Former brand chief executive on British jewellery abroad.
The January issue of Professional Jeweller was all about celebrating British jewellery talent and looking at what UK companies can do to take their jewels global. Here David Riddiford, former chief executive of Links of London, gives us an insight into a Brit jewellery favourite that has excelled internationally.
Professional Jeweller: Links of London is a British brand that has enjoyed international success. What is the extent of the brand’s international operations at present, including own stores and stockists, and what are its plans for international sales?
David Riddiford: Links of London continues to attract attention worldwide and is a premier destination in 10 global markets with over 85 standalone stores in cities including London, New York, Tokyo, Athens, Shanghai and Hong Kong. The brand is looking to open further standalone stores in China and recently launched a new e-commerce site in Japan.
PJ: How did Links of London first start trading on the international market?
DR: Our very first store opened in Hong Kong in 1996 when a member of staff who lived in London relocated there and offered to set up the business, which flourished amongst the large British community living there. We then looked to other sympathetic territories such as North America and Asia Pacific region to continue our brand growth. Under the guidance of the Folli Follie Group, who bought Links of London in 2006, mainland China has become a focus for expansion due to the infrastructure already in place for Links of London’s sister brand Folli Follie who have over 100 points of sale on the mainland.
PJ: Has Links of London found some international markets more difficult than others to open in?
DR: Links of London has certainly seen accelerated growth in some markets rather than others. The brand positioning in Canada, for example, is far ahead of our recognition in the US. However the Canadian market is much more aligned with the UK market, so it’s an easier transition. In Hong Kong our business has been very successful due to the large expatriate community but our opportunity lies in growing the business with the domestic Chinese customer both in Hong Kong and mainland China.
PJ: There are few British jewellery brands that have reached a level of global success quite like Links of London, why do you think this is? Are there barriers to British brands pushing abroad?
DR: Links of London has long been a trailblazer and held a very unique market position for a number of years. This translated extremely well abroad and allowed Links of London to establish itself in a similar niche. In terms of the product offer, the versatility of the collections and focus on gifting, translates very successfully. However we think there will be increased competition abroad from emerging British jewellery brands in the near future.
PJ: What does a British jewellery brand need to succeed abroad?
DR: Maintaining your identity as a British brand is fundamental but other markets have varying demands and styles, so increasingly it’s important to adapt your style and adjust your collections accordingly. At Links of London we are increasingly building wider ranges for our markets to be more selective with what they buy, tailoring the range to their customer needs. Scale, volume and colour tend to be the most varied on a global scale, so it’s important to be aware of the subtle nuances and respond to this.