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Wholesale catalog frustration


#1

Recently a very good client of mine came to me w/ a problem that
seems to be happening with more frequency with some suppliers. She
has a friend who is a retired registered nurse, who brought to her
store a findings book from Rio Grande. This individual (I know her
too) is not a hobbyist, student, professional or anything else
having to do w/ our industry. My client wrote to Rio complaining
about how they seem to be sending out catalogs without ACTUALLY
checking on who these people are. According to Rio:

“We work with wholesalers, designers, students, and the jewelry
craftsperson. I’m not sure of the customer you had in your
store. It is possible that the customer ordered the catalogs
online after business hours. In this case we charge the customer
for the catalog and have them sent. Their acct. will not allow
any orders until they have been screened by one of our agents. If
they do not qualify we will then close their acct.We would never
want to undersell our customer base, and refer any non-qualified
customers to their local jeweler”.

  1. So Rio admits that they will send out a catalog( and take money
    for it) and not check the background of the potential client, but
    then turn around & NOT let them order if they don’t fit the criteria
    (after the fact).

  2. The “customer” then has a "wholesale catalog in their hot little
    hands that they can then bring into your store & point out the
    actual cost of an item to you.Yes, Rio does publish a catalog w/ no
    prices. And a catalog w/ a triple key pricing in it. Does anyone
    believe that the average customer will know these differences?

  3. Clearly this individual in NO WAY met ANY of their criteria. But
    she has a catalog! Clearly negating their claim that “We would never
    want to undersell our customer base”. The fact that they have a
    catalog creates the very problem that Rio claims they are trying to
    avoid.

I ran into this problem earlier with another big supplier, who will
go unnamed, last year. This time it was a sporting goods store. I
was floored. After a rather angry letter to this company, it was
explained to me that the company they sent the catalog to was a
"retailer" with an actual resale number. So get ready folks. Your
competition isn’t the “other” jewelry store across town or across
the street. It’s now sporting goods stores, gas stations, mini
marts, and even private individuals. Most of the suppliers I deal
with have iron clad systems you have to get through. Time consumming
@ 1st. But in the end, it protects all of us who spend their lives
in this business. Unfortunately, the big players have this "oh well"
attitude when these issues are brought up to them.

Walt Teats
American Goldworks
Great Falls, MT


#2

I could see that this would be a problem for a straight reseller. I
hope to never be in that position.

I’m thinking that if I am creating a fine piece of jewelry then that
is what I’m selling. Markup on the wholesale cost of a finding would
hopefully not be where my margin lies.

"wholesalers, designers, students, and the jewelry craftsperson"
should somehow be deserving of a special price so they can turn it
over for a profit has never set well with me.

What is the value that you bring to the piece that justifies the
margin, expertise and craftsmanship or membership in the club?

Robert


#3

Walt, my post about rio catering to big business and caring less
about the smaller scale jeweler…a couple of weeks ago ( june 13th i
think) got a quick response from their CEo…that used the same
double talk to defend the ir right as a retailer to sell to whomever
they want to…I can’t agree with you more…If the catalogs are as
freely distributed as say, fire mountain’s…then what is the small
scale jewelr to do other than to say I do not deal with that company,
but if yu care to open an account wioth them and provide your own
materials my fee for custm work is…and then quote them a price
that puts into perspective the cost of labor, as well as the
knowledge and assembled tools and equipment, an eye for the stones
you select yo use and other factors that takw that price of a
semi-mount and at lest triple it… On the other hand I detest
getting catalogues that are triple keystone in nature…so your
options are to request a counter catalogue from Hoover and strong,
and the other manufacturers, and write to rio and ask if they make a
counter catalogue sans prices that you can have on hand to point out
that yes that product isavailable but the order-in fee is x and the
market price plus 20% and postage will cost the customer holding the
catalogue x before labor, and the lifetime guarantee against defects
in your work, not the work of rio’s cast or die struck piece…

regards, and best of luck in dealing with Rio Grande, R.E.R.


#4

There have been quite a few posts over time by people who denigrate
Stuller for their policy regarding wholesale accounts. I have posted
over and over trying to explain exactly why Stuller has the policy it
does, and who it protects. If you have a vested interest in building
a jewelry business

do business with those that protect your interest. Seems it was hard
for some people to grasp the concept of why Stuller has the policy
it does and I hope by reading your experience it will help some
people have more understanding of how people are affected adversely
by business that do not have the policy Stuller has. Rio has a
counter catalogue with retail prices, they could send out that
catalogue to unqualified customers, and be able to supply info on
what retailers in the area can order the item for them.

