Stacey Hailes talks to Silver Tree managing director Oliver Gibson to find out more about the Lancastrian family retailer that has caught the industry’s attention this year.
In the heart of Lancaster sits Silver Tree, an independent jewellery store whose willingness to move with the times has seen it go from a local treasure, to an industry-recognised retailer.
It is safe to say that not everyone would have heard of Silver Tree Jewellery before the UK Jewellery Awards earlier this year, where it won Branded Jewellery Retailer of the Year. With big name jewellery brands continuing to play a key role in the marketplace in 2015, Professional Jeweller wanted to find out what makes Silver Tree stand out from the multi-brand crowd.
The Silver Tree journey began in 1982 when founder Patricia Gibson first dreamt-up the idea of becoming the only specialist silver shop in Lancaster. Now, with her son Oliver Gibson on board, the company has swapped gem-set jewels for branded jewellery and has transformed itself into the city’s exclusive one-stop shop for designer brands.
Currently the store stocks ChloBo, Swarovski, Pandora, Michael Kors, Tresor Paris, Coeur De Lion, Thomas Sabo, Hot Diamonds, Jersey Pearl, Sif Jakobs and Links of London alongside popular watch brands such as Olivia Burton, Skagen and Citizen.
Location and exclusivity have certainly played their parts in the store’s success, especially as no other jewellery shop in Lancaster stocks such an extensive range of brands. However, when talking to managing director Oliver Gibson, it is clear customer service and company charm is at the heart of his family business’ accomplishments.
When asked the secret to Silver Tree’s success Gibson says it is a combination of the store’s environment, customer service and ability to stock the most coveted brands. Gibson explains: “Customer service is something that we get consistently right.
“Customers are always commenting how brilliant the service is and we are always scoring high on mystery shopping with Pandora and other brands.
“Friendly and relaxed is the strategy that we use. Obviously we like to up-sell and things like that, but it is a relaxed atmosphere because I don’t think people like to be pushed into things, or feel pressured to buy. The door is open here and we have customers walk in and out freely.”
Since Silver Tree turned its focus onto branded jewellery, the store has seen some of its most successful years of trading ever. Gibson highlights that in the last seven years Silver Tree has seen its revenues rise consistently year-on-year — an impressive feat considering the economic downturn. “The company has changed a lot over the last seven or eight years,” Gibson explains. “It lost its way for a little while, and then I came in 2005 to help my Mum. Before we stocked more stone set jewellery, then we started off with Hot Diamonds, then Pandora and then we have grown it since then, keeping it going and investing in more brands which have proved to be more successful.”
When entering the store customers are presented with unusual 3D wall paper, two large crystal chandeliers and oak parquet floors which together create a modern, bright environment for consumers to browse.
Silver Tree constantly aims to keep on top of its customers’ needs, regularly researching what brands are selling and what trends are popular.
Selling well for Silver Tree at the moment are Thomas Sabo, Michael Kors and Olivia Burton. Gibson comments: “Oliver Burton is our number one selling watch brand right now, even more than Michael Kors. Michael Kors is marginally down on watches but the jewellery is up.”
Gibson has noted a shift in customers looking for unique items, rather than mass consumption pieces. “We are finding people are wanting something a bit more unusual,” Gibson remarks. “I feel as though there is a slight trend shift coming.”
With the rise of personalisation taking the jewellery industry by storm, Gibson is looking forward to stocking Thomas Sabo’s new Love Bridge collection for AW15, which will be offered alongside an engraving service.
Gibson comments: “We get asked a lot for engraving so we are buying an engraving system for the new Thomas Sabo collection. We saw Thomas Sabo demonstrate its new products and it is amazing how quick and easy the engraving process is. I think it will be really popular with our customers.”
The engraving equipment will allow staff to not only personalise pieces in Thomas Sabo’s new range, but all other jewellery in store where applicable. In the long term, this new service will allow Silver Tree to go one step further in offering customers unique and giftworthy jewels.
Another area where Silver Tree are able to go that extra mile is ‘gifts with purchase’. Gibson explains: “We’ve got a bottle of champagne we give out to customers if they are buying for a special occasion or it is a big spend. We also have our own branded chocolates and are currently in the process of having our own perfume created to give out as a gift with purchase.”
He adds: “Because we are an independent business we have the freedom to do what we want, go that extra mile and give better service.”
The majority of Silver Tree’s sales come from its bricks-and-mortar store, but its website is consistently performing well too, doubling year-on-year. “We are still very much growing and we are pleased with how the website is doing,” says Gibson. “We may sell more in store but that’s how we want it. Really the website is just an extension of the store.”
In the future Gibson says Silver Tree would like to expand, maybe opening up in other cities, although it will continue to focus on web sales in the coming months.
As they continue to dominate Lancaster’s high street with heightened industry recognition, we here at Professional Jeweller believe you will be hearing a lot more from Silver Tree in the future.