BULOVA’S INTERNET SOLUTION

Bulova has come up with a formula to deal with the growing issue of manufacturers competing directly with their retail accounts, either by opening their own stores or launching e-commerce sites.

In its new Internet venture announced Saturday, Bulova has found a way to support, rather than compete with, its stable of over 12,000 retail doors.

“We spent a good two years debating how to deal with the whole situation and trying to figure out what to do,” said Francie Abraham, vice president of marketing at the 125-year old watch firm. “We have a long history of great partnerships with our retailers and we know how worried they are about manufacturers going into competition with them. At the same time, we knew we couldn’t ignore the Internet.”

At the JCK fine jewelry show in Orlando, Fla., Bulova unveiled a partnership with Dillon, Colo.-based Polygon Networks, Inc., a leading developer of proprietary products and services for the jewelry industry. The firm designs and maintains thousands of sites for retailers and suppliers across the country via a password-protected industry site called the Jewelry Industry WebCenter. The center also includes an online wholesale gem trading network.

Abraham pointed to two factors that frequently block small, independent jewelers from operating their own Web sites: The ability to create a professional looking, full-service site, and having the funds and infrastructure to constantly create and update information and high quality product images.

“Both those things would likely have to come from a store’s traditional advertising budget, which would effectively cripple them,” Abraham said. “We’re trying to tackle both. Being a much larger company, we’ve found a way to make an investment that they couldn’t possibly make.”

Through their partnership, Polygon and Bulova can create sites for bulova accutron review and stores that don’t already have them. For those already up and running, Bulova will provide product images and corresponding content that the watch firm will also update.

“Every page of our products will have a link back to their e-mail or home page, but it will appear to the consumer that our product line is a part of their Web site,” said Abraham. “It will be made available free of charge to our credible accounts and they won’t ever have to go through the effort of making changes.

“In the second phase, which will probably occur in the next two to three months, we will provide the software necessary to conduct e-commerce. The stores will sell directly to their consumers. We won’t be involved.”

Abraham said the program would be tailored to reflect each retailer’s assortment and will be rolled out to any of Bulova’s credible accounts throughout this year.

“We’ve come to the conclusion that for us, this is another marketing tool,” she said. “Using the jewelers to promote our product is another way of advertising.”

When asked what the cost of initiating and maintaining such a program would be, she said, “It’s an annual investment. We took the funds out of our national advertising budget. We’ve had several very good years and our ad budget has been increasing tremendously.

“We consider this part of our 125th anniversary celebration. It’s sort of a gift back to our retailers.”

She said other details regarding the anniversary would be announced later in the year.