Posts Tagged ‘writing’

‘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.

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.

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…….