At Allison-Kaufman Company, the focus has not wavered since 1920. It’s a family owned and operated manufacturer of fine diamond jewelry that has consistently offered high-end, quality merchandise out of Los Angeles for 92 years.
“We’re very much a family-oriented business,” says Scott Kaufman, a third-generation jeweler who serves as Allison-Kaufman’s vice president and principal. He works with his parents, Bart and Roberta, along with his brother Ryan.
“You can call and get any one of us, any of the Kaufmans, on the phone immediately for any reason,” Scott says. “We’re very involved in the business, very involved in the relationships with our customers. We have customers who we’ve sold to for generations and some who we’ve sold to for just a few years. We establish and maintain long relationships with our customers.
“My father Bart is president and CEO. He oversees everything, but is especially involved in all of the diamond buying, all of the credit and all of the quality-related decisions. He makes sure Allison-Kaufman is consistently delivering a quality product, and that nothing goes out the door that he’s not proud of. That includes the make and quality of stones we purchase as well as the workmanship of the jewelry.”
Move to Marketing
While staying true to its purpose, Allison-Kaufman has kept current, notably in terms of marketing. It’s one of Scott’s areas of expertise.
“We offer a lot of marketing services to our customers,” says Scott, who has worked in the business 10 years. “The new generation is coming in and helping to expand the services we’re offering jewelers. Today, we’re offering custom marketing materials to all of our customers.
“Those custom materials could be a holiday book or post card, and we just launched a brand new bridal book for this year.
“We do all of our photography and creative in-house. To help a jeweler, we might take a custom shot of a ring, help them do the creative, lend ourselves out as a creative arm. Instead of saying, ‘Here are our five standard ads, pick one,’ we can do something custom for them. We offer high-end counter displays, signage for the countertop. Anything we can do that is reasonable that our customers ask us to do, we’ve done. One of our customers was planning to wrap buses in their town so we actually helped them with it; we did the creative.
“We send out tens of thousands of books and postcards and other materials. We use 2,000 square feet of our factory just for marketing materials. I have 7,000 pounds of marketing materials to be delivered to my door today,” he laughs. “We’re trying to figure out exactly how to deal with the forklift to get it into the building!”
Scott’s brother Ryan shares the diamond buying responsibilities with his father, and he also oversees new areas of technology. “He’s created our new website and made it possible for us to create and maintain websites for our customers,” Scott says. “We present all of our merchandise to our customers so they can link to our website. It’s done in a customized fashion based on the products they purchase from us.”
Roberta Kaufman’s department is styling – among other duties. “She also oversees customer service, special orders, any type of customer touch,” Scott says. “She’s there making sure our employees are taking good care of our customers. Her main function is to make sure styling stays current as well as to make sure customers are happy.
“My mother and I oversee the direction of new collections. For example, we’re moving forward with an extensive sapphire bridal collection. We started a rose gold collection last year and are continuing this year. So we decide what collections we want to highlight. We come up with the styling, make sure we’re making a quality product. We stand behind our product forever against any manufacturer’s defects. Anything that’s a reasonable problem that could possibly be ours, we’ll take care of it.
“You know the typical statement, ‘It’s very hard to get a customer and very easy to lose one,’ so we make sure we’re doing everything we can to keep our customers happy.”
Adding Some Color
Allison-Kaufman was started by Scott’s grandfather, Irving Kaufman, and Jack Allison over 90 years ago in downtown Los Angeles. In 1990 the company built a new building in Van Nuys, expanding to 20,000 square feet and employing about 70 workers.
“We sell to independent retailers across the United States,” Scott says. “We’re carried in the neighborhood of 1,300 doors. We pride ourselves on long-term relationships we’ve built with jewelers, quality products and the services we give jewelers. We offer some of the longest payment terms in the industry still. We have very few sales outside the country; we’re focused on U.S. customers, and we do sell in all 50 states.
“The direction we’re going is we’ve added some colored diamonds in the last few years. We’ve added a black diamond collection and a yellow diamond collection. But we’ve stayed away from moving to silver and stayed in higher-end bridal and fashion jewelry. It’s a purposeful decision on our part.”
Allison-Kaufman’s colored diamonds have been well received, Scott says. “We’re known in the industry, in my opinion, for offering a higher quality bridal line. In the last five or 10 years we’ve definitely expanded our fashion jewelry collection with fashion earrings, etc., and customers like that because it keeps our bridal and our fashion really fresh.
“We probably add 500 to 700 new styles a year. We generally run many thousands of styles, 5,000 at any one time, I would guess. The product we show to customers is tailored to different parts of the country. We have our core product line and then products that are directed to specific parts of the country. What sells in California, for example, is not always what sells in Kansas and Alabama. We recognize that and try to think about that in the way we present our product to customers.”
Seal of Approval
The key to Allison-Kaufman’s longevity is simple, Scott says. “We’ve been very consistent in what we do. Most of our salesmen have been with us 5, 15, 20 years. The changes that have been monumental in the past 10 years have been upgrading our styling in fashion jewelry and massively adding to the technology and marketing services we offer our customers. We have taken a very good core business and now are expanding with helping jewelers sell more jewelry.
“At the Chicago Show, we met a woman who was opening a new store. She came to talk to us, to see what we did. She attended the meetings where people share about what companies she should talk to, what she should do. Then she went around to 15 different vendors and asked what other vendors they would recommend. She came back to us and said, ‘I’ll definitely be buying from you; no one was mentioned more often.’ It shows a lot of respect when your competing vendors recommend you as a good person to do business with. It was a nice seal of approval!
“We’re a family who cares about the business, cares about their customers and enjoys doing what we do.”