FEATURE: How an independent retailer turned business around

new shopfront

When Taylor & Whitlock suffered a dramatic drop in footfall in 2005, founder Mike Taylor decided to take a step back and reflect on what had happened. Fast forward to 2017, the store has undergone a name change, rebrand and shift in concept and now the business is buzzing once again. Editor Stacey Hailes heads to crowthrone to find out more…

When telling the story of Taylor & Co, formerly known as Taylor & Whitlock, it’s important to start from the beginning and share how the independent jewellery retailer has stood the test of time by being no stranger to change.

The business originally started in 1989 under the name Taylor & Whitlock. The vision was to bring a real, traditional goldsmiths jewellers to a small village in Berkshire called Crowthorne. Within six months, the retail side of the business was doing almost double the trade service the company also offered at the time. Throughout the 80s and the 90s the store went from strength to strength. Offering jewellery, bespoke services and goldsmithing on the premises, it soon became the ‘go to’ shop for specially made jewellery in the area.

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Then in Christmas 2005 – as founder Mike Taylor puts it – disaster hit. He explains the down turn in footfall was jaw dropping. The team couldn’t believe their eyes and didn’t understand what had happened. It was the worse Christmas the business had ever had. Turnover and footfall dropped by 50% that December.

In the workshop 1

Business owner Mike Taylor has never been afraid of change.

Taylor knew he couldn’t make any rash decisions. He needed to take the time to analyse what had changed and find out from clients why they didn’t come into store that Christmas. The light bulb moment came when he realised it was the store’s male clientele who had vanished. On revisiting the shop, what do you think they said? “We are really sorry we didn’t come in this year, we bought something online.”
“The internet had become the perfect storm and for the male consumer it was the ultimate purchasing tool,” Taylor explains. “Then you wonder, how are you going to compete?”

Taylor humbly admits that he initially led the store in the wrong direction. In 2007 the business moved online and rebranded to TWJ with a focus on TWJ.co.uk. At the time this seemed like the perfect solution, but it wasn’t going to be the change the company needed to survive on the high street.

In 2012 Taylor got heavily involved with online jewellery marketplace JewelStreet and left the business managed for four years. During this time he received a better understanding of the online industry, fashion, branding and what it takes to make a jewellery retail business work in today’s market.

The four years spent at JewelStreet and away from the store helped Taylor comprehend what he needed to do to keep his retail business alive. Regenerated and ready to move forward, he left JewelStreet to return back to store and drive it through the next season with a whole new concept set to bring the “sparkle of Bond Street” to Crowthorne. The first major task was to rebrand the company to Taylor & Co Master Goldsmiths — a nod to the new, innovative concept.

Making Changes
Taylor & Co has been completely transformed from the inside out to offer consumers a forward-thinking destination for luxury jewellery and silverware.

While all of Taylor & Co’s in-demand workshop services remain, the boutique now offers a handpicked selection of the UK’s very best master goldsmiths. Taylor says: “We had to do something radical or close the business.”

Taylor made the bold decision to completely change the store’s concept. From here on out his store will only stock outstanding British goldsmiths and silversmiths, and act as a window to bring talented British designers to the forefront. He explains: “The concept is very simple. I give a designer who has got pedigree and credibility within the industry a space for them in store and then we attract the clientele.”

He continues: “The model is a profit share model, which is 50-50. We don’t buy their stock, they bring their stock in and use our display. So Taylor & Co becomes the umbrella under which we represent other likeminded goldsmiths and silversmiths. It’s to bring the people from the back room to the front and it gives them a fairer slice of the cake.”

Three months since opening the rebranded boutique, turnover is up 30%, footfall has significantly increased and Taylor says the buzz around the store is back. Up until this Christmas, Taylor & Co never saw the level of clientele return since the internet took over in 2005. This December however, the boutique sold its most expensive piece of jewellery in ten years. Existing customers have started to come back and once again become loyal clients.

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Three months since opening the rebranded boutique, turnover is up 30%.

“By going down this route, nearly three months in, the turnaround in my business has been phenomenal,” he shares. “I cannot believe the new clients that we are meeting, the positive reaction that we are getting to the new brand, but more so the excitement that comes from existing clients about the new concept.”

Taylor has a passion to support and revive British craft. By only stocking British designers, the Crowthorne stores not only gives talented goldsmiths and silversmiths the chance to be in the limelight, but it also presents consumers with the opportunity to discover unique pieces created by British craftsman.

“Moving forward, the aim of the project is to dedicate a window space to a designer, who wants to work in partnership with us, which allows us to have a total of ten designers.”

Talent Scouting
The boutique has already secured a couple of designers – the House of Benney and Paul Draper – and now Taylor is looking to offer seven more the opportunity to be showcased in store.

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Taylor & Co presents an opportunity for British craftsmanship to be seen.

Designers will work on a six month agreement, whereby if it’s not working out for a designer they can move out after the timeframe. This works well for Taylor as he hopes to keep the offering fresh and new.

Taylor wants to bring the true meaning of British craft to the store. To this end, he hopes to revive British silversmithing and inspire a new generation to think about this concept as a route to market. “Silversmithing is a rapidly declining business and if we don’t fight tooth and nail to regenerate it, this craft is going to go,” shares Taylor. “I want to try and create contemporary silver that we can introduce to people slowly. Small things to start with, then that can lead on to commissions.”

Taylor & Co is very much at the beginning of its journey and if you are a brilliant goldsmith or silversmith who would like to join the adventure, Taylor encourages designers to contact him via the store or directly on his mobile – 07768422481 – to find out more. He says: “I can’t promise how much we are going to sell of a product, but I can promise to put the product into a viable space which is not going to cost anything and form a partnership with them and give it a go and see what happens. There is no risk.”

As the concept develops Taylor would like to work more closely with designers, even offering emerging goldsmiths and silversmiths mentoring opportunities and invite them in store to host events including ‘Designer Days’ where they can use the workshop, promote the brand and meet clients.

For Taylor, stepping away from the business was the best thing he could have done. He advises: “Sometimes you are far too close to your business to see the bigger picture. Even though we have to deal with the pressures of online and getting footfall through our doors, there are plenty of opportunities out there. Retailing is harder than it has ever been. You cannot be a standard jewellery retailer anymore. You have to think outside the box and look at what you can do to make your store exciting and desirable.”

It is with a heavy heart that we have to inform you that before going to print Paul Draper passed away. He was deeply respected in the jewellery industry and was about to start offering Designer Days at Taylor & Co. Both Professional Jeweller and Mike Taylor send their thoughts to the friends, family and industry peers he’s left behind.

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