These jewelers love to sell watches

Discounting and other horrors, contrary to some outspoken opinions, have not killed off jewelry storewatch sales.

True, discounting has hurt them. But jewelers across the country are doing good to excellent business at the watch counter. they’re selling brands that retail from $30 to $10,000-plus. Here are some of their stories.

Rolex Tourneau Inc. New York City robert J. wexler, managing director

Number/location of stores: Two. One at 500 Madison Ave., a busy intersection in New York City, the other in Bal Harbour, Fla. There’s also a Tourneau department in Bonwit Teller, Trump Tower, New York City.

Type of store: Watch specialist. Watches comprise 90% of business, jewelry 10%.

Watch selling philosophy: “To sell watches successfully you need a large selection, an excellent service department, a knowledgeable sales force and strong advertising and display.

“Rolex is a very sellable high-profit line that’s also a traffic builder. Its high recognizability and great selection give it wide customer appeal and an international cliente.”

Principal brans in stock: More than 40 major brands including Concord, Baume & Mercier, Corum, Piaget, Ebel, Omega, Audemars-Piguet, Cartier, Movado, Rado, Raymond Weil, Hublot, Universal Geneve, Longines-Wittnauer, Vacheron & Constantin. Tourneau also sells its own collection.

Rolex inventory: Extensive, including specialty models. Tourneau also stocks and displays loose dials, and does a lot of on-the-spot dial changes.

Prices range from a $650 stainless steel model to a $60,000, diamond-studded President. Rolex raised prices about 16% in 1984, mainly in the Oyster steel and gold series. Improved movements and crystals also contributed to price increases.

Best Rolex sellers: Men’s and women’s steel and gold and the all-gold President. “Last year was our strongest yet with Rolex,” says Wexler. Sales were up 25%.

Sales training: Monthly in-house sales meetings to go over products and technique. Rolex and other suppliers conduct seasonal seminars to review features and technology of items to be advertised or model changes.

Typical store/Rolex customer: A cosmopolitan clientee including affluent international and American tourists, plus local business executives. (Tourneau also has a corporate sales division.)

Many Tourneau service customers turn into purchasers. Those who start with stainless steel often move up to steel and gold or all gold. “Rolex customers are like collectors. They tend to have several.”

Service and repair: Tourneau services a watch whether purchased in the store or not. Wexler claims to have the most complete service department anywhere. “It’s the cornerstone of our business.” 90% of all servicing is done on premises; it is guaranteed within 48 hours.

Advertising and promotion: Considerable national print advertising focusing on Rolex variety and selection. Full-page ads showing 25 models ran last November and December in the New York Times national edition. Full-page color ads also appear monthly in magazines such as Town & Country, New Yorker and M.

Rolex also recently launched a successful pioneer campaign on public television (Channel 13). The spot stressed the brand’s artistic craftsmanship and achievement, as well as its selection.

Tourneau does numberous PR campaigns…such as last year’s fundraiser with Sloane-Kettering Memorial Cancer Center, New York City. Customers donated old watches, for which they received a tax deductible receipt and an allowance toward the purchase price of a new watch (based on size of contribution).

Sales/discounting: Tourneau usually avoids sales other than its once-a-year (March and April) sale by mail to private customers only.

Display techniques: More than 3500 watches are on display. The Rolex area is divided into specialtywatches, regular Oysters and dress goods.

Speical problems: Historically Rolex is one of the tightest brands on delivery (“you order 10 and get 6”). Tourneau, which schedules ad campaigns two months ahead, must be careful there will be no inventory or model shortages.

Swatch Shane’s Jewelry Los Angeles, Cal. Stanley Rogers, manager

Number/location of stores: One, in West Los Angeles.

Type of store: Ten-year-old independent fine jeweler. Shane’s is an upbeat, young-at-heart jewelry store with a relaxed atmosphere and an English-style decore in the heart of West Los Angeles.Watches comprise 20% of total sales.

Watch selling philosophy: To provide a large selection at reasonable prices and give customers exactly what they want. “Four years ago we didn’t carry many watches. But people kept asking for them. Since we perceive this market, we’ve carried many more watches.” They’re viewed both as traffic builders and profit makers.

Swatch possesses most of the qualities people want–low price, durability and reliability, water-resistance, a strong fashion look and a wide style selection. “It’s just exciting and fun.”

Principal brands in stock: Everything from the $30 Swatch to $6000 Concords. Others include Pulsar (under $150), Raymond Weil ($200-$300), Seiko ($100-$300), Lassale Seiko ($250-$3500) and Porsche ($550-$600). Average retail price is $150.

Swatch inventory: Normally all popular Swatch models. Key Swatch styles include the Aspen, Graffiti, Hi-Tech and Savoy collections. Prices range from $25-$35, with most at $30. Shane’s tries to carry all Swatch colors.

Best Swatch sellers: White ladies’ models with checkered grid patterns, especially during the spring, summer and fall. Ladies’ anthracite black Swatches with chanel-striped dials are hot wintertime sellers. Also popular for warm weather wear are men’s matching white grid styles. Men’s models in a wide selection of black shades sell well in fall and winter.

Sales training: Mostly on-the-job.

Typical store/Swatch customers: Most customers are high school and college age ranging from 15 to 25. “Generally Swatch wearers are very young, active and style conscious…people who want awatch for the Jacuzzi, Disco, swimming, other sports or even all-around use.” More women than men buy Swatch…often as a fashion accessory.

Service and repair: Sizing, band replacements and minor adjustments are handled in-house. SwatchWatch, U.S.A., offers a one-year warranty. Shane’s will exchange unworn merchandise within 30 days.

Advertising and promotion: Shane’s advertises in local dailies once a week and ran radio spots twice last year (the weeks before Mother’s Day and christmas). Swatch was mentioned in summer jewelry and general watch ads. Word of mouth on Swatch has been very important, too.

Sales/discounting: Occasional watch sales tied to special occasions like Valentine’s Day Swatches, though, are never on sale or discounted.

Display techniques: Swatch is displayed in Shane’s front window along with other major brands.Watches are shown in a separate window from jewelry. Inside the store Swatch shares a case with other (non-competitive) sports-related brands such as Pulsar. Displays are changed frequently.

Special problems: “We can’t get enough Swatches. We’re a high volume store and just can’t keep them in stock.”

Pulsar Littman Jewelers Highland Park, N.J. Harvey I. Lipson, senior vice president

Number/location of stores: 42, in Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts. All except one are situated in malls.

Type of store: Founded in 1885, this guild to semi-guild chain has an annual volume approaching $50 million. Watches comprised 16% of sales in 1984.

Watch selling philosophy: “Watches are the only familiar items …especially as we open in completely new locales. So when a customer sees Rolex, Seiko, Pulsar and other watches, he’s seeing familiar faces.”

Littman likes watches, but is trying to de-emphasize them as a percentage of sales, hoping to reduce them to 14% this year. Lipson’s reason: The average square footage of Littman stores has gone down due to high rent and other expenses stemming from mall store size. “Unfortunatelywatches take up a lot of room…so the return/sq. ft. is worse than for other merchandise.”

He feels this and other problems (i.e., discounting, service, supply), which are generic to the watchbusiness, can be controlled much better in purely jewelry areas. “Gold chains don’t stop running. With watches you’re often at the mercy of the manufacturer.”

Lipson notes that customers generally have expectations about watches like no other product in the world. “A man may buy a $20,000 car and if it stalls, he won’t mind too much. But if a watch loses five minutes, he’ll return it. Customers are less tolerant of watches as it’s a more personal item than a car or washing machine.”

Principal brands in stock: Pulsar, Seiko, Cartier, Concord, Rolex, Raymond Weil and a select group of Hamiltons. In addition, Littman’s exclusive Barclay outlets carry Piaget and Corum. The average retail price is $200.

Pulsar inventory: Pulsar comprises 15% of watch sales. Average Pulsar price is $120. Littman carries about 60 styles, which vary by size and volume of outlet. In general the ratio of men’s to ladies’ stock is 40:60.

Best Pulsar sellers: The line’s strength at Littman lies in black dial and black diamond dial watches, as well as in black and gold finish pieces ranging from $130 to $180. “The black dress quartz has been hottest for ladies. The $79.50 black water-resistant model has proved a perfect price point for men.”

Sales training: Beginners start by selling less expensive merchandise under the supervision of a senior salesperson. Usually it takes several months before a novice becomes proficient.

Last year the firm conducted a concentrated program in conjunction with an outside training service. The program was generic–not just watches–and designed to teach sales staff how to change their approach to customers and to sell anything in the store.

Typical store/Pulsar customers: Littman customers range from middle to upper income. “In most major malls except the ‘Tiffany-type’ ones, just about anyone walking by is a potential Pulsar customer due to the brand’s wide spectrum of styles and prices.”

Service and repair: Littman has a 90-day refund policy. Pulsar offers a one-year warranty. “In general watch service is still a sore spot with us. Suppliers like Pulsar are trying hard to improve service, But an overhaul is still needed.”

Littman has watch-makers at several stores. All Pulsar products, however, go back to Coserv for repairs, which takes about three weeks. The store also replaces batteries and straps, but tries to avoid servicing watches of brands it doesn’t carry.

Advertising and promotion: Promotions have included special discounts at Grand Openings andwatches given to a Good Citizen Award winner and the top graduate of a local retailing school. The chain produces its own 30-page Christmas catalog and conducts an extensive radio campaign, mostly in the fall, for both watches and jewelry. Pulsar offers a co-op program as well as its own numerous TV spots. “We get our best results via magazines and radio. Newspaper ads usually aren’t worth the trouble.”

Sales/discounts: Littman will discount a watch down to 20%-30% off. “But almost every watch we carry is discounted throughout the year. We don’t try to get full price for watches and we don’t like to bargain. Our discounts are usually in line with our competition. Not to discount is like burying your head in the sand. You can’t survive.

“We could sell watches at full markup. But if a customer sees a watch at 20% off somewhere else, we’ve lost him. So we’d rather go with the going competitive price and keep the customer.”

Display techniques: Littman displays all watches loose in the cases with no identification other than a small brass plaque inscribed with the brand name.

One advantage of blending brands: Littman can try out a small quantity of something new without a display looking small. Rolex is the only isolated brand (“We feel it has a very distinct identity and deserves its own display”).

Special problems: Warranty service.

Movado Marcus Jewelers Rutherford, N.J. Ronald D. Block, manager

Number/location of stores: 11. Seven in New Jersey; also single outlets in Connecticut, White Plains, N.Y., Pittsburgh and Manhattan.

