Designers must expand their horizons to thrive in the global economy.
Speaking to a number of jewellery and watch designers throughout BaselWorld yesterday, it was apparent that the recession has not affected everybody equally.
Some companies were dependant on markets like the United States and Japan that tanked last year. Others were hammered by currency fluctuations. Some saw domestic demand slump. Many faced the additional pain of soaring raw material costs.
Those that fared best fell into three categories: high end luxury designers that have a loyal customer base of the super rich; those that diversified their lines to reach a broader demographic; and those that set out to expand their distribution to retailers in markets in which they had not worked before.
It was the third of these that struck me as the most interesting path to success in this increasingly globalised economy.
Take Ole Lynggaard Copenhagen, one of the most successful jewellers in Denmark and the rest of Scandinavia. The company took the plunge and exhibited at BaselWorld for the first time last year, and focused on attracting new stockists.
Around 40 German stockists started buying the company’s jewellery and several more in Australia (the only Westernised economy that did not go into recession). The expansion of its sales channels led to the Danish design house having its best year in its 47 year history.
Too few jewellery designers and manufacturers across Europe have spread their risk and created opportunity in this way. I’ve heard too many complain that the Chinese manufacturers are killing them, and too few celebrate the fact that the emerging middle class in China is creating tens of millions more potential consumers of fine jewellery.
The relative strength of the Euro might be making exports more difficult for continental design houses to export, but too few are adding extra stockists in other Eurozone countries.
Deciding to expand into other countries, and making it happen are many miles apart, but the speed of globalisation makes it more than just a strategy for expansion and resilience; it is likely to be a fight for survival over the coming years.
And armies of willing jewellery retailers in malls, high streets and cyberspace across the globe are ready and willing to become your foot soldiers in that fight for survival. You just have to reach out and forge alliances with them.