Danish brand Bering may be known for its ceramic watches, but its Arctic Symphony jewellery collection is quickly gathering pace with its interchangeable appeal. Sarah Louise Jordan meets managing director and co-founder, Lars Gram-Skjønnemann, to find out how the brand’s jewellery offer is changing its retail landscape.
Having secured more than 400 retailers in the UK, Danish watch and jewellery brand Bering certainly has a reason to smile. However, the recent success of its Arctic Symphony ring concept (above) has given managing director and co-founder, Lars Gram-Skjønnemann, even more reason to celebrate.
For those who haven’t seen it, the Arctic Symphony range offers a selection of outer rings with interchangeable inner rings, which can be swapped in and out simply by unscrewing the pieces. The stainless steel designs are crafted with the same materials and using the same techniques as Bering’s watches, ensuring a consistent and complementary aesthetic. In turn, this helps to encourage add-on sales and repeat custom, as shoppers return for more inner rings.
For Gram-Skjønnemann, creating the visual identity of Arctic Symphony was less of a challenge because the established watch collections provided the direction. Pieces are crafted using the same PVD plating technology, ensuring a tough, bonded layer of powder to the steel surface and lasting durability. What was challenging, however, was the introduction of the twist and change system in the rings.
As Gram-Skjønnemann explains: “It was easier to find and identify the jewellery line because we already have the watches. But we have made a new system, which is not a system [available elsewhere] in the market. It makes it possible for customers to make their own designs matching their personal look.”
He continues: “The first jewellery we did was not interchangeable, and we were always playing with how we could make it more interesting for the customer. There are some other brands on the market which have a similar look, but they are not interchangeable. By developing further on what they were doing we came up with this system.”
The jewellery may offer a strong concept, but can it stand on its own when Bering’s watches are taken out of the picture? Fortunately, the answer is yes. At Bering’s flagship concept store in Hamburg, Germany, 40% of turnover is thanks to jewellery. This figure has increased from 36% when the collection was initially launched around October 2014.
Overall, jewellery makes up 20% of Bering’s total business, and Gram- Skjønnemann believes this will only increase. He explains: “I believe [jewellery turnover] will be even bigger in a few years. We prefer to have customers selling both Symphony and watches, but in the UK some of our customers might not be the right ones for selling jewellery as they don’t have the right knowledge or the [consumer] trust. In these cases we will look at retailers who can take on the Symphony collection.”
He continues: “We would rather have a big beautiful Bering presentation with the watches and the Symphony line because they match together and can offer more for the retailer.”
Currently, there are no retailers that stock just Bering’s jewellery collections, but Gram-Skjønnemann seems to imply this may not always be the case. What is obvious is that fans of the brand’s signature ceramic finish are unlikely to findmatching jewels elsewhere, putting Bering in a comfortable position and assisting retailers with potential repeat and add-on sale opportunities.
Another significant factor in the success of the Arctic Symphony collection are Bering’s touch and feel display units, which have proved incredibly popular. At the brand’s Hamburg store, Symphony ring trays are placed in a prominent position at the entrance to the shop, helping to tempt casual passers-by who may then go on to purchase higher value items.
For Gram-Skjønnemann, Bering’s combination of fashionable watches and unusual jewellery is a traffic-driving combination that makes it “more interesting to go shopping”.
He continues: “A lot of product is sold online, so if you want to compete in-store you need to do something different. With Bering you can because you really have the story to tell and you can show a point of difference. You can play with [pieces] in a way that you can’t do online; this makes it a fantastic tool for retailers.”
Bering also offers a second jewellery collection, Ceramic Link, which includes pendants, earrings and bracelets in the same shades as its key watch collections. However, this represents a tiny portion of the brand’s sales, with Gram- Skjønnemann admitting that Arctic Symphony generates 95% of the brand’s jewellery business overall. He adds: “This is what we will concentrate on in the near future and then we will enlarge our other lines afterwards.”
Although there are no retailers that stock just the Arctic Symphony range, there are plenty who house just the watches — something the team at Bering is trying to alter. “We have more than 400 jewellers in the UK, some of which started [stocking the brand] before we introduced the jewellery. We are very happy with the feedback we’re getting from the market [about the Arctic Symphony range] and the feedback we’re getting back from our customers. They are helping us and they see a good future with Bering. They give us the conviction that when we bring out something new they can jump on it and make good business with it.”
