FEATURE: Retailers discuss how the luxury market has evolved

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When Professional Jeweller travels around the country to meet jewellery retailers and discuss business, a common theme among luxury jewellers is that things are good at the moment.

So while London has been crowned the number one city for luxury retail this year, it appears the capital is not the only place benefiting from high-end sales.

Luxury department stores stocking fine jewellery have seen business bolstered substantially as tourists seeking high-end discount goods have flocked to England as a result of a weak pound, however many companies Professional Jeweller spoke to also reported an increase in domestic customers investing in items which will stand the test of time.

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“There’s a definite trend towards the higher end of our range,” shares T&E Ferris managing director, Edward Ferris. “Our customers are increasingly discerning, and overall we’re seeing fewer transactions of greater value.”

“We are happy that there has been continued growth in higher end sales,” adds Allum & Sidaway managing director, Jason Allum. “Examples include a bespoke hand piece for £10,000 and another client purchasing two dress rings totalling £22,000.”

Luxury store, William & Son, has seen business increase post-Brexit due to the weaker pound. Head of jewellery for the store, Clemence Devaux, explains: “Since the Brexit vote, the pound dropped making the UK the shopping destination of the world for a few months. Thus our sales have strongly increased post-Brexit, particularly in the watches and jewellery department. With our recent move to Bruton Street, we have also noticed an increase in traffic due to a better brand awareness since we are closer to Bond Street.”

Jewellery has also been performing well for luxury department stores, Harrods and Harvey Nichols, as both companies have recently invested in refurbishing their jewellery floors and improving their product offering.

At Harrods, limited edition, one-of-a-kind designs and bespoke commissions have been the order of the day, while Harvey Nichols has witnessed a surge in cocktail ring purchases, particularly rare designs by designers such as Kojis, Ara Vartanian and Ortaea.

Elsewhere, prestigious watch brands continue to perform well, while when it comes to jewellery diamonds and unusual gemstones have been catching the heart of consumers.

Creating Luxury
When selling luxury products, retailers need to create an environment and experience which matches the expectations of consumers looking to spend a substantial amount of money.

When it comes to the environment, plush materials, intimate seating areas and an interior which makes consumers feel welcome are key, but what else are stores doing to make the business scream luxury?

“The store environment is crucial to a luxury experience,” says Michael Spiers director, Adam Spiers. “The windows are our first opportunity to attract customers; they are well merchandised, feature luxury brands, and all products are presented on handmade displays crafted from luxurious materials such as silk, glass, wood and steel.”

He continues: “When you walk through the door, the welcome and the ambience should be perfect, and we have employed amazing shop fitters who have designed and handmade all our furniture and window displays. A strong brand presence, coupled with our own brand identity, specially designed seated serving areas, displays to browse and places to sit and relax all help to create that luxury feel.”

For London department store Harrods, the company prides itself on working with a number of the world’s best architects to create truly unique environments and enhance the potential of the brands it stocks.

“We recently worked with David Collins Studio on the refurbishment of the Fine Jewellery Room, elevating our multi-brand environment to include private seating areas, best in class showcases and a bespoke lighting concept, complementing our existing onyx Fine Jewellery department,” shares Beth Hannaway, Harrods divisional merchandise manager for fine jewellery & fine watches. She adds: “We also work in collaboration with each of our brand partners to create bespoke boutique concepts for Harrods, creating a unique environment for Harrods customers.”

When Harvey Nichols came to refurbish its Fine Jewellery room, the department store partnered with Virglie+Partners. Using innovative design and contrasting mixes of luxurious materials the overall look and feel of the space resembles a luxury boutique.

“Our new jewellery department now houses seven new fine jewellers alongside collections from our existing brands,” says Harvey Nichols group commercial director, Daniela Rinaldi. “The space looks beautiful and represents a relaxed approach to luxury. “

At ROX Jewellers, every element of the company’s stores have been designed to feel like it is of a great quality, from high-end displays to Laurent Perrier champagne bars and luxurious sofas. For T & E Ferris the jeweller has worked hard to create seating areas with high quality furnishings that make consumers feel relaxed and help them enjoy spending time in store, while when Allum & Sidaway opened its flagship in Salisbury just before Christmas the focus was on creating a place which is hospitable.

