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Why is there so little choice from Jewellery Wholesalers?

If you were at the Spring Fair in Birmingham earlier this month, you may have noticed a certain uniformity amongst the jewellery suppliers and wholesalers. In many cases, the styles they carried were similar, if not identical, and those styles may have been the same as last year, which were the same as the year before.

Surely this cannot make sound business sense? Unless the woman on the street only wants a small selection to choose from, and unless these woman always choose the same styles, regardless of which shop or in which city they do their shopping. How likely is that?

But it does make sense. It makes sense because the vast majority of jewellery wholesalers in the UK source their stock from a small number of UK based importers and distributors. Most UK wholesalers do not buy direct from manufacturers, and do not buy from suppliers or middlemen in the country where the manufacturers are based.

In case you’ve been living on another planet for the past twenty years, that country is China. All fashion jewellery sold in the UK, and almost all fashion jewellery sold throughout the world, is manufactured by mid-sized to large manufacturers in China. Even Ethnic jewellery, purporting to come from hill tribes in Amazonia, or small artisans in Africa, is likely to be made in China.

The large UK jewellery and accessory importers buy their stock from these manufacturers, and they then sell that stock on to wholesalers — large and small — in the UK and Ireland. The reality is that many of these importers have relationships with only one or two manufacturers in China — after all, isn’t it easier to deal with the same factory time after time than investigating new suppliers every year or two?

The problem is that these jewellery importers, upon whom the local wholesalers depend, are few and far between. There are about five of them in total, and it is this that accounts for the lack of originality when it comes to fashion jewellery in the UK. Though wholesalers abound, when their source of stock is one of only five companies, diversity is going to suffer, and a sad kind of sameness and apathy sets in.

Why don’t more wholesalers buy direct from manufacturers?

Usually it’s down to minimum order quantities, which can be substantial. Often it’s down to the risk averse nature of many wholesalers. They may have been burned on quality once in the past, and swore off ever again dealing with Chinese manufacturers — conveniently forgetting that all the jewellery they sell comes from those manufacturers no matter who they may have purchased it off. Sometimes it’s because they don’t know how to go about it — a trip to China is a daunting prospect for many, so they settle on UK suppliers.

This is not going to change any time soon. Though we deal direct with manufacturers, and love discovering new suppliers in China, our fellow wholesalers do not. This is why so much of our stock is unique — not all of it, as we do carry a number of styles that are widely popular and carried by other suppliers too, but most of it.

22 Feb 2014

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