FEATURE: How to shine in multi-branded retail arenas

OR jewels

Ever wondered what it takes for jewellery to thrive in large, multi-branded retail arenas? Stacey Hailes spoke to the brands who are shining among the masses to find out what they do to stand out.

In the world of retail, competition is vast. There’s so much on offer for consumers that it’s far from easy to come up with new ideas and stand out from the crowd.

Take the current trend for personalised, meaningful jewels, for example. A customer looking for the perfect gift or a weekend treat is utterly spoilt for choice. When competition is so good, how do jewellery designers compete in jewellery boutiques, let alone in department stores side by side with other jewellery brands and the likes of clothes, home accessories and beauty products to steal the consumer’s attention?

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From young start-up brands to long established designers, there are many jewellery companies that are placed in the difficult market of multi- purpose arenas such as Debenhams, Topshop and Asos. To get some answers, we’ve spoken to representatives from Orelia, My Flash Trash, Astrid & Miyu, Jon Richard and Ottoman Hands to discuss the secret to their success in hyper commercial spaces.

Fashion jewellery brand Jon Richard has concessions in Debenhams and a range of selected retailers. The company has been nurturing its business relationship with the department store since 1994, when it opened 25 concessions nationwide. Now, 25 years later, the brand is in over 120 stores, and designs and buys jewellery collections for selected Designers at Debenhams — creating statement accessories to team up with the Designers at Debenhams clothing ranges.

Chief executive, Sarah Frew, comments: “We have always maintained a close relationship with Debenhams and by working in partnership our wide portfolio of brands dominates the high street, making us market leaders in our field.”

For Jon Richard the secret to standing out in Debenhams is a dedicated marketing and visual merchandising team. Through seasonal graphics, premium display units, and regularly updated packaging the brand remains consistently eye-catching. “Our philosophy is that our product is king; the integrity of our product is paramount,” explains Frew.

Ottoman Hands founder and designer, Deniz Gurdal, agrees that visual merchandising is one of the most important aspects to succeeding in any large, multi-brand retail environment.

Established in 2009, Ottoman Hands began its days as a small market stall in West London’s Portobello Market. After attracting a crowd of tourists, fashionistas and celebrities, it didn’t take long for the brand to be spotted by one of Topshop’s accessory buyers. The brand officially made its move into the fashion chain in 2010.

Talking about how the brand attracts customers despite vast competition Gurdal says: “I think one of the most important things with jewellery is how you showcase your collection. You can offer really beautiful pieces but if they are not displayed well then they can lose their charm.”

With this in mind, Gurdal picks pieces that can be merchandised together to create some visual story-telling in-store. She also admits this rule applies online, where it is as equally important for the brand to merchandise effectively.

“We like to take risks and experiment with the different ways we can display the jewellery,” Gurdal continues. “Brands usually choose to play safe by placing their collections in cabinets which is not very adventurous. This way we stand out and that’s why we have been able to succeed within the larger department stores such as House of Fraser.”

Earlier this year (July 2015) Amber Atherton launched her charm-based brand My Flash Trash into Topshop’s Oxford Circus flagship store. In the first two weeks the brand was crowned the best selling concession across the store.

My Flash Trash is certainly known for its visual merchandising, particularly for the way the products are packaged. Bracelets are attached to imagedriven card with bold prints, bright colours and fun phrases — aesthetics that catch the eye of the typical Topshop customer.

Talking about how she makes the brand so accessible and desirable, Atherton comments: “I do think it is all about the way the product is presented. We are a more expensive product than the average priced jewellery in there. The average price is about £12 to £16 and we are coming in at £30. We are trying to sit in that gift-but-fashion price range.”

Pricing is another crucial factor for brands competing in department store environments. When consumers have the ability to look for the best deal within their shopping environment, brands need to make sure their pricing is attractive and representative of the quality of the products. This is something that Sussex-based Orelia, a fashion brand stocked in the likes of Topshop, Asos and John Lewis, knows to be vital.

In Topshop, Orelia is priced a little higher than the store’s own-brand Freedom Jewellery, but this isn’t something that worries sales director Dominic Belcher. His view is that Orelia offers customers something different and a little more refined to Freedom.

