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Monday, January 31, 2011

Italian Craftsmanship and Design from Antonini


Well-crafted gold, diamond highlights and colorful gems are among the hallmarks of new collections from Italian jewelry company, Antonini.

The company introduced its Extraordinaire collection during the Centurion 2011 jewelry show. The gold earrings, cocktail rings and necklaces are embellished with pavé diamonds and gemstones. There were two 18k white gold rings from the collection on display—each centered with a large sapphire, a five-ct. pink and an 8.7 blue. The stone on each ring was surrounded by diamond pave patterns that fell irregularly over the gold like water. It’s a classic design with modern touches.

K. Wolfgang Möckel, the company’s U.S. representative, said the collection was designed to complement its recently released Anniversary collection, created for the company’s 90th anniversary. One of the pieces from the collection on display was a rose gold necklace and pendant, highlighted with a spattering of champaign diamonds.

Left, necklace and pendant from Anniversary collection. Above right, Bangle from Milano collection and rings from Extraordinaire.

A bangle of interlocking rose gold strands on display was part the company’s Milano collection, which honors the city’s rich architectural history. The city is also the home of Antonini.

Centurion Names Six Emerging Design Contest Winners

Dusty Angles by Nuttapon (Kenny) Yongkiettakul

The Centurion 2011 jewelry show has named six winners of Centurion’s Emerging Designer Contest during its opening dinner held Saturday. The winners are:

* William Belack, Belack Jewelry Design, United States

* Pamela Harari, Pamela Harari Jewelry Design, Israel

* Amitai Kav, Amitai Kav, Israel

* Valerie Ostenak, VOSTENAKstudios, USA

* JJ Williams, JJ Number 8, USA

* Nuttapon (Kenny) Yongkiettakul, Thailand

“We are very proud to be able to find and introduce these amazing emerging designers to the prestige jewelry industry,” said Centurion President Howard Hauben. “In addition to winning the competition, we offer the top retailers in the country the chance to meet these up‐and‐comers and view their award winning pieces.”

None of the winning designers has ever exhibited in a US Fine Jewelry trade show prior to Centurion 2011. Winning pieces were chosen by a popular vote of prestige retail jewelers in late 2010 based on their combination of uniqueness and salability. 

William Belack
Belack Jewelry Design 
www.belackjewelry.com
United States
786‐553‐4003
william@belackinc.com

Hand‐made jewelry using a conceptual design process, fusing natural stones along with ancient ideas and workmanship in the art of jewelry making. Pieces are created to fill a narrative within our design approach.

  
Pamela Harari
Pamela Harari Jewelry Design 
www.pamelaharari.com
Israel, +972‐523276319
pharari@netvision.net.il

Harari has been using different techniques, unusual rough materials for 28 years. Brought up in Leeds in the North of England, Pamela studied jewelry design at the Jacob Cramer College of Art, and then went on to do an apprenticeship in Paris before emigrating to Israel. Today, she lives and designs from her home in Kadima a small farming town in Israel. When choosing stones, she prefers the ones with little imperfections for that “little something” that makes them unique, and perfect in themselves. The idea is to use an element from nature or history and through the stone, color and cut, design the jewel. It starts by finding an exceptional stone, developing a design original in content, and then producing the piece ready for setting and finish. Her jewelry collection is created from pieces made with a mélange of materials of high carat gold and rare hand cut gems.

Amitai Kav 
www.amitaikav.com

Israel, +972‐2‐6794749
kavkatan@inter.net.il

Original and personal design in gold, inspired by the region ‐ the Egyption,  the Bedoin and Oriental elements. Born in 1941, Kibbutz Negba, Israel,  Amitai Kav is a self‐taught jeweler. His work is on display now at Mobilia  Gallery, Cambridge, Mass., Jewish Museum, New York City, Skirball Cultural  Center, Los Angeles, Luvaton–Kav Gallery, Jerusalem, and Shuki  Freiman Gallery, Jerusalem.

Valerie Ostenak 
VOSTENAKstudio
www.valerieostenak.com
USA, 928‐646‐7078
valerio@vostenakstudios.com

VOSTENAKstudios, a sole proprietorship, is focused on design of bespoke sculptural jewelry for discerning collectors, with some collections able to extend into high‐end design limited production markets. The use of steel speaks to the customer’s desire for an alternative to high karat gold while maintaining an exclusive and creative look, and incorporates those elements  they are familiar with: e.g., 14K, pearls, Swarovski crystals. Design style is organic and flowing. Inspired by the sensuous movement of roots, vines, and water, and the timeless seasonal changes of trees.

 JJ Williams
JJ Number8
www.jjnumber8.com
USA, 949‐636‐6975
jj@jjnumber8.com 

JJ Number 8 is fresh, graceful and elegant. It is a beautiful and inspiring collection. The number 8 symbolizes good luck and happiness. JJ Number 8’s jewelry has a powerful allure and its brand has a magnetic connection with women.


Nuttapon (Kenny) Yongkiettakul (top photo)
Thailand, +662‐243‐2446
nuttapon.y@gmail.com

With the contemporary approach to jewelry design, the collection displays the beauty of nature and the art within the irregularity and randomness of it. The collection harmonizes modern structures and ideas together with the uniqueness of shapes and patterns. 

Friday, January 28, 2011

Bulgari Reaches Watch Distribution Deal in China

Italian luxury jewelry house, Bulgari, signed a strategic partnership with Hengdeli Holdings Ltd. that will make the retail company the sole distributor of Bulgari watches through multibrand watch stores in mainland China.

The five-year agreement aims at increasing the visibility of Bulgari watches in the Chinese market through a presence in over 50 multibrand stores, located in the main cities of mainland China, which will be gradually opened in the next five years, Bulgari said in a statement. Hengdeli is the largest retail company of high-end watches through multibrand watch stores in mainland China.

