Chief exec on exporting Brit jewels and strengthening UK manufacturing
The January issue of Professional Jeweller was all about celebrating British jewellery talent and looking at what UK companies can do to take their jewels global. Here National Association of Goldsmiths chief executive Michael Hoare gives his views on exporting British jewels and strengthening the UK-based manufacturing industry.
Professional Jeweller: What does a British jewellery brand need to succeed abroad?
Michael Hoare: That really depends on which part of abroad you mean. In some places customers might be looking for expressions of our particular cultural heritage because it is either older or much different to their own. In others they want items that radiate our [collective] personality through bold statements. So I think it’s as important for a British brand to understand the psyche of their target market as anything. The place is littered with brands – including Tesco and M&S – that have got that very wrong and paid the price.
PJ: Is there much funding or support for British jewellers who want to try to take their work abroad?
MH: This isn’t my field of expertise but as a casual observer I reckon government intervention is generally misguided. In the end, I think it’s down to the strength of character and tenacity of the designer, and the appeal of their ideas – that wins orders. The best support British designers get is through the work of the BBC World Service, and the British Council, which have been disseminating our cultural ideals for decades.
PJ: As we’ve discussed, Shaun Leane, Stephen Webster and Theo Fennell are three strong British jewellery brands – what can others do to follow in their footsteps?
MH: Leane, Webster, and Fennell were great designers first, and global brands later. I’m not sure it’s worthwhile setting out with a Machiavellian plan for world domination. Far better to concentrate on being the best you can at expressing your singular vision, and if enough people like it the rest will follow, given the right exposure.
PJ: What do you think British jewellery manufacturing could or should do to compete with other countries such as China or India?
MH: If British manufacturers think they are about more than piling it high and selling it cheap then they should stick to quality and great design, and shouldn’t get involved in the race to the bottom that inevitably comes with competing with India and China.
PJ: What do you believe the future holds for the British jewellery industry?
MH: I’m an optimist and I think the future is bright. But if I was a UK manufacturer I’d concentrate my efforts on giving bespoke service and rapid turnaround to British customers. Rather than going head to head with the emerging economies in a low cost fight we can’t win I’d concentrate on quality, and craftsmanship. Isn’t that another thing we British are famous for?