Discussing the brand’s bestsellers Belcher remarks: “As far as necklaces go, we definitely price point them and we are very strict with that because we have to be competitive in the market. Every customer has a perception of quality, and as long as the quality of the product matches up to the price, then you are going to sell more.”

As My Flash Trash is also a brand in Topshop that is more expensive than the store’s own jewellery range, Atherton adds: “Because we are not the size of Freedom, we have to keep that price point to retain our margins.”

As well as having an appealing price point it is also essential for brands to regularly update their offerings, making sure products remain fresh. This is something Atherton admits has been a challenge for My Flash Trash, which was previously an e-commerce business. “Going from being an [e-commerce] marketplace, where we supported all these other brands and had just one [own brand] diffusion line, to being a fully in-house brand has been a big challenge,” comments Atherton. “Trying to get the design in-house and offer a quick turn-around is something we are getting to grips with.”

My Flash Trash has an exclusive line with Topshop and hopes to expand its products in the near future.

Orelia also has an exclusive line of ‘Create Your Own’ jewellery for Topshop which is only available online and in its Oxford Circus store. Orelia’s Dominic Belcher admits that such large retail arenas require product newness all the time, in order to keep up with the fast-paced, easily distracted nature of its regular shoppers.

He explains: “We have to keep changing and bringing new products out weekly, or certainly twice a month into our Oxford Street Topshop store, whereas on the independent side, or the wholesale side, it is less fast paced.”

The Orelia office may only contain 25 people, but its team of buyers and designers are constantly working to produce new products — something which has resulted in an increase in sales. He adds: “We are small enough to be nimble and reactive, rather than being too big where it is difficult. We can just make decisions and sign it off.”

Unsurprisingly, all of the brands approached by Professional Jeweller said their success is hinged on filling a gap in the market and offering something that is unique and of good quality.

This is certainly how Astrid & Miyu was born, with founder Connie Nam spotting a gap for wellmade and well-designed “go-to” jewellery. “As a fashion consumer, it was easy to find a go-to shoe, bag or clothing brand, but it was always difficult for me to find a go-to jewellery brand,” Nam explains. “Combining my passion for branding and fashion, and my personal shopping pains, I decided to start Astrid & Miyu.”

Commenting on competing in House of Fraser Nam adds: “Our main focus is always to design something unique but wearable for the customer. I think this ethos has really resonated with the customers as well as the sales staff. We’ve consistently been one of the best performing brands in all the concessions we are in. Aside from the design, we keep a close tab on what’s actually been selling well, communicate often and work closely with the store managers to satiate customers’ needs.”

For Ottoman Hands the brand tries to stand out by being brave and original with its designs, often using unusual gemstones and creating bold, statement pieces. “We also have an interesting story behind the brand,” explains Gurdal. “Our jewellery is hand-made in Turkey and we also source our materials there. This helps as a selling factor, making our pieces more original and exotic.”

Jon Richard focuses on staying onpoint, with its head of design carrying out an analysis of upcoming trends to make sure products are commercial, yet still fashion relevant. My Flash Trash has stayed on trend too with its personal charm pieces; however Atherton believes the brand stands out because it is filling a gap in the market for the millennial consumer.

For reaching the millennial consumer, Atherton says that it’s not just her brand’s presence in stores that is important but its presence on social media too. She explains: “Our social media build-up around Topshop was really strong and we’ve got 20 influencers who have all curated a charm bangle for us, so we tapped in to all of their networks to promote the product and the range being in Topshop.

“Building an [online] community is key for us, we’ve got 350 girls now in our ‘charm gang’ and Instagram community and we moved away about a year or two ago from being very celeb focused to having a more, authentic, fan girl community, which is definitely a better way to go.”

Brands agree that in the fight to survive in a large market place, interacting with customers on social media in order to give the brand a voice and a personality is key.

Nam adds: “It’s very important to try to show a personality even when you’re dealing with consumers online. They also love to speak to us on social media for customer services issues, so it’s important to streamline our social media and customer services teams so customers can feel like they’re speaking to the same person or department.”

Despite their different products, styles, and selling tactics, what all these brands have in common is their ability to excel in an environment where the customers’ attention is being thrown in a thousand directions. This is something to be admired and the secret to their success is certainly worth exploring.  

This feature originally appeared in the September 2015 issue of Professional Jeweller. Read it here.


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