WEB EXCLUSIVE: Rebecca sales director Samantha McDermid on growing the brand’s UK presence

Sam McDermid

In June, Italian costume jewellery brand Rebecca appointed Samantha McDermid, formerly brand director of Bouton, as its sales director for the UK.

Here, McDermid discusses the brand’s USP, its potential in the UK market and the factors that she believes will make it a success with professionaljeweller.com.

Q: When did your work with Rebecca begin?

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A: I have been talking to them since November 2014, but I received my samples and officially starting working with them a few weeks following Baselworld.

Q: What are your first impressions of the company?

A: They are absolutely amazing; I’ve never known a company like it but everything you would expect from an Italian company, from the ultra-stylish and contemporary headquarters in Empoli just outside Florence, down to the innovative and stunning jewellery collections.   Founder Alessandro Testi started his career as a jewellery agent in Italy and he later met his wife who was one of his retailers, they had a daughter named Rebecca, 15 years ago they set up the business Industrie Testi and established the Rebecca brand. He still heads-up the design, and Rebecca herself is now very much involved in the business, and is helping me with some key UK retailers.

Q: What are the brand’s unique selling points?

A: Everything is made in Italy and Testi is passionate about the ‘Made in Italy’ stamp. The packaging, furniture, props and components – they are all made in Italy where possible. They also make the costume jewellery for some of the big Italian fashion houses, which is a nice fact to mention to retailers because it tells you about the quality.  From the first collections, Alessandro Testi has known how to express and design beauty, combining new technologies with the ancient goldsmiths’ art, creating collections of jewellery in the Rebecca line with a very special charm

The core of the collection is made from bronze and plated in yellow, rose gold, rhodium and black rhodium. We have just started to introduce some silver ranges too.

Each order is made to order, and with a catalogue of over 8000 skus, it is a very efficient way of managing the inventory.  It means the order fulfilment is 100% and we are able to turn orders around within 3-15 days.

Q: Can you tell us more about the brand’s signature collections?

A: There are two collections; Rebecca My World, which is the charm offer and includes lots of initials and alphabet options, and there is the main, core fashion collection, which is being rebranded as Rebecca My Style.

Every collections has 100’s of different options, for example Hollywood, one of our best-selling collections has almost 50 styles of earrings each available in 4 different colour finishes. The retailers receive a catalogue of line drawings, drawn to scale and can almost offer a bespoke service to the consumer.  We are even able to make small changes such as the chain length at the time of ordering too.  It may be that there is a style in the brochure that never, ever gets made because nobody ordered that particular piece, or maybe it just gets ordered once, so someone has a unique piece of jewellery.

Q: Presumably this means that retailers can be stocking the same collection but have very varied offers in terms of the individual pieces?

A: Yes, the retailer can really create a bespoke collection depending upon their customer demographics. Also, with such a vast range it’s easy to create an exclusive offer. Even if a retailer in the next town has the brand the chances of them having the same offer are almost impossible.

Because we are not picking and packing from a warehouse, but are manufacturing each order to order makes us unique.  I don’t know of another company that does that.  It’s a great service especially for customer special orders.

Q: What else strikes you as unusual about the company?

A: You will rarely see Rebecca marked down, when it comes to the end of season retailers might have a few pieces left. Instead of marking them down we encourage them to send the stock back to us, and we will then credit them against their next order of items from new ranges. We want to keep our retail spaces looking really fresh and merchandise effectively. The brand has outlet stores in Italy where product can be sold through. We can manage inventory better by doing this than leaving retail space cluttered with slow-selling lines.

This gives retailers the confidence to buy a statement piece that may or may not sell, knowing that they can send it back at the end of the season and they can keep moving forward with new collections.

Q: How does Rebecca currently stand in Europe?

A: It has 1,500 points of sale in Italy, including 26 flagship stores, and we also sell to another 30 countries around the world, including Dubai and Miami.  In total we have 2500 locations globally.

Q: What kick-started the brand’s interest in growing in the UK?

A: Patrick McHale, who I used to work with at Bouton, is sales agent for Rebecca in Ireland and he introduced me to the company.  He was having incredible success with sell through in that region. Normally the average for an independent is about three stock turns, but he is getting up to six. He would be doing his Christmas orders last October time and a few weeks later he would get a call to say it had all been sold through, and could he repeat the order!   This highlighted the opportunities for the UK market in Italy, which incidentally has a similar size market for costume jewellery as the UK. The brand is flying in Ireland, but we are just starting out here so there is going to be a big push because we understand what the potential is.

In Italy the turnover is Euro 20 million – so if we could have half of that, that would be good.

Q: In terms of accounts, has Rebecca secured any key doors in recent months in the UK?

A: We are opening with House of Fraser imminently, either at the end of July or the beginning of August. There will be 15 locations that stock My Style and 15 locations that stock My World, while some will have an overlap. My World is a slightly lower price point, it’s finer, smaller and slightly younger in appeal, whereas My Style is made up of statement and fashion-led pieces.

Q: Is the next stage to get independents involved?

A: Yes, we are going to be focusing on independents. We have been invited to take part in the CMJ’s Dragon’s Den event at their upcoming buyer’s meeting. I have opened new doors, and am also working my way round the existing accounts. I will also be recruiting more staff in the coming months to offer better customer service.

There are around 50 active accounts in the UK, but we have ambitious plans to grow within this sector. It is just a case of getting in front of them so we can present the collections and getting retailers to commit space and recognise the opportunity. I am very confident that any retailer taking on this brand will have their expectations exceeded.

Q: What are the price points?

A: My World starts at £14 for a charm and then some of the co-ordinating pieces like pendants go up to £99. Then the fashion collection, My Style, ranges from around £39 to £350, but I would say the core of it is £79 to £179.

See pictures of some of Rebecca’s key collections below…


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