Q&A: Christina UK country manager on Brexit and business

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Christina UK country manager, Leon Rhodes, talks to Professional Jeweller about business in the wake of Brexit and the importance of the UK market for the Danish jewellery brand.

How has ‘Brexit’ affected Christina, both in the UK and the rest of the world?

It is still too early to predict the Brexit effects; so far there is no evidence that it has had any effect on the Christina sales at all, neither in our existing markets or on how we intend to approach the UK market. As a company we keep a watchful eye and open mind on the British economy but believe when the Brexit smoke clears the British market will remain strong and attractive.

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What are the biggest challenges that Christina currently faces?

Keeping up with growth. Christina is expanding heavily these years and attracting the right partners is for Christina priority number one, which is why I feel honoured to be heading up Christina in the UK, and excited to be able to share the Christina success with UK retailers and consumers. Many brands nowadays go down the distributor route and then lose touch of their own brand by handing it over to a third party. At Christina we wish to take care of our own brand, which is why we are supplying the UK direct from launch, for the sake of our customers and for the sake of the end consumers.

What changes have you noticed taking place within the jewellery industry?

The jewellery industry is an immerging one with much innovation. First and foremost the biggest change has got to be the branding that is now evident. Apart from luxury jewellery brands the brands that you have witnessed for decades in the watch trade have not been present in the jewellery business. Pandora and other collectable brands, however, have not only paved the way for branding in the jewellery sector in recent years but have also proven the necessity of branding. We believe that this trend will only intensify in years to come.

Secondly, the introduction of fashion or accessory jewellery sold by high street brands. Fashion brands have naturally always been around but the likes of H&M, Zara, and many other high street outlets have carved their way into the jewellery market. We at Christina believe they are a force to reckoned with and a threat that the established high street jewellery sector has to take seriously. H&M, Zara and many more have “legalised” fashion jewellery and attracted a high street jewellery segment of buyers that normally would not consider buying jewellery from such stores.

Thirdly, it seems as if the mid-market is being squeezed.  This has been emerging for some time but has been reinforced by the branding of larger brands and the aggressive approach of the fashion brands. This market segment really has to reinvent itself in order to survive. The same goes for online shopping; there was a time that high street outlets were hesitant in using web based platforms. Now all jewellery stores more or less have their own website. Although this unarguably benefits the end consumer, it creates an overall muddy market place. Brand owners seem to have a difficulty controlling their brand image, and we are truly in a time of unrest and upheaval where it seems brand owners are struggling to regain control of their brands. The viral platform is going to be a battle ground in the many years to come between brand owners and their customers.

How has Christina adapted to these changes?

Innovation, innovation, innovation. We have looked at the market place as it is and not as we would like it to be or how it was. It takes courage and also forces you to make unpleasant and difficult decisions but these usually pay off in the end. When I talk about innovation I do so in relation to all aspects of the market. Innovation in product, in service, in customer approach, branding, and in end consumers. It has resulted in new and different customer programs in terms of training, nursing, merchandising, as well as POS. It has resulted in Christina looking at our product portfolio and asking ourselves whether it is commercial or not. Meaning it is not enough that our design team likes it, but quality, price, and newness must be top priorities as well. We have analysed our branding and scrutinised how our consumers conduct their buying. Taking all of these factors into account for key decision making we have ended up with a business model around our customers’ needs and expectations. This formula has proven success in leading Christina to be by far the biggest jewellery brand in Denmark today.

How important will the UK jewellery industry be for Christina in the next 12 months?

Christina will have a strong focus on the UK the coming 12 months. I do not mean in the traditional sense of sourcing and increasing a customer base, but in the sense that we believe the UK will be a key market in the many years to come. We have the privilege of being a very evaluative company and intend to use the first 12 months to establish ourselves through building solid key customers. We will support, nurture and merchandise these accounts whilst developing our concepts before rolling them out more widely in the UK. We have successfully implemented this strategy with key markets in the Netherlands and Italy. Here at Christina we strongly believe this is the right way of expanding into foreign markets; we do things right the first time for the sake of our partners and our end consumers.

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