By  on December 30, 2011

NEW YORK — Carolee will ring in its 40th anniversary with a litany of birthday wishes it hopes to make good on.

The value-priced brand, which turns 40 in 2012, is launching a series of initiatives to spur further growth and bring awareness to the fashion jewelry segment of its market.

This includes the launch of a new jewelry collection and the release of a limited edition charm bracelet. The brand also will debut a new ladies’ watch collection this year, and is aiming to expand distribution in Europe and Asia.

Even though the brand is growing rapidly, president Joel Fivis told WWD that Carolee is taking a smart and somewhat vigilant approach to its development.

“One of the things we’ve realized is that when we try to do too many things at the same time, we do none of them well,” he said, explaining why the company hasn’t entered into men’s watches, or even opened more stand-alone boutiques.

Currently, the brand, which has roughly 12 to 15 stand-alone boutiques, sells jewelry mainly through department and specialty stores in 35 countries.

“Stand-alone stores are great from a branding standpoint, but it’s not necessary for revenue growth,” Fivis said. “But tourism retail is a very important part of the business, not just in terms of sales volume but how the brand is perceived.”

While Carolee just opened two stores, one outside of Shanghai and another in Toronto, it relies heavily on in-flight retailing and advertising as a way to drive business.

In what is a more unconventional way to grab attention, Carolee is also launching a student design competition with the Fashion Institute of Technology in the beginning of the year. One winner will be named in each of four categories — pearl, metal, social occasion and fashion — which are central to the brand’s DNA. That DNA includes producing trendsetting jewelry for the likes of Jackie Kennedy and the Duchess of Windsor. Winning jewelry designs will be shown in Bloomingdale’s 59th Street windows here in September as Carolee launches the product at retail with a retrospective on the brand.

“The ability to keep the focus while shifting and changing has accelerated this brand over its 40-year history,” said Carolee vice president of worldwide marketing Karen O’Brien, who noted that at the end of the day, what’s important is the product.

New product in 2012 will include the launch of the Legacy collection, a line of necklaces, earrings, brooches and bracelets that pay homage to the brand’s more celebrated collections. Legacy will be made up of four collections of 22 styles each, with the first one shipping Jan. 25. Retailing from between $50 and $125, the initial line will be a nod to Carolee’s Collectibles collection from the Eighties and early Nineties, which incorporates layering pearls and antique gold chains set against motifs of coins, tassels and charms. The other three Legacy collections are still in development.

Along with the spring line, Carolee will launch a limited edition charm bracelet for each of the company’s major retail partners. Bracelets will retail from $50 to $95 and feature a charm unique to that store. For every item purchased from “Legacy” and the charm bracelet collection, $5 will be donated to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Lastly, the brand’s women’s fashion watch collection, which will comprise 60 to 70 styles, will complement Carolee’s jewelry offering. Retailing from $125 to $350, the collection will include charm watches, timepieces with pearls and bracelets that stack metal chains in tones of gold and silver.

“There’s been incredible demand internationally for watches and [other] brand extensions,” said Fivis, who noted that part of the brand’s success lies in its price tag.

Despite its accessible price, Carolee experienced some hiccups during the height of the recession. Because the brand sells to department stores, it felt the squeeze when that sector was pressured to not only take massive markdowns, but also consolidate its brand offering.

However, Carolee has rebounded. Since 2009, the jeweler has experienced 15 percent growth every year, according to Fivis, who said that he anticipates a similar rate of growth to continue over the next few years. He declined to reveal Carolee’s sales volume.

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