OPINION: Investment and ‘Buying British’ the key to future prosperity, says Andrew Morton

Andrew Morton, group managing director, WB the Creative Jewellery Group.

Following Jason Holt’s opinion piece on the 2015 CareerCast jobs report, Andrew Morton, MD of WB the Creative Jewellery Group has some more thought on what this really means for the UK jewellery industry.

In Morton’s words…

For those who missed it, the report stated that of 200 job roles in the UK, jewellers are the fifth most at risk with 10% of roles in the industry expected to be lost by 2022.  Like Jason I was shocked and saddened by this finding and like him I feel that those of us making our living from creating or selling jewellery must unite to stage a fight back which will ensure that this prediction does not come true.

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For Jason the rebuttal lies in the greater use of modern manufacturing technologies by those of us making jewellery in this country and in the provision of better training for the young people entering the industry in the use of those technologies.  He also makes a compelling case for the employment of more apprentices within the industry at large, so that the next generation can learn, not only about new technologies, but also about more traditional jewellery-making skills from an expert in the field rather than from a training manual.

As the managing director of WB The Creative Jewellery Group which currently employs some 180 people across our three businesses – the precious jewellery manufacturer Domino, the casting, 3D printing and bespoke manufacturing company Weston Beamor and the costume and silver jewellery design and distribution company Gecko – I too am a passionate proponent for investment in technology. And I am proud that our own UK manufacturing facilities, our design studios and our distribution hub are all state of the art and thus assist us in maintaining our competitiveness.

I am also a passionate proponent for training and highly commend the truly excellent work being done in this respect by Holt’s Academy, the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths’ and the country’s many universities – especially the School of Jewellery and the excellent Jewellery Innovation Centre at Birmingham City University.  The latter of which has recently opened a new ‘Technology Hub’ which provides access for those in the trade to a precious metal Direct Metal Laser Melting Machine as well as to other digital and 3D Printing machines and a new CAD training set up.

However, in my view, the UK’s jewellery industry cannot survive by technology and training alone and I would like to throw a third crucial ingredient into what is needed for its on-going success – investment.

All of us, whatever our role within the industry, need to invest urgently in its future. This means that manufacturers and designer makers need to plough back money into their businesses to ensure that their production facilities are as modern as possible and that their staff well-trained and au fait with the very latest methods of making.

However, for them to be able to make that investment they need on-going support from those in the UK retail sector who need to invest in them and their products. There are some truly great British jewellery producers. Some manufacture here, some design here and make their products overseas,  but all of them add to the wealth of our sector. These businesses, like WB The Creative Jewellery Group,  are only too aware of the challenges facing the industry at large and are keen to invest in technology and training needed to move forward.  However, to do so they need healthy sales and these can only come from more retailers being prepared to invest in home grown talent and to ‘Buy British’.

What’s more, in my view, this maxim should not just apply to retailers. I believe that all of us, wherever we stand in the jewellery supply chain, should take a long hard look at our buying policy and decide to invest in the future of the UK sector. In so doing we can hopefully ensure that the CareersCast Job Report is proven to be completely incorrect.


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  1. David Marshall said:

    interesting view from both Andrew & Jason, There’s many more apprentice schemes now than ever before but i question if all these are going to improve the industry or not & yes investment is needed by and in all sectors of the industry, it would be wonderful if all uk retailers did support British but this isn’t going to happen “Although i’m sure the ones that do will reap the rewards”
    I’ve three companies across different sectors
    DavId Marshall London “Fine luxury retail in Mayfair offer my own design and made Jewellery thats all made in my london workshops”
    The London Art Works “High-end manufacturing Facility to the industry specialising in fine one off’s and high end collection”
    DBC London ” Commercially focused manufacturing supply facility offering clients the whole or part of the manufacturing process”
    So i have a complete understanding of the whole industry & supply chain at the level i work in (middle to high-end) from the raw materials to the end client, I’ve had apprentices for the last 25 yrs, invested in all the new technology believe it or not a work computer was the 1st thing around 1990 then my 1st laser welding machine in 1999/2000. But most importantly I’ve invested a huge amount into all my business workspaces so i can retain and attract good people “as people make the business what it is” but its certainly not been or is easy, the Banks don’t loan in the jewellery business so to grow i’m constantly putting profit’s back in to be self-financing which is a slow way to grow! so my opinion the best thing that could happen to the industry is finance to be able to get much needed funds to grow and develop, if this happened i know i could speed up my business plans and employ & train more people hence protecting the industry

    David Marshall

  2. Mark said:

    All good points

    I would just add that as an independent designer / maker, retailers have such punitive terms and conditions they make it almost impossible for independents to thrive.

    Between the margins they demand, the speed of remittance and the zero interest in making any real commitment other than screwing the best price – its a massive task to keep going financially. I work with many independent designers and I know I’m not alone in this.

    When the UK retail industry actually bothers to support the next generation, as opposed to paying lip service and slapping the occasional Union jack on a sales promotion, I can’t see things changing in the near future.