Q&A: Shaun Bell, Joshua James Jewellery

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The MD speaks out about reining in brands and sharing responsibility.

Shaun Bell is the hardworking managing director behind the rapid rise of Joshua James Jewellery, JJ Wedding Rings and online retailer Watch Depot. For him 2012 has been a time to rein in growth to concentrate on providing a tailored jewellery offer to suit its clients. He 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: Your businesses have enjoyed strong growth over the past year – what have been the key factors of your success?
Shaun Bell: I think ensuring that most of the choices made are right and having an incredibly dedicated team that is willing to put their all behind everything we do. Nothing is ever too much trouble, within reason.

PJ: What have been your highlights of 2012?
SB: The last year has been extremely momentous for everyone here. In a short space of time we have become a leading jewellery e-tailer with a showcase boutique store, three unique sites for specific target audiences, and a self-contained distribution centre. I think the continued growth of our websites has been one of the main highlights of a year which has peaked by breaking through to the Hot 100. As for personal highlights, my son, the real Joshua James, has started school this year, which was a very proud moment.

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PJ: How do you keep the balance between work and home life, with young children and a burgeoning business?
SB: Whether I’m at work or not, I’m still thinking about it. When home, I’m teased for not spending more time there. I’ve started to take a few holidays and it’s really nice to unwind with my partner and kids – I hope that’s how they see it. I also try to go to the gym four times a week although, of course, work often gets in the way of this. Christmas is fast approaching and if previous years are anything to go by, that’s the worst time. In November and December, it is very rare that I’m home before 2am and I’m typically back in the office for 7am.

PJ: What kind of challenges are you facing as a luxury retailer?
SB: There have been many. I think the main challenge has been to share responsibility. Prior to any rapid growth, there is a tendency to do things yourself, so it is hard to stop and delegate once the growth really starts. I’m getting a little better at it but I still have a long way to go. I also think the pace of growth can be a challenge. In recent months, we have eased down the number of brands we are adding to our portfolio to ensure that the fit is right, and we reach the level of understanding each brand deserves in order to develop them.

PJ: You have also upgraded the Joshua James website this year. How important is online to your business?
SB: From our inception, we have sought to position ourselves at the forefront of the digital revolution within the jewellery business. That means constantly innovating and upgrading to keep the market moving forwards. We now have three sites – Joshua James Jewellery, Watch Depot and JJ Wedding Rings – and believe that across the board, we’ve created a visitor experience that is clear and intuitive, with products that are displayed elegantly, delivery that is free and prompt, and users that want to return again and again.

PJ: How do you approach work as the head of the business?
SB: I’m not really sure. I’m told I’m focused – a little too much so – and a control freak. I don’t switch off. Even when I’m staring into space, it’s work that’s on my mind.

PJ: With all that thinking, you must have some plans outlined for the Joshua James empire in 2013…
SB: We have completed the first phase of our development in double-quick time. In order to maintain that momentum, we aim to implement some new ideas that will really streamline the business. There is always something that can be done to improve what you are doing.
 

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