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Friday, January 27, 2012

Ivanka Trump Moves Jewelry Boutique Downtown

The Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry boutique.

Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry has been expanding in a number of ways during the past year. The brand has released fine jewelry collections aimed at different markets. In addition, Trump herself has been traveling the world promoting the company’s collections to new audiences. To coincide with this expansion the brand recently moved from its “jewel box”-sized space on Madison Avenue to a 2,400 square-foot, bi-level boutique in SoHo giving its uptown chic a downtown vibe.

One of the standalone jewelry display cases.

The New York flagship store at 109 Mercer St. that opened in late November has many of the same luxurious and feminine qualities of the prior store along with dedicated spaces for a lounge, bridal jewelry and special events. Designed by NY3Design, the space uses art deco and classical elements in black and white (the colors of the brand) along with large touches of Ivanka Trump’s signature coral, and light brown and cream tones. And, of course, there are plenty of mirrors.

The VIP room and lounge.

The store houses nearly all of the Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry collections along with accessories from some of her other product lines. Entering the long narrow space, the first items shown are designed to be accessible to younger jewelry lovers, such as those who live in the neighborhood. Strolling along a custom-designed white carpet with black patterns (created by ABC Carpet & Home), the space narrows a bit where there’s a full-length mirror on the left and a mirrored wall on the right with shelving and spaces that contains more upscale jewelry designs along with Ivanka Trump handbags and other accessories. In between is an updated version of standalone antique display case, using a curved solid white frame topped with a separate glass case. These standalone displays are located throughout the store.

The stairway that leads to the bridal salon.

As you continue the space opens again to a small lounge area. The area is a place where men can wait while their significant other is shopping. The folks at Ivanka Trump swear that men are welcome but this is a store designed for women (even the lounge area). Beside the lounge there’s a separate “VIP” room for private consultations. This area contains Trump’s new Downtown jewelry collection, created specifically for the new store. 

The view of the bridal salon from above.

Past the open space a large Schonbek chandelier hangs overhead. Beneath it is the lower level, which serves as the store’s dedicated bridal salon. You descend into the space on a stairwell. The bridal area contains individual display cases showing Trump’s wedding bands along with ethically sourced engagement rings and bridal jewelry. Comfortable sofas, chairs and tables, and even a makeup table, giving a touch of home, are located throughout the area. This space is large enough for bridal parties and other special events, including the “Champaign Saturdays” that were popular at the Madison Avenue store.

The furnishings inside the bridal salon.

What’s next for the jewelry brand? A move to China? Stay tuned.

Royal Asscher and CoutureLab to Support the Seven Bar Foundation

This Shining Stars ring is among the Royal Asscher jewelry that will be available on CoutureLab. Photo credit: Royal Asscher

Royal Asscher said Thursday that it is selling jewelry from its Stars of Africa and Shining Stars collections on the website CoutureLab to benefit the Seven Bar Foundation.

CoutureLab is a luxury gift website that sells fine and rare products that focus on quality, heritage and craftsmanship. Seven Bar Foundation is a social enterprise that empowers women in the developing world by providing microfinance opprtunities that fuels local businesses that enrich communities.

A total of 20 percent of retail profit from sales of Royal Asscher jewelry on CoutureLab will benefit the Seven Bar Foundation and help extend ladders to women out of poverty.

Royal Asscher’s Stars of Africa and Shining Stars collections consist of diamonds encased within fluid-filled sapphire domes, which allow the diamonds to float freely like snowflakes in a snow globe. The result is cascading diamonds that emit light, fire and beauty. Each piece is handcrafted by expert craftsmen in Florence, Italy.

The idea behind the Stars of Africa and Shining Stars jewelry lines has always been to raise funds and awareness for children’s programs in Africa through its Star of Africa initiative. This is just another way for the company and priduct to achieve this goal, said. Renata Black, founder of the Seven Bar Foundation says, “We are honored to call the Royal Asscher.
In addition, Royal Asscher, founded in 1854 and known for cutting some of largest and most famous diamonds in history, fits right in with a website that focuses on heritage.

“Royal Asscher supports CoutureLab founder Carmen Busquets’ vision for her website as a place where the stories of the products and the people behind them would be celebrated—where clients could not only learn about the heritage and see the true value of it, but also fall in love and own a piece of it,” said Lita Asscher, president of Royal Asscher of America.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Beny Steinmetz Group to Float Sierra Leone Diamond Mine

Koidu diamond mine in Sierra Leone

The Beny Steinmetz Group, will soon issue an initial public offering for its Koidu diamond mine in Sierra Leone, according to the Financial Times and other reports.

The privately held natural resources company will issue its float on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in later half of 2012 through a spinoff company called Octea, which serves as the holding company for the mine, according to the report. It will attempt to raise $400 million to $600 million and achieve a valuation of $2 billion to $3 billion.

BSG reportedly says the mine is expected to produce 500,000 carats this year and buyers of the its diamonds include Tiffany & Co.

It’s the latest attempt to take advantage of rising diamond demand in Asia along with dwindling supply. The Oppenheimer family, which owned a major stake in De Beers, sold out to its partner Anglo America for $5.1 billion. Russian diamond mining giant Alrosa is also reportedly attempting a listing. Other investment vehicles are being developed by luxury retailer Harry Winston, which has a 40-percent stake in the Diavik Diamond Mine in the Northwest Territories of Canada, diamond dealer Martin Rapaport, who is known for his Rap Diamond Price List, and Clive Cowdery, the founder of the U.K. insurance company, Resolution.

This float also highlights the dramatic changes of the diamond mining industry in the west African country. In the 1990s, the illicit use diamond mines were used by rebel groups to fund the attempted overthrow of the government and commit atrocities on its citizens, including mass murder, mutilations and virtual slavery in the diamond mines. It eventually led to ban of diamonds from the country.