“The agreement with Hengdeli is very important for Bulgari: on one hand, it will allow us to even more effectively cover the watch market, in an area with a huge potential such as mainland China where we already have 20 monobrand stores,” said Francesco Trapani, Bulgari Group CEO. “On the other hand, this agreement, signed with one of the most important companies in the world for the distribution of international high-end watch brands, proves that our strategy for the watch business is correct and extremely competitive.”

Hengdeli has a network of 302 sales outlets in the People's Republic of China and Hong Kong, through which it manages the distribution and also, in some cases, post-sales services and repairs, of the most exclusive brands of international watches. It also owns three private labels.

NRF: Valentine’s Day Jewelry Sales Expected to Reach $3.5 Billion

Tiffany's Elsa Peretti open heart pendant in 18k rose gold.

Consumers are expected to shell out $3.5 billion on jewelry this Valentine’s Day, up from an estimated $3 billion last year, according to a National Retail Federation survey.

More than 17 percent of consumers said they are planning on buying their loved ones something sparkly, up from 15.5 percent last year, according to the NRF’s 2011 Valentine’s Day Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted by BIGresearch. About 9.5 percent of shoppers will be buying their gift from a jewelry store.

This is the second survey this week that predicts more shoppers will be buying jewelry for their loved ones on this romantic holiday. The IBISWorld survey said that jewelry sales will experience a year-over-year increase of 11.3 percent.

Overall, according to the survey, the average person will shell out $116.21 on traditional Valentine’s Day merchandise this year, up 11 percent over last year’s $103. Total holiday spending is expected to reach $15.7 billion.

“Having surpassed expectations during the holiday season, it seems consumers are not done spending on gifts, which bodes well for the economy,” said Matthew Shay, NRF president and CEO. “Jewelry, candy and apparel sales should provide a nice boost for retailers during the typically slower months of January and February.”

Having cut back on spending in recent years, couples this year will spend an average of $68.98 on their significant other or spouse, up from $63.34 last year. Even family pets will be feeling more of the love this year. The average person will spend $5.04 on their furry friends, up from $3.27 last year. Consumers will also spend an average of $6.30 on friends, $4.97 on classmates and teachers, and $3.41 on co-workers.

Greeting cards will be the most popular gift (52.1 percent), according to the survey. However, spending across the board is expected to be up this year. Clothing ($1.6 billion vs. $1.5 billion in 2010) and dining out ($3.4 billion vs. $3.3 billion in 2010) will also be popular gift options. In addition, celebrants will spend $1.7 billion on flowers, $1.5 billion on candy and $1.1 billion on greeting cards.

As usual, men will spend the most on Valentine’s Day gifts. The average man plans to shell out more than twice as much ($158.71) as the average woman ($75.79).

“Though the economy will still be on their minds, Valentine’s Day holds a special place in many Americans hearts,” said Phil Rist, BIGresearch executive VP, strategic initiatives.

Discount stores (36.6%) will be the most popular shopping destination, but department stores (30.5%), specialty stores (19.4%) and online (18.1%) will share much of the holiday traffic as well. Others will check out their local florist (16.8%) and jewelry store (9.5%).

With co-workers, children and children’s classmates/teachers to buy for, young couples/parents will spend far more than their parents or grandparents on Valentine’s Day. Adults 25-34 will spend an average of $189.97, compared to the $60.22 adults 65+ will spend.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Gold Jewelry Demand Up 18%, Total Demand Up 29%


The gold price rose for the tenth consecutive year in 2010 reaching $1,405.50 an ounce by the end of December on the London PM fix, a 29 percent increase from last year’s levels, the World Gold Council reports.

Last year’s price performance was driven by developments in key gold markets, WGC said in its Gold Investment Digest for the fourth quarter and full-year 2010. China saw increased investment activity, driven in part by innovative new gold investment vehicles offering improved access to the gold market. Globally, investors remained concerned about uncertainty in the macro-economic environment and turned to gold to hedge against weakness in the US dollar and rising inflation in many economies.

However, WGC noted that despite its high cost, global jewelry demand totaled 1,468 tons during the first nine months of 2010—a year-over-year increase of 18 percent. This includes a rebound in gold jewelry consumption in India, the world’s largest gold market.

In addition, gold demand for technological and industrial applications continued to recover during the first nine months of 2010, registering a 19 percent increase over the same period in 2009.

“The gold story in 2010 is about growth in demand and not just economic concerns. It is significant that consumers increased their gold jewelry spending during the first nine months of last year, despite the rising price of gold,” said Juan Carlos Artigas, WGC Investment Research Manager. “Strong investment activity and a normalization of gold demand in technological applications during the same period further supported gold’s stellar appreciation.”

Complete full-year data for gold demand will be available in February when the WGC publishes its Gold Demand Trends report.

Bulgari Sales Up 20%, Jewelry Sales Up 28%


Bulgari Group said Wednesday that fourth quarter 2010 sales increased 20.5 percent at current exchange rates to 357.8 million euro ($491.3 million) at current exchange rates (Sales increased 11.4% at comparable rates).

“The fourth quarter results certify a definitive recovery in all geographical areas and product categories,” the Italian luxury jewelry house said in a statement. “An excellent performance by jewelry was thus accompanied by highly positive accessory and perfume sales results, whilst with regard to watches the Serpenti, Bulgari Roth and Bulgari Genta collections, launched during the quarter, had an excellent start.”

Strong sales gains were reported in all regions, with the strongest growth in Asia.

