INTERVIEW: Willie Hamilton on CMJ’s annual financial results

Willie Hamilton Speakers Corner

Following the announcement that the Company of Master Jewellers reported a record level of Group sales, Professional Jeweller caught up with the jewellery buying group’s chief executive Willie Hamilton to discuss the results, the ‘Year of Transition’ and future plans.

Professional Jeweller: The CMJ reported a new record of sales growth this year, were you surprised by the results or was it in line with what you were expecting?

Willie Hamilton: It was in line with what we projected. Obviously we looked at it every quarter. It is very encouraging. It has been a good year. I think it has been a good year for retailers in general. They are certainly learning that lesson now not to be out of stock.

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What do you attribute the growth to?

Bridal. People are starting to look back at that, reinvesting in it. That middle market of silver product is still very strong, but I’ve always said move with the mix, a lot of retailers are beginning to realise it is seasonal as a fashion trend. So it is being focused on the right consumer at the right time, and I think that is where the key growth is.

You’ve called this year the ‘Year of Transition’, what transitions are you making to protect the future of the CMJ?

We are investing very heavily in the design DU business, and in Facets PR. We really need to make sure that the independents are getting the same support to the consumer as the multiples can demand and it is very difficult when you are an independent to be able to have the same knowledge and thrust behind you, and you might not necessarily be an expert in that. So it is now, we’ve got to try and develop that, and the data business that we are going to build to help and support them with hard fact with what is going on. It is that networking and teaching them, and moving them on, and we’ve tried to do that for many years, and we’ve been fairly successful in it, but we really now need to start pushing and pushing. It is going to be exciting.

Do you think people are grabbing onto the message of data now?

Yes. There is two factors to it. One, the retailers who have been evolved in Pandora have got to do it and they have had to do it for a number of years, so they are beginning to realise if I can do it in this product, then I can do it in this product, and right away across the whole store. The second part of it is, that there is a younger generation starting to come up through the ranks of the family-owned business saying ‘why do we not have this?’ Why can I not check to see what we’ve sold. So maybe being smarter is driving it. There may be some people being a bit archaic, and going ‘oh I don’t want to do that’, and ok, they’ve been successful maybe decades without it. I just think they can be even more successful.

How have the data and distribution side of the CMJ being doing so far?

Good, it’s transitionary. That’s why I call it the challenge of change, people don’t like something new, but you’ve got to also think of it for further down the supply chain. Maybe a lot of people loved the distributor of Diamonfire before, well now they’ve got to get to know us. Dollie’s a new brand and it is in its infancy. We just launched the Dollie website and we are already seeing transactions through it immediately. But that has really been pushed through because of the work on social media, and what the likes of Facets PR have taught us, what they forward is and you’ve got to make it a brand, otherwise it is just another silver product. The DU and HBS, we are bringing those two businesses closer together, so they can work together, they are all in the same offices now. It’s early days, but we see enormous possibilities for all of these businesses. We believe by investing in these businesses we can take them to the next stage.

What is the CMJ’s focus for the last quarter of the year?

Certainly we will be focusing between now and Christmas and making sure we can highlight to retailers where they are not buying much, so we try to help support as much as we can. The next two or three months is driving that message through. Between November and December we’ve just got to let them deal with it and that’s where we will sit down and re look at our strategy and where we are. So we spend the last six to eight weeks of the year re-evaluating what we’ve done, checking we are in line for the following year, and thinking what we are going to do. So that time is very important for us for 2017.

What has been exciting you in the jewellery industry this year?

Product wise, nothing really. What I would say is I am seeing a lot more confidence in the whole industry. Definitely what I can see is the industry beginning to realise it is not them and us. The suppliers and retailers need to work closely together and I have seen that coming about for the last two to three years, and it was a big focus for us, we’ve got to break down those barriers, there is no reason for us to have a cut in the supply chain. It’s about working it through and that excites me – seeing people working so much more in partnership then they ever did before and they are prospering again, they are learning to reinvest back in their businesses and the next generation is what they are thinking about. I think it is very positive.

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