The fact that Tiffany, which prides itself on being a good corporate citizen, is now sourcing diamonds from the mine showcases the international effort to end the abuse of the illicit diamond trade and its ability to bring stability to the country.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Guest Blog on EG Studio

London-based EG Studio showcases handmade jewelry and accessories from more than 60 independent jewelry designers from around the world. It is owned and operated by Elizabeth Galton (pictured), the former head of design at Links of London, who serves as a curator, selecting the designers and pieces that will be featured and sold on its website or its London showroom.

I was recently asked to do a guest blog for the website on trends in the Asian market. The result can be found here. Please take a look at the blog post and the EG Studio website.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Emotional Marketing: Three Ways to Surprise Your Clients

This is one of a series of articles by Mónica Arias of Excellence Consulting, a luxury sales and marketing consulting firm based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. These articles will focus on ways that sales and marketing professional in the jewelry and luxury industries can improve their techniques.

We are slowly leaving the age of knowledge and information. Businesses are now being flooded by the age of transformation represented by emotions and well being. This process applies to all of us. You can transform yourself and benefit greatly by assisting your clients with high value service.

For you to be tuned into this new paradigm, you need to focus on crafting ways to surprise them emotionally. Here are three steps you can easily put into practice at practically no cost.

Write a “Thank You” email
“Thank You” emails have the effect to make a great emotional impact on clients (although some of them would hardly recognize it) specially if the text not only includes a “Thank You phrase.” Try being kind but involve yourself a little bit through your message: An example would be:

Dear Ms XX,
Thank you so much for your purchase of XXX…in our store at ZZZ. It has been a real pleasure to meet you and assist you in acquiring the magnificent… (description of pieces, name of collection, materials, etc). Let me also say that having the chance to learn through you about XXX (here you may recall parts of the conversation, or a special topic you both talked about) was really interesting and I appreciate very much the time you spent talking about it with me.
I would also like to express my gratitude for having chosen our company on this occasion and look forward to staying in touch so I can assist you shop further in the near future.
Thank you very much!

Leave a short voice message 
Once you sent the “thank you” email, wait for two or three weeks and leave a short message either in the client´s answering machine or cell phone, saying something like this:

Hello Ms XX…this is XXX from … Hope you are doing great. Just a brief message to learn how are you enjoying your new… (repeat description of the jewel  here). Please feel free to call me at XXX or email me at XXX and tell me how you feel wearing it (them) as I will be delighted to hear from you. Look forward to hearing from you soon. Thank you very much … bye bye.

The bad news is many clients will never reply to your emails or voice messages. The good news is some of them definitely will, and they are the ones you will have to surprise with step number three:

Invite your client to come back 
If your client has answered you via email or phone, you need to be ready to invite them back to the arena in writing (even if you have talked only half a minute on the phone). Try something like this:

Dear Ms XX:
What a nice surprise it was to learn about you and have the chance to chat! Thank you so much for sharing a moment with me about how you are deeply enjoying your new (repeat description of pieces).
Since I promised to keep in touch, I am excited to tell you I have received some new pieces that can match perfectly well with your (repeat description of pieces and collection if applicable). Here are some pictures for you to enjoy (do not get stuck in trying to find the “perfect kind of photo” to be sent, any picture taken with your cell would do for the sake of emotional impact).
Aren´t they just lovely? Wish you could stop by and try them on since I truly think you will definitely adore them. How about having a drink (coffe, sip of champagne, whatever) in our store next week and give them a try? Is Wednesday afternoon for instance, a good time for you to set apart and share a new magical moment with me?
I can´t wait for your answer!

Although there are plenty of situations in which these three steps will not apply, you can play with the patterns here and use other words from your own emotional vocabulary to adjust your pre and post sales processes and show expertise and concern. You can easily learn to connect not just speak to your clients, both verbally and in writing.

More strategies you commit to, the more you will connect, listen to and learn about your clients. Be patient and keep on learning as time is essential in the construction of trust.

In order to expand their highs and show their magnificence and beauty for us to appreciate, some trees take a long time to let their first shoots be seen. In the meantime, you could say “nothing” was “really going on” because you were not able to “see” the physical plant growing.

Excellenct service cannot be “seen” or “measured” either, at least, initially. However, it will be a gradual process that will give you and your clients enormous satisfactions, because even when you think nothing is going on, your clients will feel it, experience it and remember it, right from the very beginning.

Mónica M. Arias
Excellence Expert & Consultant: Helping you discover how to reach your next level through excellence.
Copyright 2012

Monday, January 16, 2012

Richemont Q3 Revenue Up 24%

The Cartier store on 5th Avenue in New York. One of Richemont's luxury brands.

Luxury goods conglomerate Cie. Financiere Richemont SA said Monday that third quarter revenue increased 24 percent year-over-year to 2.62 billion euros ($3.32 billion) with all regions and nearly all of its brands reporting double-digit increases.

Revenue for the month of December alone rose 21 percent, compared with the same period of the prior year.

“The group’s overall performance remains solid,” said Johann Rupert, executive chairman and Group CEO. “The group’s activities over the past nine months enable us to reconfirm our expectations that operating profit for the full year will be significantly higher than last year.”

The largest increase for the Geneva-based company by region was is Asia, which reported a 36-percent rise for the period to 1.05 billion euros ($1.33 billion). Asia is now the company’s biggest market accounting for about 40 percent of total sales.

Europe, its second-largest market, saw sales increase 15 percent for the period to 914 million euros ($1.15 billion). In the Americas, revenue rose 24 percent to 382 million euros ($484 million). In Japan, revenue increased 10 percent to 272 million euros.

Among its jewelry brands (Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels) sales rose by 25 percent to $1.36 billion ($1.72 billion).

In its specialist watchmakers division (Jaeger-LeCoultre, Piaget, IWC, Baume & Mercier, Vacheron Constantin, Officine Panerai, A. Lange & Söhne and Roger Dubuis, as well as the Ralph Lauren Watch and Jewelry joint venture) sales increased 27 percent to 697 million euros ($884 million).

