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FINDINGS

FINA TIME: Manhattan jewelry and gift retailer Michael C. Fina is stepping up its investment in watches. The company is planning to open a separate watch boutique in June, which will be located next to its flagship on Fifth Avenue.
Fina now carries about eight watch brands, and with the new addition, it plans to double that number and add more high-end lines, said Debbie Fenton, watch and jewelry buyer. Among the watch brands it now carries are Rado, Tissot and Longines, and it is looking to add lines such as Ebel and Omega, she said.
“This is a natural progression for us,” Fenton said. “We have a strong bridal business, and it is natural to give watches for wedding gifts.”
The 65-year-old company, which also has a catalog, holds the lease for the space next door, which had been a one-hour photo shop. Fenton also said the company is expanding its jewelry business and is starting to carry more branded lines such as Scott Kay.

WEMPE’S BIGGER GEM: Fifth Avenue jeweler Wempe is thinking big these days. Last month, the Hamburg, Germany-based company unveiled its newly expanded flagship at 700 Fifth Avenue. Following two months of renovations, the unit has been increased by 950 square feet to total 2,500 square feet.
The larger space features a newly created corner for Patek Philippe watches and a glass-encased workshop with tools and machines for customer service. Other watchmakers and jewelers available at the store include Rolex, A. Lange & Sohne, Breguet, IWC, Cartier, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Officine Panerai, as well as Wempe’s own jewelry line.
Kim-Eva Wempe, who jointly owns and manages the family business with her father, Hellmut, said that new space improves personal service, since it allows for more displays and areas for customers to sit down with sales staff and learn about the history of watches and their function.
“We really want customers to enjoy the story of the watch, and we needed more space for that,” she said. “We feel watches are a personal thing that stays with you for a long time. For others, it may just be a trade, but we think it’s more than that.”
While she declined to give sales projections for the expanded space, Wempe noted that jewelry currently accounts for 15 percent of the assortment. She said she would like to increase this to 20 percent in the new configuration.

WELSH’S WAY: Helen Welsh has added her name to the accessories mix. The president and chief executive officer of multiline showroom The Helen Welsh Group launched a full line of accessories during last month’s New York market.
The line consists of shawls, scarves, casual hats and handbags, with key styles including a red suede handbag with fringe and tooled leather strip, tweed hats and burnt velvet scarves.
For Welsh, this is the second foray into design, but the first with her name on the label.
“I started with Harrison J., and everyone wanted to know who that was,” Welsh said of the line of scarves she introduced when she opened her showroom last August. “Stores asked me to put my own name on it and start building my own brand.”
An accessories veteran, Welsh is a former president of handbags, small leather goods and fashion accessories for Liz Claiborne Inc., and before that, she was vice president and divisional merchandise manager at the Off-5th division of Saks Fifth Avenue.
She has projected first-year sales of about $4 million. Wholesale prices range from $8 to $55, with distribution aimed at moderate to better department and specialty stores in late May.

STICK IT: A new company wants you to stick on jewelry, not just wear it.
Stick It! Inc., a New York-based firm, has introduced a line of body art, such as temporary tattoos that come in a variety of styles and colors, including red butterflies, hearts, stars and green and purple dragonflies.
The line, called Tatchers, features some styles with fragrance and perfume, while other designs have glitter and shimmer. Most are made in embroidered fabrics and can be peeled and pressed right onto skin and worn for several days. Wholesale prices range from 35 cents to $1.70.

NEW AT GRANDOE: Cold-weather accessories firm Grandoe, known for its leather and activewear performance gloves, has launched knit and fleece gloves, as well as hats and scarves, for fall.
Until recently, the Gloversville, N.Y.-based company, which has been manufacturing gloves since the 19th century, offered classic fleece and dabbled in knits.
“Our company identified the lack of newness in the marketplace and developed the ideal product lines to fill the void,” said Kent Friedman, Grandoe’s vice president of sales and marketing.
The recently launched fleece group, called “Tommy Art,” features illustrations by Gloversville local Tommy H. Hyndman adorning its microfleece gloves, hats and scarves. There are 15 styles priced for $8 to $12 wholesale.
The knit group, called “An American in Paris,” is inspired by Paris collections, with about 70 styles in cashmere, multifiber blends and acrylic. Items wholesale from $7.50 to $30.

SUZANNE’S MOVE: Hat company Suzanne Couture Millinery has moved its boutique from 700 Madison Avenue, where it spent the last 15 years, to 27 East 61st Street between Madison and Park Avenues in New York.
The 800-square-foot, narrow-but-deep unit is located on the parlor floor of a brownstone building, with wooden floors and a stucco-adorned ceiling.
“The space has a very European look to it,” said Suzanne Newman, designer and owner, at the opening party earlier this month.
One wall is lined with Suzanne hats, including natural straw “Cannes” hats, antique Italian straw hats, fedoras, baseball caps and newspaper-boy hats, as well as bridal headpieces and veils.

TROPICAL PUNCH: Swarovski opened its 1,000-square-foot store with a party last Tuesday.
It’s located at 625 Madison Avenue in Manhattan between 58th and 59th Streets in the space formerly occupied by maternity retailer A Pea in the Pod. The store, which sells crystal-adorned giftware, jewelry, sunglasses and binoculars from both Swarovski and the more upscale Daniel Swarovski lines, had a soft opening in December.
The grand-opening party featured shirtless models with whimsical bird hats in white suits wearing only stick-on crystals, and tropical parrots. The company is a supporter of the Rainforest Foundation U.S., and the store will donate 5 percent of each sale until April 30 to the organization.

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