CME’s 40-year legacy is no coincidence. By adapting to market changes, listening to customers and focusing on the company’s financial health, CME continues to thrive, even in challenging times.
In recognition of International Women’s Day earlier this month, here CME directors Andrew Hunt and Howard Pessall explain how the company stays ahead of buying patterns and how investing in development will be key over the next 12 months.
What has been key to CME’s success over the past four decades?
Selling a variety of products at the right price, being careful about finances, passion and hard work. We work with a range of suppliers and are adventurous, testing new product ideas and holding a full stable of traditional jewellery. We welcome companies of every size, from individual entrepreneurs to multiples.
We’re careful about the financial health of the business; have a reputation for paying our bills on time and have kept a cushion for contingency plans.
This has been especially important during this crisis, enabling us to support our staff fully throughout and continue to invest in our customers and business improvements.
Passion and hard work – not glamourous but necessary. At its inception the family lived and breathed the business and we have been fortunate to keep many of our staff over the years who take care of our customers. We have believed in our business idea and what we offer.
What have been some of the biggest changes in women’s buying patterns over the years?
Jewellery buying patterns reflect both the times and the changing role of women, which presents the jewellery industry with opportunities for creating new products. The women’s movement implied the courage to stop conforming to an expected style and experiment through jewellery.
The 70s, a decade of disco and revolution, saw dramatic choices, huge hoops, glitzy gold chain; the 80s, brooches for power dressing; and today, curated layers that narrate individual life stories.
Women have disposable income and buy jewellery for themselves to celebrate or just to accessorise an outfit rather than just wearing the same jewellery every day. More mature women want to be fashionable for longer.
The trend for branded jewellery changed the market for retailers and external influences, such as fluctuation in precious metal prices, led to renewed interest in silver and gold-plated jewellery and a rise in interest in ‘delicate’ styles.
Fast fashion and an insatiable thirst for new has been noticeable, though there is a movement towards women being less interested in individual trends and more creating their own style by mixing traditional with new items, creating opportunities for retailers to showcase their existing stock in different ways.
How has CME adapted to these changes?
We listen to customers and adapt to market forces. We expanded our silver range when demand changed in response to rising precious metal prices. The rise in popularity of branded jewellery presented a particular challenge for us as purveyors of non-branded goods and as wholesalers.
We decided to stay true to our roots and keep faith with independent businesses and continue offering them the choice to turn our products into their brands.
Offering style and quality at affordable prices and supporting independents is what we feel passionate about, and this has been appreciated by our customers.
What have been some stand-out women’s jewellery trends over the past decade?
Personalisation has endured; engravable items, but also pieces unique to the individual like birthstones; motifs of the natural world, with bees having lasting appeal.
The ear adornment trend has meant no limit on ways to decorate ears and the last 10 years has seen various innovative designs.
Initially, multiple piercings were huge with earrings being worn singly, in pairs, or multiples, creating edgy silhouettes. Now ear cuffs, jackets, pins, and asymmetric styles seem set to take 2021 by storm.
The early part of the decade saw plain silver as the preferred finish and it remains our best seller, but rose-gold and more recently yellow-gold plating have captivated consumers.
Layering is still popular, an excellent way for consumers to create their look with great sales potential for retailers as bracelets, rings, earrings and necklaces are all stackable.
How does CME gather trend information to help its retailers?
Research online, industry magazines, international trade shows, listening to customers and suppliers, fashion blogs, influencers, etc.
However, it’s not all about trends – we offer a full range of jewellery including stone-set, marcasite and amber and regularly review our more traditional collections to keep them fresh and interesting.
What changes from 2020 will you be taking forward?
Personal purchasing and gifting have been strong motivators. Retailers selling affordable, well-designed products that women can justify as a treat have flourished. Women want to feel attractive, smart or provocative and express this via jewellery.
Celebrating the usual anniversaries has taken on more significance with jewellery having the potential to send messages of love and hope. Unsurprisingly, jewellery as a talisman, to bring luck or protect against evil, gained in popularity last year and seems set to continue.
Popular pieces in lockdown have been hearts and our phoenix pendant – symbolic of our rise above this pandemic, perhaps.
The trend for chain-link across all jewellery keeps gathering momentum and is set to be a staple in 2021.
How has business been for CME over the past year?
Difficult at times, particularly during the first lockdown when everything was so uncertain. We were able to adapt quickly and stay open for mail order with just the family manning the fort while our creative team worked from home.
Online continues to do well, and sales were similar to pre-pandemic levels once shops re-opened. The launch of our new website in July was a turning point. Despite teething problems it has generated new business and many positive comments from customers.
What support will you give retailers to prepare for reopening?
We continue to add new products and ensure stock levels are healthy so that customers will have choice, making their opening collections stand out. We ensure affordable prices are a constant feature rather than engaging in short-term promotional marketing.
That said, we have expanded our popular special offer range with items held at low silver prices. We have also relaxed the minimum order for existing customers and reduced postal charges.
What would be your advice to retailers ahead of reopening, to ensure business bounces back?
Review stock to see what sells well and check which suppliers are giving great design and prices. Offering value for money builds loyalty at a time when consumers need it. Today’s consumer is more price-conscious as they can compare prices online.
Consider in-house collections which allow control over the personality of your brand and higher profit potential.
What are the future plans for CME over the next year?
We plan to consolidate the growth in new customers that we have seen over the past year and continue to invest in the infrastructure of the business to make way for further improvements around the website and customer service areas of the business.
CME has a long history of allowing its customers to use its stock images and intend to make this easier for everyone involved.
Our plan to launch a UK-manufactured range in recycled silver – which was unfortunately delayed somewhat thanks to lockdown – is full steam ahead for later in the year.
We have also purchased additional space for our creative team over this period giving us space for development and the chance to consider re-opening a showroom.