The Watches of Switzerland Group is the largest jewellery retail firm in the UK, with sales surging by 22% to £773 million during the last financial year.
With a change of name from Aurum Holdings to Watches of Switzerland, and a sharp focus on the luxury watch market, trade professionals would be forgiven for thinking jewellery was not an important side of the business.
A conversation with Mappin & Webb and Goldsmiths executive director, Craig Bolton, and head jewellery buyer, Claire James, tells a different story though.
While the Group is very proud of the big watch names it has secured, and has had impressive success with this sector of the market, jewellery is still extremely valuable to the business and this year Watches of Switzerland will be actively pushing it back into the spotlight.
“We are going to spend a lot of money on product this year, and we are trying to make our jewellery offer and the brands have an equal place and equal billing alongside the luxury watch brands. We don’t want them to be inferior,” shares company director Craig Bolton.
He adds: “We just had a review of productivity by metre in our stores, and over the last couple of years I think there was a drift towards removing maybe core gold products – that wasn’t deemed to be that productive – and replacing it with watch brands or extending engagement rings, but actually the latest review has now shown there is huge productivity within the watch brands, but once you get beyond a certain amount of watch brands then the productivity is much worse than it is on jewellery. I believe this year a proportion of our space will be moved from watches back to jewellery and we will be introducing more styling within core gold which we haven’t really done over the last couple of years.”
With a fresh jewellery team in place, fronted by Claire James who moved over from the watch side at the start of the year, the Group will be refreshing its product offering at Goldsmiths and Mappin & Webb, alongside launching a new diamond range that will make the retailer stand out from competition, and focusing marketing efforts on telling stories that will help reconnect consumers with the importance of gifting loved ones with jewellery.
The Watches of Switzerland Group has invested heavily in its Goldsmiths and Mappin & Webb stores over the last few years, giving its stores a luxury lift and making sure jewellery has enough space to shine alongside the watches.
This investment will also continue over the next 12 months, with the business making the decision to move away from four sale seasons a year.
“It is going to be a big year for us,” says jewellery buyer, Claire James. “It is going to be about getting jewellery reconnected with the customer and with all those initiatives that we’ve been through I think we will achieve that. While overall the marketplace has been difficult, we’ve had a good time of it and there’s still more to come.”
“I think it might be a year where lots of people consolidate a little bit and maybe don’t do as many exciting things, and it is going to coincide with us doing lots of exciting things,” adds Bolton. “We may very well stand out for all the right reasons as a result of it all.”
Watches of Switzerland Group currently has 85 Goldsmiths stores and we have 13 Mappin & Webb. We have closed a few Goldsmiths.