In terms of growth, Bering has taken on around 50 new retailers since the start of 2015, helped in many ways by a strong showing at Jewellery & Watch Birmingham. To support its growing UK customer base, the brand has hired two additional area sales managers in the last 12 months, including Bethan Palmer covering the North-West and Matt Aldridge covering the South-East. Additionally, the brand has established its first UK office so that customer calls won’t have to be made directly to Germany. This sits alongside its York-based service centre, ensuring a dedicated and consistent presence in the UK market.
When asked how the process of encouraging retailers to add jewellery to their Bering offer is progressing, area sales manager Matt Aldridge comments: “What I’ve found in the last three months is that customers are responding to the twist and change concept because it is not something they’ve seen before. Plus, they are affordable, so you get a lot of ring for your money.” Arctic Symphony rings start from around £50 for the men’s offer, while women’s vary from £59 upwards to £150, depending upon the combination of inner and outer rings. Some inner rings, which can be worn separately, retail for £20.
Interestingly, the brand has noted that some of the best sales professionals are combining watch sales with add-on ring sales, ensuring more money at the till and a customer likely to return for more inner rings. As Aldridge notes: “If you’re a good sales person you can sell a watch and a ring together in many cases, especially with female customers. There are a lot of women who will buy both at the same time. For many shops it is also a good tool if you just need to swap a battery. You can just give a customer a ring to show them and they can play while you’re doing the service.” He continues: “The challenge now is to go out and have a dialogue with our partners and to acquire more space so they can take advantage of what the system is offering.”
Gram-Skjønnemann agrees that the Symphony range has the potential to be an up-selling tool, noting: “It’s a great opportunity for retailers to sell up and sell more, but in the meantime we also have to say we are selling a lot of our rings to customer who don’t have a watch.”
He advises using the rings as a conversation starter, before showcasing the watch collections that complement the ring style a customer deems their favourite. “It’s really a magnet. The rings are bringing more customers into stores, but they also bring them back. A customer may return three years later to get a new watch, but with a ring they can come back every month and make a new design.”
Looking ahead, Gram-Skjønnemann believes growth is inevitable but is erring on the side of caution when it comes to acquiring new accounts. He explains: “We are getting a lot of new customers, but this is not so important for us as developing with the customers we already have today. We need to make our existing customers strong and let them make more money with the product. We want to move them from being a customer to being a partner.
“We are talking a lot about how we can take the next steps with the brand and help [retailers] understand that with Bering they have a brand and a product that they can rely on for good business for many years to come. The business is growing and we offer a tool now to encourage customers to come back into the store,” he adds. This may sound optimistic, but Bering has the evidence it needs from its European stores to back its claims. In Sweden, for instance, jewellery outperforms watches, and the two product categories are now level in terms of turnover in some parts of Germany.
At the end of our conversation, Gram- Skjønnemann remains quiet when asked if new collections are on the horizon. However, a small, knowing smile suggests more good things are on their way for the UK market. The message he is keen to promote is simple; Bering is more than just a watch brand. He concludes: “We see ourselves as a jewellery and watch brand and we would really like to change our image to show we are taking jewellery seriously.”
SHOPPING HABITS: MEN VS WOMEN
Having introduced a men’s subcollection to its Arctic Symphony range in March this year, both Gram-Skjønnemann and Matt Aldridge have noted a significant difference in the way male and female customers are shopping for what is essentially the same product. The pair has found that, in the majority of cases, men will buy a ring ‘as seen’ and will rarely buy additional interchangeable inserts. Aldridge points to one instance in which he sold a male customer both a watch and complementary ring, only for the same customer to refuse a free additional inner ring on the grounds that he was unlikely to ever capitalise on the twist and lock mechanism in place. In contrast, female customers are more likely to buy inner rings and may buy one or two extras during in the initial sale — allowing them to change their piece at a later date. This difference is reflected in Bering’s point of sale display units, where women’s rings are shown separated into outer and inner ring options, while men’s designs are presented as completed units. Gram-Skjønnemann comments: “We introduced the gents’ collection to the market because we had a lot of retailers asking for the ladies rings in men’s sizes. Instead of doing that we redesigned the range and made it more masculine.”
This feature originally appeared in the May 2015 issue of Professional Jeweller. Read it here.