From the perspective of Judith Lockwood, life since ‘freedom day’ back in mid-July has been a breath of fresh air when it comes to the jewellery industry and the wider retail sector.
The founder and director runs Mesmeric Distribution, UK distributor of silver jewellery brand TI SENTO – Milano. Both companies are extremely happy with the way 2021 is shaping up.
“The sales results so far are very pleasing,” Lockwood beams. “Like many others we are up significantly on 2020, but are measuring performance more against 2019 and are very happy with those numbers too.
“Much of this business comes from growth in existing retailers, but we have also added new stockists for TI SENTO – Milano across the country. The growth in replenishment and special orders tells us that our jewellery is selling out very well.”
While acknowledging the unpredictability of the ongoing pandemic situation, Lockwood cannot hold back her optimism.
“There is still a positive momentum and an optimism driven by the wave of weddings, babies, staycations and local spending, plus the money still being spent by those who were furloughed or saved up during lockdown,” she says, adding, “I’m happy to say that over 90% of our stockists wanted face-to-face meetings to see the SS21 collection.
“In the stores everyone always wants to see what’s new, to try it on and to touch it. Their enthusiasm is absolutely incredible.”
To her mind, Christmas will be a real milestone for retail if the sector can make it that far without further restrictions on both shops and shoppers.
“As a nation, on the whole, we all love Christmas. However, we have a lot of days’ trading ahead of that and we must keep the stores open to do that,” she warns.
This is not to say that TI SENTO or Mesmeric are in favour of a free-for-all when it comes to shopping and Covid-safety measures.
In fact Lockwood is happy to see that many jewellers continue to encourage masks, hand sanitising and limits on store capacity. “I see this continuing,” she predicts, “and when the Mesmeric team (all of whom are double-vaccinated) visits customers we also continue to wear masks, behave sensibly and test twice weekly, or when requested to do so by someone we are meeting with.”
Neither does it mean Lockwood believes the surge in e-commerce over the past 18 months is no more than a blip.
“Many businesses used the lockdown time to build or improve their online presence,” she tells PJ, “and this has to be something that they continue to work on by keeping information and images updated. The same with social media.
“This is such a crucial marketing tool for everyone, to give news, tell stories, interact with their audience, feature their people and their clients. I recommend retailers keep investing in both of these areas as they are the digital equivalents of your shop and window display.”
Next, PJ cannot help but ask Lockwood for her forecast for the autumn and winter 2021 season.
Which jewellery trends does she believe will dominate? She explains that 18k gold-plated jewellery will be big, and women will not be afraid to wear these pieces alongside their fine jewellery pieces too, while jewellery featuring a “pop of colour” will also sell well.
These trends will translate into the TI SENTO – Milano AW21 lines. “Once again,” Lockwood begins, “the design team led by Lilian van Zuylen at TI SENTO – Milano in Amsterdam has put together a range that covers all bases – trends, pricing, design, colour and commerciality.”
The three new collections – named The Outdoors, Starry Universe and Timeless Energy – range from the all-day statement-making dressy look to classic, timeless pieces, as well as the heady, ambitious, cosmic designs of the second line.
“Collectively,” Lockwood believes, “they bring an overall feeling of freedom, indulging our urge to dress up, to go out and create new memories while making a statement and celebrating life.”
Even more interesting to Lockwood than the trends themselves, though, is what will drive them over the next six months or so. “This is a great question,” she enthuses.
While acknowledging the effect that certain environmental factors – Covid and the state of the pandemic, reopening of retail, continued ‘pent-up demand’ and Christmas – will have on jewellery trends and consumer spending habits, there is another factor she believes will be even more important.
Fortunately, it is one that retailers can exercise some degree of control over too. What is that factor? “The incredible people who work in the stores and sell TI SENTO – Milano every day.”
The founder and director explains: “They either buy and wear the jewellery themselves or buy it for someone else, and they are our greatest supporters and advocates.
“They know how it works, what suits someone, can advise how to wear something or add to a piece they already have. We should never under-estimate the powerful role these good folk hold.
“They have confidence and trust in a piece of TI SENTO – Milano jewellery when they sell it, understanding the quality, the finish, how long they have been a stockist of ours and our relationship with them.”
Lockwood then adds, in praise of the store staff: “There seems to be a genuine love and fondness for the brand. We are grateful for every one of these wonderful people, as they make a business.”
The retailer is always right
Discussing her own team, meanwhile, Lockwood heaps praise on her business development managers at Mesmeric, Angela Lee and Micheline Graham, both of whom she says she is lucky to have.
Between them they bring experience working at companies such as Gucci, Sif Jakobs and Swarovski. “They both deliver the art of customer care and attention with genuine heart,” Lockwood says.
“Supporting through training and visual merchandising by going the extra mile, they are passionate about developing our retail partners. They are all about the relationship and listening and finding solutions for retailers.”
Once Lockwood begins talking in glowing terms about TI SENTO – Milano’s “incredibly loyal” stockists she cannot stop. “We have worked with many of our retailers for a great number of years and they love the brand. Speaking for the team, it has been wonderful to see and catch up with our retail family and hear their stories since reopening, learning what is working for them and their customers and how we can support them.
“Whether the answer is merchandising visits, training needs, marketing initiatives, website or social media assets or bespoke images, we always make it work.”
One final point about which Professional Jeweller is curious is whether Mesmeric will ever branch out into working with other brands, or whether it prefers to dedicate all of its time to the TI SENTO brand.
“We do get approached,” Lockwood admits, describing the requests she receives from brands via Instagram, LinkedIn, the Mesmeric website and other avenues.
“It is always flattering, and sometimes of interest,” she reveals, but, ultimately loyal to the brand that made Mesmeric what it is today, she adds, “I do believe that if something else is added to the business it would have to be complementary and not canibalise anything we currently do.”
The director also refers to her two other roles in the industry – as both council member of The Goldsmiths’ Craft and Design Council (GC&DC) and supplier director on the Company of Master Jewellers (CMJ) board – as one reason she is against the idea of adding even more to her already full plate with the potential signing of a new brand to Mesmeric.
“But then again,” she muses, “there is a saying: ‘If you want anything done, ask a busy person to do it.” Maybe another brand to sit alongside TI SENTO – Milano could be in the stars after all, then.
HOW CAN RETAILERS GET IN TOUCH?
By this point readers may be wondering how best to go about stocking TI SENTO – Milano.
The Mesmeric Distribution founder and director, Judith Lockwood, could not be easier to contact. “If anyone out there would like to find out more about what we do,” she tells PJ, “or has any questions, then please feel free to call me on 07834 490060 or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.”