By product category, jewelry sales grew by 28.3 percent to 166.7 million euro ($229 million) for the period, the company said. Excluding the significant but volatile contribution of the high jewelry segment, the category increased by 36 percent
.
Watch sales grew by 7 percent for the period to 73.5 million euro ($101 million), after three weak quarters. Its accessories business posted a 31.4 percent uptick and perfumes also did very well, with a 14.1 percent rise.

By region, the fourth quarter saw U.S. increase by 10.3 percent. Sales in Europe rose 8.4 percent and Middle East rose by 13.9 percent.

The company noted the “spectacular” sales gain in Asia at 37.7 percent, including the “progressively improved” performance in Japan, up 24.9 percent. Sales were up 47.3 percent in greater China. The remaining areas of Asia grew by 48 percent.

“These sales results are highly satisfactory overall, and represent a record fourth-quarter turnover in the history of the company, thus confirming the recovery we had already noted in the previous quarters, said Francesco Trapani, Bulgari Group CEO. “The performance of watches, in particular, demonstrates that with the expansion and the upgrading in our offer we are going in the right direction. In the core business of jewelry, the innovation and design of the Bulgari brand have achieved excellent performance levels both in the basic and high-end segments, in spite of the challenging comparison bases. Lastly, perfumes and accessories prove once again that the diversification strategy aimed at competing at the highest levels in the market is winning. In conclusion, these data are definitely a good starting point for the months to come, and induce me to a cautious optimism.”

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Breitling Opens Manhattan Flagship Boutique


Celebrities, VIPs and Breitling enthusiasts recently toasted the grand opening of luxury Swiss watch brand’s flagship boutique in Manhattan. Brand ambassadors John Travolta and Wayne Gretzky, NFL star and broadcaster Boomer Esiason, New York Islander Mark Streit, were among the approximate 300 Breitling’s special guests who were treated to gourmet cuisine by famed chef and Breitling friend Ming Tsai of Blue Ginger restaurant in Wellesley, Mass.

“Congratulations to Breitling on the opening of your flagship boutique. The store pays homage to aviation, architecture, history and time,” Travolta said as he led guests in a toast to the brand and to Breitling USA President Marie Bodman.

Located near 5th Avenue at 5 East 57th Street, the new boutique’s location was selected for its appeal to both domestic and international consumers who possess an affinity for luxury brands.

The 4,500-square-foot store was created to complement the tastes of Breitling’s enthusiasts as well as to introduce future clients to the watch brand.

“The strategy is to showcase a complete assortment of more than 900 timepieces—including exclusive and limited edition watches—in a manner that thoroughly reveals the brand throughout its history to the present, giving our customers the ultimate brand experience,” Bodman said.

The open front windows of the Breitling boutique are designed to welcome Fifth Avenue shoppers and guests to the store. Bold but edgy iconic pop artwork depicting aviation reflects Breitling’s spirit and brand personality. A history wall highlights significant moments and innovations in Breitling’s past, including celebrated pieces that define the brand’s milestones in watchmaking. The idea, according to the company, is to create a functional, warm and inviting retail space in a modern architectural environment.

Consumer Confidence Index Increases


The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index, which had dipped in December, increased in January. The Index now stands at 60.6 (1985=100), up from 53.3 in December. The Present Situation Index improved to 31.0 from 24.9. The Expectations Index increased to 80.3 from 72.3 last month.

“Consumers have begun the year in better spirits. As a result, the index is now near levels not seen since last spring (May 2010, Index 62.7),” said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center. “Consumers rated business and labor market conditions more favorably and expressed greater confidence that the economy will continue to expand and generate more jobs in the months ahead. Income expectations are also more positive. Although pessimists still outnumber optimists, the gap has narrowed.”

Consumers’ assessment of current conditions was more positive in January. Those saying business conditions are “good” increased to 9.8 percent from 7.7 percent, while those saying business conditions are “bad” was virtually unchanged at 40.4 percent. Consumers’ appraisal of the job market was also more upbeat than last month. Those claiming jobs are “plentiful” rose to 5.2 percent from 4.2 percent, while those claiming jobs are “hard to get” declined to 43.4 percent from 46 percent.

Consumers’ short-term outlook was more optimistic than in December. Those anticipating an improvement in business conditions over the next six months increased to 19 percent from 16.8 percent, while those anticipating business conditions will worsen decreased to 11.3 percent from 11.8 percent. Consumers were also more optimistic about the job market. Those anticipating more jobs in the months ahead increased to 16 percent from 14.2 percent, while those expecting fewer jobs declined to 17.5 percent from 19.2 percent. The proportion of consumers expecting an increase in their incomes rose to 11.4 percent from 9.9 percent.

The Consumer Confidence Survey is based on a representative sample of 5,000 U.S. households. The monthly survey is conducted for The Conference Board by TNS, a custom research company.

Macy’s to Add 725 Internet Jobs


Macy's, Inc. said it will undergo a series of organizational expansions, totaling approximately 725 new positions over the next two years, to support the growth of macys.com and bloomingdales.com. The company said its fast-growing online businesses are being fueled by an “omnichannel” strategy that allows customers to shop seamlessly in stores, online and via mobile devices.

“Macy's, Inc. is building one of the largest, most efficient and resourceful e-commerce organizations in American retailing as part of our comprehensive omnichannel strategy,” said Terry J. Lundgren, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Macy's, Inc. “This is a business that thrives on unrelenting creativity and innovation. Having the right talent in the right place is vital as we seek to sustain and accelerate our sales growth online, as well as in the stores. These expansions to macys.com and bloomingdales.com represent investments in merchandising, marketing and site development, which complement ongoing improvements in systems infrastructure, fulfillment capacity and customer service.”

