Carlo Scalzo’s balancing act between the modern Canadian market and his Italian heritage
By Corrina Mosca
Deep in the heart of Laval, Quebec lies Caprices Signé Scalzo. This one-of-a-kind boutique offers an exclusive selection of Italian luxury brands, each of which helps to outline the retailer as a truly unique player in an extremely competitive industry.
However, the most valuable gem found at Caprices is not set within one of the many “affordable luxury” goods that the retailer sells. Rather, the company’s most cherished commodity stands behind the counter.
From humble beginnings
Carlo Scalzo, founder of Caprices, is undeniably a force to be reckoned with in the industry. With his great passion for his customers, knowledge of his products and awareness of the market, he is able to offer a truly exceptional level of expertise to both his business and his clients.
Of course, every powerhouse must be built brick-by-brick. Scalzo’s foundations lie within his homeland of Italy, with his path to success beginning at the age of 20 in 1988. At the time, Scalzo was working as a young sales rep for a local Italian distributor.
“It fascinated me, this business,” recalls Scalzo. “When I walked into those jewellery stores, I was instantly struck with the glamour of the industry and the passion displayed by the owners. That was something that resonated deeply with me.”
Seeing the dedication that these men and women held for both their patrons and their companies struck a chord with Scalzo. His unwavering commitment to his customers’ satisfaction began here. Through his observations and his experiences, he began to adopt the maxim that the client always comes first—a motto that he still holds firmly today.
It was this passion that led him to establish Il Diamante, his first Italian retail location, in 1991. Whilst running his business, Scalzo was also making frequent visits to Canada, where he saw great market potential for Italian jewellery and watch brands.
“At that time, the market in Canada was very conservative, especially in the minds of retailers,” says Scalzo. “And coming from Italy, I saw the opportunity to offer clients on-trend fashion jewellery, which was not widely available in Canada. While the Canadian market was—and is—very conservative for certain things, like engagement rings and anniversary gifts, customers want day-to-day jewellery that is not as conservative.”
Scalzo saw this opening as a chance to offer the market a “fresh” take on luxury accessories. He moved to Canada in 2000, where he soon established Diamond 2 Scalzo Bros., a new venture in wholesale distribution. Since then, the company has become the exclusive Canadian distributor for several Italian brands, which include the likes of Meccaniche Veloci, Rebecca Jewelry, and Sector No Limits Watches.
“I felt that I could add to the market something that would help the stores improve their sales by bringing in client- and market-appropriate products,” explains Scalzo. “It started with looking at and distributing brands that were the height of fashion—at that moment, it was about testing the market to see how these goods would be received.”
Running with giants
However, establishing his reputation in the Canadian industry was no cakewalk. Marketing his lesser-known Italian lines to retailers was extremely difficult—at that time, many Canadian jewellers were focused on selling big-name brands to the country’s newest demographic: luxury consumers.
“Most of the time, I had to play Boy Scout for many brands. Because, of course, the established luxury brands had been there for almost 15 years prior,” he notes. “I used to go to stores, and I really had to try to open retailers’ minds—sometimes, I’d even take the risk and say, if you don’t sell this merchandise, I’ll take it back.”
This heavy reliance on brand names—rather adherence to market demands—to attract customers “didn’t sit quite right” with Scalzo, he says. “A brand can only do so much: it only gives you potential. After that, if you don’t follow the needs of your clients, you can’t go very far.”
Have a little faith
It is from this aspiration to cater to the desires of Canadian consumers that Caprices Signé Scalzo was born. The boutique, located right outside of Quebec’s Carrefour Laval, offers a fresh, smart and vast range of Italian luxury brands for all demographics.
“You can’t just sell anything,” says Scalzo. “You have to be intuitive enough to try and cover different age and status groups. At the end of the day, the best advertising is on the wrist, the neck, or the ears of a person; if nobody is buying your products, nobody is wearing it.”
By researching and handpicking each of the brands he carries, Scalzo not only ensures that his customers will be pleased: he also cultivates a deep personal belief in the worth and quality of the products he offers. In his eyes, this is what truly makes them sell.
“Believing is something more deep; it’s not just about bringing your mind to believe in a product—it comes down to education,” he advises. “It’s about going to different jewellery shows around the world and seeing which goods echo not only their individual market, but also the global market. If people don’t change accordingly, they just create their own misery.”
Scalzo adds that this belief needs to be conveyed and transmitted to the client, as well—without understanding the worth of the products being sold to them, customers will lack the passion and longing that are so integral in the purchase of luxury goods.
“You need to explain your products to the client and genuinely listen to their needs,” he says. “Make them feel understood, and soon enough, they will bring their friends and their family—that’s how you generate more traffic into the store. If you want to build a loyal clientele, you need direct and meaningful contact with your clients.”
Client knows best
Caprices’ staff has also been well-versed in the importance of building a strong client-jeweller relationship. He has a strong connection to his team, some members of which he has worked with since the establishment of Diamond 2. “I have been lucky to have a good staff behind me,” he says. “You can never just attribute success to one person—it’s the people that surround you.”
Don’t fear change
While Scalzo sincerely believes in constant evolution, education and reevaluation, his strongest ties are still those to his heritage.
“Caprices is a modern Italian jewellery store,” he says. “I am proud to say this—no one else has that Italian touch, that ability to think outside of the box. Italy’s greatness in the jewellery business comes from its attention to the needs of the market.”
It is this greatness, this consistent ability to adapt, overcome and innovate, that Scalzo has emanated throughout his time in the industry. As Caprices moves forward, he hopes to continue growing in this manner, implementing new crowd-pleasing and undeniably unique Italian luxury goods in his store whilst sharing his love for the jewellery business with his clients.
“There are centuries-old jewellery companies in Italy, and they’re still alive,” says Scalzo. “This is because they always have the courage to reinvent themselves, to always be current to the needs of clients.”
Scalzo’s accomplishments go to show that while maintaining a strong sense of tradition is important in the building of a brand, jewellers must be unafraid of change in order to thrive in this industry. Cater to the ever-changing wants and needs of your clients while holding your heritage close, and you’ve got a winning formula for success. CJ
AT A GLANCE
NAME: Caprices Signé Scalzo
OWNERS: Carlo Scalzo
LOCATIONS: 2504 Boulevard Daniel-Johnson, Laval, QC
STORE SIZE: 2,200 square feet
KNOWN FOR: Attention to customer needs and striving to reach perfection
in everything we do.
COOL FACTOR: Genuine Italian flair