*Type of store: 57-year-old guild chain operation. Watches comprise 25%-35% of total sales.

Watch selling philosophy: “Watches and inhouse repairs are traffic builders for us. We hope for a profit, but mainly watches serve to create new customers.”

Principal brands in stock: Seiko ($150-$600), Pulsar ($75-$150), Rolex ($600-$9000), Baume & Mercier ($600-$4000), Piaget ($2800-$13,500), Concord ($395-$6000) and Movado ($195-$3400). “It’s important to make each store’s inventory fit customer needs and wants.”

Movado inventory: Introduced at Marcus in 1983, Movado soon rivaled Concord as the store’s fastest moving North American product. “On a piece-by-piece basis we did better with Movado since more people can afford it. Concord is more of a step up the ladder for customers.”

Marcus offers up to 35 men’s and ladies’ Movado styles including a gold plated Museum watch at $285 and $295; a 14k gold version with strap at $790 and $1090 and a gold bracelet model at $2800 and $3500. There also are stainless steel and sports Movados.

Best Movado seller: The Museum watch. It comes in gold or black face with contrasting black or gold dots.

Sales training: Conducted mostly through small informal meetings and on-the-job experience. Beginners are restricted to less expensive lines under supervision. North American sales reps visit the store on request to review mechandise changes with sales staff.

Typical store/Movado customers: People impressed by the Museum aspect and who want Swiss technology. “The average consumer still prefers Swiss over Japanese watches. Swiss watches have a mystique . . . a name that will take the Japanese a long time to duplicate.”

Marcus clientele in Rutherford generally is white middle/upper middle income–a mixture of both blue collar and professional types.

Service and repair: The Rutherford store has one in-house watchmaker, with three more serving the chain’s other outlets. The store has a 10-day refund policy on undamaged new watches with proof of purchase. Minor problems are repaired in-house. Major defects are corrected by North American and other suppliers within two to three weeks, depending on problem and volume. North American offers the first battery change for free.

Marcus services watches it hasn’t sold.

Advertising and promotion: “Any time you carry a product, you’ve got to make a commitment to carry it in depth. You can’t expect a shallow line to move. Likewise, you should take advantage of all the co-op money there is and advertise whenever possible.”

All of Marcus’s North American Watch products finished strong last year. The store ran 12 weeks of full-page “double truck” ads in the New York Times and the Bergen Record for the Christmas season.

The store also has run a continual year-long co-op campaign in Business Week, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, as well as Prevue (the cable magazine), Connecticut and Pittsburgh Magazines. Variety if important, with a different brand advertised each month. North American TV ads tag all Marcus stores in the New York metro area. All ad saturation peaks around major holidays.

Sales/discounting: Sporadic sales–mainly on selected merchandise and tied to specific events like Washington’s Birthday or Grand Openings. Some sales may not be discounts so much as promotional giveaways. “We don’t subscribe to sales for the sake of them, but occasionally we do have to meet the competition.”

The cut-off on discounts is about 20%. “If a customer comes in and says he can get a Movado or any other brand down the street for 40% off, I’ll tell him to go right ahead. Why sell a watch if you can’t get a reasonable markup?”

Display techniques: Each brand occupies a separate showcase and place in the front window. All Stuhrling watches are removed from boxes and shown on pedestals and pads. North American provides little signs and watch stands and has redone display cases for Marcus.

Special problems: None. “North American is always cooperative.”

Citizen Krigel’s Jewelers Kansas City, Mo. Scott Krigel, merchandise manager

Number/location of stores: Six in the greater Kansas City area. There are one downtown and five mall outlets.

Type of store: A “middle-of-the-road” chain. Watches comprise 12% of sales.

Watch selling philosophy: “We think watches are very important. Customers can identify them as name brands and associate Krigel’s in their minds with Longines, Citizen, whatever. In other words,watches are essential for the recognition of Krigel’s and its image in the marketplace.”

Principal brands in stock: Krigel’s number one line is Longines-Wittnauer ($300-$4000/$100-$400), then Citizen $80-$550). Krigel’s also stocks a smaller number of Morvants ($350-$3000), as well as a few Piagets ($10,000-plus) and Concords ($500-$2000). Krigel’s carries no off-brands or private label.

Citizen inventory: Each Krigel’s outlet carries the same basic styles, averaging 100 styles per shore. “They don’t glamorize any particular model. Instead they give us a new look throughout the year. They’re very much up on styling. Everything has a high-tech look.” Krigel’s tells customers looking for Seiko or Pulsar that Citizen has the same styling and price points but, watch for watch is cheaper. “We’ve been very successful converting customers to Citizen. If we weren’t good at this, we’d be selling Seiko, too.”

Best Citizen, sellers: Ladies’ dress bracelet watches; men’s dressy sport watches.

Sales training: Sales trainees are taught the difference between brands, as well as between quality and regular watches; quartz and digital pieces; mineral and sapphire crystals, etc. They learn enough to give customers useful information. “Salespeople shouldn’t have too much knowledge. . .there’s an ideal amount that enables them to descirbe the benefits of a watch without confusing a customer.” Training is over-the-shoulder; there’s no formal manual. Vendors help with training when they come into the store every six weeks to take inventory and orders.

Typical store/Citizen customers: Middle to upper-middle income. Citizen appeals to a wide variety of people because of its wide price range $($80-$500). Krigel cites a Citizen study showing that watchbuyers are predominantly male. “A man will come in with a woman to buy her a watch, but he’ll buy his own watch alone.”

Service and repair: “Our service and repair volume is so small it’s really insignificant.” Krigel adds that shopping mall space is too valuable to retain a watchmaker in-house. Anything other than minor servicing goes to supplier service centers or watchmakers in town (the stores uses three outside shops). Citizen warranty work takes about four weeks; in-town repairs about 10 days.

The store offers refunds. “But they’re usually not necessary. Quartz watches are very reliable. Still, we’ll do anything to satisfy a customer.”

Advertising and promotion: the Key medium is radio. Krigel’s runs radio spots 30 weeks a year on 12-15 local stations. Citizen coop ads run 12 weeks a year via 60-second radio spots. Krigel’s also does 30-second TV commercials twice a day on one station. “In the spring when our budget is low, we’ll use Citizen advertising with a Krigel’s voice over. But in the fall our budget is bigger. Then we’ll produce our own ads.”

Krigel’s doesn’t believe newspapers are the right medium for watch advertising in general. “They go to so many different types of homes, it’s hard to target your market.”

The store runs many promotions. A Kansas City Royals “Player of the Week” received a Citizenwatch. Citizens also have been given away during pre-game interviews and at auction on public TV. In addition, winners of a “Citizen of the Month” radio contest received a free watch. “Radio stations are very receptive to this all the time.”

Sales/discounting: Krigel’s has never advertised a sale. The store is opposed to sales on name brand watches. “It wouldn’t set well with Citizen or Longines. It’s different with diamond companies.”

Krigel’s reply to customers who want discounts: “Our Citizens are already priced fairer than Seiko or Pulsar before any discount. So there’s little reason to discount.”

Display techniques: Most Krigel’s outlets have a circular center island with showcases on either side.Watches are displayed at the front of the center island (“They are very prominent because we really believe in them”). 25% of display space is devoted to watches even though they account for 12% of sales.

Watches are separated by sex and brand. “It’s a big mistake not to separate watches by sex. One of the first questions you ask is whether the customer wants a men’s or ladies’ watch.”

Krigel says Citizen comes up with “great” moving window displays. One revolving motion display had rings that twirled around clusters of watches creating an optical illusion.

Special problems: “Citizen has made a tremendous turnaround. Less than two years ago they were fading. Then they made some big changes, sinking a ton of money into advertising, increasing the size of the line, lowering some prices and raising others. Today, too, shipping is great…they don’t hold over orders. The company’s future looks really bright.”

Bulova Green’s Jewelers Corpus Christi, Tex. Marc A. Foster, marketing/sales manager

Number/location of stores: Three, all in Corpus Christi. Green’s has a downtown store, a strip center store and a mall store.

Type of store: Family-owned fine jewelry independent. Watches comprised 32% of business in 1984, up from 27% in 1983.

Watch selling philosophy: “If you can sell diamonds and gold, you certainly can sell watches. In fact they’re easier to sell than jewelry. The price points are lower; watches are more functional than jewelry and everyone’s got to have one.”

When Foster came to Green’s from Bulova two years ago, Corpus Christi lacked a profitable watchmarket. His assignment: To make the store competitive in watches. He claims the chain has since taken over watch sales most other local jewelers didn’t want. “When others dropped watches or cut back, we increased our business. Today we’re known as Corpus Christi’s watch center.”

Green’s concentrates on the popular-priced watch market since luxury inventory had too little turnover. Its emphasis is on depth in styles that sell well rather than a broad selection. Green’s needs a four-time turn yearly (once per season) to achieve profit.

“But if it’s a good style I can turn it 20 times a season. All I’m concerned about is turnover. I eat, sleep and drink turnover.”

Principal brands in stock: Bulova ($39.95-$275) and Citizen ($59.95-$175) comprise 45% and 40% respectively of total inventory (“We sold 5000 watches in 1984. About 2500 were Bulovas”). Pulsar ($90-$150) and Seiko ($90-$150) are secondary brands. Green’s also sells a limited number of Concord, Croton and private label.

“This goes against the common wisdom that Seiko and Pulsar are the biggest sellers. People do want them, but they’re footballed so much it’s hard to make money on them. Often we’ll point Seiko and Pulsar customers in the direction of Bulova and Citizen. This gives us a chance to avoid blanket discounting.”

Bulova inventory: 90 styles on hand in Bulova up to $275; 30 in Caravelle at $39.95, with 360 styles available from the supplier overall. Principal models include the men’s and ladies’ two-tone or gold “Rolex” look ($195-$225) and the ladies’ “Diamond Romantic Series” ($135-$165) with diamonds on dial or bezel. “Bulova puts diamonds on ladies’ watches like nobody else. This is a good bread and butter item for the independent jeweler.”

Best Bulova sellers: By far, the “Rolex” look. Others include the Romantic series (“We get calls in January for Valentine’s Day”) and Caravelles with full figure dials, Arabic numerals and sweep hands (“A good starter watch for boys”).

Sales training: Trainees are expected to just observe for the first 30 days and study warranty info, technical bulletins, instruction manuals and supplier catalogs. “We want sales staffers to be walking advertisements for us…so customers will say, ‘I got my watch at Green’s. That guy there really took his time with me.'”