* Macys.com expects to expand its merchandising and marketing organizations in New York by about 260 positions over the next two years and has signed a lease for additional office space at 1440 Broadway in Midtown Manhattan. The company currently employs approximately 420 macys.com associates at this location.

* Macys.com expects to expand its site development and operations organization in downtown San Francisco by roughly 200 positions over the next two years and has expanded its office space at 685 Market St., near Union Square. The company currently employs more than 300 macys.com associates at this location.

These and future positions in the macys.com technology, merchandising, creative and marketing organizations will be filled via a new multichannel recruiting strategy that includes a dedicated micro website within www.macysJOBS.com that is scheduled for launch by the end of January.

* Bloomingdales.com expects to expand its merchandising, marketing and operations organizations in New York by about 115 positions over the next two years and is negotiating a lease for additional office space in Midtown Manhattan. The company currently employs approximately 200 bloomingdales.com associates in New York.

* Macy's Systems & Technology organization, which supports the macys.com and bloomingdales.com e-commerce technology platform, expects to add about 150 positions over the next two years at its central campus in Johns Creek in suburban Atlanta. The company is purchasing and expanding within a building MST currently partially occupies at 5955 State Bridge Rd. This increase would bring the size of MST's workforce at Johns Creek to more than 1,200 employees.

In total, the company expects to add nearly 3,500 full-time, part-time and seasonal holiday associates in the next two years in relation to the growth of its online businesses. This includes a new online fulfillment center to be built near Martinsburg, WV, and the expansion of a fulfillment center near Portland, TN—both of which were previously announced.

In the first 10 months of fiscal 2010, online sales at Macy's, Inc. were up by about 29 percent compared with the same period last year. This is in addition to growth of about 20 percent in fiscal 2009 and 29 percent in fiscal 2008.

Macy's, Inc., with corporate offices in Cincinnati and New York, is one of the nation's premier retailers, with fiscal 2009 sales of $23.5 billion. The company operates about 850 department stores in 45 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico under the names of Macy's and Bloomingdale's, as well as the macys.com and bloomingdales.com websites. The company also operates four Bloomingdale's outlet stores.

The company made the announcement January 4, but for some reason myself and others in the news business just began reporting it. It’s amazing what sometimes slips through the cracks of publishing operations.

Jewelry Websites Sparkled in December


Many Americans returned to making purchases of luxury goods this holiday season, sending an all-time high of 26.2 million unique visitors to Jewelry/Luxury Goods/Accessories sites during the month, according to December 2010 data from the comScore Media Metrix service.

BradfordExchange.com took the top stop in the category with 2.8 million unique visitors in December (up 15 percent), followed by Zale Corp. with 2.3 million visitors (up 26 percent), Coach.com with 2.1 million (up 14 percent), and Swarovski.com with 2.0 million (up 13 percent).

Overall the firm said December saw increased traffic among several content categories including E-cards, Shipping, Retail and Travel sites. As the fiscal year came to an end, many consumers and businesses turned to Tax and Financial Information/Advice sites to close their books for the year and prepare for the upcoming tax season.

“The Internet now plays a vital role for Americans during the holiday season, allowing them to do everything from finding online deals and researching future in-store purchases to tracking shipments, booking travel and sending e-cards, gifts and greetings,” said Jeff Hackett, executive vice president of comScore Media Metrix. “Each year we see more Americans using the Internet as a tool during the holidays, with more than 85 percent of Americans online visiting a retail site in December, up from 80 percent last year.”

ComScore Media Metrix provides Internet audience measurement services that report details of online media usage, visitor demographics and online buying power for the home, work and university audiences across local, U.S. and global markets.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Survey: Valentine’s Day Jewelry Sales Expected to Sparkle


Jewelry sales for Valentine’s Day are expected to total nearly $1.5 million, a year-over-year growth of 11.3 percent, according to industry research firm IBISWorld.

“Luxury spending is already on the rise, so it will come as no surprise that bracelets, earrings, necklaces and rings will be the go-to gift choice for many Americans,” said IBISWorld retail industry analyst Nikoleta Panteva. “This year, IBISWorld expects jewelry to make up 7.8 percent of all Valentine’s Day sales, making its way back to pre-recessionary levels.”

Only flowers, at 16.8 percent, is expected to grow at a more rapid pace, according to IBISWorld, which tracks sales in seven categories, including greeting cards, candy, dining out, clothing and lingerie, and romantic getaways.

Sales for the romantic holiday are expected to grow in all categories, making the day pretty sweet for retailers, IBISWorld said. Consumers are forecast to spend 5.8 percent more on Valentine’s Day purchases in 2011 than 2010, totaling $18.6 billion or about $125 per person.

Timepiece Tuesday II: Swiss Watch Sales, Bulgari Exhibition in Singapore

 Swiss Organization Predicts Record Watch Sales
Switzerland’s watch exports may rise to a record in 2011 as demand for luxury timepieces continue to recover, said Jean-Daniel Pasche, head of the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry. Shipments this year may break the record of 17 billion francs ($17.7 billion) of exports set in 2008, Pasche said in an interview today on the final day of the Geneva watch fair. Exports in 2010 were "a bit" higher than the 16 billion Swiss francs of watches and components the industry shipped to other countries in 2007, Pasche said. The trade group will publish exact figures for 2010 in early February, Pasche said. Exports in the first 11 months of the year rose 22 percent to 14.6 billion francs, the group said last month. Read more.

