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Sample Sales


If you take a good hard look at your inventory, some of it sells out of your cases and some of it essentially serves just as the samples you use to take orders. Eternity bands. Wedding bands. Engagement semi-mounts. In the past few years, bridal companies have developed better ways for you to actually sell those engagement rings, like interchangeable heads so you can accommodate a wide range of centers with one setting. But still, styles that can't be sized or take different size or shape centers sit in your cases as special orders move out the door.

That simple truth is changing the way many retailers today are thinking about their bridal inventory. If you're not going to sell it, they reason, maybe you should really think of it only as a prototype for the final product. And if it's just a sample, why not make it in inexpensive materials?

That, in essence, is the reasoning behind a huge boom this year in what is crudely called "brass & glass," sample bridal lines created in silver or alloy and set with CZ that allow you to stock dozens or even hundreds of engagement ring and wedding band styles for a very modest investment.

Of course, alloy sample lines aren't new. Stuller has been selling them for more than a decade. But the challenging economy and high metal prices have created the perfect storm for these selling systems, moving them from niche to mainstream.

"When diamonds were stable and metal more affordable, people had a sense of how to control inventory," says J.P Waldron, Stuller vice president of bridal. "They planned it and they bought it. But there's been no consistency in the market since late last year. Retailers now need to expand the use of every dollar. Jewelers are looking at their inventory and realizing they have hundreds of pieces to make one sale."

Intrigued? Here is an overview of some of the bridal sample programs available on the market.

1. STULLER

Stuller's prototype business started in wedding bands more than 20 years ago but it has expanded over the years to include semi-mounts and matching bands, anniversary bands in a variety of shapes, and designer bands. Engagement rings start at just $299 for the 12 top-selling styles to $698 for the 30 top-selling styles, which would cost $19,000 in gold and diamonds. The samples are in sterling, rhodium or gold plated, and CZs and come with white triangular displays.

The strength of Stuller's program is Stuller: Every sample is based with live stock so delivery of the styles in 14k gold is next day, either sized or for the jeweler to size. The setting can also be set with a Stuller Red Box center diamond selected on-line. "The jeweler can go to bed at night knowing it will be there tomorrow," Waldron says.

Last fall, Stuller redesigned its wedding band prototype system to feature its new laser engraving service. Six fonts are available and rings can be engraved on the outside or inside. Delivery is in two days.

"Engraving is a huge growth area for jewelers because personalized jewelry is so strong now," Waldron says. The engraved bands can also serve as samples for engraving of pendants or any other jewelry piece from Stuller.

2. W.R. COBB

W.R. Cobb Company's "Promesa" collection is a 48 or 96 style collection of engagement rings and matching wedding bands. The samples are presented in a custom white leather display. The 48 style collection is $1,210 and the 96 style collection is $2,220. For both programs there is a 10 percent discount for prepayment or COD.

The samples are alloy and CZ, many featuring side stones, milgrain, and hand engraving. All rings are available in 14k white and yellow, 18k white and yellow, platinum and palladium. All white gold styles are made in the company's exclusive "Precise" white gold. Styles in 18k white gold in finger size 7 with a one carat center ship within 24 hours. All styles are available with or without the center stone. New styles will be added to the offering, available in a matching tray of five or eight when desired.

"Promesa is a true store within the store model," says Roderick Lichtenfels, W.R. Cobb CEO. "We like to think of this program as a living catalog."

Promesa isn't the company's only turnkey program. W.R. Cobb also offers a complete on-line ecommerce solution which includes Promesa as well as a choice of 30,000 other styles and 25,000 certified diamonds. The on-line store is fully customizable to your brand and can even be updated by retailers themselves using an on-line tool.

3. UNIQUE SETTINGS OF NEW YORK

Unique Settings of New York's bridal program, "Unique Advantage," features 75 to 250 best-selling engagement ring styles. The 75 style program is $2,250, 125 is $3,500, and 250 is $6,000. In addition to matching wedding bands and eternity bands, samples from a new men's wedding band division are also available.

One customer has stocked an entire store with 4,000 sample styles from Unique, doing away with almost all live inventory altogether. Samples are made with a proprietary tarnish-resistant alloy that contains some precious metal.

"When customers try on these rings the high quality manufacturing coupled with the simulated weight will give them an almost perfect representation of what they're purchasing," says Joseph Ceylan, Unique vice president. "And you can become a leading custom bridal jeweler in your community."

Unique's strength is selection, with everything customizable in any metal and made to order in New York, including the wedding bands. The company offers billions of styles, and has calculations from a New York University professor to prove it.

"This is the long tail of business," Ceylan says. "This allows you to show the customer a huge range of styles so everyone can find something to their taste." Unique also offers a loyalty program with 5 percent return towards your next Unique Settings purchase.

4. OVERNIGHT

Unlike most bridal sample programs, Overnight offers any item from its entire catalog of 10,000 different mountings in its sample program. "Overnight allows the jewelers to select what they need, they aren't limited to a predetermined selection," says Matthew Roth of Overnight. "Jewelers know best what is missing from their showcase and Overnight allows them to select product to fill the holes that they may have in their inventory."

The minimum order for "Authentix" samples, which are CZ and sterling with rhodium or gold plating, is just 12 pieces. Overnight charges $20 for ring or pendant samples and $30 for earrings. Samples are made to order and are delivered in six weeks. A 12-slot tray embossed with the Authentix logo is available at no charge.

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Wedding band alloy display kits from ENDLESS DESIGNS, (800) 886-3048, www.endlessdesigns.com.
The “Promesa” collection from W.R. COBB, (800) 428-0040, www.wrcobb.com.
“Unique Advantage” from UNIQUE SETTINGS, (800) 466-4900, www.uniquesettings.com.
Sample semi-mounts from STULLER, (800) 877-7777, www.stuller.com.
“Authentix” from OVERNIGHT, (888) 731-1111, www.overnightmountings.com.
Bridal program from OSTBYE & ANDERSON, (866) 553-1515, www.ostbye.com.