Suppliers give store personnel special 25%-off wholesale discounts to encourage them to wear newwatches. “Customers often ask, ‘What kind of watch do you wear?’ This has helped close a lot of sales.”

When supplier reps introduce new lines, they’ll conduct inventory, tag the catalogs and review details with sales staff. Foster considers reps “our partners in the overall success of watch lines.”

Typical store/Bulova customers: “People concerned about tradition and quality.” In general Green’s customers fall within age categories 18-45 or 65-plus.

Service and repair: “Watch repairs are an opportunity, not a problem…but only if approached with that attitude.” Green’s has turned this weakness among local jewelers into its own strength.

Green’s motto: “Give the customer what he wants.” If anyone is dissatisfied the store will give him/her another watch, no questions asked. “We may even do it with watches three to four years old. Our very integrity is at stake.”

Green’s advertises free batteries with all new purchases. After six months customers are notified by mail to bring new watches in for free servicing. (“We may get to sell them something else when they come back.”)

Bulova offers a two-year factory warranty, which includes everything but the crystal. Bulova also has a trade-in sale program whereby a customer can bring in a watch requiring, say, a $50 repair and get this amount as a credit toward a new Bulova. “This is better for us than offering a 50% discount.”

Green’s fixes old trade-ins, selling them at 25% over repair costs as second watches. Typical turnaround on repairs is one week for local jobs, three weeks by mail. Sales staff, however, never makes promises. “We always estimate a four- to six-week delivery. It’s better to be early than late.” Green’s gives customers loaners while they wait.

Advertising and promotion: Separate ads for each brand in local newspapers (the sports section yields best results). A repair service ad runs weekly in the local Sunday TV supplement. Bulova produces some of Green’s ads.

Green’s runs radio time signals on three stations 25 times a month (“This is Radio 302 brought to you by Bulova and Green’s Jewelers, your Bulova headquarters”). There also are 30-second co-op TV spots 25 times a month.

“We keep hammering away with our sales and service message. Consistency is the main thing. Don’t advertise two weeks before a big holiday, but rather each and every month.”

Green’s also offers promotions backed by co-op newspaper ads and radio scripts. Recently it gave the mayor of Corpus Christi a Bulova for outstanding service and donated a $100 Bulova to the winner of a local marathon race.

Sales/discounting: “You’ve got to use discounting to your advantage. I’ll go as low as 40% off.” Even so, the store has abandoned across-the-board discounting (too little profit) in favor of periodically using it as a way to “get rid of the dogs.” Bulova offers a special co-op sale twice a year to help stores clean house.

“If a style is still around after three seasons, we’ll discount it. If we can make a 10% gross profit we’re happy since we won’t have stagnant inventory.” Only 15% of inventory, however, is discounted and Foster wants to reduce that to 5%.

Display techniques: Watches aren’t segmented by brands–just by men’s or ladies’ styles. Since ladies’ watches sell best, they’re displayed up front. Before each new watch is placed in a case, it’s set on time and running.

Special problems: None with Bulova except in getting goods shipped early and fast enough. Green’s has learned to live with delays and shortages with Bulova as with other suppliers. “In general, though, Bulova takes real good care of us.”

Stores: One, located at the high traffic intersection of State and Madison Sts., downtown Chicago.

Type of store: 40-year-old fine jewelry independent with a $2 million-plus annual volume. Watches comprise 30% of sales.

Watch selling philosophy: “We know our market. The average person can’t afford a $1000 watch. To ask someone earning $200-$300 a week to spend more than that is too big a sacrifice. So we appeal mainly to the 80% who fall in this category rather than the high-ticket customer.

“That’s why Wittnauer is so important to us. It’s the store’s best seller, comprising 50% of total watchsales. Its styling and features–such as numerous diamond models–make it an unbeatable value in the $125-$200 range. In our downtown locale, Wittnauers pretty much sell themselves.”

Principal brands in stock: Mid-market lines from $75 to $700 catering to cash customers. These include Bulova, Pulsar, Longines, Wittnauer and Seiko. There’s a limited inventory of more expensive Longines ($350-$700) and Lassale Seiko ($275-$695).

Wittnauer inventory: Carter carries about 230 styles. Men’s models include the “Diamond Premier” ($125-$175) and the top-end “Diamond Award” ($295-$550). Women’s models include the “Diamond Romance” ($125-$200) and “Diamond Bolero” ($200-$400).” Because women buy 65% of all watches in the store, Carter carries more women’s styles than men’s.

Best Wittnauer sellers: The “Diamond Romance” and “Diamond Premier” series because of their styling and price.

Sales training: “We have all professionals on the floor here … no clerks. And they’re paid accordingly.” There are no formal classes or seminars. More experienced sales-people work with trainees until they can do well on their own.

Typical customers: As a downtown store, Carter gets secretaries, executives, lawyers, everyday working people. About 70% of Wittnauer customers are black, blue collar or lower-middle income white collar with a $12,000-$20,000 average income.

Service and repair: Carter offers a one-year store warranty in addition to standard one-year factory warranties. Minor problems are corrected in-house within two days; more serious warranty repairs go to Longines’ New York service center, which has a two- to Three-week turn-around. Customers with defective new purchases not quickly correctible get replacement watches.

Carter offers free batteries for the lifetime of a new watch. Routine cleaning, dial changes and overhauls are jobbed out to a watchmaker down the street. Overhauls are guaranteed back within 10 days and warranted for one year.

Advertising and promotion: Conducted in May/June and (most extensively) in December when the store does up to 75% of its annual watch business. Carter uses king-size posters on the sides of buses. The store also advertises on radio and in the Chicago Sun Times.

Sales/discounting: Generally none. May run a sale during slower months like September, January or February. “We offer a legitimate 20% discount.”

Ticketed mark-up is full keystone but Sider says, “20% off is common practice. That’s the maximum we can afford.”

Display techniques: CArter’s corner site gives it lots of window display space (30 ft. by 20 ft.) so Sider puts lots of merchandise in the window. Wittnauer occupies a key position both in the window and inside the store. The brand gets 25% more space than any other. “It also gets the best space … where the heavier traffic is. You go with a winner.”

Special problems: Wittnauer had an inventory problem one to two years ago, when production was cut back to balance previous overruns. But last year Longines-Wittnauer carried substantial inventory and Carter always had needed styles and price points.

Number/location of stores: Nine in Greater Minneapolis; one in Rochester, Minn., and one in Omaha, Neb. Headquarters is the Nicollet Mall store in downtown Minneapolis.

Type of store: A division of the 55-store Henry Birks chain. Annual divisional sales volume is $6 million-plus ($3 million-plus at the Nicollet Mall outlet alone). Watches comprise about 18% of total sales.

Watch selling philosophy: Watches bring in people who hopefully will also buy jewelry and become loyal customers. “It’s necessary to carry brand name items that give us an identity. But we also certainly want a customer to have the right, quality watch.

“If a customer–whether a man buying a gift, or a couple–wants an under-$5000 watch, I’d reach for a Baume & Mercier. They make many attractive models in this price category.”

Principal brands in stock: Most important is Rolex at $1000-$9000 (“It’s the most identifiable watch in the country”). Others include Baume & Mercier ($450-$4000); Seiko ($75-$375); Omega ($395-$4000), and–in a few stores–Cartier and Ebel ($895).

Baume & Mercier inventory: About 25 styles in stock at Nicollet Mall. Certain downtown store items don’t appear in other outlets. “We try to cover as much ground as possible with the line and not put it all into one store.” Principal Baume & Mercier models include all-gold bracelet styles for ladies and all-gold leather strap models for men.

Best Baume & Mercier sellers: An all-gold bracelet model at $1500 for ladies, $2900 for men and the $2900 Avant Garde.

Sales training: Trainees work with the watch specialist who personally trains them. They listen to customer questions and her answers. “We give new hires vendor catalogs, product information brochures and handouts. It takes several months before they’re proficient.” Baume & Mercier and other suppliers will come in to conduct sales seminars.

Typical store/Baume & Mercier customers: “Yuppie types. That’s the B & M customer. People from about 28 to 45 … a young, successful group.”

Service and repair: The Nicollet Mall store has two factory-trained in-house watchmakers. None of the other outlets do. They handle only minor repairs, sending major out-of-warranty jobs to the downtown store. J.B. Hudson offers a one-year warantee in addition to standard one-year supplier warranties. Turnaround is one to two weeks for in-house work, three weeks average for Baume & Mercier. “We’ll also service an off-the-street watch if it’s a legitimate brand name piece.”

Refunds and exchanges: Within 90 days, no questions asked, accompanied by proof of purchase and a piece returned in good shape. J.B. Hudson features free engraving on all new watches.

Advertising and promotion: About one watch ad per month appears in the Minneapolis Star and Tribune. Typically ads single out one brand.

Recent promotions include a 14K gold Baume & Mercier giveaway at the grand reopening of J.B. Hudson’s Southdale Mall store in Edina, Minn., last September.

Sales/discounting: Baume & Mercier watches are never on sale. The stores try for keystone onwatches “but because the watch business is competitive, we’ll meet legitimate competition on a particualr model with an individual customer up to 25% off.”

Display techniques: Watches are displayed by brand. Baume & Mercier and other better watches are not segregated by sex. The B & M display–situated at the center of the watch area–is organized into men’s/ladies’ matched sets, ladies’ straps, ladies’ bracelets, men’s bracelets and men’s straps. “Our displays are conservative and straightforward.”

Special problems: “In the years I’ve dealt with Baume & Mercier, I’ve never had unresolved problems of any kind. Their service is among the best in the watch industry. That’s one of the reasons I wear one myself.”

Number/location of stores: One, in the heart of Manhattan’s Garment District.

Type of store: Privately-owned independent, 36 years old, with a $2.5 million-plus annual volume.Watches comprise 20% of total sales. One of New York City’s original Omega dealers.

Watch selling philosophy: “We slowly moved into watches, trying to create a full-service store in the Garment Center. We already were the largest jeweler in this part of town, but felt a full-service image would help us grow. The goal was to give customers wider selection … so they wouldn’t go anywhere else.”

Cohen sees potential in watches and keeps a representative inventory of each brand, “though not the huge stock I had” because of lower-than-expected profits and high costs of stocking inventory. Over the past six months, Stanley & Son has gone from 900 to 300 pieces.

Principal brands in stock: Concord ($500-$5000), Corum ($1000-$10,000), Movado ($100-$1000), Daniel Mink ($250-$500), Philipe Charriol ($350-$500), Pulsar ($50-$150), Citizen ($75-$200), Cartier ($675-$10,000), Audemars Piguet ($1000-$25,000) and Omega ($350-$6000). Average retail is $500.

