As I write I am sitting on a United Airlines flight with direct service from San Francisco to Hong Kong. Judging by the number of movies I’ve watched so far, we should be somewhere over Siberia. The day started out at 4:30am, 30 minutes before my alarm clock was to go off. I’m not sure exactly why I woke up early. It may have been my anxiety over my alarm clock potentially not going off (just got an iPhone now that Verizon carries it, and have yet to use the alarm), or the fact that sometime in the night I had the thought that I had forgotten to pack the pillow thing that surrounds my next during long flights (which would have been vital omission). But one of the two stopped allowing me sleep at 4:30 this morning. I suppose it was the latter, as I turned my alarm off anyhow when I awoke, so I’ll have the same concern “tomorrow” (technically 2 mornings later, but one wouldn’t know it due to the 15 hour time change) waking up to get to the jewelry show by 8am, in Hong Kong, as I’ve yet to confirm that it works (even though I know that it will).
But I digress. This will in fact be my first journey to Hong Kong, my mother’s favorite place on earth, and although it is a lot of traveling for one weeks’ time, and although I know from other jewelry shows that the day begins at 8am and ends after business dinners any time after 10pm, I am very much looking forward to the show. I am disappointed that I won’t get to experience much of the island, but such is life. Reason enough to come back on vacation.
Jewelry shows are a wonderful time for me, professionally. My role at Shane Co. is so diverse, but this is one time that I get to solely focus on merchandise, the heart of any retail business. This past week I’ve been assisting in the recording studio with my father while he cut radio commercials; rolled out a new health benefit package to all of our employees, which I’m proud to say we were able to reinstate a 401K plan; had a dinner with eight members of our stores’ management teams who were in for a training seminar from across the country, amongst many other things. But now, I get an entire week to focus on the merchandise that sits in our showcases: precious stones, and precious metals.
The jewelry shows, be them in Basal, Switzerland, Las Vegas, Nevada, Hong Kong, or some of the smaller shows throughout the year are always a an opportunity for us as a leading jewelry retailer in the USA to accomplish many tasks. Besides the obvious looking at new merchandise, we also get to discover trends in fashion. The most interesting thing to me is the actual “discovery” of the trends. No one comes out and says, “this is a trend” rather it is conversing with different vendors and occasionally other retailers, and finding commonalities amongst our sales trends (for example, accents of rose gold seems to be very much in vogue right now, but whether a fluke or a trend will be solidified in my mind at the show).
The week is a great time for me personally to spend speaking to our leading merchandising buyers as well (on the plane with me right now are four of our top buyers). We get to discuss what they’re seeing sell in our stores, and I get to really focus and share with them what I’ve heard from our customers and sales team in my 50-some days spent in our stores last year.
Additionally we get to look at new concepts of product. This is the time we get to push our own boundaries, leave our comfort zone, and bring in new product to our Denver office. Even if the product does not make the final cut to reach one of our stores (more often the case than not), we are constantly realigning our eyes, and our thoughts on what is right for us, as a company. One example of this comes from last June’s jewelry show in Las Vegas, where we finally concluded that we were going to carry a very fun, upbeat line of sterling silver jewelry, constantly changing out styles, carrying very few of each one, providing uniqueness to our customers…which, I might add, really came through for us, and made quite a lot of happy customers over the past several months. Who knows what we’ll find this show, but that is half the fun.
Well with seven hours until we land, I better start shutting down now. I’ll try to zip some photos of the show this way throughout the week, to give some sort of idea of what one of the world’s largest jewelry shows looks like.
P.S. If anyone has any merchandising ideas for us, as always, we’re all ears. After all, our customers are, in the end, always the boss. Our customers are the only ones who get to vote, and their ballots are cast with their purchase decisions.
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This week has really been successful, in Bangkok. I got everything done that I could in terms of buying the rubies and sapphires. We are going to be a little short on our supply of lavender colored solitaire sapphire earrings, as there are not enough of those stones on the market. We are trying desperately hard to find them, but the quality I demand is not there now. Hopefully we can get this resolved well before Christmas. The rest of the rubies and sapphires are coming in every day now, and we are well stocked with fantastic goods in the stores.
I was able to satisfy two customer’s private requests, one for a large yellow round sapphire and the other for a large dark green emerald cut sapphire. They will be in their respective stores next week. Both are being custom re-cut to meet the specific requirements of these customers. Finding the right stone, and then having our own stone cutters make it spectacular, is a source of great pride and satisfaction…good for my ego!
I have several Thai employees that actually examine every stone I buy after I have purchased it; and order most to be either slightly re-cut and re-polished, or dramatically recut; so much so that the people I bought them from wouldn’t even recognize that it was their stone. I love adding value, and improving product by cutting it to gain its maximum brilliance and beauty. This is a huge competitive advantage that shows up in our stores.
I spent a couple of days at our jewelry design and manufacturing center, and things there are running very smoothly. We have so much unique product being designed and produced, and they are shipping weekly. It lets us develop a look of our own, with our brand. Our workers are very skilled, and truly career jewelers. They take great pride in our finished product, and it shows by every step of the production process, which I follow very closely. They actually are pleased when I examine what they are working on, as they love to show me their skills. It is great teambuilding, as well.
I then left for Hong Kong, where I met 5 of our American employees; and we worked the Hong Kong jewelry show. I just got back, and they return two days later. Besides working with major suppliers and cementing personal relations, I walk the show with our buyers…to show them the styles, look and feel, that I want in our stores. It makes sure we have a solid team and a consistent image. There were very few American companies this year represented in Hong Kong. Most of the Hong Kong vendors admitted that their business from North America is down to around 15% to under 25% of their total business. Three years ago it was between 45% and 80%, depending upon the specific company. But it shows how much the rest of the world has grown in economic importance, and how soft our own economy is. This is really sad to witness, because there is so little being manufactured in the USA; and where we do buy product from, the American market is less important each year to those vendors. Having said that, they are so thrilled to have Shane Co. as a solid company buying from them, and they love to see our business with them increasing each year; especially as their overall American business is going down.
There are hundreds of new styles that our buyers selected, for the Christmas season, as well as merchandise we will be promoting for Valentine’s Day (I won’t spill the beans and describe it now, however).
I am glad to be back in the USA, for at least 4 weeks. I will get caught up at the home office; but with the connectivity available today, I really don’t find traveling in Asia to be a handicap to my daily phone, emails, SMS messages, etc. And the quality of life over there makes it so easy. I love the services that we get in Hong Kong or Thailand. More about that on the next blog.Share on Facebook