We Are Competing Against Each Other

Atasay, Altinbas and Arpas are the three Turkish companies who started operating on the 46th and 47th Streets of downtown Manhattan. The region, which is currently home to 25 Turkish jewelry companies, is known as the heart of the gold market.
These companies account for a substantial part of Turkey’s jewelry exports, which has reached $250 million per year. 
Oguz Senalp, Atasay General Manager.

After gaining domestic experience and reputation, Atasay Jewelry targeted export markets and entered the American market 10 years ago. The company is currently working to build a strong brand name in the market, which characterized as fierce competition in a huge geography. Promotion and advertising expenses are discouragingly high for many companies in the market. Atasay’s key strategies include sales from cable television and entering large store chains such as Sears and Wal-Mart. Last year, Atasay received the “2003 Sears Partners in Progress Program Award”, which is given to manufacturers that supply goods and services to Sears.
Oguz Senalp says that Atasay was founded 15 years ago with a strong interest in brand value development. “The passion and determination for branding helped us gain significant market shares in Turkey, the Middle East, Europe and the US.”

Atasay first entered the American market by selling to wholesalers, and then slowly moved towards retail sales. According to Senalp, it is very difficult to sell in the huge American market, because there are very strong competitors:

“The Jewish community dominates the market. We started selling to Italian mid-wholesalers, especially in New York. During this period we continuously improved our products. We sent a lot of personnel throughout the country to sell to wholesalers in different regions. With time, we realized that the opportunity lies in retailing and concentrated on this segment. This wasn’t easy, because average waiting time to get an appointment and make a presentation to these stores is one year.”

After 10 difficult and tight years, they finally started selling to well-known store chains in the American market, says Mr. Senalp. He emphasizes that it took a lot of work to reach their current position:

“Every new customer is a reference for another one. We waited for two years to get an appointment from Sears. The test order had to be absolutely perfect. Once that phase was successful and our service quality reached a certain level, other giants, such as Wal-Mart, also wanted to work with us. After all careful and consistent work, we even received the service quality award from Sears. I can say that it is the result of 10 years of hard work. It’s a very important reference for us.”  

As in other industries, Turkish jewelry companies in the US are competing hard against each other. As a matter of fact, whomever we speak to in this industry point out similar complaints. However, when it comes to finding a solution, there is none. Mr. Senalp views this as a wrong strategy: “The gold market is really big. Instead of competing against each other, we should concentrate on improving quality and brand value. He is straightforward when it comes to self-criticism, too: “We, as Turkish companies, are making wrong moves. We cut down our prices for instance. Instead of capturing new markets, we try to gain market share in existing ones.”

Mr. Senalp believes that is not very difficult to increase their market share at the expense of Italian companies. He emphasizes that Atasay can only survive by providing outstanding customer service and they can be considered as a success story when they evolve into a designer jewelry maker from a low-cost supplier: “Turkish companies in the US gold market should not be as Asian countries. If we are like them, we will lose the market.”
Atasay currently sells to wholesaler and retail customers in the American market. The company also sells through the Internet from www.orastik.com.

The only way to succeed in the American market is through branding and subsequently establishing trust. These are the reasons why Italians and Jews are so successful in the market. Mr. Senalp says that Atasay embraces these values as its core values. Some of the questions that he often faces are: “Why are Italian designs so hot although they are more expensive? Why do customers ask if your design is Italian or not?”

According to Mr. Senalp, the reason is simple: “Italians are known for their quality and brands. That is our philosophy as well. We try to stay out of the price competition created by other Turkish companies. Our objective lies in the long run. We are working to create our own designs. We have a very rich cultural resource, if we can leverage this legacy, we can translate it into many advantages.”

(November 2004, 14th Issue)

Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07