Omega inventory: Carries 75-100 models (out of several hundred available), which compete mainly, with North American’s Concord. Principal styles in both men’s and ladies’ versions include the Manhattan at $1850 and $1750; the 14k gold Phoenix at $5000 and $3500 and the black Calypso at $795 and $695. There also are gold bracelet Omegas–mostly for ladies–from $695 to $2200 (with or without diamonds) and the men’s Seamaster at $795.

Best Omega sellers: By far the Manhattan, followed by the Phoenix.

Sales training: Managers go over watch lines with staff at sales meetings every other Saturday morning. They also review policies, gripes and problems. In addition, Omega reps conduct seminars at the store’s request, but Stanley & Son didn’t call them in last year.

Typical store/Omega customers: In general, Stanley & Son gets a fast-paced watch clientele–businessmen and women who have little time to shop (“They’re often in and out in 15 minutes”). They require quick service. “They also have enough cash not to be concerned about every penny. It’s a typical Garment Center crowd.”

Men buy more watches than ladies. Still, the store sells more ladies’ watches (“We get more men buying watches as gifts for women than vice versa”). Cohen has not yet observed a typical Omega buyer.

Service and repair: The store has a 14-day refund/30-day exchange policy; Omega offers a one-year warranty. Turnaround on factory repairs is three to four weeks. Stanley has an in-house watchmaker.

Other services include loaners to service customers, watch strap replacements (“This is a big business for us”) and free lifetime battery replacement on private-label watches.

Advertising and promotion: The store is a strong advertiser in New York Magazine. Omega also co-oped ads in the New York Times, as well as Women’s Wear Daily last Christmas season. The store does no radio or TV advertising (“In New York we can’t afford it”).

Sales/discounting: Every watch in the store is ticketed 30% off, with some older models 40%-50% off. “Our watches show two tags–the one from the factory and our own showing the percent off and net selling price.” Cohen insists keystone “is not a realistic markup in my area.” After Valentine’s Day and during the summer, the store runs a sale section in the window to get rid of old merchandise.

Display techniques: Stanley & Son features a nine-section front window. Three sections displaywatches, all brands mixed together. Inside the store, near the front, watches are displayed in four out of 17 floor showcases. Omega is in the middle of the watch area. Men’s and Ladies’ models are separate, though sets are kept together. Styles are segmented into straps, steel and gold.

The store relies heavily on Omega promotional materials such as thank you envelops and props. The supplier custom-designed an entire window display last Christmas complete with background, Omega signs and stands.

Special problems: None.

Number/location of stores: Four, all in Richmond. One (main) downtown shop, two mall stores and a strip shopping center outlet.

Type of store: Schwarzschild is now part of the Henry Birks chain. This multi-million dollar guild operation is the largest jeweler in Richmond; watches comprise 15% of total sales.

Akribos watch selling philosophy: “We go for the higher-end market. There’s no sense selling junk or cheapwatches since we want customers to be satisfied.” Watches are considered a profit center as much as a traffic builder. The watch department is still expanding (“We see a lot more growth potential here”).

Seiko is a significant part of the watch department, accounting for the bulk of watch sales. “It offers great style and value for the money. Seikos are priced at what most people want to spend on awatch.”

Sheehan stresses turnover. “Don’t get everything … just what customers like. Replenish popular models as soon as they’re sold. Be ruthless and delete lines that aren’t working. Try something else. We try to keep a close eye on this.”

Principal brands in stock: Inventory includes Rolex ($900-$8850); Seiko ($100-$650); Baume & Mercier ($700-$5000) and Rado ($795-$1500). Rolex and Seiko are the store’s two strongest brands.

Seiko inventory: Concentration on the regular Seiko line, but also carries the 14k Lassale Seiko at up to $3500. Schwarzschild carries an extensive selection–about 85% of available styles during the Christmas season–and does best with more traditional designs.

Best Seiko sellers: Men’s strap models and ladies’ tank models.

Sales training: Managers are responsible. Employes build expertise by reviewing catalogs, technical bulletins and warranty information. Once a year Seiko offers a special training brunch during which a supplier rep goes over new lines and models.

Typical store/Seiko customers: People looking for a jeweler they can trust and rely on. Overall, customers are middle-class.

Service and repair: Each outlet has its own service facility and a factory-trained watchmaker. “We try to stress that we really do service what we sell.” The chain can handle most warranty repairs in-house. Depending on the problem, repairs are done while a customer waits or within a week. Turnaround on watches sent to Seiko’s Coserv repair center under the one-year warranty is about a month.

The store has a 30-day refund policy and offers free batteries within a year of purchase. It repairswatches not bought at the store, even brands the store doesn’t carry. Some loaners are available.

Advertising and promotion: Most ads are print via Richmond’s two local dailies. The heaviest and most effective advertising is around Christmas. Watch brands are advertised individually (out of fourwatch ads runs last January, Seiko was advertised twice). Seiko, says Sheehan, is generous with co-op dollars.

TV and radio advertising are used more for jewelry that watches. One exception: Last Christmas the store ran a Rado TV ad. Sometimes, too, Seiko will do TV spots that tag the store.

Sales/discounting: “Schwarzschild shoots for keystone markups.” Sales are infrequent–mainly to reduce old inventory. It’s store policy not to discount.

Display techniques: One section of the downtown

Award-winner helps create watch lines

Natico Originals Inc., a New York City importer, has introduced three lines of high-fashion, high-quality wristwatches coordinated by the winner of a coveted European design award. The designer, Anne-Marie Cheifel, won the 1982 “Le Prix de L’Excellence European,” the equivalent of America’s Coty award.

The watch lines–Cacharel, Paris; Ted Lapidus, Paris, and Cheifel, Paris–are available for the first time in this country. Men’s and women’s models are signed and numbered. They’re plated to 10 microns of 18K gold and incorporate the latest Swiss quartz movements.

Also available are coordinated leather accessories, pen and pencil sets and shaving accoutrements.

The lines are as different as their designers: Cacharel, Ted Lapidus and Chiefel. Chiefel maintains tight control over materials, quality and workmanship, and holds the worldwide license for distribution of the designs.

“This concept is critical and seems unique in the U.S.A.,” says Natico President Murray H. Kowalsky. “It means that the products which Natico distributes are in fact designed by the person whose name is on the dial, as opposed to having Natico put a designer’s name on any watch we wish.”

Natico, a 35-year-old firm, has had strong ties to Europe since World War II. The company works in the high-end, high-quality range, primarily in internationally-designed, private label and top brandclocks, watches and boutique articles.

The Ted Lapidus line for men and women retails in the $200 to $500 range. Sporty models include a striking hexagonal case with ivory dial and burgundy index, which can be matched to either a burgundy or ivory crocodile strap. On the dress side, an assortment of unusual dial treatments includes metallic stripes, mirrors, a classic white enamel, and the “Lapidus anchor” logo with coordinated two-tone metal or leather French-made straps.

Among the unusual looks designed by Cacharel ($175 retail and up) is an antique dial with 1/4-in.-diameter sweep hand, a high-tech tactile (dotted) face in two styles, and a mod look in gray, gold or matte black.

White is the main color for Cheifel’s own line, though men’s watches can be fitted with black straps. Kowalsky points out that all-white men’s watches are quite popular in Europe now; “perhaps it will be the next trend here.”

Each line features unique accessories, packaging and individual showcase displays. Contact Natico, 225 Fifth Ave., New York, N.Y.; (212) 685-5307.

A new Swiss watch is born

First came the plastic Swatch, Switzerland’s stylish entry into the budget-priced leisure watchmarket. Then the Swiss unleashed M-Watch on young and trendy consumers. Now there’s the TIQ, an all-metal, water-tight quartz analog fashion accessory.

Early last year Konstantin Theile, former marketing manager of Swatch, left the ETA Group to establish Time Inter Corp. in Zug, Switzerland. His first TIQ collection was launched in Switzerland in November, with exports scheduled to start early in 1985. Initial markets will include Europe, then North and Latin America later in the spring, followed by the Far East. Distribution will be to better department stores, mail-order houses and jewelry stores, as well as fashion houses and boutiques. The low-cost TIQ will be packaged in gray velvet and merchandised as an impulse purchase item.

At a recent press conference, Theile explained that his “collection addresses cheerful men and women who like to coordinate their watch with their leisure wear and activities.” Theile wanted a non-throwaway watch “accessible to everyone,” that harmonizes with other fashion accessories he claims to be developing.

The timepiece features a mineral dial glass, metal case and a plastic or leather strap; it can be repaired in about five days. Each unit is equipped with a Ronda Harley quartz movement, accurate to within one second per day. TIQ is guaranteed for one year and, according to Theile, “costs less than a meal for two in a medium priced restaurant.”

Among 10 unisex models in the 1984-’85 winter collection are three traditional styles in black, gray and blue, plus seven fashionable models in white, yellow and bordeaux. TIQ plans to offer a distinct summer collection later.

Hattori Seiko buys into French Matra

Hattori Seiko Co., Tokyo, announced it has invested in France’s top watchmaker, Matra Horlogerie of Paris.

The Tokyo firm markets watches and clocks made by the Seiko Group, Japan’s largest timepiece producer. The paris company belongs to the Matra Group, a major manufacturer of munitions and electronic equipment. Matra currently claims a 30% share of France’s domestic timepiece market.

Matra Horlogerie recently increased its capital to 186 million francs (roughly $20 million). Hattori Seiko footed about 10%, or 20 million francs ($1.2 million) of that.

The two firms have had technological and marketing ties since 1981. This latest financial link is a bid to eliminate trade friction before it can occur. Hattori plans to import cases and faces from its French partner for use in Seiko timepieces.

According to The Japan Economic Journal, Matra Horlogerie has been suffering from slow growth in domestic demand and the rapid advance of foreign-made products. Its fiscal 1983 deficits reached 320 million francs ($34.5 million).

Helbros expands St. Croix plant

Helbros Watches–through its Virgin Island subsidiary, Master Time Co. Ltd.–has launched what it terms the largest watch expansion program in the history of St. Croix.

A new 12,000-sq.-ft. facility near its former plant has more than tripled the size of the Master Time Factory. Among the many operations to be performed there are movement assembly, casing and dialing via an automated “line” in a dust-free, air-conditioned and temperature-controlled environment.

In addition to increasing production, the new facility will permit a number of new operations including service and repairs. A computer-controlled system uses eight computer terminals that store information for instant retrieval; a word processing system automates correspondence. Close liaison with Helbros’ New York facility makes the system more efficient.