Bulgari Watch Exhibition
Bulgari is hosting an exhibition featuring the first collection of timepieces created after Bulgari integrated the luxury Swiss watchmaking companies, Gerald Genta and Daniel Roth, under its own brand last year. "Bulgari: A New Face In Time," will open Wednesday at the Luxe Art Museum in Singapore. While the exhibition will still boast plenty of sparkle, courtesy of a selection of haute jewelry and vintage watches dating as early as 1945, the focus will be on the new Bulgari Gerald Genta and Daniel Roth collections, unveiled at last year's BaselWorld international watch fair . Read more  (Pictured, Daniel Roth Collection: Grande Lune and Papillon Chronograph)


Christie’s Watch Business Booming in Dubai 
Dubai is poised to become a target market for rare, luxury watches with sales in the emirate rising 42 percent since 2008, London-based auction house Christie’s told a Dubai-based publication. Two auctions of rare timepieces in the emirate last year generated sales of $2.5 million, Christie’s said, a rise of 19.5 percent on the revenue generated the previous year from rare watch sales. The revenue represents a rise of more than 42 percent since 2008, Aurel Bacs, international head of Christie’s Watches told the publication, Arabian Business. “The growth in watch sales since 2008 in Dubai has been beyond our expectations.” he said. “With this level of growth we expect Dubai to become an increasingly significant auction centre for our global watch sales.” The priciest piece sold in Dubai last year was a Patek Philippe piece with moon phase display (pictured), which sold for $116,500.

New App, Internet Education Program Led by Google and Digital Catalogs All Part of Centurion 2011

The ultra-exclusive Centurion 2011 jewelry show has rolled out digital programs across several platforms designed to enhance the trade fair’s technological footprint and help luxury jewelers navigate the digital landscape. The trade fair will be held, January 29 – February 2 in Tucson, Ariz.

First there’s the Centurion App for iPhones and Android phones. The free app is customized for Centurion through The Conventionist app, which provides practical, mobile solutions for those attending events, such as trade shows.

To locate, search for The Conventionist app. Download and install the app on your smart phone. Then search for Centurion within The Conventionist app and download the guide to the Centurion Show. (Shown on an iPod Touch.).

The customized Centurion app contains:

* Centurion Schedule at a Glance
* Show Floor Map,
* Key Events list,
* To-Do list,
* General Info,
* Exhibitor’s list, and
* My Schedule.

The second initiative is the Jewelry Industry Internet Forum, an education program geared to help ensure that high-end retail jewelers, designers, manufacturers and service providers have the knowledge and tools to succeed in the fast-moving world of the Internet.

The JIIF is designed for the industry to learn and share best practices, information, insights and intelligence in online marketing and merchandising, including analytics, design, multi-channel integration and e-commerce, according to show organizers. As a forum for retail and manufacturing executives, JIIF will offer regular access to useful and targeted education and information sharing on a year-round basis. The effort will include at-show education as well as on-line forums and more.

For its first official event, JIIF will highlight a keynote presentation by Mike Gottfried, Head of Industry for Retail & Luxury, from Google to give Centurion participants an insider’s view of what it takes to succeed in today’s ultra-competitive environment and how to take advantage of the Internet as a marketing vehicle.

Gottfried will headline separate sessions for retailers and designers/manufacturers at Centurion 2011.

The third initiative is the Centurion Showcase, an online extension of the luxury trade fair that is being launched during the show.

The Centurion Showcase has up-to-date digital catalogs of participating branded exhibitors, updated show information, and news and events. During the show and throughout the year, retailers will be able to use the catalogs at the point of sale and to e-mail to and print product pictures and details for their customers. Branded manufacturers will be able to use the catalogs to show new product and provide ongoing support for their Centurion retailers.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Timepiece Tuesday: Swatch Group Names New Presidents for Rado and Hamilton Watch Brands

Matthias Breschan
 By William George Shuster

Matthias Breschan, formerly president of Hamilton watches worldwide, has been named the new president of Rado watches worldwide by the Swatch Group. Breschan originally joined the Swatch Group, which owns both Rado and Hamilton, in 1996 and had been president of Hamilton since 2003.

He succeeds Roland Streule, the long-time president of Rado SA. Steuele joined Rado in 1978 as a regional manager. He became president of Rado in 1989, overseeing its growth and worldwide success.

A spokesperson for the Swiss-based Swatch Group, the world’s largest watchmaker, noted that Streule had previously stated he would retire from running the operations of Rado when he turned 65. Streule continues to be a member of the Swatch Group executive management board, overseeing a number of special projects for it.

Sylvain Dolla
Meanwhile, Sylvain Dolla, former head of sales of Hamilton SA for five years, is the new President of Hamilton, succeeding Breschan. Dolla joined Swatch Group in 2003.

The appointments were effective Jan. 1.

William George Shuster is a multi-award winning writer—including three Jesse H. Neal Award, business journalism's highest honor. He has 40 years experience as a journalist, author and editor. He is considered one of the world’s top watch industry journalists, covering the world of timepieces for JCK magazine and its sister publications for nearly 29 years.

Birks & Mayors Holiday Sales Up 8%

Thomas A. Andruskevich
Luxury retail jeweler Birks & Mayors Inc. said net sales during the fiscal 2011 holiday season (October 31, 2010, through December 25, 2010) increased by 8 percent to $75.5 million, compared to net sales of $69.7 million during last year’s holiday season.

The Montreal-based company, with stores in the U.S. and Canada said the $5.6 million increase in net sales was driven by an increase in comparable store sales, $1.9 million of higher sales related to translating the sales of the Company’s Canadian operations into U.S. dollars with a relatively stronger Canadian dollar, and $1.1 million of sales from two new stores, net of the closure of four stores.

Comparable store sales during the holiday season increased by 4 percent year-over-year, with comparable store sales in Canada increasing by 7 percent and U.S. comparable store sales growing by 2 percent. The stronger Canadian sales results reflect an increase in sales transactions primarily related to an increase in store traffic while the increase in the U.S. reflects a higher average sales transaction.