Montblanc, listed as a separate division was the only brand to post less than double-digit gains for the period at 1 percent growth to 220 million euros ($279 million).

Among brands Alfred Dunhill, Lancel, Net-a-Porter and Chloé, listed as “Other” by the company, sales rose 29 percent to 339 million euros ($430 million).

Retail Sales Expected to Increase by 3.4% in 2012, NRF Says

Photo Credit: The Oregonian

Retail industry sales are expected to rise 3.4 percent to $2.53 trillion in 2012, according to the National Retail Federation—slightly lower than the pace of 2011, in which sales grew 4.7 percent. NRF excludes the sales of autos, gas and restaurants in its definition of retail sales.

Many economists estimate that real U.S. GDP will rise approximately 2.1 to 2.4 percent as the economy is still being plagued by stubbornly high unemployment and uncertainty over job growth, NRF says.

“Our 2012 forecast is a vote of confidence in the retail industry and our ability to succeed even in a challenging economy, said Matthew Shay, NRF president and CEO “Over the last 18 months, retailers have been on the forefront of the economic recovery – creating jobs, encouraging consumer spending, and investing in America.”

Many factors will continue to influence the expected slowdown in consumer spending, but none remain more cumbersome than the stalled unemployment rate and lack of newly-created jobs, NRF said. A number of factors contributed to NRF’s 2012 economic forecast, including:

* Employment: The number of Americans out of work is at its lowest level in nearly three years, and the rise in employment and hours worked should bolster income and spending.

* Income growth: Consumers are constrained by modest growth in income. Congress extended the cuts in payroll taxes and unemployment benefits for only two months. While these provide a lift, and are likely, consumers may act cautiously until both are approved. Income is predicted to lag consumption on a year-over-year basis.

* Housing: While most of the economic reports dealing with housing have shown a little more strength, these reports should be treated with caution, as some of the improvement is due in part to unseasonably mild weather. NRF expects home sales and construction will improve slightly in 2012 with low interest rates and affordability at an almost 30 year high.

* Inflation: Increase costs have been a drain on consumer purchasing power due to extraordinary agricultural commodity price inflation as well as high oil prices due to global geopolitical tensions. NRF expects inflation to slow down near a two percent range. Rising gas prices may also put pressure on spending.

* Consumer Credit: Easier lending standards are expanding consumer credit. Revolving credit appeared to break out from its holding pattern showing a big surge in November, which indicates consumers have confidence to take on debt.

* Consumer confidence: Confidence continues to rebound from August lows but remains fragile given volatile financial market conditions and anemic housing markets.

Holiday Retail Sales Season Ends With 4.1% Rise, NRF says

Photo Credit: Reuters

Retail industry sales for the 2011 holiday season increased 4.1 percent, year-over-year, to $471.5 billion, according to the National Retail Federation, beating its expectation of 3.8 percent growth.

The holiday season defined by NRF runs from November 1 till December 31. Sales figures exclude automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants.

"The right mix of strong promotions, lean inventories and an emphasis on value put retailers in the perfect position to end the year on a high note," said Matthew Shay, NRF president and CEO. “A better-than-expected holiday season is welcome news for an economic recovery that continues to be sluggish, and demonstrates retail’s powerful role as an engine of growth.”

December retail industry sales increased 4.1 percent unadjusted year-over-year and declined .06 percent seasonally adjusted from November.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Commerce Department reports that December retail sales (which include non-general merchandise categories such as autos, gasoline stations and restaurants) increased 0.1 percent seasonally adjusted over November and 6.2 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

Consumers stocked up on discretionary gift items in December, including home décor items, sporting goods, books and personal care items, NRF said. Despite a warmer-than-usual month, apparel sales performed extremely well. Though electronics and appliance stores saw growth in November, the shift in spending put a damper on those stores’ December sales.

Gold Bars Designed by Jean-Paul Gaultier

As if it hasn't been exciting enough in the gold gold investment world the past few years, French couturier Jean-Paul Gaultier is upping the ante with designer gold bars.

The fashion icon known for his haute couture and fragrances has put his very own design on a limited number of one-ounce gold bars. Dillon Gage Metals, a precious metals dealer, is the U.S. distributor for the designer bars.

"Never before has a fashion icon designed a gold ingot,” says Terry Hanlon, president of Dillon Gage Metals. “The Gaultier bar is a one-of-a-kind, limited-quantity collector's piece that not only is a great investment but it will also become a piece of history.”
The specially designed gold bar is engraved with a heart marked with Gaultier's trademark sailor stripe. Golden rays radiate around the heart. Above that is a scroll-like banner displaying the Jean-Paul Gaultier name.

The bars will be sold at 10 percent higher than the spot price for gold plus a $25 handling charge, the Wall Street Journal reports. Only 5,000 have been made.

For more information or to purchase the one-ounce gold bars, call Dillon Gage at 800-527-7034.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Wendy Rosen: From Businesswoman and Arts Advocate to Politician

This is a repost of a story that I wrote for

Washington needs some right-brain thinkers to develop creative ways for this country to get its people back to work and keep Main Street vibrant. That’s the pitch from Wendy Rosen: successful businesswoman, arts advocate, small business advocate, and now a candidate for Congress.

Rosen, 57, is running as a Democrat for the U.S. House seat in Maryland’s First Congressional District. The suburban Baltimore resident and “recovering Republican” has long grown weary of the way small businesses, which she defines as fewer than 20 employees, are treated, particularly during this economic recession.

“What we know for sure is that 78 percent of all new jobs created in this country are created by family owned businesses on Main Street and startups,” she says. “Yet less than 1 percent of all small business administration funding goes to businesses of that size. In the financial crisis, Congress rushed to fix all the big businesses, the Wall Street banks, the insurance companies, but Main Street businesses are still in crisis.”