The new facility, says Helbros president Alan Turin, will provide “greater capacity to respond to our requirements and the needs of the marketplace.”

Timex more sensitive to market segments

Timex Corp., Waterbury, Conn., launched a number of models at the New York JA show that demonstrate its extreme sensitivity to market segmentation.

“This year we’re making a greater conscious effort than ever in catalogs, trade and consumer advertising to segment our line,” says David Rahilly, director of marketing and sales. “We want to show our strong assortment of sport watches, elegant dress products, casual/everyday designs, specialty and technology items.”

Among new models to be seen in stores starting this April:

* A group of thin fashion digitals for women and children priced from $9.95-$11.95 in new copper, light blue and gray, which the Color Association of the U.S. has determined will be the hot colors for ’85. There’s also an all-gray model for men at $9.95 featuring large, legible digits.

* 90 new pewter or gray styles on the QA and combo side.

A new men’s gray SportsQuartz calendar model coordinated with gold-tone stick markers, hour, minute and sweep-second retails for $27.95. A men’s gray Marathon SportsQuartz features ana/digi display, alarm, chronograph, timer and dual time zone at $39.95.

* New Black resin sports watches for women at $29.95. Rahilly says women “prefer scaled down models, so we’ve come out with a small, water resistant three-hand sport series with white arabic numerals or stick marker dials.” Spring TV commercials will tout Black Max watches for men and women.

* Toward the higher end, a classic tank style with white face, roman numerals and leather strap at $44.95, and three gold-tone designs with stick markers and block or mesh bands from $64.95 to $69.95.

* Four new women’s watches in the solid state quartz Illusion collection. They feature a thin (4.1 mm), more rectangular gold-tone case and leather-like straps. The three-hand women’s models retail from $19.95 to $34.95. For setting, there’s a push-button in the case back, with no protruding crown or button on the side.

* Two new “his and hers” watches in the bi-metallic (two-tone) sports line. Both feature a round gold-tone bezel and face, and silver-tone integrated band with gold-tone highlights. Suggested retails: men’s $54.95; women’s $44.95.

Watchbands on videotape

Regal/Kreisler Watchband Co., Philadelphia, Pa., a leading watchband manufacturer and importer, has introduced what it terms the watch industry’s first instructional videotape on watch band attachment, sizing and reordering procedures. The videotape was produced under the direction of Louis A. Zanoni of Zantech Inc., Trenton, N.J., a noted author and instructor of quartz watch training programs.

The video is intended to familiarize all jewelry and watch sales personnel with the methods and procedures of selecting, sizing and attaching watch bands. It is available in VHS, Beta and 3/4-in. U.-matic. Contact Regal Industries, 606-622 Spring Garden St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19123; (215) 923-6835.

Revitalizing Bulova

This venerable watch firm heads into the ’90s with a diversified product line and a new stress on quality, styling and service

Bulova isn’t Bulova anymore.

At least it isn’t the inventory-fat firm that stumbled wheezing and gasping for fiscal breath into the 1980s. Today, it’s a lean and innovative corporate machine.

A tip-off to the change is its new name: Bulova Corp., not Bulova Watch Co. The name change represents a new Bulova with first-class customer service; improved product quality, styling and technology; and diversified product lines, including jewelry, watches by artists and trendy beach bags with attached clocks. The commitment to this better Bulova is backed by a new logo, new headquarters and even a new address.

The changes cap a 10-year effort by owner Loews Corp. to rescue and rebuild the reputation of the 114-year-old firm. It’s all part of the “revitalization of one of the great names in American products, a name that got tarnished,” says Andrew H. Tisch, a director and former president of Bulova.

In the process, Bulova has grown into a $160 million concern (double its 1979 value) and, say Bulova officials, is at least No. 2 in all major price points where its watches compete, with much of the business in the $150 + category.

Potential: The future didn’t look so cheery in 1979, when Loews paid some $30 million to buy Bulovafrom majority shareholder C.P. Wong, managing director of Hong Kong watchmaker SteluxManufacturing Co., and other shareholders, who had owned it since 1976. Bulova was on the financial ropes, pummeled by losses of $48 million in the three previous years, lackluster sales and loan restrictions that gave its bankers extensive control over assets and operations.

Still, Loews saw Bulova as an investment with good potential. One reason was the firm’s “strong name,” says Herbert C. Hofmann, Bulova president and former chief operating officer.

When Loews actually took over, it discovered how bad things really were. “We found Bulova was within 30 days of bankruptcy,” says Tisch.

Adds Hofmann, “The numbers were scary. Our initial investment [for purchase and make-over] was $36 million. By the time we fully valued everything, it was $100 million.”

Not only was Bulova belly deep in red ink, but product quality was “questionable” and styling was “staid, stodgy and lackluster,” says Tisch. Indeed, recalls Tom Hickerson, a 15-year employee who now is controller and a corporate vice president, “a major obstacle was regaining customer confidence in our quality and service.” It was lost, he says, largely due to the former owner’s absentee management and the Far East firm’s habit of “flooding us with product not up to our standards.”

Downsizing: After months of learning the business and reviewing operations, inventory and finances, Tisch and Hofmann laid Bulova’s woes squarely before Loews officials. Instead of a quick fix or sell-off, Tisch and Hofmann wanted to restructure the firm, turn it around financially and restore confidence in its product.

“But we said that first we’d lose $30 million the first year and $20 million the next,” recalls Hofmann. Loews officials weren’t happy. But instead of pulling the plug, they gave Tisch and Hofmann the go-ahead to reorganize and downsize.

Most of Bulova’s top management went into early retirement, replaced by Loews executives. Overall, the staff was trimmed from 2,500 in 1980 to about 550 now. The firm winnowed accounts from 17,000 in 1979 to about 12,000, dropping those that were too small, geographically remote or not economically viable for salespeople to service in those years of rising gas prices.

Bulova stopped making watch movements, cases and crystals and shut down manufacturing operations in Bienne, Switzerland and Providence, R.I., and at Bulova Park headquarters in Queens, N.Y. (The only survivors: production of dials for corporate award watches and the five-person design-and-model shop in Providence, where “we do our own design…to stay unique,” says Hofmann.) Now, components are made to order by select high-quality suppliers around the world that adhere to Bulova specifications.

Shedding those operations saved money and allowed Bulova to react quickly to market changes. “When Loews came in, the watch industry was moving from [emphasis on] technology to fashion,” says Tisch. “Instead of large volume in a few single styles, we needed a lot of styles, with less volume of each. We needed flexibility to work with various designers, suppliers and case manufacturers. We couldn’t be locked in [to the old manufacturing operation].”

Because of the changes, says Robert Webber, vice president of operations and a 24-year employee, Bulova now is a “very lean and mean” company. “We went from a structured manufacturing firm to a marketing and distribution firm by using aspects of the watch industry overseas,” he says. “This made us much more price competitive than when we manufactured in the U.S.”

Big bucks: At the same time, Bulova’s new bosses spent big bucks–thanks to Loews–to restore product quality and reliability. “In those days, no money went into marketing,” recalls Tisch. “It was all going to clean up the operation.”

Bulova paid $10 million to buy back old inventory from retailers and scrap it. It conducted a $200,000 survey of jewelers, consumers and even Bulova employees for opinions of Bulova and its products. It spent $1 million on quality control advisers and inspectors to evaluate Bulova inventory and set stricter specifications.

“We looked at every single component and tested it,” says Webber. “If it didn’t work, we didn’t ship it. We still stick to that rule religiously.”

That caused problems with some suppliers, says Webber. There were sizable back orders in 1982 and 1983 as Bulova educated suppliers to its new, stricter quality controls, replacing firms that couldn’t or wouldn’t adapt. “But we felt it was better to pay the price in-house than get into the horror [of product and service problems] in the field,” he says.

The resulting improvements are reflected in statistics from Bulova’s repair and service department. Ten years ago, Bulova’s net service costs totaled $6 million. By 1988, despite inflation and higher labor costs, the figure had dropped to $2 million. Some shrinkage came with the industry shift to quartz movements. But most of it is due to tougher quality control.

`Bad years’: Not surprisingly, the first few years — which Hofmann calls “the bad years” — were rough. Says Tisch, “We were trying to survive and convince the industry, and ourselves, that Bulova wasn’t going out of business.”

That wasn’t easy, and Bulova officials admit they underestimated how long the recovery would take.

They also faced other challenges, including technological advances. When Loews bought Bulova, 80% of its watches had mechanical movements. But the industry and marketplace were shifting to the new, rapidly changing quartz technology. At first, Bulova had trouble keeping up. Indeed, one reason for the failure of its Swiss Accutron — one of the first introductions under Loews — was the firm’s inability to make movements thin enough to fit the styling of the times.

Another problem was holding on to people. In the first few years, salespeople and executives left due to “rumors and worry,” says Hofmann. A few others were hired away.

Turnabout: But the changes — and Loews’ gamble — began to pay off. In 1985, Bulova announced a net 1984 profit of $7.7 million, its first after a decade of losses.

That reflected renewed consumer confidence and freed Bulova from what Tisch calls “years of damage control.” Hofmann says the firm became “proactive instead of reactive.”

Bulova officials cite three reasons for the turnaround:

* People. Hofmann and Tisch say the success isn’t due to strategy or genius, rather to the hard work of “our team.” Some of the workers were there when Loews took over. “Bulova had very strong second-line managers” handling the day-to-day operations, says Hofmann. “So we put them in positions where they could run things and turn the company around.”

Company employees were “very, very protective and interested in making [the company] work. Even security guards would ask how sales were doing,” recalls Hofmann. “That gave us needed incentive.”

The firm also benefited from members of the management team who came from outside the watch industry. “We aren’t traditional in our ideas of what a watch company can or should do,” says Paul S. Sayegh, a former Loews assistant controller who came with Hofmann and Tisch in 1979 and now is executive vice president and chief financial officer. “In the past, people concentrated just on watches. But this management has a broader vision. If opportunities arise that aren’t traditional but fit with our watch business — such as our [artist-designed] Classic Moments watches and our 14k jewelry — we’re willing to consider them.”

* Corporate support. Loews’ moral and financial support has been another plus. “As long as we told them what we were doing and had a plausible reason, they supported us,” says Hofmann. “Once we had their approval, all they said was `How are you doing with your plan?’ and `Don’t give us any surprises.”

Loews’ one requirement is that Bulova reinvest profits to help the business grow. “The Loews concept isn’t profit and loss, it’s asset valuation,” says Tisch. “As long as we show the value of assets will grow at a substantial rate, Loews doesn’t need the dividends they would otherwise get from Bulova.”

