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Charles Jayson Sets New Goals for Judith Ripka

Eyes overseas expansion, more domestic stores and licensed categories.

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Under president Charles Jayson, Judith Ripka, the 34-year-old jewelry brand, has an active agenda.

This story first appeared in the August 25, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Jayson, who joined last December, aims to establish Ripka as an international player, expand its retail presence in the U.S. and license several categories. He hails from Andrew Marc, where he served as president and chief executive officer, and before that was president and ceo of Dickson North America.

Jayson said he is looking to increase Ripka’s business by 15 percent each year for the next three years. He said the firm’s own retail stores account for 35 percent of volume, which he declined to divulge. However, industry sources estimate Ripka’s retail volume between $150 million and $200 million.

“Judith Ripka’s popularity has grown over the years,” Jayson said. “It has supported her family and now future generations as well. As a company, it has continued to exceed its goals, which will allow for further expansion of retail stores and international distribution to world-class retailers.”

Ripka operates 14 stores in the U.S. in such markets as Aspen, Colo., Beverly Hills, Las Vegas and New York. The firm will open a 15th door next month in Dallas’ Highland Park Village shopping center and will unveil three stores a year until it has “a retail store in every luxury market,” he said.

Already a presence in Russia, Mexico, the Caribbean and Canada, Ripka is also pushing into the Middle East through a distribution plan in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, slated for 2009.

Additionally, the company is planning on licensing such categories as watches, eyewear and fragrance, although it declined to specify when and with whom.

“We need to be in Asia and the Middle East, and we need to get into licensing, and Chuck is the guy who is going to get us there,” said Ronald J. Berk, ceo at Ripka. “In terms of expansion, there’s a global shift taking place and we have to follow the money. In the U.S., there’s an absence of that bridge or aspirational customer and sales are taking place on the higher-end market all over the world.”

In an effort to attract the luxury consumer, Ripka has started to expand its higher-priced offerings. The firm’s 18-karat Couture Collections feature pieces flanked by pink opals and sapphires as well as emeralds and white moonstones. The new Aurora Collection, for example, retails from $5,000 for a gold link necklace with gemstones to $85,000 for a gold and diamond necklace. The current collection also includes a one-of-a-kind diamond Truffle necklace retailing for $350,000.

Among the firm’s wholesale accounts are Bloomingdale’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus.

“The luxury customer is always going to be spending,” said Berk. “And we need to provide that customer with fabulous product and focus on that part of the business. There is increased competition for luxury dollars. With couture brands offering high jewelry, we need to make the buying experience rewarding and give the customer something special to make them buy us.”

Jayson said he was enticed by the firm’s family-run atmosphere. Berk is designer Judith Ripka’s husband and two of her three sons, Brian and David, serve as president of the brand’s wholesale division and as chief operating officer, respectively. Jayson was also impressed with the loyalty of Ripka customers.

“Certain brands have the ability to grow in different ways,” Jayson said. “In the case of Judith Ripka, it has already established itself as an important luxury accessory to women in the U.S. Now it’s also growing internationally and her designs and aesthetic have a natural ability to be applied to other products that her customers have requested.”

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