were looking to add some unique Bali designs to our branded sterling silver line and check out Bali’s sophisticated jewelry manufacturing expertise. More on that later.

As you probably know, Bali is arguably the most beautiful spot on earth – considered the Australian Riviera. James Mitchner wrote South Pacific with the island in mind. “No wonder you want to go,” the buyer told me.

Bali is arguably the most beautiful spot on earth – considered the Australian Riviera. James Mitchner wrote South Pacific with the island in mind.

The flight, via Hong Kong, lasted 20 hours. When we arrived at the Bali International Airport, we adjusted to the slow customs check-in. (What’s a computer?) Hurry up and wait, (we’re from New York after all). But we had no choice

Other than that, the airport was bedlam — Bali’s definition of organization. We kept our eyes open and hoped for the best. Exhausting.

We selected a taxi – or rather a taxi selected us – and left for the hotel. Our agent-guide-translator would meet us there. The taxi ride was –well, read for yourself  — and see the YouTube video.

• Kites filled the clear blue sky. Kite flying is Bali’s national pastime.
• Huge, ornate, carved statues guard many street corners.
• There is no speed limit. We arrived at the hotel shaking and in one piece
• The men are handsome, the woman beautiful
• With an abundance of teak, inexpensive labor and cheap land, hotels were all on one level and gorgeous. Never seen any hotel like them.
• There were lots of Australians.
• One negative. While we were leaving, al-Qaeda blew up a local bar frequented by Australian tourists. The island is mostly Muslim.
• Everything, (trinkets, furniture, souvenirs) is teak. Given enough time, (a few days) they will carve anything to your specifications.

We arrived at the first factory early the next day. The rifle toting guard/sentry, after opening the barbed wire-topped gate, let us in. Inside was a bustling compound – a fort of sorts. Much of the factory labor was done outdoors.

We were led inside to a long dark showroom. Everything Teak.

The  Australian owner introduced himself and his two attractive female assistants. The assistants wore typical wrap-around sarongs and spoke no English.

They brought out the trays of silver samples…..We began to work.…..

To be continued…..

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

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Silver Jewelry: After Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

I was walking up Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue the other day and decided to drop in on Tiffany & Co.’s remarkable flagship store on 57th Street.

With all the talk of fluctuating prices, how does Tiffany consistently produce excitement and wonderful silver jewelry?

One of the TV hosts on the FOX BUSINESS NETWORK asked me the same question recently.

dreams-lady-leafBack to the store. I took the elevator to the second floor – “Silver and Porcelain”: the directory said. The doors opened to an organized confusion. This is where the action was, at least for now.

Customers, (mostly female tourists with an occasional New “Yhawka”), younger that those on the first floor, (none older than 35, I think) were huddled over the cases, sometimes two or three deep while they passed credit cards to the Ambassadors behind the counter.

Having been in the silver jewelry business for the last eight years, after a decade in the gold jewelry industry, I have a pretty good understanding of silver merchandising and pricing. What was all the excitement?

“With all the talk of fluctuating prices, how does Tiffany consistently produce excitement and wonderful silver jewelry?”

I took a hard look at their silver showcases.

In my estimation, the silver jewelry was merchandised wonderfully. Each case displayed a grouping of branded (i.e. Elsa Peretti, Paloma Picasso, Tiffany 1837, T&CO, Tiffany Signature, and many others), silver designs, especially pendants and bracelets. Prices ranged to cover all major price points.

I could tell from the tailored silver designs (all with a Tiffany “look’), the designing was done exclusively by (or for) Tiffany and probably manufactured overseas and in the US. From what I could see, the quality was very good.

Over the years, Tiffany has pioneered in styling like the well-known, 3-pronged Tiffany setting. There was innovative styling here too. Small total weight diamonds set on silver bracelets, woven silver bracelets, torque designs among others.

They had done their homework.

Everybody Loves silver jewelry — and Sales Prove it!

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010

Cue the Trumpets. Sterling silver jewelry is hereby recognized as a viable and dynamic jewelry category by the “Main-Street” jewelry storeowner.

Wait a minute, there’s an illogic here. Numerous jewelry retail channels have already recognized silver jewelry for what it is; beautiful, creative and especially profitable.

mystery-ladyTake 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. How big a part is, of course, a carefully guarded trade secret? They’ve been doing their silver jewelry homework for decades.

“Cue the Trumpets. Silver jewelry is hereby recognized as a viable and dynamic jewelry category.”

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.

Where did I, Jan Brassem, find all this information, you ask. For almost seven years, I owned a very successful silver jewelry brand. (I sold it a couple of years ago.) I designed and then imported the brand from Hong Kong, India, China, Thailand, Italy, Indonesia, Mexico, Africa and Canada.

After all this time, I’ve acquired an understanding of silver jewelry marketing, sourcing, merchandising and pricing.
Dare I say it? I’ve developed a strong bias to silver jewelry.

—————–

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.