When no one else was selling jewelry online, Ruby Imports' Sun Jung saw the potential for a growing market. "I came from South Korea in 2002 and opened Ruby Imports in 2004. I sold a lot of product to Korean people in New York and Los Angeles,"Jung recalls. "They were doing very good business, and I was surprised that they were not on the web. Some told me, 'This is fashion. People want to touch it, feel it, and wear it. They won't buy through a website.'"Jung thought he would try it, and by jumping online at the best moment, Jung's company was positioned perfectly for the ecommerce explosion.
Jung was on to something, and his company's growth was phenomenal. "In 2004, we opened a site selling custom jewelry, and every year from 2004 to 2008 we grew 500 percent,"he says. Others then followed in the path he forged. "There were a lot of sites online after 2004, doing a lot of business,"adds Jung. To keep ahead of the new online competitors, Jung cut deals with power brokers from coast to coast and overseas. "I started importing from China as more manufacturing plants opened there,"says Jung. "Ruby Imports is like a hub connecting Chinese product makers to the retail customers in the United States."
Even as the economy has gone south, Ruby Imports continues to expand. "We keep growing, but not as fast, at about ten to 20 percent per year,"says Jung, attributing his success to his connections. "We have good relationships with New York, Los Angeles, and China, and we have huge volume. We are number one in costume jewelry in the United States."The sheer scope of operations at Ruby Imports is staggering. "We have 32,000 items at any moment, and 150,000 kinds of items over a year,"explains Jung, hinting at his huge turnover. When asked for details, he says, "Fashion changes very fast. We have a special inventory system. After 30 days the price on new merchandise drops 25 percent automatically. After 60 days, it drops 40 percent. Then, 90 days, it drops 70 to 75 percent, since 90 days is a lot of time in fashion."Ruby Imports adds 400 to 500 new items every day, Monday through Friday. Turning over product on that scale requires an active and big customer base, and Ruby Imports has it. "I have 45,000 customers all around the world. We put new products on the website, and we email links to 39,000 customers every day. It's a lot,"Jung explains.
Over the years, Ruby Imports has evolved beyond its apparel, accessories, and gift store roots. Seeing an opportunity, the company lowered its minimums and reached out to all kinds of mom and pop stores. "People think about fashion jewelry at clothing and jewelry stores, but we sell to gas stations and other kinds of shops as well. Ruby Imports sells only through the website,"says Jung.
They recently changed their domain to feature an innovative new site. Despite his fears about directing customers to the new domain, Jung's customers made the transition. "We changed our domain name to rubyimports.net, but people keep coming. Our customers are very loyal,"he says.
Ruby Imports' new site has much to offer. "Retailers can see the new arrivals, which we update every day. They can look at it by date and when it was updated."Jung assumes that his customers are always looking for the latest hot product, and he always offers them something new to consider. "We receive merchandise and put it up in real time. People see that, and they like it. They also like the specials and the sale of the week,"he adds. Jung is also on top of the latest social media trend, making excellent use of Twitter to keep his customers up to date. "We have over 3,300 followers on Twitter,"he says. "We tweet our new arrivals in real time, with pictures so people can see what we do."
Ruby Imports not only puts a lot of new product out there, but also offers some expert opinion on what to buy. The company's three purchasing experts keep an eye on the latest trends and make recommendations through a special recommendations page. "We have three buyers who choose merchandise from China, California, and New York,"says Jung. "They see what will be popular and sell well. They buy it and put it on the 'Hot and Trendy' products page,"which updates every 24 hours.
The company knows that independent retailers are one path to future growth, and caters to their needs. The minimum order size is just $50. As Jung explains, "Gas stations and convenience shops don't sell much, but they want to try. We went low with the minimum for this reason."The company offers another bonus incentive to new customers: a $10 coupon when they register with a business license or tax ID. Once they register, the website opens up to show wholesale prices.
There is also a members area with special service. Under "My Account,"a customer can see past orders and make reorders directly from the record. "Customers can request the item along with desired quantity, and we will send a text and email to them when the product is available. It is a very good function, and people use it a lot. That's why they like us."Well, that's one reason, among many.
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