Independents Get Mass Appeal

July 1999

Professional Insider:In The Industry

Independents Get Mass Appeal

Buyers group offers small jewelers big-time advantages

Now in its eighth year, the R&C Group consists of some 85 independent jewelers who work with 11 New York City manufacturers. About 40 to 45 members travel to the Big Apple in March and July to visit vendors who show their merchandise at a midtown hotel for four days.

Texas jewelers Ronnie Pagel and Corky Matthew, who started the group and formed R&C Jewelry Inventory Control Consultants, say the arrangement benefits vendors and retailers. "The vendor gets to see dozens of jewelers in a few days without having to go anywhere," says Pagel. "Moreover, our retailers are prescreened. We perform comprehensive checks to determine payment history and boot out jewelers who don't pay their bills."

Prakash Metita, president of Interings, a jewelry manufacturer, was one of the first vendors to work with the R&C Group. "It's a great concept," says Metita. "It's a wonderful way for a manufacturer to develop a client base."

Retailer Benefits
Retailers get tens of thousands of dollars in inventory without a huge outlay of cash, says Pagel. Vendors offer a 50/50 deal. "Let's say a jeweler picks out $50,000 in merchandise; he's obliged to buy at least $25,000 within the year it's on memo," says Pagel. "What he doesn't sell beyond that, he trades in for other goods."

The R&C Group isn't the only one of its kind. Some R&C vendors also work with other groups, including the Continental Buying Group, Independent Jewelers Organization, South East Wholesale Buying Group and Retail Jewelers Organization. But Pagel says the R&C group is unique. "There are no dues or spending minimums, and you're not required to buy from all or even a percentage of the vendors," he says. "The suppliers we work with offer memo goods for fair market value. You pay for what you sell when you sell it. Memo programs run for a year. They even offer returns without penalty. Most of our jewelers report sales increases of 20% to 50% because of their expanded inventory."

Inventory, Sales Increase
Gerry Meyers, owner of Meyers Jewelers, Lubbock, TX, says she was skeptical at first. "We sell a lot of high-end lines; I didn't think this group could benefit me. It all sounded too good to be true." But Matthew, who knew Meyers for years, convinced her to attend a buying trip. "It was the best thing I've ever done," she says. "It has increased our inventory three times and our sales more than 40%. It loosened up my thinking to try a lot of different jewelry. And since I don't have all my money tied up in inventory, I'm able to do more in my store."

Matthew says he and Pagel will limit the group to no more than 150 jewelers. And the group will add only vendors that don't duplicate current ones, though some overlap is inevitable. Participants now include manufacturers of better-quality promotional jewelry, midrange to high-end gem-set and diamond jewelry, lapis and jade jewelry, semimounts and closeouts. "We'd like to have every aspect a jewelry store needs represented," says Pagel.

– by Deborah Yonick

Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


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