When Shreyansh Shah arrived from India, he was looking forward to seeing a little snow. He got more than he bargained for - and he was delighted.
“I came to the United States in December 1998 and was welcomed by 2 feet of snow in Chicago,” says Shah, Chief Operating Officer of Austin, Tex.-based Voyager Brands. “Before that, I hadn’t even seen snow. It was my dream to see it, but not in that quantity! And it was frigid cold, so it was a good welcome!”
Shah’s infectious optimism and enthusiasm bubbles over into his life’s work, which in 2015 turned to creating Voyager Brands from scratch. The company is set to introduce two brands at the JCK Las Vegas show in June.
Along with great ambition, Shah brought with him plenty of experience. Immersed in the diamond industry since he was 18 years old, he learned the trade in his father’s factory before proceeding to polishing and cutting, then grading in his birth city of Surat. In 1993, he moved to Mumbai for two years and later joined a company in Hong Kong for sales experience and studied the diamond market in the Far East for two years. “Then I moved to the United States and all of a sudden I was thrown into the jewelry field!
“In every trade you need a teacher, and the head of the factory in the company I was working for taught me how to sell jewelry and categorize.”
Shah worked with several companies and as an independent salesman for three more years before joining a company that he ran completely from product development on. “When you experience it, when you put the programs together then go out and sell, that’s when you start to understand the market. I was in charge of making the product, buying displays and putting the whole program together; I was involved in every little thing. That was my experience for five years before I joined Voyager Brands. It was very successful. What we promised the customer is what we gave. I keep the same trend here at Voyager Brands. I’m bringing all my experience of the past 18 years into it.”
|Diamond rings from Voyager’s Bridal Porrati collection.|
Shah readily acknowledges Voyager Brands is just digging in its heels, preparing for what it expects will be a great run. “We didn’t have a lot of action at the last show in Vegas because we were so new,” he says. “Advertising in the newspaper has been helping, and response has been good. Newspapers and e-mails help keep us up with what’s going on in the market, what’s new.
“We’re not there yet, but by the Vegas show in June we will be catching up. I have a great team, I’m putting a great product together for them, and I’m confident we’ll be making the numbers and keeping the customers happy.”
Love Universe & Abbeycrest
In Las Vegas, Voyager will be featuring two new brands. Love Universe is a fun and unique collection. With an outside-the-box array of earrings, rings, pendants, necklaces and bracelets, Voyager says it appeals to women of all ages with retail prices ranging from $99 to $3,499 and possibly higher later this year. The collection features gold and diamonds and includes a few silver pieces.
With 80 charms in production already, Voyager is creating more to cater to special events such as Mother’s Day, birthdays, weddings, religious occasions, sports, etc. “The charm can be hooked on to a bracelet, it can be hooked on to an earring, and it can also can be clipped onto a ring, so one charm can have multiple purposes. The minimum buy-in with the display for the retailer is as low as $7,500 for gold and diamonds.
“We’re keeping the cost down to where it’s comfortable for the retailer,” Shah says. “If they go to a store to buy a silver charm without diamonds, they’ll be spending $50 to $150 depending on what brand they’re investing in. Our price for 10-karat gold with diamonds is $199.
“We are keeping profits low and investing in stock and providing excellent service to our customers. If the customer is a soccer mom, we’ll have a charm for her. If someone wants a charm we don’t have, it could be a random concept and we’ll be creative and make it as part of our Love Universe collection.” The charm program is targeted to be in close to 200 stores by the end of the year.
The second line being introduced is Abbeycrest, a name long known in other parts of the world. “We’re working with a factory in Thailand, and we’ll be keeping the same name in the United States,” Shah says. “Abbeycrest was one of the first companies with the concept of opening a charm to put a personal picture inside. I’m working with them on launching a silver and gold line.
Voyager’s Abbeycrest brand is a collection of charms which can hold a personal picture on the inside.
“We’re giving Abbeycrest International and Love Universe a separate booth at the show, near my main booth,” he adds. “The main booth will have all the brands we showcased last year.” Among Voyager’s brands are Brilliant Fire, Passionstone, Calista, Forever Heart, Love Always, Rhapsodie, Bridal Porrati and NK Mosaic Diamond Collections.
“Brilliant Fire, Passionstone and Bridal Porrati are the three brands we certify,” Shah says. Brilliant Fire, a special-cut diamond with 97 facets, is showcased in 10 stores on the East coast and will be represented in 50 stores by the end of the year.
Keeping the Retailer Happy
Shah also hopes to complete the Voyager website before the Vegas show. “We’ll have brands for consumers to look at but not buy. They’ll have to go to the nearest store to buy a piece they like online, or online at the retailer’s own website. This is a terrific way to divert traffic our customers’ way.
“This is what Voyager Brands is about. We want our customers to come in and look but not necessarily invest. An exchange of knowledge is the number 1 thing so we know more about what’s going on in the market as more people come in and share their ideas.
“Our motto is to service customers so they are happy. Once we establish our line in their store, if 20 percent isn’t working, we’ll go in and exchange those pieces. We are open to hearing ideas and concerns and will work hard to fix them. If one line is selling well on the West coast and another is selling well on the East coast, we can switch them for our customers. Or in the worst case, we can take a loss on the labor and recycle it. Bottom line, Voyager Brands’ goal is to maximize profits for our customers.”
Voyager’s ultimate wish, Shah says, is to provide franchise opportunities. Voyager carries it all - stud solitaires, special-cut diamonds, bridal, fashion, charms, gold and silver lines. “So if an individual not necessarily from the trade is interested in getting into the jewelry business, we will train them and set them up in their own stores. Voyager Brands will remain in the wholesale business and does not wish to enter the retail market. I would rather give the merchandise and guidance to people who are really interested in owning and operating their own retail store. The best successes in business come when the owner is the front of the store.”
Partnering with Voyager, he says, one can build a store’s business to a minimum of $1 million.
“When you are the owner, you put your heart in it. Voyager Brands’ success comes from getting into stores that have plateaued, helping them to stand up to the competition and turning them around. They may have decent sales but just need a boost. We give them service; we keep the ball rolling with making sure they have what they need.
“The success of a brand comes only when you get reorders and when you have happy customers. That’s when you know your brand is successful. If you don’t get that, you need to go and fix that problem. How you represent your brand as different than others is important, and the trick is to be reasonable in pricing. We will not overcharge our customers.”