Loews is pleased with the results. In April, in appreciation for a job well-done, Loews held 10th anniversary celebrations for Bulova employees. Then in August, it announced Tisch would move to chairman of its Lorillard tobacco division, with Hofmann becoming president of Bulova.

* Service. Efficient, effective customer service (including accounts receivable, customer queries, shipping and repair) is another key to success, says Hofmann. Eighteen percent of Bulova employees — more than twice the average for most manufacturers — are involved. “Efficiency experts might say we’re overstaffed,” he says. “But we see ourselves as a service organization. We really do need this many people to service accounts, handle inquiries and follow up on anything customers ask for.”

One service that has improved markedly in recent years is turnaround on orders. (“We have a responsibility to manage the retailer’s inventory,” says Hofmann.) Thanks in part to semiboxed merchandise and extensive on-hand inventory, orders usually are shipped within three days of receipt.

Image changes: Bulova has taken a number of other steps in the past three years to change its image, including:

* New name. The company moniker was changed last year from Bulova Watch Co. to Bulova Corp. “We saw we’re much more than a watch company,” says Tisch. “We make clocks. We make artillery fuzes [in its Bulova Systems subsidiary]. We’re exploring new markets and products. Now we can expand outward whout our name limiting us to watches.”

* New home. The firm left Bulova Park — its impressive four-story, 400,000-sq.-ft. headquarters in Queens, N.Y. — for a spartan two-level, 100,000-sq.-ft. office building and 90,000-sq.-ft. warehouse a few blocks away. With much less staff and almost no on-site manufacturing, the old site (which it now rents to other businesses) was no longer cost-efficient, says Hofmann.

* New logo. Bulova dropped its almost-20-year-old emblem (a stylized tuning fork adopted after the debut of Accutron, which used an electronic tuning fork oscillator). “It was a great logo, but research found people perceived it, and tuning forks, as outmoded,” says Tisch.

The new logo is a bold redesign of “Bulova” with the “o” resembling a sunrise. Actually, Bulova officials worried it looked too much like a sunrise and would remind viewers of Japan, known as the land of the rising sun and a major watch competitor like Citizen watches. But research found most people related it to Bulova’s “rebirth and growth,” says Hofmann.

* New address. In 1988, the firm persuaded Queens Borough to rename the short street adjoining its headquarters as Bulova Way in memory of Arde Bulova, the chairman who built Bulova into an international firm before he died in 1958.

New products: But the most apparent changes at Bulova are in product. Bulova debuted some watches in the early ’80s, but not until after the turnaround did it give full attention to creating new products. In 1985, it hired David A. Winkler from Longines-Wittnauer as vice president of merchandising and product development. Patricia Pepe Clark became the first full-time manager of merchandising and design for the firm’s clock division.

In 1986, Bulova unveiled Benetton, its first line of trendy designer name fashion watches. In 1987, the firm debuted its popular collectible clock miniatures, and last year added Benetton for Kids for the growing children’s watch market. This year, Bulova has premiered a major product almost every month since January, including:

* The 14k Ultime jewelry collection, an extension of its upscale Ultime 14k watches, primarily for jewelry stores.

* Buly, a new category of accessories — including beach bags and backpacks — in trendy styles and colors with attached clocks. Second-generation fall-color models are now in department stores.

* Harley-Davidson watches, licensed by the U.S. motorcycle manufacturer of the same name and aimed at buyers ranging from hard-core bike enthusiasts to people who consider “biker chic” fashionable.

* Fine Art Timepieces, from Classic Moments Co., [TM] a joint venture–Bulova’s first–with Chicago’s Circle Fine Arts Corp., a publisher of limited-edition fine art. The line includes The Artist’s Watch [TM] (limited editions designed by famous living artists), the Masterpiece Collection (featuring art by great masters), watches by sports artist Leroy Neiman and clocks with art by Norman Rockwell.

* Accutron. This well-known name left U.S. jewelry stores in the mid-’80s when its tuning fork mechanism grew outmoded (the watch remained part of Bulova’s corporate awards program). This spring, Bulova got good response to a market test (direct mail ads in national magazines) of consumer reaction to the new Accutron (quartz analog 23k micron stainless steel). Accutron will again be carried by Bulova salesmen.

* Tuxedo, a new line of dress watches whose case and sapphire crystal blend into a single mirror-finish unit.

* Antique Galerie, a new line of quartz analog wall clocks made in West Germany with frames from wood of old Bavarian farmhouses and folksy dial illustrations by a leading West German illustrator.

* Collectible miniature clocks with moon phases.

“Our goal,” says Robert Ryan, vice president of marketing, “is to find pieces of the market where opportunities exist for Bulova to create demand and become a major factor.”

Response to most of the new products has been good, say Bulova officials. Just as important, says Hofmann, is the “change in retailers’ perception of Bulova.” Instead of complaints about merchandise common at the start of the ’80s, “retailers now come in [at trade shows] to see what’s new from Bulova.”

Looking ahead: Bulova’s goals and operations won’t likely change under Hofmann, who replaced Tisch Sept. 5. He’s lower key and more of a hands-on administrator than Tisch. But the two men had worked together closely for almost 10 years setting Bulova’s direction. “We are in complete concurrence,” says Hofmann.

For 1990, Bulova plans to expand in markets opened this year. New products will include a line of fashion watches, perhaps miniature clocks in materials such as malachite, additions to Buly (probably umbrellas and ski jackets) and more Ultime jewelry.

Plans for the next few years call for continued heavy investment in brand-name support and products to increase Bulova’s share of watch, clock and other markets.

The future also may include some corporate acquisitions. Bulova Systems & Instruments, a subsidiary, recently bought Hamilton Technology Inc. (Both firms make electronic precision fuzes used by the military). Bulova Corp. itself has looked at possible acquisitions among jewelry, watch and clock firms. “But we won’t expand for expansion’s sake,” says Hofmann. “It must complement Bulova and enhance the name. Our core business will remain watches and clocks.”

More sweets from Spielberg

Gremlins was grim and Poltergeist paltry, but with Back to the Future executive producer Steven Spielberg presents relentlessly cheery entertainment. He’s called the film “the greatest Leave It to Beaver episode ever produced,” an achievement Spielberg pursued by putting Romancing the Stone director Robert Zemeckis in charge.

Is Back to the Future cute, sly, always in a little danger of turning smarmy? Will it be big this summer? Does a beaver bear fur? Zemeckis has made a very clean-looking, savory confection out of three cups of sugar and a palette of food coloring. In Back to the Future, young Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) has unique family problems when a time machine made out of a DeLorean sports car accidentally transports him back to 1955. “Doc,” a charmingly crazy older scientist pal (Christopher Lloyd) , has invented a vehicle that can go from zero to 55 in seconds – but can it return Marty to the era of Calvin Klein underwear again? Unhappily stranded in a past barren of diet colas, Marty seeks out the Doc in 1955, somehow persuades him of the charmingly crazy thing that’s happened, and the pair start working on sending Marty back to 1985.

Meanwhile, Marty’s still in his own small, California town, hobnobbing with his parents – the warp is that they’re the same age as he. It appears that Dad (Crispin Glover) was always a meek bumbler being preyed upon by beefy Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson), a local lunkhead who became Dad’s boss in later life. Mom (Lea Thompson), however, is different.

Rather than the reproving puritan of 1985 which she became, Mom is, well, forward. Call it unknowing narcissism or bio-genetic conceit, but she falls for Marty in a big way. This makes Marty understandably nervous.

Worse yet, the local high school’s Enchantment Under the Sea dance is fast approaching. Because Marty has disruptively popped up several years before he was supposed to be born, history is not following its proper course (Mom and Dad are supposed to go to the dance together and fall in love there).

Marty must coach his inept young father on winning over his mother – otherwise, Marty will not be born. Don’t think about this too much, or the fun spoils faster than whipped cream at a picnic.

Zemeckis has the Spielberg athleticism down pat. He knows how to use shots of moving feet to suggest action, action to suggest romance, romance to suggest ideals and ideals to suggest new ways to use sporty footwear. The trick is keeping the audience enjoyably winded but not hyperventilating.

What best sustains the momentum is the bounce and humor in the acting. Glover, as Dad, is absolutely winning as the stumbler who nearly misses his minor rendezvous with destiny, and Vancouver-born Fox, as Marty, can seduce a camera lens from twenty paces. Lloyd, as the Doc, produces entertaining mischief with his darting eyes, although his fruity scientist is occasionally over-ripe.

The most impressive contribution comes from production designer Lawrence G. Paull, who concocted that visual cornucopia called Bladerunner. One knows it’s 1955 by the fact that four uniformed attendants are seen servicing a single car at the local gas station, but there are less humorous touches, too; Paull’s work here has a consciously bittersweet quality. Between the eras, the oak trees give way to the fast- food restaurants and small-town America is seen to have decayed by the time it reaches 1985. We are brought back to a contemporary terrain which Back to the Future cautiously concedes is losing its appeal.

Predictably, however, Spielberg and Zemeckis have kept all the homespun values intact. They look patronizingly back at 1955 as a time of smug complacency, but 1985 doesn’t find them very anxious either. And with Back to the Future, Spielberg restores his plastered-on grin of boyish goodness; his screen world is never so messy that it can’t be fixed by the good intentions of people who have freckles.

Tribunal proposes end to some shoe quotas

Recommending an end to some quotas on imported footwear, the Canadian Import Tribunal says the domestic footwear industry has made “significant progress in restructuring.” The tribunal’s findings were contained in a report of its inquiry into Canada’s footwear industry.

Current quota restrictions on imported footwear are to expire Nov. 30.

Under provisions of the Export and Import Permits Act, quotas on footwear imports can be imposed only if the tribunal finds the domestic industry has been injured by imports or is threatened with injury.

Trade Minister James Kelleher said the federal Government expects to announce its footwear import policy in September.

The tribunal recommended that quotas be removed from types of footwear that are not produced in volume in Canada, such as athletic and leisure shoes.

It also proposed that quotas be removed from types of footwear with which domestic manufacturers are competitive with foreign companies. It said this category includes winter boots, ice skates, and men’s and boys’ footwear, including work boots.

The tribunal suggested that quotas also be dropped for children’s footwear and for slippers.

It proposed that quotas be continued, however, on women’s and girls’ dress and casual footwear, since some Canadian producers “remain vulnerable to competition from imports” in this area.

It called for quotas to be removed from women’s and girls’ winter boots and injection-molded plasticfootwear.