Rosen is best known as founder of the Rosen Group, which on the surface is a publishing and tradeshow company for artists and crafts persons who work in many mediums. (This is how I’ve known Rosen, though we’ve never met, since her tradeshows attracts many fine jewelry designers.) However, the company’s main purpose is as an economic development organization for artists who are also small business owners. “What we’re really doing is helping individual artists and craft retailers succeed in business, which stimulates local, state, regional and even national economies,” she says on the Rosen Group website.

And a lot of that work is political and advocacy oriented. She spends about three days each month on Capitol Hill when Congress is in session advocating for these small business owners and for American made goods and services. She is extremely active with organizing events, through social media platforms like facebook, by providing business seminars and workshops, and publishing pertinent business information to help these creative persons.

In the past few years, she says she has grown increasingly frustrated with the way foreign products are fraudulently sold as American-made goods because of lax law enforcement; how foreign-made products are replacing American-made goods; and how small businesses are being left behind during this economic recession and slow recovery.

“I know people who have reduced the size of their payroll by 50 percent,” she says. “Many have not taken a paycheck for up to four years. Something has got to change quickly for our little Main Streets across America before vacancy signs appear everywhere.”

Her frustration has grown to disenchantment with the Republican Party, which she says only supports big business and eventually led to her decision to run for Congress as a Democrat.

“I always thought the Republican Party supported small business and included small business in that definition (of being pro-business),” she says. “I think the Democratic Party is more receptive to creative ideas needed to revitalize our smallest businesses. The Republican Party represents the defense industry and the insurance industry. They talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.”

She added that, unlike most elected officials in Washington, she has experience as a job creator and that her goals for small business would be better served as an insider than as an advocate.

“I really need to be able to be inside and not outside in order to accomplish these things,” she says. “There are very few people who understand job creation. I created 50,000 jobs over the past 30 years. I know what it takes to be competitive in manufacturing, entrepreneurship and in the revitalization of Main Street. Some solutions are obvious and many don’t require legislation or money. They only require an executive order.”

One such order would force foreign manufacturers to place an indelible marking on products that shows country of origin. Right now, they only use stickers that are easily removed by anyone at any point in the distribution chain or the aftermarket.

“That one executive order could create 50,000 jobs overnight,” she says. “Because there are people who want to buy American and they are being defrauded.”

One of her frequent targets is The Smithsonian Institute, whose museum shops sell American-themed products made in foreign countries.

She is looking for a creative plan and support from the federal government to help small-scale manufacturers grow their businesses. She sees deregulation as only helping large companies. She also wants to see the small business redefined. Right now, she says a small business is defined by having fewer than 100 employees.

“The rest of us define a small business as less than 20 employees,” she says. “That’s a lie to voters and constituents. And it doesn’t matter what party you’re associated with.”

She adds, “Most legislators come from a left brain, linear point of view. It’s time for right brain people to go to Congress. They can use creative ways to come up with solutions. I would not want to be in a sinking boat with left-brain people. I want to be on that boat with creative problem solvers.”

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Longtime Jewelers of America CEO to Resign

Matthew A. Runci, president and CEO of Jewelers of America, announced Thursday that he is retiring from the national trade association for businesses serving the fine jewelry retail marketplace after 17 years at the helm. His resignation becomes effective at the end of the year.

“Matt’s contribution to Jewelers of America and its industry leadership role, both nationally and internationally, is immeasurable. In addition to strengthening good governance practices at JA and developing an active and dedicated board of directors, he was instrumental in the formation of the Responsible Jewellery Council and has been involved from the start with the Kimberley Process,” Georgie Gleim, JA board chair, said in a statement. “Our industry owes him a debt of gratitude. His dedication to JA has ensured that a transition to new leadership will be a smooth process, positioning the organization for its future.”

Runci informed the association’s executive committee of his decision on January 6. JA has asked Runci to remain during a transition period and to continue to assist the association with its work in the area of responsible business practices in 2013.

A search committee has been appointed that will commence work shortly, JA said. The association actually began formal succession planning in 2009.

Runci joined JA as President & CEO in 1995. He had previously served as CEO of Manufacturing Jewelers & Suppliers of America, where he held several positions over a 16-year period. Prior to that, he taught international politics, law and foreign policy at the university level.

He holds a PhD in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia and a BA in History from Boston College. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, the 24 Karat Club of New York City and is a past president of the Boston Jewelers Club.

Runci and his wife, Laraine, reside in Connecticut. They have two children and six grandchildren.

Girard-Perregaux Hires Legendary Watchmaker Dominique Loiseau

Dominique Loiseau at work

Legendary watchmaker Dominique Loiseau has joined Girard-Perregaux as part of the Swiss luxury watch brand's manufacturing team.

Loiseau has worked at the highest levels of complex horology for more than 30 years and is the creator of several remarkable timepieces, including six Montres de Sables, the Rose de Temps clock, the Renaissance or Capriccio pocket watches and the famed Blancpain 1735 wristwatch. His latest timepiece, the Loiseau 1f4, is the most complicated automatic watch in the industry with eight patents in its movement.

A restorer of collectors’ timepieces, artisan and teacher at the International Museum of Watchmaking in La Chaux-de-Fonds, where the Girard-Perregaux manufacture is located, Loiseau said he is no stranger to Girard-Perregaux.

“Girard-Perregaux is a unique brand in that it is a true manufacturer founded in very rich history and heritage”, Loiseau said of the watch brand that traces its origins back to 1791. “I am very excited to have become a part of this amazing team and look forward to a successful partnership”.

Loiseau was brought in by the Sowind Group (Girard-Perregaux and JeanRichard) during the last quarter of 2011 in order to strengthen the brand’s “think tank,” the company said in a statement Thursday. He will bring a new and fresh perspective to the brand but has also taken on the project of developing new complications and movements.

