Sunday, March 9, 2014

Emulation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

...Oh Yeah! Some one copied your design again. How do I deal with it in business? I may grump a bit. And then I design something new and exciting. How else can we survive in a competitive world? It happens all the time. However, I must say, there are a few cases in the history of my business that stand out the most. I will share some of my war stories in my next few posts.

The first time I was copied was early on in the existence of Dunitz & Company. It was the early 90's.  I had been showing wonderful cuff bracelets with a very good response.  Times were economically better and customers were not afraid of higher priced items.  If you've worked with Dunitz for a looooong time, you will remember the infamous (SKU: P32) cuff bracelet with beaded bead closures.  (I've attached a photo here of my favorite from history that I kept for myself....all these years.) When we first introduced it, it was a very good seller. * In walks a well dressed couple. They entered my wholesale booth and telling me they had a high-end boutique in lower Manhattan.  I was not familiar with them. They seemed promising as a potentially significant new client. They took copious notes on my various cuff patterns and color combinations.  After that they were unavailable for follow up. The deal was never closed.  Several months after that - very similar cuff bracelets were introduced to the marketplace by these very people.  Instead of working in Guatemala, they had their bracelets beaded by Huichol Indians of Mexico.  I learned later that their company was very established and well funded. They gifted oodles of cuffs to celebrities. They created a buzz for their beauties and initiated a fad.  Their wholesale prices were double mine.  After that, countless people came into my trade show booth thinking I had "knocked off" the line these peeps had released.  Of course I was annoyed.  But, because they were so powerful in creating a trend, it also helped me financially.  My bracelets were gorgeous and they were priced 50% below the pieces made by the Huichol.  Many stores were thrilled to buy from me because my prices were more competitive.  Dunitz had a terrific year financially.  The unfortunate thing is after countless celebrities were photographed wearing beaded cuffs, many more companies were inspired to copy the look.  Lower end copies with inferior quality started flooding the marketplace.  It killed the concept. Beaded cuffs were dead....dead in the trendy fashion arena.  It was a tough blow for Dunitz. I would assume we would have reaped longer financial benefit from our cuff designs had the various imitations not found their way to market.  Dunitz even had a strong sales rep drop our line after this cycle. She couldn't wait for us to step back and retool. Yes, it was a setback.  But, what did I do. I stepped back and retooled. You can't keep a good dog down. -ND