“We are pleased by the increase in sales in our Canadian market and are encouraged by the sales growth in the U.S., especially in December,” said Thomas A. Andruskevich, Birks & Mayors president and CEO. “As we enter our final fiscal quarter, we will continue to focus on generating increases in sales and gross profit while continuing to diligently control expenses, manage the level and productivity of our inventory and limit capital expenditures.”

Birks & Mayors operates 68 luxury jewelry stores in the U.S. and Canada. The company operates 33 stores under the Birks brand in most major markets in Canada and 29 stores under the Mayors brand in Florida and Georgia, two retail locations in Calgary and Vancouver under the Brinkhaus brand, one retail location in Orlando under the Rolex brand, and three temporary retail locations in Florida and Tennessee under the Jan Bell brand.

Kimberley Process Moves Closer to Approving Diamond Exports from Marange


It appears that the Kimberley Process is one step closer to allowing Zimbabwe to sell diamonds through its certification scheme from the controversial Marange field in Zimbabwe. Not because diamonds from what is considered to be the largest deposit of diamonds in the world are conflict-free, but because the body made up of diamond industry representatives, government officials from 75 countries and non-governmental organizations have approved an amendment that will make it more difficult to prove human rights abuses by Robert Mugabe’s government.

Just to be clear, the KP is the international organization charged with preventing trade in illicit diamonds.

What KP members did was approve an amendment to the “violence clause,” of an agreement they have been trying to approve since November, according to Voice of America and other publications. This clause is apparently one of the strongest sticking points to coming to terms with the thorny political issue of deciding what to do about Zimbabwe and its alleged human rights abuses at Marange.

Under the new language, three rather than two member countries would have to endorse a call for monitoring by the industry watchdog group, VOA reports.

This has been reported for the past week, but I held off on posting it because there was no actual, on-the-record confirmation by anyone associated with the KP, although some individual members have made statements. But this has been such widely reported and consistent in its reporting that I believe it to be fact.

As usual, this approval was done in secret. Yet, this is the organization that is charged with ensuring consumers that the diamonds they buy are conflict-free.

Alan Martin, research director with Partnership Africa Canada, a Kimberley Process NGO member, told VOA reporter Tatenda Gumbo that if Harare accepts the revised agreement that will be a step toward further export sales of Marange diamonds.

There’s much more written about this on this Web site. Just do a search for “Zimbabwe” or “Kimberley Process.”

Tiffany Sues Chinese Counterfeit Websites


Tiffany & Co. has filed a lawsuit against 44 websites based in China that sell counterfeit Tiffany products.

The civil suit argues that the websites are “are promoting, selling, offering for sale and distributing counterfeit and infringing Tiffany branded products.”

The lawsuit adds that the websites “constitute willful and intentional infringement and counterfeiting of Tiffany's trademarks in total disregard of Tiffany's rights, and have taken place … in spite of defendants' knowledge that their use of Tiffany's trademarks was and is in direct contravention of Tiffany's rights.”

The three defendants listed in the complaint are Ge Wang, King Wang, and Ning Zhou, along with “various unknown associates.” The formal charges are for trademark, counterfeiting and infringement, false designation of origin, and cyberpiracy.

The suit was filed in federal court in Norfolk, Va., the state where the luxury jewelry retailer has its websites registered, according to a story in The Virginian-Pilot. U.S. District Judge Rebecca Beach Smith on January 18 extended a temporary restraining order that prohibits some 44 websites from selling knockoff Tiffany products. However, the websites quickly change names, and their operators are nearly impossible to locate.

At least some of the websites, such as tiffanymall.org and tiffanystore.org, now redirect visitors to a website that outlines the lawsuit.

Tiffany will seek a preliminary injunction at a hearing on Feb. 1 and, ultimately, a permanent injunction, the newspaper reports.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

FT Luxury Summit Dates, Location Announced

A scene from the 2010 FT Business of Luxury Summit in Los Angeles.

Economic issues will be the focus of the next FT Business of Luxury Summit, which will be held on 5-7 June 2011 at the Beau Rivage Palace in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Hosted by the Financial Times, the summit will bring together senior luxury executives, corporate decision makers and financiers from around the world. This exclusive event, now in its seventh year, attracts some 400 attendees and is regarded by the luxury industry as one of the premier thought-leadership forums for business leaders. Speakers will include:

* Jean-Claude Biver, CEO, Hublot SA
* Gavyn Davies, chairman, Fulcrum Asset Management
* Isabelle Guichot, president & CEO, Balenciaga
* Frederick Lukoff, president & CEO, Stella McCartney
* Marigay McKee, Fashion & Beauty director, Harrods Ltd
* Marc Puig, chairman & CEO, Puig
* Martin Wolf, CBE, chief economics commentator, Financial Times

The 2011 Summit will focus on the key economic issues facing the luxury industry today, including managing currency movements, costs, pricing and anti-counterfeiting—plus an assessment of the revival of mergers and acquisitions.

Attendees will have an opportunity to gain incisive market intelligence from industry peers, join debates and hear the results of specially commissioned consumer spending research.

For more information and to register, visit www.ftbusinessofluxury.com. There’s a discount of €300 for registrations received before March 11.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Frederique Constant Claims Record Sales in 2010


Luxury Swiss watch brand Frederique Constant Geneve said 2010 sales grew by 45 percent year-over-year and 23 percent higher than in 2008. The company also said it sold more than 100,000 units for the year, a new record.

Peter Stas, Frederique Constant founder and CEO, said all regions reported “very significant increase in activity” for the year. This growth will continue in 2011.

The company’s statement, released Friday, did not include actual sales totals.