“We are extremely happy to have a man such as Dominique Loiseau on board,” said Michele Sofisti, CEO of Sowind Group (Girard-Perregaux and JeanRichard). “He is a true visionary, a legend within our world, but more importantly, he understands the values Girard-Perregaux.”

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Birks & Mayors Holiday Sales Total $79.5 Million

Luxury jewelry retailer Birks & Mayors Inc.said Tuesday that net sales during holiday season (October 30, 2011, - December 24, 2011) increased by 5 percent, year-over-year, to $79.5 million.

The $4 million increase in net sales was driven by 3 percent increase in comparable store sales and higher revenues related to precious metal refining services offered to the company’s customers in Canada, partially offset by $600,000 of lower sales related to translating the sales of the company’s Canadian operations into U.S. dollars with a relatively weaker Canadian dollar.

The Montreal-based company’s primary business is the ownership and operation of the Birks luxury jewelry retail chain in Canada and the Mayor’s luxury jewelry retail chain in the southeastern United States.

Comparable store sales during the holiday season increased by 3 percent on a consolidated basis with comparable store sales in Canada increasing by 4 percent and U.S. comparable store sales growing by 2 percent, the company said. The stronger sales results in both Canada and the U.S. reflect an increase in the average sale.

“The holiday season began with good sales momentum, however, during the final weeks before Christmas we experienced strong declines in customer traffic in our stores,” said Thomas A. Andruskevich, Birks & Mayors president and CEO. “As such, our sales increases during the holiday period were somewhat softer than what we would have liked to see.”

David Yurman Looks to Urban Outfitters for New CEO

Glen Senk
Glen T. Senk has been named CEO of the David Yurman luxury jewelry and timepiece company, effective, February 27. Senk most recently served as the CEO of Urban Outfitters, Inc. His appointment includes an ownership stake in the privately owned and operated company.

"We have known and respected Glen for more than a decade—as much for his creative vision and inspired leadership as for his exceptional management and operational ability. His arrival will allow us to truly focus on what we love doing – designing – while we collectively build an even greater global brand and the company we've always wanted," said David and Sybil Yurman, founders of David Yurman.

Senk’s career with Urban Outfitters began in April 1994 when he joined Anthropologie as president of what was then a single-store prototype, growing the concept into a $1 billion-plus multi-channel, multi-national brand. Senk was named executive VP of Urban Outfitters in May 2002, elected to the company's board of directors in June 2004 and named CEO in May 2007. Prior to joining Urban Outfitters, Senk served as senior VP and general merchandise manager of Williams-Sonoma, Inc. and CEO for the London-based Habitat International Merchandise and Marketing Group. Senk's retail career began at Bloomingdale's in 1981 where he ultimately became senior VP and managing director of Bloomingdale’s By Mail, Ltd.

Senk, 55, holds a BA degree from New York University and an MBA degree from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business where he was named alumnus of the year in 2010. In 2010, he was ranked within Fortune Magazine's Top 50 Businesspeople of the Year and named the FGI Corporate Leader of the Year. He serves on the boards of David Yurman, Tory Burch, and Melissa & Doug, and he serves as chairman of the Vetri Foundation.

Montblanc Honors Princess Grace with a Sparkling Collection

Princess Grace

There may be no greater symbol of royalty, style and fashion than Grace Kelly. The Philadelphia-born actress was thrust into the international spotlight when she married Rainier III, Prince of Monaco, and became known throughout the world as Princess Grace. It was a role she was born to play and till this day she is looked upon as one the world’s great fashion icons.

With this in mind, Montblanc, has created the “Collection Princesse Grace de Monaco,” as a tribute to the person and the place. It is a limited-edition collection of jewelry, timepieces and writing instruments, encompassing the specialties of the luxury brand. All of the pieces are embellished with filigree petal cut stones, honoring the Grace de Monaco pink rose, a flower named after Kelly in 1956 for her wedding day. Diamonds and pink sapphires are strong influences in the collection.

The collection comes with a charity partnership between Montblanc and the Princess Grace Foundation-USA, which assists emerging talents in the performing arts.

The haute joaillerie collection is made up of three one-of-a-kind sets featuring petal cut stones and diamonds. Each set includes a necklace of cascading pink sapphires and diamonds (pictured), long earrings ending with drop cut pink sapphires and a refined matching bracelet.

The timepiece collection consists of a limited edition of eight watches in 18k red gold with 76 baguette cut diamonds on the bezel and the horns (3.30 cts.). The crown is topped with the Montblanc diamond (0.05 ct, F-G color). There’s a three-dimensional pink sapphire drop at 6 o’clock. The flange and dial are set with a cascade of 177 brilliant cut diamonds (0.53 cts.). The dial is made of white mother-of-pearl. A white alligator strap and a buckle are set with 76 brilliant cut diamonds (0.32 cts.).The case back is engraved with the Princesse Grace de Monaco monogram.

The fountain pen, available in a limited edition of three as a tribute to Princess Grace’s three children, is crafted entirely of champagne colored solid gold with diamonds and rubies on the cap and barrel. The Principality of Monaco coat of arms provided the inspiration for a circle of rhomboid-shaped cut rubies arranged on the cap of the writing instrument. The piece is topped with a heart-shaped hole of the gold nib and the finely engraved Princesse Grace de Monaco monogram on the cap-top.

Zale Corp. Reports Strong Holiday Sales for Second Consecutive Year

Zale Corp. said Tuesday that comparable store sales increased 5.9 percent, year-over-year, for the November-December holiday sales period. This increase follows an 8.5 period rise in the same period in the prior year.

Within this two-month period, comparable store sales increased 10.1 percent in November and 4.2 percent in December. At constant exchange rates, which exclude the effect of translating Canadian currency denominated sales into U.S. dollars, comparable store sales increased 6.2 percent for the holiday selling period, compared to an increase of 7.6 period in the prior year period.

