In-depth: Highs and lows of 2011
Negotiating their way through 2011 has not been easy for designers, retailers or brands. Retail Jeweller asks for everyone’s best and worst bits, and how they plan to ensure 2012 is a great year all round.
With peaks and troughs worthy of the Big One at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, the business trajectory through 2011 has been far from a smooth ride. However, in the positive spirit typical of the jewellery and watch industry, the trade’s consummate professionals have rolled with the punches, determined to successfully negotiate the
challenging retail environment.
Many have reported that, despite the economy, reduced consumer spend and high business rates, there have been noteworthy highs. And, although the Eurozone crisis continues to cast a shadow as we progress into 2012, the jewellery and watch industry is planning ahead to ensure the year is a success.
We asked a selection of designers, retailers and brands what their highs and lows of 2011 were and what they are planning for 2012.
Kevin Charles, Kevin Charles LDN
The launch at The Jewellery Show of mine and my wife’s new company, which sells high-class silver and cubic zirconia jewellery. Also, being chosen for the Pandora catwalk show and The Goldsmiths’ Fair.
I had to change the name of the company from [its original name] to Kevin Charles LDN. It has been a challenge addressing the many problems that this involves.
For the new year we are going to focus on marketing and advertising to increase customer awareness of new products. We also want to increase our number of retail stockists in the UK, and to improve the running of the new website.
Getting back to the drawing board and starting work on my fine jewellery collection, having spent the last couple of years working on different private commissions. The collection is inspired by my travels, poetry and pictures taken from my holidays, together with my love of gemstones. The pieces explore the hues and characteristics of gemstones in different ways, exploring their colour graduation from subtle to vivid. For instance, the Capri Midnight Pearl ring and earrings are set with silver diamonds, blue sapphires, tsavorites and Tahitian Pearl.
Perhaps it was when I found out my father was ill, I realised how important it is to spend more time with my family. I need to learn how to put my entrepreneurial mind aside and give some control and work to others so that I’m not completely overburdened. It’s hard to just give someone else control over something that means so much to you, but I’m slowly finding the balance.
The one thing that I will be doing in 2012 is finding the right balance between work and life.
Johnny Mirpuri, Mirpuri
To have been awarded a place alongside nine talented British designers to exhibit my work at International Jewellery London as part of the Kickstart initiative is up there with my 2011 high points. I’ve reaped huge benefits from this opportunity, not least of which has been to secure favoured stockists for my debut collections, including Nude Jewellery in Mayfair and Autumn and May in Greenwich.
A depressed economic climate, soaring precious metal prices and a peak in the VAT rate have made 2011 a tough year for the industry as a whole. But for a new brand like Mirpuri, which sources, produces and sells entirely in the UK, it’s been a particularly challenging year in which to launch.
Feedback on my debut collections has confirmed to me the importance of offering choice to customers. With three sterling silver collections under my belt, I plan to broaden the appeal and marketability of my designs by introducing ranges that use more precious metals and stones.
Laura Strand, PureJewels
My highlight of 2011 was winning the Lonmin Design Innovation Award. It was great to be recognised for my design in platinum. Plus, sharing the experience with three of our PureJewels Platinum Heritage designers, who also won the award, made it even more special.
Although not a low point, the key challenge this year was setting up the Design and Platinum Heritage department, which creates all PureJewels’ platinum design collaborations. Being the first person to head the department was a steep learning curve. I overcame this challenge through testing and trialling new processes and constantly assessing what ideas and methods worked. I also work with a very supportive team that is always on hand to help and offer advice. It has taken a year to get this far but it has been wholly worthwhile and we are starting to realise our ambitions.
My reasons for joining retailer PureJewels were its commitment to design, support for the designer community and aspiration to become a design leader.
The core part of my role as head designer is to maintain and progress with the company’s ethos and ambitions. This year has been hugely exciting for us as we have gone through the cycle of launching our first branded in-house collection, Floralia, and our first set of diffusion lines designed by our Platinum Heritage designers. Therefore, the best business practice I shall be following in 2012 is to continue developing thoughtful and design-driven collections, and promoting British design talent through collaborations with our Platinum Heritage designers.
Johnny Rocket, creative director, Johnny Rocket
It was my collaboration with [jewellery designer] Sunny Warrington on the Jungle City event in Edinburgh, which is a charitable event to raise money for Asia’s endangered wildlife. We raised a huge amount of money for endangered tigers with our Swarovski crystal sculpture.
For Johnny Rocket as a retailer, it was solidifying the business through the recession and establishing new design talent in the gallery, such as Jana Reinhardt, Gina Melosi, Yuki Mitsuyasu, Ornella Iannuzzi, and Gisèle Ganne. Another high point was seeing designers that we have championed in the gallery for ages win industry awards and recognition, particularly Alexander Davis, William Cheshire and Tomasz Donocik.
Losing [retail manager] Jesse Benson, our right-hand man. He moved to Brussels to support his wife’s career, so we lost a key element in team Rocket. We had to replace him quickly and were lucky enough to have worked with [graduate designer] Grace Cross on our project for Diet Coke [where shoppers were allowed to created their own bespoke bottle with Swarovski crystal elements] and she has stepped up to the plate and is rapidly getting to the point where she is in control. With our business it is down to how we interact with our clients and the designers. We are heavily into service, so anyone who works here is a master of customer relations. Losing members of staff is usually the hardest challenge we face because we don’t have high staff turnover. Johnny Rocket is about customer service. It’s what ensures our clients transform into our friends and continue to support our efforts as an independent during both the good and bad times. It’s this simple thing that we will continue to do. Delivering quality design, knowledge, and well-made work is a given, but word of mouth can destroy or champion a business. Fortunately, we have benefited from nothing but kind praise and wonderful customer feedback. This is our raison d’etre and it is this key element we will continue to pursue into the next year.
