Jewellery retailer on 100 years in business and future innovation.
Mel Wakefield and her brother Dominic Wakefield run Horsham jeweller Wakefields Jewellers, which celebrated its centenary this year, and were in the Professional Jeweller Hot 100 2012 in association with The Company of Master Jewellers as Ti Sento Retail Stars. Mel speaks to us about her Rolex coup, her mantra of never standing still and renovating houses in her spare time.
Professional Jeweller: You won an account with watch brand Rolex this year. Quite a coup, yes?
Mel Wakefield: The highlight of the year was acquiring the Rolex account. We found out that they had chosen us over our competitor, literally on our 100th birthday. It was such great news, and what an amazing brand to take us forward another 100 years.
PJ: I imagine that this signified a serious investment for Wakefields?
MW: Housing a brand like Rolex is no mean financial feat. Short-term, our cash flow is being tested, but we know that long term if we do it well; the investment will be rewarded. We are in an envious position of attracting other comparable brands at the moment, though because of finance, this is a long term goal.
PJ: You run Wakefields with your brother Dominic. How does the family dynamic between you play out at work?
MW: Wakefields is and has always been in our family. As a brother and sister team, Dominic and I are close, we have a shared vision of the business. My father is still in the business, but leaves us to make all the decisions and has done for many years. It is vital that a business is allowed to flourish under a new generation. As your customers progress and change, you must too, offering the latest brands, an inspiring store, professional service and even new technology. You cannot stand still.
PJ: How do you split the workload between yourself and Dominic?
MW: Dominic and I are very different. I love customers, my staff, networking, designing, buying and negotiating. My role has changed enormously. I am not on the shop floor as much as I would like and most of my customers make appointments to see me now. Dominic is the finance and marketing guy. He works tirelessly, always pushing the business forward. He is a risk taker but focused in his task. I think he is a perfectionist. He has been the CMJ finance director for seven years, so a busy man.
PJ: You have joined international organisation CIBJO. Tell us about that.
MW: I have been voted on as a director of the retail sector of CIBJO. This is the World Jewellery Confereration. It consists of members of national trade associations, leading gemmologists, influential heads of diamond bourses; all promoting ethical cooperation within the trade worldwide. The aim is to protect customer trust in the jewellery industry.
PJ: What is life like for you and Dominic off the job?
MW: Both Dom and I have kids – he has three and I have two. And we both have major house projects, but at least my house has a roof, unlike his! Relaxing, would be getting the cousins together and comparing prices of fireplaces or doors.
PJ: What are your plans for Wakefields in the coming year?
MW: Our plans are to complete the building work, to showcase Rolex. I am planning a prestigious launch and a magazine to coincide with this. We are possibly going to refit, when finances allow. We are building our website as we speak, and our Facebook likes are increasing daily. As I said, we never stand still.