Revenues for the two-month period increased 5.8 percent, year-over-year, to $564 million. Revenues include approximately $10 million resulting from the change in warranty revenue recognition.

Zale Corp. operates approximately 1,820 retail locations in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico and has online operations for most of its brands.

Sales by brand and country:

* U.S. Fine Jewelry brands (which account for about 69 percent of annual revenue for the company), consisting of Zales Jewelers, Zales Outlet and Gordon’s Jewelers, had an increase in comparable store sales of 9 percent for the holiday period. This increase follows a 7.5 period rise in the same period last year.

* Canadian Fine Jewelry brands (which account for about 17 percent of annual revenue for the company), consisting of Peoples Jewellers and Mappins Jewellers, had an increase in comparable store sales of 0.2 percent. This increase follows a 15.6 percent rise in the same period last year. At constant exchange rates, Canadian Fine Jewelry brands comparable store sales increased 1.7 percent, compared to an increase of 10.2 percent in the prior year period.

* Kiosk Jewelry (which accounts for about 14 percent of annual revenue for the company) comparable store sales decreased 2.1 percent. In the same period last year, Kiosk Jewelry comparable store sales rose 4.2 percent.

In its outlook for the quarter ending January 31, Zale Corp. says it expects gross margin to be consistent with the prior year quarter’s gross margin of 50.3 percent. Operating margin is expected to be slightly below the prior year quarter’s operating margin of 7 percent due to higher selling, general and administrative expenses primarily driven by the holiday advertising campaign and marketing for the launch of proprietary products.

Three Language Secrets to Improve Your Sales

This is one of a series of articles by Mónica Arias of Excellence Consulting, a luxury sales and marketing consulting firm based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. These articles will focus on ways that sales and marketing professional in the jewelry and luxury industries can improve their techniques.

Language is one of the most important means of communication. Words are vital components of language, and so are gestures, looks, movements, sounds, art, music, and of course, silence. (Many people feel uncomfortable with silence, yet, it is such a remarkable excellent tool both in life and in sales.)

As effective communicators, we sales people need to be aware of our messages: sometimes “unwanted” words and gestures come up, and fluid communication becomes somewhat difficult. That is why it is so important to think how we are going to use words with clients before actually being with them. Rehearsing some language secrets in advance will turn your communication into a more fluent, transient and empowering experience for your clients.

Secret Number One: Avoid Labeling
Broadly speaking, when we openly or mentally label a situation, a person, a feature of ourselves, it is always with a negative connotation which tends to limit possible different ways to keep on growing, especially in the sales arena. This is because labeling is a means to narrow our minds and has the effect to “filter in” only the information that will serve as consistent evidence that back-up the labels we created. You need to remember that our mind is sometimes tricky: you cannot trust it very much; it may lead you to make big mistakes.

So, in order to avoid labeling, every time you have a tendency to judge, simply act as a judge and instead, use language to reason, ask yourself: “What is the real evidence I count on to make such an assumption about this person, situation, myself, whatever?” “What questions could I make in order to learn more about this and check if I am making a sound conclusion or a stupid one?” “Why do I post this “identity label” to myself and keep it in my mind when it does not help me in my work—and life—at all? What is it I need to say or do differently in order to produce the outcomes I desire?

To help you with self-criticism, just refer to (the situation, the other person – whatever ) in a positive, inquiring manner: “I am such a great salesperson! Isn't it great I am able to improve my performance by learning new language strategies?” “She is a very reserved and quiet client, what could I say to her (or what words would I choose) to open up the dialogue without sounding pushy or invasive given her reluctance to speak?

Note that whenever I get you through this column, I reinforce the idea of making lots of open questions everyday, all day long. They are really helpful and have the advantage of erasing all psychological tricks to labeling.

Secret Number Two: Use Tag Questions
This is such a simple, wonderful and effective technique. You will find it very useful, especially when you have established good rapport with clients. Question Tags are known as “positive change facilitators” in Neurolinguistics because they reinforce “buy-in” behaviors. You can even apply them to reinforce the client´s “mood” of the moment: “You know Ms. XX, I truly believe you are going to enjoy this beautiful ring for many years to come and in plenty of occasions, don´t you agree?”

I am pretty sure once you start noticing how helpful this tool is in getting results, and once you feel comfort in expressing question tags,  you will feel encouraged to use it more in your daily working routine.
Secret Number Three: Neutralize objections with “And…”
Your clients will come up with thousands of diverse objections rather than price or payment. They will tell you even interesting things about family matters if they have in mind to get you up in their roller coaster of “not being sure” or “not being ready” to purchase. We know and expect that. After all, it is in the very core of human nature to struggle a bit before closing a deal, just because…

Therefore, when a client posts an objection and he/she says something like: “I am really scared to make this step,” take a few seconds and magnetize your suggestion: “I understand Mr XX…and that means you are someone conscious about your important choices. Plus, fear is part of human nature, isn´t it? Although I am sure you will agree that our best decisions come associated with a little bit of fear just because it is an ingredient of getting something is worth having. Don´t you think so?”

As professional salespeople in the luxury market however, we have today what I believe is an unprecedented historical opportunity to take advantage of the person-to-person interaction. You can harness language tools and use them purposefully in the direction of positive change, whether it is closing a sale or coming to an agreement.

Make the effort. Study these secrets further and apply them right away, they will help you go beyond your imagination and sales goals.

Mónica M. Arias
Excellence Expert & Consultant: Helping you discover how to reach your next level through excellence.
Copyright 2011

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Signet Holiday Same Store Sales Up 7.8%

Kay Jewelers is operated by Signet Jewelers.

Signet Jewelers Ltd. said Tuesday that same-store sales for the nine-week holiday season grew by 7.8 percent, year-over-year.

