ROX interviews Clive Ranger's Richard Slack


February 3rd, 2012

By Grant Mitchell & Kyron Keogh

Clive Ranger  has developed a strong business in South Wales and the West of England, where it is known as The Diamond Experience. Kyron Keogh and Grant Mitchell of ROX interview its managing director Richard Slack to find out his secrets to retail success.

ROX: 2011 has been a challenging year for the jewellery industry with rising commodity prices, VAT increase and slow economic growth, what does 2012 have in store for Clive Ranger?
RICHARD SLACK: From all we are hearing in the media 2012 will be a difficult year, so it will be important to be as innovative as possible in terms of product and marketing. A balance of PR and advertising pushing a strong consistent message should help strengthen sales. This will need to be allied with tight cost control. We are confident we can take our fair share of jewellery sales in our region.

ROX: What are the biggest changes you have seen in the jewellery industry in the last 10 years?  How has Clive Ranger adapted?
RS: There have been some major changes in the industry over the last 10 years. The most important being the emergence of branding, the advent of the internet, online sales and the importance of provenance with regards to where products are sourced. We still see Clive Ranger as our main brand which we enhance with other strong and interesting brands such as Clogau, Bjørg and Maple Leaf Diamonds. We choose not to sell watches so our jewellery brands are important to us and are given good space. The recent rise in metal prices has also made things difficult as far as price pointing is concerned and we are constantly having to review our price points.

ROX: We've seen online become a major part of our business – what are your plans for online?
RS: We had our first website in back in 2000 and are now on our third site that is fully transactional. Many of the people who use the site will call us to discuss an item they’ve seen and then call in to one of our stores to purchase. The sales we make online are often to people not in the vicinity of one of our stores, or to men who don’t like shopping. We also have quite a few loyal customers who move away and the website allows them to continue to shop with us and keep in touch. We do see the website as a very important tool in promoting our business and generating revenue.

ROX: How do you split the responsibilities of buying, retail operations and marketing?
RS: I split the responsibilities with my business partner Richard Thomas. I am more product focused and deal with suppliers and the manufacture of our own diamond rings and jewellery, while Richard deals with property and the website. I implement any marketing initiatives and am the point of contact for the staff. There is of course a certain amount of overlap, but we have a board meeting once a month, where we review the business and split any work that needs doing.

ROX: Where do you get your inspiration as a buyer?
RS: Inspiration comes from visiting trade shows, reading trade journals and talking to the shop staff who are interacting with customers on a day-to-day basis. Many of our younger staff are in tune with current fashion and trends and I have two teenage daughters who I sometimes use as a sounding board. Richard is a member of the NAG EDF group and we get some feedback through them about what’s hot and what’s not.

ROX: What do you think will be the key trends in 2012?
RS: In 2012 I think people will be looking for value for money as much as ever so special offers will be important as well as added value. The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee gives us all an opportunity to focus on the hallmark and offer heirlooms of the future. Fun, fashionable branded items that look good, like the Tresor Paris bracelets, will continue to perform well.

ROX: How do you think the economy will affect the jewellery industry in 2012?
RS: The state of the economy will affect the jewellery industry as it will other retail sectors as it becomes increasingly difficult to predict what lies around the corner. It will become even more important to have well-trained staff who can maximise every opportunity. On a positive note we may well get a feel-good factor from the Olympic Games and the European Football Championships if the home nations do well, although I do see the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee as a bigger and year-round opportunity for jewellers. 2011 has been a challenging year and things don’t look like they are going to get any easier in the short to middle term. People will continue to get engaged and married regardless of the economy and it’s just a matter of getting a fair share of that cake. In terms of other gifting sectors we are quite often competing with other products such as travel, mobile phones and technology.

ROX: Clive Ranger is widely recognised as The Diamond Experience in south Wales and the west of England.  Tell us more about what The Diamond Experience means.
RS: The Diamond Experience is the all-encompassing experience a customer has when dealing with Clive Ranger. It is the focal point of our business and embraces our ethos and speciality in creating beautiful diamond rings and jewellery with a service to match, that is borne out with the repeat business and customer loyalty we achieve. We want people to feel special so they can sit down in an comfortable, air-conditioned environment and be served by knowledgeable staff in an unhurried atmosphere. We bend over backwards for our customers and will help with the most mundane or complicated enquiry.

ROX: What handy tips do you have for jewellery retailers starting out in 2012?
RS: Know your target audience and specialise in delighting them. Get a good deal on the property you are taking on as most landlords will probably be only too glad to have you. Set up a website as a 24/7 advert for your company, together with a Facebook page.

 

This article is taken from the January issue of Professional Jeweller. To read the digital version of the issue in full, click here.