As jewellery retailer Hugh Rice launched a new concept store at the end of last year, Professional Jeweller editor Stacey Hailes caught up with the company’s sales and marketing director, James Rice, to discuss how the Luxe venture has been going so far and what other areas the group will be focusing on for the latter half of 2016…
Family-owned jewellers Hugh Rice added a new concept store to its retail operations at the end of last year just in time for Christmas trading.
Named Luxe by Hugh Rice, the new boutique can be found in East Yorkshire, in Beverley’s Saturday Market, complementing the jeweller’s existing premium jewellery and watch shop in the town’s Toll Gavel district.
Luxe by Hugh Rice offers a contemporary shopping experience, on-trend products and a click and collect service. The store’s main focus is on affordable luxury for fashion-conscious consumers whilst also reflecting the customer service values established in the existing Hugh Rice boutiques located in Hull, Beverley and Harrogate.
Partnering with retail design consultants, Innovare Design, the project took nine months to bring to reality finally opening its doors in November 2015 after a gruelling fit out which included stabilising the Grade II listed building and completely renovating the first floor.
Professional Jeweller editor Stacey Hailes speaks to sales and marketing director James Rice nine months on from the opening to find out what the reaction to Luxe has been so far, why Hugh Rice decided to launch a new concept and future plans for the family business.
Professional Jeweller: How has business been for Hugh Rice during the first half of the year?
James Rice: Varied. We started the year at a tremendous pace but sales performance proved a little trickier in the lead up to the referendum. I’m not sure if people’s thoughts were on other areas but since the result has been announced we have seen strong performances across the board.
What brands and jewellery pieces have been selling particularly well throughout the Hugh Rice stores?
Our diamond pieces have been selling well this year alongside the luxury Swiss offering. The launch of the Tag Connected range has proven particularly successful over the last few weeks, attracting new clients as well as appealing to our ‘dyed in the wool’ Tag Heuer fans.
At the end of last year you launched Luxe by Hugh Rice, could you talk about the decision to open this concept store?
We opened the doors on our new Luxe store at the end of November last year and we have been really pleased with its performance. We already traded successfully in Beverley but had come to the same cross roads as we had reached in Hull a couple of years ago. We operate in both the luxury and lifestyle elements of the market and try to do the best job possible, however, the existing premises, although lovely, was just not conducive with the developments we were looking to make and the need for a new retail unit became ever more pressing. After conducting a search we fell in love with a building on the historic Saturday Market and Luxe was born!
How does the Luxe concept differ from your other Hugh Rice multi-brand shops?
The two stores should complement each other. We are aiming at a younger more brand orientated audience with the Luxe customer whilst not trying to lose what we have built our reputation on locally — quality personal service. The two brands will have separate marketing budgets and look to engage with our clients through different media and with a slightly different tone and frequency.
What has the reaction been to Luxe by Hugh Rice?
We have honestly been blown away with the level of interest the store has received and it’s been our pleasure to receive visits from our trade colleagues and a number of retailers too and show them what we have been up to and listen to what others have been experiencing in their locations.
Do you plan to open any more Luxe by Hugh Rice stores in the near future?
The launch of further Luxe stores is very much part of our business plan and we are currently considering a number of locations. Many aspects come into play when assessing a locations viability, firstly demographics, are there enough of our potential customers with in a vicinity? Secondly, store availability in the required location — we need a certain amount of space and not all store fronts are suitable for displaying jewellery and watches. Thirdly, does the location fit with a comfortable geographical distance from our existing management structure? This reduces the number of options during preliminary searches before discussions are entered into with our key branded partners.
What plans do you have for the Hugh Rice family-business as a whole this year?
We need to reform the formula with Luxe. With it being a new concept for us and our customers we have been taking customer feedback on board and will be making some tweaks so we can build from solid foundations before expanding with further Luxe stores. We are currently half way with redeveloping our existing Hugh Rice business in Beverley too, which we are really excited to see the results of. Other than this we will be strapping ourselves in for a ‘fingers crossed’ successful Christmas trading period across the group.
You’ve been refurbishing your Hugh Rice stores lately too, what has been the thought and design process behind this?
We have seen consumer demand for the high-street suffering and the need for us to create an experience in our stores that isn’t on offer either online or with one of our competitors. The days of a refit involving a fresh lick of paint and a new carpet are long gone I’m afraid.
How have your Pandora concept stores been performing?
Our stores are performing very well, the latest collections are fantastic and we are looking at continued sales growth in the future.
What innovations have you been pushing this year or plan to push in the near future?
We are currently in the process of developing our diamond ring section and wedding ring offering online. This is what we have been historically known for locally but we have identified it as an area we can improve on.
What does the customer experience mean to Hugh Rice?
It sounds clichéd but it literally is everything, ultimately our customers pay the bills and enable us to provide satisfying and fulfilling careers for our colleagues. Our mission statement consists of two words: ‘Delighting People’. This should be at the heart of everything we do and has been the focus of countless internal reviews we have conducted as a company.
How do you think you stand out from other jewellers of a similar size to Hugh Rice?
We have a really impassioned management team working with us, a strong family work ethic and we are all working to one plan.
You’ve enjoyed rapid growth in recent years, what would you say is the secret to your success?
Hopefully a mix of good luck and good judgement. I’ve always liked the saying ‘the harder you work, the luckier you get’.
This feature first appeared in the August issue of Professional Jeweller.