Q&A: Natalie Anson, Ernest Jones

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The Signet diamond ring merchandiser on making big changes in store.

Natalie Anson has been part of Signet group for eight years, working as merchandise manager for diamond and wedding rings at Ernest Jones. This year she was instrumental in one of Signet’s biggest ever projects this year, and was also behind the introduction of the Tolkowsky range in store. She was named a Ti Sento Retail Star in this year’s Professional Jeweller Hot 100 2012 in association with The Company of Master Jewellers.

Professional Jeweller: You’ve had a busy 2012 to date – what have been your highlights, both personal and professional?
Natalie Anson: In work terms, I’ve been involved in one of Signet’s biggest ever projects and one of my greatest professional successes to date. I was instrumental in implementing the new process of how Signet delivers rings to our stores which has revolutionised how we manage the ring sizes we sell. Alongside this, I’m accountable for the bridal category in Ernest Jones and we’ve had a strong year of growth through introducing new ranges and rolling out collections across the store estate. On a personal note I became the bride myself when I got married in January in Japan which, once all the hectic planning had been done, was the best day of my life so far.

PJ: Have you hit any big issues along the way? Implementing such a big change nationwide can never be easy
NA: When my major project was about to go live, the overall project manager was called out of the business last minute on paternity leave. As his deputy I had to manage a senior team, making decisions which affected all areas of the business. Fortunately team members were exceptionally supportive and gave me their expertise and help along the way. Planning a wedding in Japan in January was always going to have its challenges when arranging 40 family and friends’ trips to Japan as well as facing the language barrier. I had to ensure that everything was fully organised well before Christmas and be prepared for a very busy week before the big day.

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PJ: You were involved in the introduction of the Tolkowsky diamond brand to stores. Tell us a little bit about the success of this project and how you approached it
NA: Tolkowsky launched in 2011 as a new bridal diamond solitaire ring brand, exclusive to Ernest Jones. Key to the success was communication and raising internal awareness about the diamonds and the Tolkowsky heritage.
Before the launch we told everyone in the business about the new brand, briefing teams from marketing and logistics as well as training store teams. We translated the history and the technical aspects of the rings into giving stores selling tips for the customer, introducing them to the products and giving them the opportunity to meet a member of the Tolkowsky family. Managing stock supply and demand was also a key element of my involvement in Tolkowsky’s success within Ernest Jones, working closely with the supplier. Since launch I have closely monitored the brand performance, always looking for any opportunity to grow this brand, including launching new styling and identifying product successes and any new stores the brand could work in.

PJ: We also hear that you have been working on new luxury update to Ernest Jones stores
NA: There are a number of new luxury Ernest Jones layouts being developed across the country – including the new style stores in Manchester’s Trafford Centre and Westfield White City. I work with my controller on planning the ranges included within these prestige stores, choosing the best possible brand assortment for the new luxury store concept. I plan the space and submit forecasted potential sales figures to the business for approval. When these beautiful stores open it’s very satisfying and exciting to see customers browsing and shopping from the ranges that we’ve chosen.

PJ: How would you describe your approach to work?
NA: I am hard working and diligent – I like to give my all to everything I do and am never afraid to challenge the Status Quo. I am very focussed on any task I undertake and am always keen to take on new projects over and above my day job to learn more about the business and the industry

PJ: As a newlywed with plenty keeping you busy at work, how do you manage your work-life balance?
NA: It is important to maintain a work/life balance. I find at work it’s absolutely about inclusion and sharing – I try to keep my team fully involved in what is going on so I know that we are all working towards the same goals and their focus is the same as mine. This makes my work so much more enjoyable because we really feel like a team, sharing the ups and the downs so the area runs smoothly. Outside work I like spending time with family and friends, going out to restaurants and bars with friends.

PJ: What are your plans for Ernest Jones over the next 12 months?
NA: Over the next year I am hoping to introduce even more new ranges and brands into the bridal area, continuing to focus on maximising every opportunity. Also, I’ll be looking for new ways to channel the learnings from our Sterling colleagues in the USA.

 

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