It said quotas on women’s and girls’ footwear should be phased out over the next three years by increasing the quota level 10 per cent each year and by progressive reductions in the price level above which footwear is exempt from quotas.

Countdown on freer trade draws near

A mid all the rhetoric about freer trade and trade expansion, Canadian governments in recent years have been protectionist. Lately it has seemed sufficient for a firm merely to threaten to close a plant or to abandon a proposed new investment to trigger a protectionist government response that is costly to the public purse, or costly to consumers, or detrimental to industrial efficiency.

Among the major protectionist measures have been restrictions on imports – quotas, voluntary export restraints, orderly marketing arrangements and so on. This coming year will see the federal Government re-examining the most important quota arrangements (outside agriculture) that protect Canadian producers. These involve the automobile, footwear and textile and clothing industries. Will the Government opt for freer trade or more protection? The moment of truth is approaching.

Four years ago, Canada and the United States entered into voluntary export restraint agreements with Japan on automobiles, limiting imports from Japan to less than 20 per cent of the market. Before the U.S. agreement expired on March 31 this year, President Ronald Reagan announced that it would not be renewed. Apparently hoping to deflect growing protectionist sentiment in the United States, Japan indicated that it would continue to restrict exports to the U.S. market, but at a significantly higher level than before.

The restraint agreement between Canada and Japan also ended on March 31, but it is not clear whether Japan will continue to restrain exports to Canada and, if so, at what level. The issue is too important to be left hanging for long.

Shoe imports to Canada have been limited by quotas since 1977. The quotas are scheduled to expire in 1986. The Canadian shoe industry, however, wants them extended for five years.

Clothing and textiles have been protected for decades. Producers are protected by import quotas and orderly marketing arrangements under an international Multi-fibre Agreement due for renegotiation next year. The Canadian Textile Institute, supported by three industry unions, seeks even more restrictive global quotas.

Not suprisingly, there has long been widespread criticism of trade restrictions in Canada, including the following: Import quotas impose a heavy cost on consumers by allowing higher prices to prevail.

The protected industry often fails to take advantage of the opportunity for adjustment the quotas have brought. In the footwear industry, for example, domestic producers have generally failed to adopt the kind of new technology that will make them competitive with Third World producers. They have equally failed to adopt the kind of high styling to compete with European producers.

Import quotas lead sooner or later to international repercussions, in the form of retaliatory action or demands for compensation. (The European Community has launched proceedings against Canada for restricting footwear imports.) The repercussions are likely to injure Canadian industries that have been relatively successful in meeting international competition. This is likely to cost jobs in the long run. Thus import quotas reward inefficient firms and industries and penalize efficient ones.

With most of our manufacturing concentrated in Ontario and Quebec, import quotas have seriously divisive implications. The benefits are concentrated in one part of the country but the costs are shared across the country.

Import quotas may cancel out the intended benefits of our international aid programs. Last year, for example, Canada provided more aid to Bangladesh than it did to any other country. Bangladesh is in the process of building an efficient textile industry, but we have demanded that Bangladesh shipments of shirts to Canada be cut in half.

Despite such shortcomings, it appears to be difficult for political leaders to resist the clamor for increased protection. It is easier for politicians to adjust the quotas from time to time in response to criticism.

The Government should adopt a basic change in the ground rules. We need a policy that would make industries think twice before seeking import quotas, that would encourage good use of the breathing space provided by quotas and encourage the removal of quotas as soon as possible.

This could be done by making quotas depend on an undertaking by the industry or company involved to freeze all wages, salaries and fringe benefits and to reinvest all profits, throughout the life of the import controls.

Such a policy would have a number of clear advantages. Because employees would be reluctant to forgo wage increases and because shareholders would be reluctant to forgo their dividends, management would likely seek import quotas only as a last resort. Consumers would thus be asked to subsidize the industry only if management and the Government could see no reasonable alternative.

And once the quotas were applied, management and labor would have strong incentives to improve the competitive position of the industry. This would promote closer co-operation between labor and management and discourage aggressive labor tactics, such as resisting new technology. The prospects for survival of the industry would thus be maximized by the protection afforded from imports, the freezing of labor costs and the reinvestment of all profits to improve productivity and international competitiveness.

If the industry succeeded in turning itself around, there would be urgent demands from employees and shareholders to get rid of the import quotas and end the freeze.

If the industry did not succeed in turning itself around, but merely survived, what then? As time passed, the workers would find themselves falling further behind the national average wage level. In some cases, people would move out of the region, attracted by employment opportunities elsewhere. Some would find higher-paying jobs within the region as new employers were attracted by the low wage scale.

Ultimately, of course, if the industry was unable to retain its work force, it would disappear. But this is as it should be. The consumer would not be asked to subsidize the industry indefinitely. Efficient sectors of the Canadian economy would no longer be penalized by foreign retaliation for the import quotas.

In the long run, the surest way to make certain that we all lose is to allow quantitative trade restrictions to bring about a deterioration of the world trading system. Canada relies on world trade more than most countries and it is already gravely threatened.

Chiropractor Jim Wilson and podiatrist Morris Zoladek explain how to keep your feet happy

With the spring thaw and its accompanying mud gumbo more or less behind us, thoughts turn naturally to buying a new pair of walking shoes, or even summer sandals. ‘Tis the season for podiatrists and chiropractors to greet a new crop of patients suffering from ill-fitting shoes.

“The biggest problem we see in our practice is a woman who wears a high heel, causing problems with her lower back, such as increased curvature of the lower spine, or swayback,” explained Jim Wilson of the Maplegrove Chiropractic Clinic in Oakville, Ont. “Feet are the base of your whole system. Every time you plant your foot, energy is transferred through the body like a shock absorber.”

A shoe with good support will reduce the amount of stress on the joints in the lower back, ankle, knee and hip, and help maintain an arched instep (and guard against flat feet).

To ensure happy feet, Dr. Morris Zoladek, a podiatrist at the Burlington Family Foot Health Centre in Burlington, Ont., suggested shopping for best shoes for bunions and hammertoes between 2 and 4 p.m., when your feet are probably at their biggest (blood returning to the heart from the feet, working against gravity, causes legs and feet to swell slightly). Buy your shoes in the morning and they may be too tight when your feet swell in the afternoon.

Dr. Zoladek recommends patronizing shoe stores that measure feet with a so-called Branic device, which measures width and length of the foot and the arch length when you stand in it.

“Don’t buy shoes with extra length to make up for width,” Dr. Zoladek advised. “We take at least five to six-thousand steps a day; if you’re wearing the wrong-shoes, you’re going to run into problems.”

If you walk 15 to 20 miles a week, he recommends replacing your walking shoes every year. More active joggers should expect to go through three pairs a year.

But beware the long shelf life. When it comes to best athletic shoes for plantar fasciitis , Dr. Zoladek cautioned that the molecular structure of the cushion can change while sitting on the shelf, causing it to lose some shock-absorption capability, though the shoe is still unworn. (Unfortunately, there’s no easy way for the customer to tell before buying).

Dr. Zoladek offers a computerized gait analysis at the Foot Centre that evaluates your feet while you wear your shoes. The $25 test can point out problems with old shoes such as lack of support, cushioning and how the foot functions in the shoes. It will let you know if you need a custom- made orthotic, or arch-support insert. And it can also offer insight into how your feet will function in a different style of shoe.

Finally, Dr. Zoladek questions the need to buy exotic, expensive fitness shoes, whether for walking, cross training, running, tennis or aerobics. “Fit, fit, fit]” he says, is the most important consideration. “This is probably something the shoe companies don’t like to hear me say, but, if you buy a shoe in the $100 range, there is very little difference between the top 10 manufacturers. Very few people require a specialized casual shoe.”

Full Court Press

In cafes, wine bars and quickservice chains, flatbreads and panini are recruited as the best defense against uninspired sandwich menus.

If there’s a secret to sating thrill-seeking customers, it’s giving them something different. When it comes to revitalizing a sandwich menu, two such players have emerged as essential: Italian-style panini (sandwiches grilled in a deeply grooved press) and flatbreads. These items share the strategy of relying on appealing texture to give time-honored flavor combinations new life.

A bevy of chains have realized the potential of these items. Taco Bell, the 7,300-unit, Irvine, CA-based quickservice chain, recently introduced the Chalupa, a flatbread taco contained in a soft, chewy outer shell with a golden-brown inner layer that is crispy and flaky. The Chalupas, which can be stuffed with seasoned beef, chicken or steak, are available in three varieties, Supreme, Baja and Santa Fe, and start at 99[cent].

Chicago Flat Sammies, an 80-seat quickservice destination in Chicago, features sandwiches on sesame-whole wheat flatbread. According to chef/manager George Munoz, flatbreads appeal to people “tired of the same old burger.” Best sellers include Grilled Pesto Chicken ($5.45), with four cheeses, plum tomatoes and fresh basil; and Oven Roasted Vegetable ($5.45), a with portobello mushrooms, peppers and an artichoke schmear. “The healthier sandwiches are my best sellers,” he says. “Varieties with lots of meat are slower on the board.”

Steeped in Italian romance, panini is equally intriguing to customers and operators. While the grills require a substantial investment (typically between $700-$2,000), they are particularly appealing to concepts that can’t invest in a full kitchen. Such is the case at Agata & Valentina’s, a tony cafe in Manhattan that serves six different panini grilled in the deeply-grooved toaster from Italy. The sandwiches, priced from $3-$6.95, range from prosciutto crudo, roasted peppers and arugula on a Portuguese roll, to roasted eggplant with tomato and basil on a rosette roll. As the bread crisps, the cheese melts and holds the sandwich together.

“We wanted to offer an authentic Italian experience, but couldn’t afford a hood system,” says Jason Denton, chef and co-owner of Ino, a new 23-seat Italian wine and sandwich bar, also in Manhattan. Denton was attracted to the Italian tradition of menuing sandwiches as afternoon snacks, a philosophy that conveniently blurs dayparts. The theory has proven profitable in a neighborhood heavy with pedestrian traffic. “We get a crunch time between two and four, when everyone else is closed,” he says.

‘Ino’s menu features assorted bruschetta ($2), panini ($7) and crustless Italian cocktail sandwiches called tremezzini ($6). The panini menu includes such full-flavored options as Prosciutto, Bel Paese and Sweet Onion, Portobello, Grana and Sundried Tomato Pesto, and Three Cheese and Truffle Oil.

‘Ino’s panini are made on ciabatta purchased from a nearby bakery that arrives 65% cooked. When it’s squeezed between the heating elements, explains Denton, the bread finishes cooking. “Too often you get bread that’s already cooked through, so the crust becomes too hard on the grill and it scrapes the roof of your mouth. To me, it’s more flavorful when there is a little tenderness.”