The Bermuda-based company bills itself as the largest specialty retail jeweler in the U.S. and the U.K.,

In the U.S., which accounts for about 80 percent of total group sales, same-store sales increased 9.2 percent for the holiday period. The company operates Kay Jewelers, Jared The Galleria Of Jewelry and a number of regional brands.

In the U.K., which accounts for about 20 percent of total group sales, same-store sales rose by 1.8 percent for the period. Last season, same-store fell in the U.K. The company operates H.Samuel, Ernest Jones, and Leslie Davis retail chains.

Internet sales rose by 24 percent for the period, the company said during a conference call.

Based on the results, the company, which operates approximately 1,860 retail jewelry stores in the U.S. and U.K., now expects its income in fiscal 2012 to increase from 64 to 67 percent to $494 to $501 million.

Tiffany Holiday Sales Up 7%

Holiday sales at Tiffany's New York flagship fell 1 percent.

Tiffany & Co. said Tuesday that its worldwide net sales in the two months ended December 31 increased 7 percent, year-over-year, to $952 million with robust sales in Asia were offset by weaker sales growth in the U.S. and Europe.

“After achieving very strong and better-than-expected sales and earnings growth in the first three quarters of 2011, sales weakened markedly in the United States and Europe during the holiday season, reflecting restrained spending by consumers for fine jewelry,” said Michael J. Kowalski, Tiffany chairman and CEO.

The luxury jeweler reported double-digit sales growth in Asia-Pacific and Japan regions and smaller increases in the Americas and Europe. On a constant-exchange-rate basis excluding the effect of translating foreign-currency-denominated sales into U.S. dollars, worldwide net sales rose 6 percent and same store sales increased 4 percent.

In the Americas region—which includes the United States, Canada and Latin America—sales rose 4 percent to $503 million. On a constant-exchange-rate basis, total sales increased 4 percent and same store sales rose 2 percent—with same Americas' branch store sales rose 3 percent and New York flagship store sales declined 1 percent). Higher sales to tourists from outside the U.S. were partly offset by weakness in spending by U.S. customers. Combined Internet and catalog sales in the Americas were 4 percent below last year.

Sales in the Asia-Pacific region increased 19 percent to $165 million. On a constant-exchange-rate basis, total sales increased 18 percent and same store sales increased 12 percent due to growth in most countries.

In Japan, sales increased 13 percent to $160 million. On a constant-exchange-rate basis, total sales rose 5 percent and same store sales increased 6 percent.

Sales in Europe increased 1 percent to $117 million. On a constant-exchange-rate basis, total sales increased 2 percent and same store sales declined 4 percent, reflecting modest sales growth in Continental Europe and lower sales in the U.K.

The Company currently operates 246 stores (102 in the Americas, 57 in Asia-Pacific, 55 in Japan and 32 in Europe), versus 232 (96 in the Americas,  51 in Asia-Pacific, 56 in Japan and 29 in Europe) a year ago.

Other sales, which primarily include wholesale sales of finished products to independent distributors within emerging markets and wholesale sales of rough diamonds, increased 8 percent to $8 million.

“We are now estimating that earnings per diluted share for the fiscal year ending January 31, 2012 will increase 23 percent – 25 percent to a range of $3.60 - $3.65. This estimate compares with a prior forecast made in November of $3.70 - $3.80 per diluted share and our initial fiscal 2011 outlook provided last March of $3.35 - $3.45 per diluted share,” Kowalski said. “We are in the preliminary stages of financial planning for 2012 and will provide more detailed guidance when we report our full year financial results in March.”

Swatch Group Reports Record Sales

Swatch Times Square store.

Swatch Group saw its 2011 gross sales increase 21.7 percent, year-over-year, to 7.14 billion Swiss francs ($7.5 billion) with December 2011 posting the strongest month in sales in company history.

The world’s largest watchmaker shrugged off the impact of the strong Swiss franc, which negatively affected sales by 10.8 percent. “Despite this extremely negative currency effect, sales in CHF increased by an impressive 10.9 percent over the previous record year 2010,” the company said.

The company also noted that “despite enormous pressure on margins due to the catastrophic currency situation,” it expects 2012 to be another good year for operating profit and net income.

Swatch’s Watches & Jewelry segment recorded an increase in sales of 26.1 percent at constant rates to 6.312 billion Swiss francs ($6.65 billion). Greater China was a very strong market bu the company said it “experienced significant growth” in all regions and price segments. “Investment in retail activities as well as numerous marketing offensives throughout the world contributed to these gratifying sales figures,” the company said.

The brand’s Production segment, where it provides watch components to other watch companies, reported a 32.6 percent increase in sales to 2.015 billion Swiss francs ($2.12 billion) due to “an enormous increase in demand for all types of components. Despite an expansion of production capacity, there were and still are major production bottlenecks,” the company reported.

The Electronics Systems segment mainly felt the effects of the overvalued Swiss franc against the US Dollar and the downtrend in certain key markets. Gross sales fell 16.3 percent to 336 million Swiss francs ($354.1 million).

“Despite the strongly negative currency impact during the course of the year and our traditionally defensive policy concerning price increases, Group Management expects good results for operating profit and net income,” the company said in its report. “The Swatch Group is confident of again generating qualitative growth in 2012, despite the ever more challenging comparison basis.”

Monday, January 9, 2012

Fabergé's Eggcelent Easter Hunt

Tom Parker Bowles stands among the fiberglass eggs that will be painted and hidden throughout London.

Fabergé is taking over London, turning the center of the city into a hiding place for 200 massive, elaborately decorated Easter eggs. The eggs will be strategically placed throughout the capital and entrants will have the 40 days and nights of Lent—starting on Shrove Tuesday, February 12, 2012—to hunt down as many eggs as possible.

The promotion is naturally called “The Fabergé Big Egg Hunt.” The luxury brand is using the event to raise up to £2 million ($3.1 million) for Action for Children, a leading children’s charity, and Elephant Family, the UK’s biggest funder for the endangered Asian elephant (£1 million for each charity).

