By  on January 3, 1994

NEW YORK -- With the multi-billion dollar bridal market continuing to grow, more and more jewelry manufacturers are targeting brides, their attendants and even their mothers as prime customers.

By creating specific areas within jewelry departments and providing a high level of customer service and bridal looks that are as up-to-date as the latest runway fashions, these firms see a bright future for nuptial jewels.

Carolee Friedlander, president of Carolee Designs, said her firm has had a separate division, exclusively devoted to bridal and special-occasion jewelry, for four years, and estimated that it accounts for about 25 to 30 percent of their business.

"The bridal jewelry market continues to grow each year, but it's a niche business that requires a significant marketing effort with strong customer service to make it work effectively," said Friedlander. "For example, we guarantee 72-hour delivery to our stores for out-of-stock merchandise and have an 800 number that fields questions from consumers."

In addition, she said, they have just completed a new version of their bridal look book, which showcases the company's complete collection and the newest bridal fashion trends. The wedding-album-like book is usually placed near the firm's case space at their retail locations, making it possible for consumers to special-order styles that the store may not carry.

In the coming months, Friedlander added, Carolee Designs will begin a series of bridal makeover programs. Currently being developed with Estee Lauder, these programs will combine makeup and accessories advice.

Heart-shaped earrings and Victorian-inspired dog collars are the most popular silhouettes at Carolee. Pearls -- in cream or pure white -- are major players, with clear crystal and rhinestone looks following close behind.

Richelieu has been marketing a special-occasion bridal collection for five years. The firm's marketing director, Lisa Otterman, said it accounts for about 30 percent of their business and is still growing.

"The collection's sales have practically doubled in the last two years, and we believe it will continue to grow," said Otterman. "We do, however, expect the rate of growth to level off to annual increases of about 5 percent."

She added that with more and more firms entering the business all the time, Richelieu is trying to find key categories in which to market items that will spur their growth.

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