Richard Hart


#5
The "customer" then has a "wholesale catalog in their hot little
hands that they can then bring into your store & point out the
actual cost of an item to you.Yes, Rio does publish a catalog w/
no prices. And a catalog w/ a triple key pricing in it. Does anyone
believe that the average customer will know these differences? 

You know, I see these diatribes periodically on this forum, and bite
my tongue because I truly respect and admire those of you who are in
the position to make a real living doing the art you love. Having
done direct sales of my leatherwork for a span, I know how hard it
is to compete against the mass market discount junk of the world.

That said:

Get over it!!! In this day and age, anyone with even a modicum of
skill with a search engine can find the wholesale pricing of
virtually any item sold in any retail venue you can imagine.
Especially in the jewelry world, do you harbor any real belief that
most of the buying public is unaware of the general degree of markup
for things like jewelry?

I am a hobbyist, and a reasonably good one. I have had the pleasure
of seeing a couple of my students over the years become respected
professionals in their chosen path of art. Companies like Rio are the
last places that people like me, who appreciate quality tools and
materials have access to.

Perhaps, one day, I will re-enter the professional artist world, but
not in the very near future. In the meantime, the skills that I’ve
been developing in metal and lapidary have helped make my leather
pieces better and more unique, so that I can feel proud of the
periodic commissioned pieces that I do sell.

Don’t want a flame war, but it needed to be said. Not all “pros” come
out of the art school track…

Ron Charlotte – Gainesville, FL


#6

I don’t deal with customers who don’t expect me to make a profit.


#7
The "customer" then has a "wholesale catalog in their hot little
hands that they can then bring into your store & point out the
actual cost of an item to you. 

And?

If someone believes your prices are not fair, they’ll go somewhere
else, catalog or no. If they can order it themselves from Rio and
don’t need you, they’ll just do that. If they need you (presumably
because you are doing something besides buying and re-selling) then
they must pay the price you have set.

What am I missing here?

Noel


#8

I can see where RIO is coming from. If they were very strict, I’d
venture to say many orchidians would not be able to order anything
from them. If someone walked into my shop with a catalog and wanted
me to sell them findings at my cost I just wouldn’t do it. No
explanation, just flat NO. Nobody needs chiselers.

Markup on the wholesale cost of a finding would hopefully not be
where my margin lies. 

Well consider this. You are running a business and you have
overhead. And then there’s shipping and credit card fees. It COSTS
YOU MONEY before you even order the finding. I spend about $40-50K
annually on mundane findings. Spring rings, clasps etc. There has to
be return on that investment. Has to. Or I’m out of business quickly
enough. Profit is not a dirty word, heck, its the point, no? If I was
only charging labor I might as well just go be an employee.


#9

I thought that I was being clear with my choice of words. Perhaps
not.

Sure, add in the labor cost, the cost of ordering, handling, storing
findings etc…

Margin is profit, not reimbursement. It is also over and above your
hourly labor rate. It is what you receive for the intangible elements
that you bring to the task - Skill, design, craftsmanship, etc…

I am thinking that perhaps that is where your profit should lie and
so it does not matter if anyone can buy a clasp for the same price.

I’m not sure that we disagree here.

Robert


#10
I don't deal with customers who don't expect me to make a profit. 

As long as you’re not simply reselling the pieces you have a right
to charge for your artistic contribution to the piece you are
selling. You can always refuse to do business with the people to whom
you are referring.

I'm thinking that if I am creating a fine piece of jewelry then
that is what I'm selling. Markup on the wholesale cost of a finding
would hopefully not be where my margin lies. 

Exactly!

What is the value that you bring to the piece that justifies the
margin, expertise and craftsmanship or membership in the club? 
That said: Get over it!!! 

Amen!

I am a hobbyist. I don’t have time to make and sell jewelry but I
enjoy making gifts for my friends and relatives and myself. It’s a
creative outlet but I’m not going to compete with any of you. When I
want to make something to give as a gift I appreciate that I can pay
less for it than if I went to a jewelry store and paid them to have
it shipped in for me with a profit.

What I actually do for a living is build and remodel homes. Have you
ever been to Home Depot? Lowe’s? Have you ever taken on a
construction project at home thinking that you didn’t need to pay a
contractor? Has it been fun?

