EXCLUSIVE: Jeremy France reflects on accolades, succession planning and having a gun to his head as retirement looms

After forty years in the jewellery trade, Jeremy France of the namesake Winchester-based jewellers will be stepping back from the company in the New Year.

Jeremy France has always been a passionate and committed member of the jewellery trade, working hard to build Jeremy France Jewellers from a small workshop in Kent to an established, popular and award winning independent store in the city of Winchester.

France’s has been semi-retired for some time now, and in the last three years has been nurturing his children, Harriet and Chris, and helping them get to grips with what it means to run the family firm. From the New Year, his daughter and son, who have been an essential part of the business for several years, will take full control.

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As for Jeremy France, he has always been a keen skier, and will kick-start his first full season with his wife Jennifer at the end of December through to the end of April. He will also continue to grow vegetables in his garden, filling his freezer with organic veg from his own plot, and hopes to tour the West Coast of Scotland.

As he reflects on his time in the jewellery industry, two moments stand out for very different reasons.

France tells Professional Jeweller: “The most memorable moment in my time in the trade was having a gun to my head in 2005 and then again the following year. That kind of sticks with you. However if you ask for my proudest moment it was winning Employer of the Year in 2007, with 12 staff and no managers, it could be counted in the best years of my life.”

Jeremy France Jewellers started as a workshop in Kent, and after a number of successful years relocated to the historical city of Winchester in 1990.

Since then, the company has grown from a small family-run shop, with Jeremy France working at the bench as a goldsmith, to a thriving independent business, employing twenty five talented individuals whose skills range from jewellery design, manufacturing and repairing, CAD designing to diamond grading.

Jeremy France Jewellers has evolved into a widely respected, award-winning jewellery retailer with an international following, and a lot of this is down to not moving too far from its roots, but also being unafraid to embrace the digital revolution.

“When I started in the trade, we were all bricks and mortar, then came the internet and it all changed,” Jeremy France says as he reflects on the evolution of the jewellery retail sector. He continues: “Luckily my strategy of having a large workshop instore, designing, making and repairing jewellery worked then, and still works now. The way staff view their jobs is very different now though and that has been very hard to accept and get used to.”

As Jeremy France moves into retirement, his daughter Harriet France, will manage the day-to-day running of the store, while his son, Christopher France, will work at the bench and run the on-site workshop.

When asked the one piece of advice he would give independent jewellers, France responds: “Strangely the number one piece of advice I would give the independent trade is the same that I would give my children and my staff. That is – very few people get rich quick. Most of us have to work for a lifetime. So stuff as much money into your pension as you can early on, if you get a pay rise put half of it to the pension, you won’t miss it then. The more you save when young… the more it will be worth at the end. Then you can retire early enough to actually enjoy life.”

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