Richard Finch, CEO, John Greed Jewellery
Being a finalist for Independent Retailer of the Year at the UK Jewellery Awards. It wasn’t critical for the business, but it was endorsement for our vision of selling jewellery that is both fashionable and affordable in dramatic surroundings. We broke away from the stereotypical jewellery shop image, and created huge lifestyle graphics to support the jewellery, low-level lighting to add drama, and played music that people would play in their car, or at home. The impression our staff make underpins the passion we have for our work, and the pleasure we get from doing it. Our flagship store only opened in July 2010, which made our nomination even more pleasing.
There hasn’t really been one. If forced to dig around I could site changing our EPoS system, which, while it was a smooth transition, still meant a lot of physical data processing to ensure we could make best use of the new company’s services and expertise. Then we relaunched our website. The business had grown so big and so fast that our existing site was struggling to cope. After months of hard work and preparation we relaunched in September, followed two weeks later with dedicated sites for France, Germany, Italy and the US - now that is challenging. We pushed through because we have dedicated and passionate people who love the company, and we employ talented people whose value is recognised, and who share our vision.
Outstanding customer service on every level is the key to success. Customers can buy most things from a variety of places and, with the increasing growth of internet sales, their choice is not limited to their local town, or even to their country. Whether they choose to buy that particular watch or piece of jewellery from you will largely depend on the quality of customer service they receive and the confidence they have in your company to deliver. Taking all this into account, our plan for 2012 at John Greed is to work hard to consistently exceed our customers’ expectations through promising a lot and delivering even more.
Judith Wade, sales manager, Ti Sento UK
We had an amazing baptism of fire with The Jewellery Show at Spring Fair, which superseded any expectations we had, and an equally impressive International Jewellery London show in September with both Ti Sento and Charming by Ti Sento. But the absolute high point for all of us at Ti Sento was winning the UK Jewellery Awards Jewellery Brand of the Year for the second year running. To win this amazing accolade once was incredible enough, to win it twice left us speechless.
We have a great team behind us at [parent company] IBB Amsterdam and in the UK, and each of us has had our own challenges this year. Support from each other, our customers and our head office has enabled us to work better together as a team.
The quality and traditional manufacturing methods used in both brands will continue and this is the key element for us, combined with the designs our teams create.
Jonathan Ralston, co-partner, Viventy
Our high point was in July, when Bruno Mayer agreed to award us as the agency for Viventy for the UK and the Republic
October, when we learned that production at the company’s fully owned factory in Bangkok ceased due to the worst flooding in 50 years. The timing couldn’t have been worse, with many orders in hand for Christmas. Thankfully, 80% of orders have been met. We are endeavouring to supply whatever is possible from the stock in Germany.
To carefully control distribution, avoiding saturation, and to engage and support our retailers with joint regional advertising campaigns.
Giles English, co-founder, Bremont
2011 has been a good year for us. The P-51 has been extremely well received, and when you launch a product like that you are always nervous, especially following the success of the EP120. Our real buzz has been seeing the US take off for us.
Without doubt the low point for us has been the weakness of the pound against the Swiss franc. It has really sped up our plans to do more and more in the UK.
By the third quarter of next year we hope to have a new facility up and running in the UK to enable us to build on the success we have had in 2011.
Diane Hall, creative director, Dower & Hall
We were very pleased to announce that we were a new supplier for the Company of Master Jewellers (CMJ), but were absolutely thrilled to win the prize at the CMJ party for Best Collection. It was so unexpected but very exciting.
2011 has been a struggle due to the economy. We made sure we ran some great promotions in store and online, together with exciting customer parties and new catalogues.
We will continue to create new pearl designs to keep things fresh and interesting next year. Also for 2012, we will be going coloured gem mad - we will have a frenzy of colour.
Alan Mace, UK MD, Citizen
A business high in 2011 was a total display makeover for the brand to create a more premium look. Plus, our biggest ever ad campaign included TV and adverts on the London Underground and at major shopping centres.
The low has been our advertising brand ambassador [professional tennis player] Kim Clijsters being injured for most of the tennis season.
Business success in 2012 will come from brand building through product innovation, design and value. We have exciting new launches ready for BaselWorld.
Dennis Allen, director, Chaos
Bumping into one of our stockists at Spring Fair and hearing his enthusiastic feedback about the Chaos brand. He had launched it only a few weeks before Christmas, into two stores, and said that they had already sold 60% to 70% of the stock and had decided to extend it to a third store. After the work involved in building up the brand, and all that’s involved in a launch, I got a huge boost at hearing such an enthusiastic response after just a short time.
Launching the ethical brand into the market and aiming it at better-end retailers and jewellery boutiques looked more of a challenge as the year progressed, and the assay figures show the tough time retailers are having. However, we went to International Jewellery London with an agent who has increased new accounts and the brand will be stocked in 31 stores shortly. Even in a slow period some retailers want to keep up with developments and find space for a new story that resonates with their sector.
Working closely with stockists to drive business their way. As a new brand we recognise that spreading the word is essential and we will do this in a number of ways. For instance, we now use Google adwords, and social media will become more important. Reaching the 15% to 20% of the public that are interested in an ethical dimension to their lives is essential, so the PR effort will be most important.