I rest my case.
Linda


#11

Hi Neil…

Well consider this. You are running a business and you have
overhead. And then there's shipping and credit card fees. It COSTS
YOU MONEY before you even order the finding. I spend about $40-50K
annually on mundane findings. Spring rings, clasps etc. There has
to be return on that investment. Has to. Or I'm out of business
quickly enough. Profit is not a dirty word, heck, its the point,
no? If I was only charging labor I might as well just go be an
employee. 

I trade with Rio upon occasion, both directly and co-op…

I myself, would never do a catalog “trick” to a jeweler that’s doing
his/her own bench…I know enough from my efforts in learning just
what a true craftsman can do, that I cannot…

Yet…

There’s another thing an accompished jewelry crafstman is
selling…and that’s his/her ability to create, and/or make, on
demand or concept…

Back in the 80’s I wanted a 14K Yin-Yang pendant created for a
certain lady friend…

There was a buddy I had grown up with, who had moved out West and
taken up as a jeweler…

Called him up and described it to him…disk (about 1/2") with
bail, sheet gold for part of the emblem, the balance open…no
stone… He said no problem… When it was done, he said the
price
was $100, with a fine chain…the 80’s, remember…

I did not hesitate for a second… It turned out the work was well
done…but then I had grown up with the guy, so knew it would be…

Now…there were shops in Milwaukee (East Side stuff) that had very
similar pieces…at better prices…

On the other hand…

“Honey…I had this made, from scratch, for you…”

Probably the best $100 I’ve ever spent, on anything…

We’re still friends, and hang out together, occasionally…

Not too long ago I asked…“You still have that Yin-Yang from back
when we were young(er) and (more) foolish…?”

And of course, she does…

That’s what you’re selling…

Gary W. Bourbonais
A.J.P. (GIA)


#12
If someone believes your prices are not fair, they'll go somewhere
else, catalog or no. If they can order it themselves from Rio and
don't need you, they'll just do that. If they need you (presumably
because you are doing something besides buying and re-selling)
then they must pay the price you have set. 

The fact that my expertise and experience as well as on hand stock
entitle me to make a profit when guiding a client in the right
direction. The average consumer won’t know all of the nuances that we
know and will therefore order the wrong size, type, style part than
what they need. They pay us not only for what we do, but also for
what we know. We all have spent hours consulting clients, drawing,
this will work but that won’t, etc for free. Has anybody been
successful asking for a flat rate to do this? I think not.

-Stanley


#13

It would be nice if we never had to deal with customers that knew
what we paid for our materials. And it would be nice if they didn’t
know what Rapp was for diamonds or dealer cost for automobiles. But
they do know. This is an age and you can’t put up a wall.
At least Rio and Stuller do not sell to the non-jewelers, so far
anyway.

If you buy in quantity, you can sell at the single piece price with
a modest mark-up. Wholesale does mean to purchase in volume so you
have that tiny advantage.

Wouldn’t a more positive approach be to add value to the product? We
are a service business. We are not obliged to justify our selling
price but to stay in business; we have to deal with competition. If
you want to make a profit on what you purchase, add value. Rio won’t
size a ring, put the customer’s stone in the ring, or fix a necklace.
You can.

If you are trying to make a business of just buying and reselling
manufactured goods, it is going to be harder and harder. Our clients
aren’t stupid and often own a needle nose pliers and can fix their
stuff. Why should they come to you? Do you offer things they can’t
buy at Wal-Mart or straight out of a catalog? It should be no
surprise that they want to pay catalog prices. You don’t have to sell
at that price, but the days of triple keystone on catalog goods is
long gone. Do something to make it special. Add value.

Judy Hoch


#14

Reading this thread I’m reminded of a SNL “advertisement”. “Your very
own, patented pricing machine!!! Want a steak? 99 cents!!! It’s fast,
it’s easy - never pay full price again!!!” Wouldn’t it be
grand…

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com


#15

Orchid,

Thanks for your posts on my rant about Rio & the unnamed "other"
supplier. If my post led anyone to think I was a mench w/ regards to
who can or can’t order from a given supplier, let me assure you that
I am a huge supporter of beginners, students, hobbyists etc… I am on
an advisory board for a community college in Kalispell Montana that
has a 2 year goldsmithing program. The good folks @ ArtCam have
invested many thousands of dollars to the program. It is also a JA
bench jeweler test site.