“Russia and Japan returned to sales growth. Strong growth continues in North America and Asia. Europe keeps its solid position in the sales charts,” Stas said. “We are proud to have reached our best year ever, and it clearly proves that our product proposition—accessible luxury—continues to have great potential.”

Vivienne Westwood to Create Palladium Jewelry Line

Vivienne Westwood
British designer Vivienne Westwood will create a limited edition collection of palladium jewelry that will be available in the U.K. and U.S.

Vivienne Westwood’s “Get A Life” Palladium Collection will be unveiled during London Fashion Week in February and will be available exclusively in Vivienne Westwood boutiques in London and Los Angeles in the spring.

“Jewelry has nothing to do with Get a Life,” Westwood said. “Get a Life is about how we stop climate change and therefore preserve life for the next generation while at that same time get a better life. My focus at the moment is what one person can do. Stop climate change. Save the planet.”

Westwood’s bespoke palladium collection includes elements inspired by the need to allow the environment to flourish. Designs from the collection are inspired by nature and symbols from paganism—the acorn, oak tree and a heart all feature prominently to represent strength, luck, power and hope for change to make the environment better for the future.

“The acorn is symbolic of the rainforest, its importance and how it is our first duty to save it,” Westwood said.

Westwood’s new jewelry line is being done in collaboration with Palladium Alliance International, an organization whose goal is to establish palladium as a luxurious, precious and distinctive metal for jewelry.

Originating from the platinum family of metals, palladium is naturally white, maintains its color for a lifetime, and is light and strong.

“We wanted Dame Vivienne Westwood to showcase palladium to the world because of her continued exploration and reinterpretation of history, combined with a tireless individualism, which has cemented her reputation as the U.K.'s most culturally significant fashion designer,” said John Stark, PAI Chairman. “We believe this creativity and individuality make her the perfect fit for the brand and her designs will complement our metal.”

In addition to the collaboration with Westwood, PAI is working with student designers in New York City and London to their talent with the metal.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Damiani Sparkles at the 2011 Golden Globe Awards

Joanna Garcia
Italian luxury jewelry house Damiani was present on the screen and the red carpet during the 2011 Golden Globes, held Sunday in Los Angeles.

In Luca Guadagnino’s I am Love, actress Tilda Swinton wears Damiani throughout the movie, nominated in the Best Foreign Film category. On the red carpet, Damiani was the choice of several stars.

 
Brenda Vacc
For example, Brenda Vaccaro, known for her performances in Once is not Enough and Midnight Cowboy, wore pieces from the Flutti collection. She co-starred with Al Pacino and Susan Sarandon in You don’t Know Jack, nominated for a Golden Globe this year in the Best Motion Picture Made for Television category.

Joanna Garcia, star of the comedy series, Better with You, walked the red carpet wearing Damiani’s Mimosa earrings and Vulcania ring. Jeryl Prescott, star of The Walking Dead, nominated in the Best Television Series – Drama category, accented her elegant look with a set diamond and emerald Sorgente earrings and the Damianissima bracelet.

Swatch Group 2010 Sales Sets New Record


The Swatch Group reported Wednesday that sales for 2010 totaled 6.4 billion Swiss Francs ($6.6 billion), an increase at constant exchange rates of 21.8 percent over 2009 and 12.7 percent over 2008, despite capacity bottlenecks and adverse exchange rates. At constant exchange rates, the increase was 28.1 percent.

“The extraordinary strength of our brand portfolio was again reflected in an excellent performance by the Watch segment in practically all markets and price segments,” the company said in a statement. “Outlook remains optimistic in the entire year 2011 for further strong organic sales growth.”

The company’s Watches & Jewelry segment reported a 21 percent year-over-year gain at constant exchange rates, with indications that double-digit growth will continue into at least January. The company has a far reaching group of watch brands, from mass market to luxury: Breguet, Blancpain, Glashütte Original, Jaquet Droz, Léon Hatot, Omega, Tiffany & Co., Longines, Rado, Union Glashütte, Tissot, ck watch & jewelry, Balmain, Certina, Mido, Hamilton, Swatch, Flik Flak, Endura and Tourbillon.

The production segment of the company, which supplies movements and components to third-party watchmakers in Switzerland and around the world, reported an increase of 7.5 percent for the year.

The electronics segment, which supply electronic systems used in watchmaking and other industries and in the field of sports event timing, reported an 11.7 percent gain, year-over-year.

The company also it expects an improved operating margin compared to the previous year as well as higher net profit for the year, despite an unfavorable currency conditions.

The decline of the dollar and the Euro caused a three percent drop in revenue, the company said. But despite this issue, Swatch Group said it expects strong growth in 2011.

“The Swatch Group will further generate dynamic and organic sales growth in 2011 and continue investment in its distribution and the expansion of its production capacities. the company said. “Sales in January 2011 are already exhibiting a positive trend with double-digit growth in local currencies. The optimistic expectations are supported by the Group’s strategic positioning in all market segments and its geographic presence throughout the world.”

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Fairest Diamond of them All, the Argyle Pink

A 2.02 cts. Argyle Pink diamond. This round brilliant fancy vivid purplish pink diamond was the largest of the 55 Argyle Pink diamonds that were tendered in 2010. Photo by Gary Roskin

They come from the land “down under.” Their singular source is a mine in a barren patch of Northwestern Australia. They are the Argyle Pink diamonds, among the rarest and most beautiful gems in the world.

Each year, Rio Tinto’s Argyle Diamond Mine produces 20 to 25 million carats of gem quality diamonds. Out of that bounty a relative handful of diamonds are good enough to be called “Tender Stones.” “These diamonds represent the true needles in the haystack,” according to gemologist Gary Roskin, in his story about the Argyle Pinks.

