The problem for Jewellery Designers who share a supplier with Walmart
As an artist, a jewellery designer would never want to share a supply chain with Walmart because we value artistry and fine craftsmanship over low prices for cheap quality. To compete successfully, artists and jewellery designers must differentiate themselves through quality, service and design.
I have a healthy respect for juggernaut competitors. Companies like Walmart are very good at what they do. They have economies of scale and high turnover. Their business model is to sell enormous volumes at the lowest prices, and to maintain profitability by keeping operating costs to a minimum and grinding their suppliers prices. How those suppliers attain such low prices is a challenge which Walmart leaves to its suppliers.
Walmart doesn’t have an extensive team to perform its own detailed quality and metallurgy analyses. Instead, it publishes a lengthy list of product recalls that are based on the manufacturers and regulatory agencies press releases. Consumers can check on this list through their own initiative. This list does little to tarnish Walmart’s image because consumers have come to expect inferior quality when low prices is the company’s main driving force. However for jewellery designers product recalls, that are either self-initiated or forced upon by clients, will do irreparable damage for their brand.
I have little doubt the shipments to Walmart may be 925 because the factories have millions of dollars of business at stake, but to smaller distributors, there is no such leverage. So when someone says he is certain his supplier’s silver is 925 because it also sells to Walmart, it is weak reasoning at best. The simple fact that Walmart is sharing the same supplier should be enough reason for a jewellery designer to switch.
Here is why. In minimizing cost, Walmart doesn’t invest resources in creating their own designs, just like low cost factories don’t develop their own unique prototypes. New designs and models are very costly, as all artists can attest. The problem for the artist who buys from the same supplier source as Walmart are:
a) your supply prices will always be much higher than Walmart’s because you’re buying through an extra middleman and at much lower volume, but you’re still competing with Walmart.
b) any designing with those components will be carefully observed by the factory and middleman to possibly “inspire” their next collection. Copying happens, unfortunately, but copies of your ideas can go to market much faster when the same factory has produced the first prototype.
It is difficult to make a living as a jewellery designer, and yet we do it because it is our calling. The deep appreciation we have for artistry and things that are truly well made is what make us fundamentally different from those who copy and focus solely on price. We will always remain true to artistry and the craft. We promise also never to sell to Walmart.
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