With Zack and Max stone now at the helm of the family’s UK business, the two brothers are paving a bright future for jewellery retailer Steven Stone…
The last 12 months have been extremely significant for jewellery retailer Steven Stone as the business has expanded from local to national and now international.
If opening a showroom in the Capital and a boutique state-side in Palm Beach, Florida just one week apart wasn’t a big enough achievement for the year, Steven Stone also relaunched its website this summer following six months spent working hard to revolutionise the online buying experience and 25-year-old Max Stone became a company director.
Third generation of the family business and managing director, Zack Stone, oversaw the design of the London boutique showroom, which opened its doors on St Christopher’s Place, Marylebone, last October. Despite national financial uncertainties, the jewellery retailer has enjoyed great success in the city so far.
Zack’s brother Max Stone now oversees the Hale, Cheshire showroom. Together the brother duo have a wealth of knowledge and experience in the jewellery industry and both hold diamond qualifications from GIA. With a bright year behind them and big plans for the company ahead of them, it is no small wonder that Zack and Max made it into the 2016 Professional Jeweller Hot 100 as Retail Stars.
Editor Stacey Hailes caught up with Zack Stone to find out more about the past 12 months and the brother’s plans to move the business forward.
Professional Jeweller: You opened the doors to your first London store this year, why did you decide now was the right time to expand nationally?
Zack Stone: I wouldn’t say now was the right time, more that it was overdue. We had been wanting to open in London for a few years, and we have a lot of London fans already. Some London customers would have liked to have visited us, but with us being in Manchester it was quite far away. Also, we did have people regularly making the trip from London to Manchester — so it just showed we were probably losing business from people who were not making the trips.
PJ: How did you go about choosing the perfect location for your London store?
ZS: I knew I wanted something in the Mayfair and Marylebone area. It was more a case of the right size, what was available at the time – which was next to nothing – and a place with a decent footfall. I think St Christopher’s Place ticks all of those boxes.
PJ: How has business been going in the London store so far? Have you noticed any differences between business in the Capital compared to Hale, Cheshire?
ZS: It’s been excellent. For the times that we are in, difficult times, we are making profit already. London customers are a lot more on trend. They want different designs. It’s taken a few months to realise they are wanting a slightly different thing from Northern consumers. For example, London customers want different shaped stones. We sell a lot of bridal and Asscher-cut, oval and cushion are the three shapes, after round, that are selling the best in London. Especially recently ovals have gone absolutely crazy. Out of nowhere. We had a three week period where everyone wanted to try one. In general, the London customer spends more, but I don’t think significantly because we cater from £800. I would say the average has gone up about 20%, which you would expect.
PJ: You launched a new website this summer, could you talk about this process and what changes you have made?
ZS: The main difference to the site currently is a new skin — a fresh look. And then we’ve taken usability on board by looking at Google Analytics and changing accordingly. One of the things that we are now working on introducing is finance, because all of a sudden everybody is asking for this. In the last six months more and more people have been asking for finance so we will be offering that soon and we will also upload videos of our jewellery.
PJ: What are your plans for keeping the website up to date and continuously relevant?
ZS: We change things every single day on the site. We have two people full-time on it in-house in Manchester and we’ve got some freelancers on it, almost full-time as well. So there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes to make sure it is as up to date and relevant as possible. We have a very good number one position on Google which is really good as well.
PJ: Is social media key to your business as well? If so, how do you utilise these channels?
ZS: I think it is good for keeping in touch with customers and getting new customers. We are using Instagram and Pinterest the most, and we use Facebook a little bit too. Pinterest and Instagram seem to be very popular right now, and it is great to get new people following us and getting more people liking our designs. It is something we are using to develop new business. In fact, we had a customer come in just the other day who saw us on Instagram originally. That was the first person to officially mention it. So it is something we will continue to develop slowly but surely.
PJ: Steven Stone has plans to launch a new collection this year, can you share anything about that?
ZS: Yes. Two things. One is that the designs we are going to be launching are a little bit more on trend rather than classic like we have done in the past. Secondly, and most importantly, the new pieces are going to be a lot more affordable. We need to have a more affordable range, which has been difficult in the past with fine stone set 18ct jewellery being very expensive to make. Previously, most of our stock was above £3,000 ticket prices, but the new collection is going to be below the £3,000 mark.
PJ: You and Max are both quite young players in the industry, which is excellent. How does your age and experience put you in a better position to drive the company forward?
ZS: We started very young, so we have grown up in the industry and young people learn very quickly. We are both very good with technology. We both work very closely with the internet and have learnt all the manufacturing techniques, including all the modern ones. So we’ve been working with things like that for years and years, in fact we were the first stores to have a 3D wax printer for years. We had one back in 2009. So we are very close with technology and we utilise that technology to press ahead.
PJ: When did you personally decide to join the family business and work in the jewellery industry?
ZS: I only decided a few months before I turned 18. I just suddenly thought, ‘I find diamonds quite interesting’. My background is that I used to develop websites when I was at school, then as soon as I decided I wanted to work with diamonds I went to GIA. I was the youngest person to complete the graduate diamond course at 18 in 2005.
PJ: What are your primary goals for Steven Stone over the next 12 months?
ZS: With the upgrade on the website we are hoping to reach more people through the website, social media and sales. And hopefully gear up for a third and fourth store in the UK. I would like a store in Edinburgh but it’s too soon to say.