HMS Catalog Makes Sterling Effort

For HMS, a Dallas-based importer and manufacturer of jewelry, all that glitters isn’t necessarily gold. At least not anymore.

The wholesaler, which supplies roughly 4,000 jewelers around the country, sent its first new catalog in 18 months to 35,000 registered independent retailers around the country the second week in May. As well as boost its client base, the 300-plus-page, four-color catalog is intended to promote the company’s new pearl and silver jewelry lines, which supplement HMS’s bread-and-butter gold products. “We’re diversifying the jewelry line to sell more products into established accounts,” says HMS president Harry Schmidt, who founded the company 18 years ago. “Our customers have been buying these products from other wholesalers because we hadn’t handled these things in the past. This makes it more convenient for them to buy these things from us, a sort of one-stop shopping scenario.” And while the new products generally have lower price points than the gold merchandise, “the profit margins are good,” Schmidt says.

Consumer appeal

Although HMS has a sales force of a dozen people, Schmidt says that the product line, with more than 8,500 SKUs, is too big for them to sell effectively without the catalog. But the catalog is more than a tool for salespeople to use when meeting with clients.

“We’ve tried national ads, but direct marketing by catalog is the most effective tool we’ve found for reaching our diverse customer base,” says Schmidt. That base is strongest in the Southeast and ranges from mom-and-pop operations to chains of up to 50 stores. HMS doesn’t sell to mass merchants or consumers. A division of SDG Holdings, HMS has annual sales of $12 million-$16 million.

Many of HMS’s clients, however, leave the catalog on their counters for consumers to browse through. Should a consumer wish to buy a particular piece, the jeweler would then order it from HMS. That’s critical in the competitive wholesale jewelry business, as retailers have evolved from housing large inventories to stocking smaller quantities, ordering goods as needed. No longer must they purchase products two months ahead. Now HMS, among others, can deliver orders as small as a single piece within 24 hours.

To make the catalog appealing to consumers and retailers alike, HMS’s designers make a point of using simple, elegant backgrounds and propping the shots with flowers that reflect against the gleam of the jewelry. And unlike many wholesale catalogs, the HMS book isn’t afraid of white space.

Schmidt won’t share specific figures, but says “our business has already grown quite a bit since the new catalog came out.”

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