THE VENDORS REACT

Byline: Wendy Hessen

NEW YORK — Jewelry vendors who have longstanding partnerships with Neiman’s say there’s room for another jewelry chain and contend that Neiman’s is just the company to put one more on the map.
Some even noted that while most retailers have broadened the appeal of their jewelry departments, making it more accessible to the masses, Neiman’s has traded up.
“We constantly see new rich people emerging in this country,” said jewelry designer Henry Dunay.
Dunay lauded Neiman’s strong upscale point of view. “Neiman’s doesn’t go after the bread-and-butter engagement ring business,” he said. “They focus on uniqueness, fashion and the highest quality. I don’t think there is another store that has the clientele they have. No two ways about it, it will be a huge success.”
Dunay said jewelry has scored big increases at Neiman’s due to the category’s exposure in Neiman’s magalog and the chain’s aggressive pursuit of new merchandise.
“The Book has helped to grow the business tremendously — It’s so targeted to reach their customers,” he said, adding that “Neiman’s doesn’t rely on other merchandise categories, or less expensive pieces, to draw traffic to fine jewelry. They stand on their own credibility.”
William Fuhrmann, president of the North American division of Chopard, a Swiss watchmaker, said, “Neiman’s is absolutely the best jeweler. They’re better than the independents, with better trained staffs and their access to high-end customers is incredible. They will absolutely give the others a run for their money. Neiman’s has a consistent style and is every bit as good as a Bulgari or anyone else out there.”
Chopard has sold its collection of highly decorative, and often diamond-encrusted watches to Neiman’s since the early Seventies.
“It’s a really great opportunity. We’re even toying with the idea of creating Chopard boutiques in these locations.”
“What separates Neiman’s from the competition is the fact that they focus on a greater presentation of merchandise from fewer resources,” said Jim DeMattei, senior vice president at John Hardy Collection of fine jewelry and home accessories. “They are great at finding new talent and developing it.
“They consistently push the envelop for newness and are looking to grow to the next price point along with a vendor. The business is run like a specialty store. They are still merchants, with department managers that are in close touch with vendors and constantly working on special orders and exclusives.”
DeMattei said Neiman’s presence could make it really tough for independent fine jewelry shops.
“There are still customers who want to buy that 10-carat diamond from their third-generation local jeweler, but Neiman’s has the expertise and flexibility to make financial commitments to assortments and the flexibility to flow inventory around the country.”
Designer Paul Morelli started at Bergdorf Goodman and was brought into Neiman’s by Neiman’s chairman and chief executive Burt Tansky. Bergdorf’s, like Neiman’s, is a division of the Neiman Marcus Group.
“The Neiman’s customer is exceptionally receptive to fashion,” said Morelli. “Their store managers and sales associates are better trained than most private and independent staffs, which is rare in the industry. They are also very aggressive about going after sales.”
Morelli recalled hearing about a sales associate who though nothing of personally agreeing to deliver a piece of fine jewelry to the home of a good customer on Christmas Eve.
“They stop at nothing to make a customer happy.”

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