These diamonds are prized because of their deep, rich pink colors, which range from a light pink to almost red. Each year the diamonds considered good enough for tender go on a world tour of major cities where a select group of dealers can view the diamonds and bid on them. The dealers place private bids on the diamonds they want and go home and wonder if their bid was too high or low.

In 2010, 55 diamonds, ranging from 0.49 cts. to 2.02 cts. went on tour. As usual, when the diamonds came to New York, Roskin was the only person to view and photograph the diamonds for publication. He wrote all about it on his website, The Roskin Gem News Report, and provided lots of pictures, like the one above. In addition, he interviews a bidder and another professional who is an expert on color diamonds who attended the tender. Read all about it here.

Richline Group to Acquire Rosato

Simona Rosato
The Richline Group will be adding another brand to its portfolio as the company announced Monday that it is acquiring acquiring Italian jewelry brand and Rosato Srl. The two companies signed an agreement that will allow the acquisition to take place by the end of February.

Rosato, based in Arezzo and Milan, Italy, was founded by Simona Rosato in 1994 with the idea of turning fine gold and silver jewelry into a more trend-driven accessory. The company also owns the jewelry brands 7AR and Calgaro.

Richline Group is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway. It is a jewelry manufacturer and the largest importer of gold jeweler. The company, founded in 1997, owns several brands, including Andin, Bel-Oro and Michael Anthony.
“Rosato is another important and strategic addition to our brands. It is our first real expansion into the international arena for acquisitions and we have found a gem,” said Dennis Ulrich, Richline Group CEO. Rosato has a great product line, talented people and long term relationships with its clients.”

Simona Rosato added: “This is a great opportunity for my brand to grow and expand globally. I am sure we will be able to let the real Italian jewelry design be known and appreciated.”

Timepiece Tuesday: Helios Watch Receives GTE Superwatch Award


Technical innovation and craftsmanship are at the heart of the Swiss watchmaking universe. On Monday, that tradition was celebrated by naming the Helios timepiece, by Manufacture Jouvenot SA, as the winner of the GTE 2011 Superwatch Award. Nearly 30 companies submitted entries for this competition.

The Helios (named after the Greek God of sun) has a sun-shaped hour display which represents the path of the sun over a 24-hour period alternating between day and night. The timepiece has two faces, corresponding to day and night cycles, and displays the time without conventional hands, numerals or disks.

Each hour is represented by a radioconcentric sunbeam, i.e. starting from the centre and radiating towards the edge of the dial. The twelve sunbeams show the path of the sun on the dial while indicating the hour to come and the past hour. At midday all rays blaze like the light of the day, representing the sun at its zenith. As day become night, gradually, each sunbeam is replaced by a moonbeam. Twilight is reached, then midnight symbolized by twelve dark segments. The darkness of the face then reveals the disc with an opening in the form of the moon at the center of the watch. At dawn, the rays of the sun (as watch hands) are reactivated and the ambient light progressively returns as each hour passes.


Ressence (pictured above)  received a “Special Mention” for its Platform Watch, which has a rotating dial plate. Time is displayed by a flush mounted revolving dial that embodies all the graphical elements in one plane.

The award was announced Monday during the second day of the Geneva Time Exhibition—a trade fair for innovative, independent luxury watches. Held at the International Conference Center in Geneva, Switzerland, the fair consists of about 60 watch brands displaying their newest designs—including technological advancements, unique creations and exceptional craftsmanship—to thousands of watch lovers, private collectors, and watch dealers. The fair, which will run till January 21, along with Superwatch Award, is in its second year.

Frédéric Jouvenot, the company’s founder, received the GTE Superwatch Award: a Reuge musical box epitomizing Swiss mechanical prowess and avant-garde creativity. The prize also includes a free stand at next year's fair (GTE 2012); and the chance to appear on the cover of Plaza Watch after a free photo session with the magazine's team of professional photographers.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Richemont 3Q Jewelry Sales Up 20% and Watch Sales Up 21%


Cie. Financiere Richemont SA said Monday that third-quarter revenue rose 33 percent to 2.1 billion euro ($2.8 billion), led by the acquisition of online fashion retailer Net-a-Porter.com. At constant exchange rates (when currency shifts are removed) revenue grew 23 percent.

By category, the Swiss company’s jewelry business (made up of Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels), increased by 20 percent at constant exchange rates (30 percent actual exchange rates) to just over 1 billion Euros ($1.45 billion). Watch sales for the period ended December 31, increased 21 percent (30 percent at actual exchange rates) to 543 million Euros ($720 million). The watch business is made up of the following brands: Jaeger-LeCoultre, Piaget, IWC, Baume & Mercier, Vacheron Constantin, Officine Panerai, A. Lange & Söhne and Roger Dubuis.

By far the largest increase to company’s business is in its “Other” category (up 63 percent), which reflects the purchase last year of luxury e-commerce website, Net-a-Porter.

“Richemont’s Maisons performed well and saw good sales growth, particularly at the retail level, during the three-month period,” said Johann Rupert. Richemont executive chairman and Group CEO. “Sales in the month of December grew by 17 percent at constant exchange rates and excluding the impact of the Net-a-Porter acquisition.”

He added, “Higher comparative figures will make the final quarter of the financial year ending 31 March 2011 more challenging Gross margin is anticipated to be negatively affected by a stronger Swiss franc given the Group's Swiss manufacturing base and by the planned changes to product lines at one of the Group's Specialist Watchmakers, which will be largely implemented during the coming quarter.”

In addition to the companies listed, Richemont owns Montblanc, which makes writing instruments, Purdey, the luxury hunting gun maker, and Alfred Dunhill, the London-based maker of leather goods, fashion and lighters, as well as a watch and jewelry joint venture with Ralph Lauren.