Independent jewellery retailer Rox was founded on a foundation which now embodies the key to survival for any jeweller on today’s high street — ‘Diamonds & Thrills’.
When co-founders Kyron Keogh and Grant Mitchell decided to open a store in Glasgow’s prestigious Argyll Arcade, which is lined end-to-end with jewellery retailers and nothing else, the duo knew they had to do something different to stand out.
After all, as the new store in town they had to create a reason for consumers to shop with Rox, rather than one of the other jewellers they may have come more familiar with. But when competition is so fierce, what can a retailer really do to make an impression?
Right from the start Keogh and Mitchell, who have been friends since they were teenagers, knew the answer was to create a shopping experience that’s welcoming, exciting, and above all, thrilling, which is why the jeweller coined the phrase ‘Diamonds and Thrills’ when it launched in 2001.
Looking around the Arcade at the time, the majority of jewellers abided to traditional ways of showcasing and selling jewellery, leaving the door wide open for a new retailer to set up camp and show its competitors how to create a brand, not just a store, with every area of Rox being consistent with the company’s ethos.
“We had the idea to create a space that is different to everyone else, so we asked ourselves, how do we stand out?” shares managing director, Kyron Keogh during an interview upstairs in the retailer’s Argyll Arcade flagship boutique. He continues: “Ten years ago everyone looked the same and there was research done which revealed when people left the Arcade and were asked where they had shopped, they had to check the name on the bag because the offer was so homogenised. So we questioned, what can we do to differentiate the experience here and try and out service everyone else?”
The end result was the very room Professional Jeweller sat in during the interview. A space like no other jewellers which alludes luxury, and provides the perfect canvas to serve customers in the day and entertain them at night.
But, the ‘Diamonds and Thrills’ starts right from the moment a shopper lays eyes on a Rox boutique.
Keogh explains: “We have to start right at the front with the windows, then the people we have. We make sure the shop is exclusive but always welcoming, which can be a challenge, but we think there is an energy in the shop, and a bit of excitement and fun. Come in on a Saturday and you have customers at the bar, a guy on one knee getting engaged, and an older couple treating themselves. Our concept is we take people upstairs and bring the product to them, while offering them a drink from the champagne bar. We also use this space for events. So it’s a hospitality space during the day and in the evening it turns into an event space.”
The managing director continues: “Most jewellers who have a space like this fill it with shop in shops, but we have kept it completely Rox branded. That allows us to turn it into a branded space for the night. We can do events with brands and transform the space really easily. It also allows us to do things a little bit differently.”
In today’s tough marketplace, the foundations which Rox was built on are even more important than ever before. Customers are looking for jewellery retailers to capture their hearts at first glance and provide more than just a service, but an unforgettable experience, which reflects something of the store brand and story.
At Rox, the customer experience begins the minute someone walks through the door, but is heightened during its renowned events, which allow the jeweller to engage, entertain and build relationships with its clients. Events include music nights, where Rox has bagged artists such as Emeli Sande and reached full capacity in the store; comedy nights; sports games; private dinners; charity evenings; and more, with the company often teaming up with the brands it stocks to put on a night to remember.
Understanding the need for events to be memorable, and of course these days — Instagrammable — Rox always goes the extra mile for its events.
For example, most recently the independent jeweller laid grass down the entire Argyll Arcade in Glasgow for a football table tournament in the World Cup format.
“The key with events is you’ve got to do something special. It can’t just be another event,” says Keogh. “Gone are the days of a cheese and wine party. Nowadays customers expect to be entertained and that’s something we always keep in mind at all times. Every event needs to exude luxury and be aligned with our Diamonds & Thrills philosophy. Our ‘Rox Presents…’ is a great example of making events modern and ensuring they’re always forward thinking. Not simply about showcasing product these events also feature live music acts, Q&As with sporting greats, comedy nights and much more.”
“Previews of new product work well,” he adds, “offering clients the chance to be the first to see something they can’t get elsewhere is always a bonus.”
When asked the age range attending in-store events, Keogh assures Professional Jeweller that they more often than not get a mixture.
“That’s one of the successes of our events — we don’t pigeon whole. Depending on the brand, some events might lend themselves to a slightly more mature demographic, but often we will have a right mixture here. We have influencers, local celebrities, customers, and just a good mix. “
Alongside keeping up a busy events schedule across its network of six boutiques, Rox continues to go from strength-to-strength as it thinks outside the box in every area of the business. From launching a bi-annual magazine, to getting involved in city events such as Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival, and investing in online, the jeweller has well and truly set itself apart in the cities it resides.