The two-and-a-half foot fiberglass eggs will be exclusively adorned and decorated by some of the world’s leading artists, architects, jewelers and designers including the Chapman Brothers, Vivienne Westwood, Giles Deacon, Zandra Rhodes,Diane Von Furstenberg, Sophie Dahl, Rob Ryan, William Curley, Bompas and Parr and Polly Morgan. The eggs, which are destined to become highly collectible works of art, will be available to buy once the hunt is over at three specially arranged auctions, with proceeds from the sales going to Action for Children and Elephant Family. The jewel in the crown of this auction will be an exclusively designed jeweled egg pendant by Fabergé, in collaboration with Nicky Haslam. All proceeds from the sales will go toward the two charities.

In addition, the event is an attempt to set the Guinness World Record for the biggest Easter egg hunt. It also serves as a promotion for the newly opened Fabergé boutique, the first time in a nearly a century that the brand had a store in London.

The event was launched in November at The Goring luxury hotel dining room, with a culinary creation commissioned by Fabergé, billed as the world’s most “eggsclusive” breakfast— smoked salmon, scrambled Burford Brown eggs, quail’s egg, lobster, and caviar. The dish will be added to the menu at The Goring Hotel throughout the duration of The Fabergé Big Egg Hunt. Below is a video of event, hosted by British food writer and broadcaster, Tom Parker Bowles, and with commentary from charity representatives, participating artists and Fabergé officials.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Jean Claude Biver Resigns as Hublot CEO

Jean Claude Biver and Ricardo Guadalupe

Jean Claude Biver, one of the most influential persons in the Swiss watch industry, is stepping down as CEO of Hublot

He is being replaced as CEO by Ricardo Guadalupe, former Hublot managing director and personal friend of Biver with whom he has been working with for nearly 20 years. The change became effective January 1.

The company in a statement said the move was planned “a long time ago in consideration of Mr. Guadalupe’s significant and instrumental achievements together with Mr. Jean Claude Biver since joining Hublot in 2005.”

Biver, who is credited with turning Hublot into one of the world’s most successful Swiss luxury watch brands will continue to serve as Hublot’s board chairman, and will continue to provide input into the company’s business strategy and product development. As the official spokesperson of Hublot, Biver will also coordinate communications activities.

In a brief statement, Biver said: “There is a time for learning, a time for doing, a time for handing over, and a time for moving on. I’ve happily made it safe and sound to the hand-over stage. With the gratification of being able to hand over to a friend and colleague of more than twenty years. And happiness at the prospect of remaining part of the team on matters relating to strategy, products and corporate relations.”

Biver along with the late Nicolas Hayek, co-founder, CEO and board chairman of Swatch, are credited with saving the Swiss watch industry from the quartz movement. Biver joined Hublot as CEO and board member in 2004.  Following a fivefold increase in sales from 2004 to 2007, the brand was purchased by LMVH in 2008 . Even in the late-2000s recession, Hublot was considered to be successful, with sales down 15 percent up to November 2009 compared with 30 percent for the entire Swiss luxury watch business. Biver on Friday told Reuters that sales at Hublot  grew around 30 percent in 2011--above the industry average--with Swiss watch exports up around 22-24 percent, but the year ahead will be more challenging.

Biver retained the brand's exclusivity through methods such as restricting supply in the face of large demand, citing that "people want exclusivity, so you must always keep the customer hungry and frustrated," he said in a 2009 interview with the Economist.

Prior to Hublot, Biver had very successful stints leading watch brands Blancpain and Omega.

Bédos to Lead Birks & Mayors

Jean-Christophe Bédos

Jean-Christophe Bédos, the former head of the international jewelry house, Boucheron, has been named Birks & Mayors president & CEO. He will replace Thomas A. Andruskevich who announced in September 2011 that he would be leaving the company in the spring.

Bédos, who is already on the job, will spend his first three months with the company as its chief operating officer, reporting jointly to Andruskevich and Lorenzo Rossi di Montelera, chairman of the Board, to allow for a smooth transition. Bédos will assume the role of the company’s president and CEO on April 1. Birks & Mayors is a luxury jewelry retailer with 61 stores in Canada and the United States. Its headquarters is in Montreal.

“His experience as president of one of the world’s most prestigious luxury brands and his extensive knowledge of the luxury jewelry and timepiece industry will be key assets for Birks & Mayors as it continues the development of the Birks product brand and pursues international expansion,” Montelera, said.

Bédos was president and CEO of the Parisian luxury jewelry house, Boucheron Intl., from May 2004 till June 2011. In addition, to maintaining and enhancing the strong presence of the brand, he was an early adapter to marketing the brand and selling its well-crafted luxury products online, as he explained in 2010 during a panel discussion during the FT Business of Luxury Summit.

Previously, he was the managing director of Cartier France from 2002 to 2004, and international executive manager alongside the president of Richemont Intl. from 2000 to 2002. Bédos started his career in the jewelry industry at Cartier in 1988. He holds a Master of Science in Management from the London Business School, a LLB in International Law from Université Paris I Sorbonne, a BA (Honors) in European Business from Trent University, Nottingham and a Bachelor of Arts, European Business, from Toulouse Business School. Bédos will be based at the company’s head office in Montreal, Canada.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

GIA Offers iPad Apps for Consumers and Jewelers

It’s a new year and the Gemological Institute of America—the education, laboratory and research organization that invented the 4Cs—has iPad apps that are designed to enhance the jewelry and gemstone buying and selling experience for consumers and retailers.

GIA’s newest app is just for retailers and designed to use at the point-of-sale (top image). It provides interactive 4Cs education that retailers can show consumers, guidance on using GIA grading scales, information on diamond treatments and access to GIA grading reports. Follow this link to learn how to download the app.

An iPad app for consumers was introduced in November and provides in depth 4Cs education, how to read a diamond grading report and information on various diamond treatments.