In an ongoing effort to upgrade its food, Starbucks Cafe, the 6-unit, Seattle-based concept, hired a European-trained chef to revamp the menu. A focus on sandwiches, which sell from $5.95-$8.95, was paramount.

The result is a range of combinations that are finished on a panini press. Best sellers include: grilled chicken with provolone cheese, pancetta, sundried pesto on a bollo roll, and a sandwich filled with roasted wild mushrooms and artichoke-garlic cream cheese grilled on sourdough. Despite the pricey fillings, food costs are maintained at 28%.

According to John Yamin, director of new concepts for the coffee behemoth, the challenge in menuing panini is ensuring that the integrity of the product will hold up under the grill. “Many people attempt to use the grilling process to hide inferior products,” says Yamin. “But the sandwich has to be able to stand on its own. Grilling should only enhance it.”

RECIPE

Saltimbocca Sandwich

  • 4 bunches sage, leaves separated Vegetable oil, as needed, for frying 16 slices flatbread
  • 1 lb. mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 lb. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 lb. smoked turkey, thinly sliced
  • 1 lb. prosciutto, thinly sliced
  • 12 oz. lettuce leaves .
  1. In a heavy skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Briefly fry sage leaves until bright green and crispy. Remove from oil and drain; reserve.
  2. In a bowl, combine mascarpone and cream cheeses.
  3. Spread cheese on half the bread slices; layer with remaining ingredients and top with second slice of bread. Grill in apaninipress or under a broiler until cheese bubbles, serve warm.

yield: 8 servings.

More than leniency

The recent fall in U.S. interest rates afforded a measure of relief to Third World debtors. The debt service burden on their economies has eased.

But Henry Kauffman, the Wall Street oracle of interest rates, has predicted they will soon spurt upward. What then? Probably a series of Argentine standoffs between the debtors and their creditors. Buenos Aires recently reached a new accord with the International Monetary Fund (that will clear the way for $4.2-billion in new loans from Western banks), but not before the Argentines had once more threatened to leap from the precipice of payment arrears into the abyss of insolvency.

The international financial system has thus far been able to handle these recurrent crises on a case by case basis rather than resort to comprehensive relief for all debtors. For the West to subsidize interest repayment across the board would reward equally the responsible Third World nations which have taken painful steps to improve their economies and the irresponsible ones which have refused to face the music.

Nevertheless, as Globe publisher Roy Megarry noted in a recent article, if the West fails to devise a collective solution for the debtors, it may one day face a collective act of defiance by the debtors. The idea of a debtors’ cartel, which began in Peru, may not stop there. Unlike OPEC, a deadbeats’ cartel would mobilize the economic weakness rather than the economic power of its members. But a conjuncture of apprehended defaults could tax the stamina of Western bankers in a way that the sequential development of such threats has not.

As Mr. Megarry adds, however, the debt problem requires more than lenders’ leniency. “The most constructive long- term contribution we can make is improving the terms of trade with underdeveloped countries so they can earn the foreign exchange to service and repay their debts. Trade is the only way they can do it.” Indeed, much of the austerity medicine the debtors are told to swallow by the IMF is prescribed on the assumption that it will improve their export performance. Currency devaluations and wage restraint are supposed to make their products more competitive abroad.

But the same Western nations which exhort the Third World debtors to follow these painful remedies often seek to insulate themselves by protectionist policies from the patients’ recovery. Brazil, for example, has been forced to reduce its exports of steel to the United States as a result of trade barriers. Chile has been forced to reduce its copper exports to the United States for the same reason. Canada continues to impose quotas on apparel and footwear from the most competitive Third World producers.

While the harm such barriers inflict on Third World incomes is obvious, their detrimental impact on Western prosperity is less apparent – but nonetheless real. Canada sells 12 per cent of its merchandise exports to underdeveloped countries. The United States sells almost 40 per cent; Australia, 44 per cent. When debtor nations are unable to export to the West, they are forced to buy less from the West. The North-South Institute calculates that Canada may have lost 135,000 jobs in the past three years for this reason.

This is the bottom line of interdependence. Third World austerity contracts Western economies. Third World recovery can fuel Western expansion. A vicious circle can become a virtuous one.

U.S. decides to penalize some imports

The U.S. International Trade Commission has issued rulings that could damage Canadian industry in three markets – raspberries, codfish and shoes.

Ending many months of investigation, the commission voted to impose anti- dumping duties on Canadian dried and salted codfish, worth more than $20-million last year, and on Canadian raspberries, worth more than $6- million.

In a separate case, the commission recommended President Ronald Reagan impose a global quota on footwear imports. This is aimed primarily at cheap shoe suppliers in such countries as Taiwan, but footwear imports from Canada, worth $33.5-million last year, could be caught too.

The five-member commission ruled unanimously that Canadian imports are injuring the domestic raspberry industry and should be subject to a penalty duty that ranges from 0.3 per cent to 25.8 per cent of the border value, depending on the individual company.

It was a victory for raspberry growers in such northwestern U.S. states as Oregon and Washington, who have spent more than $100,000 pressing federal trade law enforcement agencies to penalize their Canadian competitors, most of whom are based in British Columbia.

In a four-to-one vote, the commission found Canadian exporters, primarily Crown- owned Canadian Salt- fish Corp. of St. John’s, have injured the industry in Puerto Rico, a century-old market for Canada.

Codfish Corp. of Ponce, Puerto Rico, had charged that Canadian exporters were selling their product at less than fair value, which was retarding its ability to establish a viable business.

The anti-dumping duties in that case range from 20.75 per cent of the value of the St. John’s company’s shipments to a low of 1.27 per cent for National Sea Products Ltd. of Halifax. The final duty orders for raspberries and codfish are scheduled for July, but importers have been paying deposits equal to the duty since preliminary rulings were made months ago.

In the case of footwear, the commission recommended that Mr. Reagan curb imports with a five-year global quota to give the U.S. industry some breathing space to modernize.

A Bit Out Of Step With Style

Dear Diary: Sometimes, I look around the current fashion scene, and think I must be quite out of step with the times. Or perhaps it’s a sign of my incipient old age, but there are so many looks and fashions I find singularly unappealing, even downright insulting to the intelligence, even as my peers laud them to the skies and swoon with apparent delight.

Take, for example, Stephen Sprouse, whose Sixties-derived designs have inspired press adulation and spawned rivers of ecstatic prose. He’s been hailed as “prophetic,” “directional,” “influential” – the man of the moment, according to most members of the Fourth Estate.

The two-time cancellation of his New York shows has left many journalists in abject despair, deprived of the opportunity for further overblown praise of their current darling.

As far as I’m concerned, Dear Diary, as one who survived the mercifully short-lived Sixties styles, I can only look back on the thigh-high tunic dresses and psychedelic hose, the chalky lips, bouffant hairdos and tarantula eyelashes, and heave a giant sigh of relief. Researching the Sixties (essentially what Sprouse does) represents no great feat of design inventiveness. The Sixties weren’t that attractive the first time around.

As for the teens and 20s who haven’t lived through them, who might possibly find Sprouse’s graffiti-splashed minis and Courreges look-alikes amusing or novel, they’re most unlikely to be able to afford Sprouse’s overpriced styles – and the well-over 30s, who can afford them and have swallowed the hype wholesale, had best take a good, long look in the mirror.

Nor, Dear Diary, do I find the “Madonna” look charming. As a publicity shtick, it’s all very well for a rock star, but assorted bits and pieces of flesh, more or less covered with snippets of grungy lace, black leather, net and mesh; mixmaster hairdos plus perpetual pouts, sleepy eyelids and provocative poses do not add up to cute or titillating, especially on pre-pubescents.

And I find the current wave of spiked, peroxide-tipped, overgrown brush-cut hairdos sported by so many young men and women frankly hideous. Don’t they see how ugly they look? Does nobody want to look pretty any more? And, Dear Diary, I dread to think of this coming fall. Those stirrup ski pants that turned up on every runway, that somehow looked awkward on even the lithe, rail-thin models, are likely to be quite appalling on the vast majority of women, since they accentuate every figure problem. What’s more, you just know they’re going to be worn with all the wrong things, with high heels and contrast hose, for example. Tucked into sleek, flat bootlets for sport or leisure occasions only, they’re quite passable but, sure as death and taxes, they’re bound to be worn all wrong.

I also hate, loathe and abhor ankle socks with high heels, especially with skirts. Few combinations look more ungainly, yet I see them even in leading fashion magazines. Where is everyone’s taste? And where did they dredge up those pointy-toed, lace-up ankle boots that make everybody mince? Safely hidden under a Victorian ball gown, tucked under lacy pantaloons, they may have been all right, but with contemporary clothing and, horrors of horrors, ankle socks and miniskirts, they are truly grotesque. Nor do the other footwear alternatives represent my shoe of choice. Construction boots and orthopedic track shoes are hardly flattering options and they do very little for most fashions.

As for the recently introduced skirts for men, I confess to considerable skepticism and dismay. I like my men elegant, distinguished and authoritative and it’s a safe bet they’ll achieve none of those things wearing skirts. Besides, women have been trying to liberate themselves from those same skirts for centuries, because they are restrictive and limit freedom of movement. And since men haven’t had the benefit of generations of training in the fine art of navigating discreetly in skirts, they’re going to look pretty foolish showing off their hairy shanks, ankle socks and clumpy shoes.

As for graffiti makeup, beaten and bruised cosmetic effects, tattoos, diamonds embedded in teeth or fingernails, flotillas of ear studs, neon- dyed hanks of hair and symbols or motifs, landscaped or shaved into hairdos, the less said, the better.

And, several seasons after their introduction, neon colors in large doses still set my teeth on edge. Sadly, they’re not likely to go away in the near future. So, Dear Diary, we’ll just have to grit our teeth for the duration. But don’t the neon- lovers notice what terrible things vitriol green and bile yellow do to their complexions? Traditionally, men and women have tried to make the most of whatever assets we were blessed with, and done our level best to camouflage our flaws. It has to do with elementary esthetics, personal pride and a certain subtle form of good manners.

I’ve always liked pretty clothes, appealing colors, amusing accessories and enjoyed the purely feminine pleasure of getting dressed up and wearing makeup. Most of the men I know enjoy their role and take pleasure in looking fashionable. That’s why, Dear Diary, I’m puzzled by so many currently trendy looks which, with all due respect, make most people look needlessly unattractive.

Perhaps I’m an anachronism.