In the latest documents filed with Companies House, the jeweller reported sales of £14 million in the financial year ending March 31 2017, a year-on-year rise of over 5.5%.
In a statement accompanying the accounts, Keogh revealed all of the group’s stores saw double digit rises in sales except for Aberdeen, a city affected by the weak oil price in the trading year, and Braehead, a Glasgow shopping centre location where the company sells less expensive watches and jewellery than at its Argyll Arcade flagship in the city.
In particular, Rox has been seeing a growing interest in its own-label jewellery, engagement rings, and wedding bands, with an investment in unique designs and superior craftsmanship showing improved returns.
The current financial year will be boosted by the addition of Chopard in April 2017, and Zenith in September, but the company has been stripping back on the brand’s it stocks. “Business is good,” explains Keogh. “We had a strong Christmas. The engagement ring category was good, the luxury watch category is really strong, and those are two categories which are important to us. The engagement ring business counts for over 50% of our business and that’s what we have to focus on. So that’s local customers, people we can start a relationship with when they buy an engagement ring with us, and then they come back for the wedding ring, and hopefully that’s the beginning of a long, fruitful relationship.”
He continues: “We are out now of most of the non-Rox branded jewellery, we just have Chopard and Rox in our portfolio now, and the latter attracts a younger consumer, which is important. Having a 16 year old myself I know what it is like in the Instagram generation and I want her to be wearing our products, and she does, because the silver products are affordable. The collections are unique to us and are going really well. So that is kind of our strategy, we have designer jewellery that attracts the younger consumer, engagement rings and wedding rings, and then our high jewellery collections and luxury watches, which all help us establish relationships.”
Rox also pays close attention to online innovations, and the team work hard to keep the e-commerce website and social media channels up to date and relevant.
One thing that is particularly noticeable on the independent jeweller’s digital platforms is that content is fresh, original and unique to Rox.
From striking photoshoots, to insightful videos and blog posts, the business creates its own content, which is not available anywhere else on the internet.
“You can’t ignore the structural shift that is happening online,” shares Keogh. “Retailers have to fight harder to get people into their shops. So we need to provide and create experience and give people a reason to shop and I think we are leading the charge.
“We offer a mixture of hospitality and retail. You want to come here, sit down be looked after, and have people running around after you and giving personal, honest advice, while you sip a glass of champagne.”
Looking ahead, the managing director is nervous about how Brexit will impact business, with Rox already living through the effects of the Scottish referendum a couple of years ago.
However, the jeweller believes the key to survival is to keep on investing.
Keogh explains: “Quite often when business is tough, you start looking at your costs and you stop investing in things, but I think you need to invest and keep investing and creating content, and out service your competition. The experience for us is so important. Footfall is down as we all know, but people are shopping and we’ve got to make sure we give them the best experience when they come into our stores.”
He continues: “Businesses also need to keep online covered, we always keep an eye on online. We’ve put an investment into online to make sure that channel is covered, and to look at how we provide our experience online. You can’t just sit there waiting for somebody to place an order. You need to think, how can we get the customer experience online? So we start thinking about the website itself, what happens when people look us up? When they receive the goods, how is it presented? Online is definitely one to watch. Maxine [the jeweller’s content manager] spends her time pulling together great content for online and the magazine. Trying to make sure we are at the forefront of customer’s minds when they are shopping. People are still getting married. People are still buying engagement rings. People are shopping, we just need to make sure they come to us.”
Rox definitely has new stores in the pipeline, with the directors currently exploring a couple of opportunities, but they believe these will now probably fall into next year.
Instead, the focus for the rest of this year will be on consolidating its stock offering – working on the in-house bridal and designer jewellery creations to make sure Rox windows (physical or virtual) are filled with exclusive, British-made products.
Keogh concludes: “We’re always looking forward with drive and ambition. Our goal is to have more boutiques in major cities — notably Manchester, Birmingham and London. We’re proud to be a strong multi-channel business with a firm focus on our online business which is something we’re keen to continue to develop, really bringing the in-store service we’re renowned for to the online experience. And of course, we’re going to continue to work hard to ensure Rox jewellery is firmly recognised as a national British luxury jewellery brand.”