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Kenny Gordon: Join Together

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Kenny Gordon wants a supplier’s word.

HAS THIS EVER happened to you? Recently, my supplier gave me its word it didn’t support or sell online. Yet, when we called on a 3-carat diamond, there was the diamond being sold online, direct to the public, with the very same cert and lot number to verify that it was, in fact, the same diamond.  

Jewelry retailers need assurances that the trust and loyalty they place in industry partners are not lost to shady operators who are actually the competition. They take advantage of the critically important retail distribution channel our stores offer and then compete with us by direct marketing over the Internet.  

If we, the brick-and-mortar jewelers, can come together with the support of Jewelers of America and buying groups, we will make an important stride in controlling our destiny and preserving the opportunity for the buying public to physically evaluate jewelry and work directly with jewelry professionals.  

Effectively addressing this issue will require the direct involvement of independent jewelers to mobilize broad-based activism of the larger family of brick-and-mortar jewelers at the state and national levels.  

In support of genuine partners and loyal suppliers, we could offer to acknowledge publicly those that sign assurances that they are indeed manufacturers and suppliers and not Internet competitors, and the signed assurances could be forwarded to key buying groups and associations.  

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By signing such assurances, the participating manufacturers and suppliers would maintain strong confidence among brick-and-mortar jewelers and ensure that their partnerships and relationships would never be questioned over these issues.  

I know our company would certainly prefer doing business with a written assurance partner rather than a business uninterested in providing such an assurance. 

This is not unlike the proactive approach our industry took regarding the conflict diamond issue, requiring every designer, manufacturer and supplier to give us a written assurance of our industry’s Kimberley Process. It was amazing to me the level of support I received in securing written assurances from the principals of our partners and suppliers. 

Brick-and-mortar jewelers have important advantages and positive distinctions from the Internet jewelry market. Quality, service, selection, reputation and a reliable physical presence in the community are just a few of the attributes that customers do want.  

At the same time, pricing is crucial.  

The foundation of retail jewelry price competitiveness is currently being jeopardized by manufacturers and suppliers that are trying to be both direct marketers and suppliers to the retail industry.  

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Manufacturers and suppliers establish trust, loyalty and relationships with the retail jewelry industry based upon a clear understanding that they are not the competition, and their pricing is structured to offer consumers competitive choices through retail distribution markets. This effort is not to defame or attack the online supplier, but only to have a clear idea of who our partners are and who our competitors are.  

The Internet and retail jewelry markets offer the consumer very different opportunities, and we respect the ability of the public to develop an understanding of those differences. 

Nearly 30 years of retailing and four years of manufacturing experience has allowed me to realize just how important two words ? partnership and relationship ? are to our existence.  

Every designer, manufacturer and loose-goods supplier who has sat across from my desk offers us exclusives in territories, partnerships and most importantly, relationships. Every business hopes to build on these very important tangibles in its business plan.  

In the past few years, we have had challenges from the Internet, electronics and even the Hollywood pressures of our own industry concerns.  

We can and must act now to take back our industry and get control of our own destiny before we are reduced to a service-only jewelry destination.  

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Now, realizing that Kenny G & Company, with only four locations, couldn’t ruffle anyone’s feathers on its own, I thought about how we can collectively move the industry to action.  

If you support this concept, contact your jewelers association, buying group and suppliers.  

We can all make a positive difference.  
? Kenneth A. Gordon is president and CEO of Kenny G & Company Fine Jewelers, with locations in California and Nevada. E-mail him at Click here.

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