The man on a mission to create a superbrand tailored to modern women.
From Pandora managing director to Endless Jewelry founder, Jesper Nielsen is a man on a mission to build superbrands that resonate with modern women on a massive scale. Professional Jeweller caught up with this ambitious businessman at Inhorgenta, where he outlined his vision for the brand guided by an incorruptible faith in what works – and makes money.
It’s safe to say that Jesper Nielsen knows a thing or two about taking a brand to the next level. As the former managing director of Pandora Central Western Europe (CWE), Nielsen was responsible for building the company’s presence in Germany before dramatically selling his share in 2011.
When he left Pandora, Nielsen signed a non-compete clause prohibiting him from trading in the jewellery industry until June 1 2013. Undeterred, he spent his three-year break on the industry’s back-benches, developing his own company inspired by his time at Pandora, enlisting his family to do the foundation work that he, legally, wasn’t able to do.
As soon as June arrived, Nielsen launched his own business venture in the charms market, Endless Jewelry. Although the name conveniently explains the possibilities of his interchangeable and collectable designs, he also chose it to highlight his “endless ambitions” and the grand-scale ethos of the company he leads. Luckily for Nielsen, he could back-up his endless mission statement with a substantial little black book of connections, sales superstars and designers.
“Nobody would be able to come in [to the market] and walk into the jewellery stores without our connections. There are many ways of starting out, but we are starting from where we left off at Pandora,” he explains. “The awareness of me and the Pandora brand among jewellery retailers in Europe has given us a head start in Germany, which was our main market for the first eight months.”
Nielsen’s aim is to design for as many women as possible, but he is also realistic about the audience he is targeting. He confesses: “Pandora made a revolution because for the first time there was a brand for everybody. We created 80 to 90% awareness of the brand among all women using very simple tools; a lot of stockists and lots of advertising.”
He claims people are buying into Endless because they see its potential and the “impressive toolbox” starter package he offers to all new retailers for £5,000. However, he is also selective when it comes to retailers, admitting: “We don’t take all the dealers. We only take the best and they [other brands] can have the rest.”
Nielsen is also relying on the ‘don’t miss out’ panic that retailers who missed the Pandora boat might be feeling, claiming the most successful retailers in the German market carry the brand as a rule. He explains: “For those people who missed out we say ‘are you going to do it again or are you going to jump on the Endless bandwagon?’”
WHY BREAK THE MOULD?
Endless Jewelry has not been developed to revolutionise the jewellery business, something which Nielsen is the first to admit. Instead, he is working to a tried and tested formula for making money with a universally accessible and affordable product that his bank of contacts can understand. He admits: “The designer got a simple assignment, I said here is Story [by Kranz & Ziegler], here is Ole Lynggaard and here is Pandora. I want something that takes the best of each of them.”
“[Endless] is not going to be the hip new guy. We are going to be the jewellery brand that nice and normal women will want to wear, like Pandora. The trendy young girl living in London might not find us interesting for very long,” he freely admits.
But Endless Jewelry’s designer is, at least in Denmark, exceptionally trendy. Watch designer and entrepreneur Christina Hembo is a celebrity in her own right, having founded Christina Design London and appeared on the Danish version of Strictly Come Dancing.
Despite this, Nielsen doesn’t seem too concerned with her celebrity status. Instead he believes it’s her 35-year-old-mum-of-two status that allows her to tap into Endless Jewelry’s relatively safe target audience so effectively.
“We don’t need to have a Vivienne Westwood or a Michael Kors [designing our jewellery]. We haven’t made a new design here, but we know what we’re doing and we know where we’re going with Endless,” he states.
And the figures speak for themselves. Endless Jewelry now boasts 300 sterling silver, gold plated and rose gold plated silver charms that can be cherry picked to adorn a core collection of 12 wraparound leather bracelets in a variety of transitional and trend-led colours. The range is stocked in more than 1,500 stores worldwide and 126 stores in the UK and Ireland. Not bad for a company that has been in the public’s conscience for less than a year.
As a self-confessed ambitious businessman, Nielsen is quick to jump onto what sells. He has already added 12 heart charms to the Endless collection because he knows the heart motif is always a popular design. The same goes for Endless’ animal motifs, mother of pearl and white pearl charms, as well as star designs.
THE YES MAN
The figures to date are impressive but really it is Nielsen’s personal business ethos that is driving the company forward. Continually towing the line between confidence, ruthless ambition and bravado, he has a remarkably simple approach to doing business.
“Saying yes is a beautiful word,” he muses. “Creating companies is about creating positive and happy energies.” His approach? Listening to jewellery shop owners, accepting they are all different and doing everything he can to say ‘yes’ and find solutions to any problems they might have with the brand.
Despite Endless Jewelry being surrounded by similar products at Inhorgenta, he still insists to Professional Jeweller: “I am ahead of my time because I do not think a covert way of doing business is the future. To be successful you have to put people at the centre.”
GET THE PARTY STARTED
As a natural born showman, Nielsen spends just as much energy teaching his staff how to throw a good party as he does selling his product. Discussing his European retailers, Nielsen comments: “All the German clients can get close to celebrities [at his parties], so they go home and watch the television for the next three days to see when the interviews with the stars will be shown. Then they can say, ‘I was at that party!’”
He will then follow up with videos and letters – even for those who could not make it – because “we want to make them feel sad for missing it”. He adds: “We’re creating the illusion of a superbrand, even though we’re just starting out.”
This wooing tactic isn’t something Nielsen exclusively reserves for his German customers. At this year’s Inhorgenta he invited key British business owners to attend and see the products for themselves. The promise of a party filled with paparazzi, celebrities, live music and flowing cocktails might not work for all retailers, but can it hurt? Nielsen doesn’t seem to think so.
WHAT COMES NEXT
Nielsen is targeting independent retailers first, confidently claiming “that’s the only right way to do it”. He is yet to develop distribution in the UK, but that hasn’t stopped him setting up a sales team and joining buying group The Company of Master Jewellers as an authorised supplier.
With the silver charms boasting RRPs from £19, Nielsen hopes even more buyers will see the potential of his brand for the UK in the next 12 months. “We don’t know who’s going to be the next superbrand, but I think [Endless Jewelry] are a good bet to put your money on because we want it. Pandora made it because we had the courage to go all the way. Last time we did it [with Pandora] we started a revolution in the jewellery industry.”
His claim that building a business is “just about mathematics” might imply that he’s only concerned about revenue, but with a motivated sales team and grand ambitions to be the “UK’s biggest jewellery brand”, Nielsen seems to crave the notoriety crown more than ever.
He admits with a smile: “If you want to be a big brand you have to act like a big brand from day one. I’m not number two. I’m always going to be number one.”
Endless Jewelry at a glance
- 1,500 stockists in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Italy, Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Austria, Switzerland, Portugal, Spain and the USA.
- 126 stockists in the UK and Ireland, including Bonds Jewellers, Market Cross Jewellers, Wongs, CW Sellors, Dipples and Galio.
- European headquarters situated in Düsseldorf, Germany, while the United States base is Fort Lauderdale in Florida.
- Core collection contains 12 leather bracelets with three different locks in sterling silver and 18ct yellow and rose gold plating.
- Single, double or triple wrap around bracelet designs.
- 300 different charms in sterling silver, 18ct gold yellow and rose gold plated finishes.
This interview was taken from the April 2014 issue of Professional Jeweller magazine. To read the issue in full online, click here.