No…my main complaint was the fact that “ordinary” citizens are
getting access to a venue previously set apart for those of us in the
business (beginner or seasoned veteran). This shouldn’t be like
"sharper image" or “crutchfield” where anyone & everyone can fill out
an online form & send away for a catalog. I do expect that our
supplier “friends” have our backs. If not…what’s the point? What’s
next? findings & mountings on Amazon? On Big Lots? Jewelry repair on
the DIY or Fine living channel? The industry IS changing. It’s always
changing through consolidations, store closures & bankruptcies. I
shouldn’t have to worry about getting “clotheslined” by my suppliers.
They should be looking out for the people who put them all on the
jewelry map: the students, artists, hobbyists, & professionals.

Walt Teats
American Goldworks
Great Falls, MT


#16
but the days of triple keystone on catalog goods is long gone 

I’m not too sure I’d agree with that. Really depends on the item and
the client. I still get TK on lower price point catalog goods(hey,
its still money). But this is where you have to get TK, just because
of the handling involved. On something higher value, I shoot for key
and massage things as needed to close. But my best customers pay
nowhere near key. They’re my best because they buy big several times
a year and I’ll do whatever is needed to foster that loyalty. Which
gives me an idea for another thread.


#17

Hi All,

I’m one of the Business Coaches at Rio. I’ve been a long-time reader
of the Forum. I haven’t posted before, but I’ve met quite a few of
you at Orchid Dinners, Catalog in Motion and Clasp. I hope you’ll
allow me some cyberspace to try to address this topic. In his post,
Walt points to an issue that’s very difficult to solve. I’ll try to
explain Rio Grande’s approach on this tricky subject.

We spent a great deal of time trying to figure out how to screen our
various catalog requesters, to understand who is really making
jewelry and who is looking for wholesale prices on consumer level
purchases. This is the reason we charge for catalogs on our website,
but offer them free of charge to requesters who call and qualify as
customers. We hope that the charge will discourage the casual jewelry
shopper. Admittedly, our approach is still not perfect.

Our challenge is that we DO sell to students, designers, and jewelry
repair and craftspeople. It’s our mission to continue developing
jewelry makers wherever they are. This category of makers needs
reliable access to professional jewelry supplies. Students of jewelry
making frequently do not have a business license or tax ID, nor are
they listed (or capable of getting listed) in JBT. We do our best to
distinguish who is serious about making jewelry and who is not, but
there’s a small percentage of the time that we fail in both
directions.

The fact is, we more often fail on the side of caution, sometimes
screening out someone who is a legitimate student, whose teacher has
told them to call Rio for their supplies, and who gets turned away.
We hate that this happens, and we keep trying to find better ways to
prevent it. When those students are persistent enough to try again,
or complain, we are able to turn it around, but it’s certainly at the
cost of their time and trust in the relationship.

Yes, Stuller has a different approach from Rio, and they are an
excellent supplier to the industry (in fact, we buy from them and
they buy from Rio - we have huge respect for our estimable
competitor). But there is not only room for both approaches, it’s
essential that we continue to provide both approaches, for the
health of our industry.

Let’s not forget that even Orchid promotes itself, on the front page,
as “open to the public, free of charge.” Savvy buyers in every
industry know that it’s not difficult to find out who the suppliers
are and what their wholesale prices are. There is no perfect
solution, but we’re always glad to get your feedback.

Best,
Mark Shipman
Business Coach
Rio Grande
7500 Bluewater Road NW
Albuquerque, NM 87121
505.839.3143


#18

I, for one, appreciate this philosophy. I’m an amateur faceter who
occasionally produces a stone good enough to deserve a mounting. Rio
and others who provide findings to hobbyists and craftspersons who
don’t make a living at it are greatly appreciated. And who knows,
some day we may make that transition.

To be honest, I’m a bit puzzled by the negative reactions of some
here. I didn’t think that most of the people on this list made a
living reselling findings - I thought they were jewelers.

Al Balmer
Sun City, AZ


#19

This discussion reminds me of a conversation I once had with a
person who owned a restaraurant. It is a bit unreasonable, to say the
least, to take your own food to a restaurant with the expectation of
being charged for only the cooking. If I buy eggs from the same
supplier as the restaurant, and pay this same price for the eggs, I
am not going to take them to a restaurant and ask to have them cooked
and served for the menu price minus the cost of the eggs and markup.
If the restaurant refuses to do as I ask, it is not the fault of the
egg supplier. The problem is my own unreasonable expectation. Rio
Grande, Stuller, and other suppliers cannot be expected to police
every individual’s unreasonable expectations.

Tim