Hot 100 2013: Adrian Buckley

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How a move into branded jewellery has increased profits by 400%.

Last year Adrian Buckley launched Bouton, a premium sterling silver collection that now sits alongside his costume brands Buckley London and Attwood and Sawyer. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, landing him – after 25 distinguished years in the business – in the Hot 100.

Very much an ideas man (his morse code I Love You bracelet is an award winner), Adrian’s concept for the Bouton collection is built around the idea of using buttons in their original context as sartorial accessories, rather than merely functional items.

“In designing the collection I also wanted to separate the product from other brands produced around a concept but with lacklustre manufacturing quality, so the button had to be manufactured perfectly. That is what we now offer, Bouton, the brand, manufactured to the very highest standard based on a fashion concept that goes back to Henry VIII and Francis 1 of France who when they met both adorned their clothes with in excess of 13,000 buttons, such was the importance of accessorising appropriately.”

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This principle driver was Adrian’s shift from private label to branded sales. “I spent the first 20 years in business chasing private label business, which was very limited in potential. Every customer wanted exclusive designs at enormous operational cost, whilst trying to retail the goods at increasingly low prices forcing quality out of the product. Since we focused on our brand it has been revelatory in that the entire world is now our customer, not a handful of UK-based store buyers. Our goods are now made to a quality and never to a price.”

The business is now 85% branded and 15% private label and last year profits increased 30% and are 400% higher than in 2009. Sales of branded products have grown by about 50% per annum for four years and show no signs of slowing down.

Clearly one of the more thoughtful characters in the trade, Adrian is a passionate libertarian who calls for a return to the gold standard to free us from the bankers’ yoke. This stance chimes with his own good deed factor because casting back over his 25 years in business, he says his highlight has been the engagement of Buckley London with the Royal British Legion and the jewelled poppy sales that have now exceeded £3 million in revenue for the charity. He wants to take that total beyond £5 million this year and says the halo effect on the business has been inspiring, as has the work of their own charity ABCTrust which has built an orphanage in Uganda. And that brings him full circle. For it was when he returned from Africa as a young man, having worked for a year in Swaziland, that Adrian entered the jewellery industry.

“I needed a job. My neighbour was the late Mr Peter Rosenberg, partner of Michael Lever at Abbeycrest. He told me they had a job opening in product development, so I went for what turned out to be the first of three tough interviews with Michael. He told me that I possessed something known as tam in Jewish vernacular – incredibly good taste, or the ability to identify winning products. That skill, which I knew nothing of until Michael spotted it, became the cornerstone of my entire career.”

Adrian Buckley was selected as a CMJ Business Big Shot in the Professional Jeweller Hot 100 2013 in association with The Company of Master Jewellers. To read a digital version of the book in full online, click here.
 

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