“Creating a feeling of luxury was at the forefront of our priorities when designing our Salisbury store,” says Allum. “Our prosecco and drinks bar is central to our hospitality in Salisbury. From chandeliers to A & S embroidered cushions we handpicked and designed every detail.”

Creating a place that looks luxurious is just half the battle though, the next step is to give consumers an experience they will never forget — hopefully for all the right reasons.

“With most goods now available at the click of a mouse or the touch of a screen, retailers on the high street have to offer an experience that exceeds expectations,” states Adam Spiers. “Clients should be made to feel exclusive, and leave our stores feeling like they have had an exceptional experience they don’t get anywhere else. We pride ourselves on providing the ‘Ultimate Michael Spiers Experience’ throughout all of our stores, and the fact that it is something our customers simply don’t get elsewhere sets us apart from the rest.”

As part of the Michael Spiers experience, the team focuses on offering a superb and highly trained sales staff, a fitting and relevant brand portfolio, carefully curated playlists and plenty of perfectly chilled bubbly! The company has also recently fitted a scent delivery system which has added another facet to the luxury environment.

When ROX Jewellers founders Kyron Keogh and Grant Mitchell started the company, the duo were on a mission to make the customer experience ‘thrilling’, after being disappointed by their own experience in another store.

“The ‘Thrill Room’ concept at ROX takes our customer on a journey,” explains Keogh. “It’s personal, it’s experiential and we want our customers to feel special from the minute they join us. Each member of our team understands that each customer is different and we strive to offer a personal, memorable experience for every customer who chooses to shop at ROX.”

Finding the right customer experience for your store and your customer can take time, but it’s worth experimenting and taking risks, in order to find something that perfectly fits your personal store brands.

“It has taken eight years and a dozen or so renovations to evolve to where we are today,” shares Frost of London co-founder Dino D’Auria. Adding: “The store has a great feel and personality that has developed according to our needs as we have expanded. We could not have designed the store we have today when we opened, we have had to live and breathe the boutique to truly understand our requirements.”

D’Auria continues to share about the company’s Bond Street boutiques: “Making sure our clients are at ease is priority; our store is extremely welcoming with a relaxed home from home ambience. We have dedicated private spaces for serving and refreshments a plenty. Our tight knit team is friendly, professional and knowledgeable.”

When Harvey Nichols redesigned its jewellery room, customer feedback told the department store that people wanted hangout areas such as a bar, they enjoy in-store theatre to keep them regularly visiting and private shopping can sometimes feel intimidating.

In response, Harvey Nichols added a bar to the ground floor, introduced several mobile charger points throughout, and introduced a style concierge as an optional and complimentary service for all its customers.

In addition, the department store has understood the importance of making the luxury experience omni-channel as today’s consumers can’t resist turning to the internet before setting foot in store.

“It’s about accessibility and creating an effortless shopping experience both in store and online,” shares Rinaldi from Harvey Nichols. “We know a lot of our customers do their research online via their mobiles, tablets or desktops before coming in to store to try on the pieces and make their purchases. It is important to offer shoppers a 360 degree approach, consumers want to delve deeper into that brand to really engage with the pieces and stories behind them; we continue to educate and inspire our customers via extended content on the online platform and provide personally relevant content via the Harvey Nichols Rewards app. While in store, customers can enjoy a variety of hospitality services from 8am until late.”

Hannaway from Harrods adds: “Luxury products have become increasingly available over recent years, with the world’s biggest brands now accessible at the touch of a button and in every city worldwide. We strive to offer an unparalleled brand mix, with a curated edit of superbrands alongside more niche and exclusive brand names, across all product categories. Offering our customers something different, be it through limited edition and exclusive product collaborations or by continuously working to improve and elevate our environment, ensures that we offer our clients a reason to visit Harrods, within a world of easily accessible luxury.”

To conclude, the future looks bright for luxury retailers as political and economical turbulence has led people to make more valuable purchases, and invest in something which can be worn everyday and last for a lifetime.

While they can purchase such items from the comfort of their home, many would rather visit a store in order to make the buying process just as memorable as the piece.

ROX founder Koegh puts it well. He says: “The term ‘affordable luxury’ is used in our industry but it detracts from what a genuine luxury item really is. If something is luxury, it should be special and unique. Consumers expect and deserve more than that. Luxury is about creating something that is beautiful and individual for the owner.”

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