Lucy Reece-Raybould has enjoyed a sparkling career in the UK jewellery industry, but now she is moving on to pastures new.
Leaving the trade and her role as executive director of business development and marketing at the Company of Master Jewellers, where she has worked for the past ten years, Reece-Raybould will be moving to the footwear industry to head up the British Footwear Association in the role of chief executive officer.
Of course, we couldn’t let her go without passing on some pearls of wisdom and expert insights, so PJ writer, Asha Pitt, caught up with Reece-Raybould before she officially bids the industry goodbye.
You’ve been in the jewellery and watch trade for pretty much your entire working life; where did it all start?
In 1988 I got a job at Swatch as their UK operations manager. I swear to this day that the MD only gave me the job because I’d had the same title in my last role and I think he thought buying would be in my blood as my dad was a buyer for the car industry. Turns out he was right! I ended up buying almost a million watches a year for the UK market. I also had a £2 million marketing budget to manage and got to work with the ‘Absolutely Fabulous’ Lynne Franks, who taught me a lot about marketing and PR strategy. I took that experience and set up my own consultancy, focused purely on the jewellery and watch industry, with my partner in 1992. We had a fantastic client roster, including Mulberry, Laura Ashley, Citizen and Paul Smith. In 1998, we sold the business to Goldsmiths and ran a subsidiary for them called SpringColour, distributing licensed watch brands including Guess, Lacoste, Tommy Hilfiger, Nina Ricci and Versace. Over ten years we took SpringColour from my garage with £0 turnover to a £10 million business. By 2010 I had moved on and was providing some consultancy to the CMJ to support their Mastercut diamond brand, delivering an in-store training programme. By the end of the year I had been offered a permanent position. And the rest, as they say, is history.
What are your earliest memories of the Company of Master Jewellers and what have been the biggest changes for the organisation over the last decade?
I think it was in 1995 meeting the then chief executive, David Pattison, and member director in charge of buying, Steven Godshaw, who selected our watch brand Alfex for the members. That was the moment that I fell in love with the CMJ. Here was an organisation that was pulling together independents and giving them real buying power though the strength of the collective. In terms of change, well, that’s easy… for the CMJ, it’s the Pandora effect, particularly for the positive way it has bought the female consumer into our members’ stores. For the retailers, I would say that the change to consumer demographics, buying behaviour and buying motivation has been and continues to be the biggest change and the greatest challenge.
What do you see as the biggest issues for independent retailers over the next few years?
Attracting customers and adjusting to the speed that consumer demand is changing. They need to adapt and act fast. Trends are changing as fast as lightening, and it’s never going to stop or go back to the way it was.
Have you noticed any consumer trends that you feel the industry could embrace more?
Lab-grown diamonds and ethically sourced, traceable product. The next generation of consumer has had a Fairtrade education – from bananas to coffee – and they want to know the human and environmental cost of everything they buy. They also demand choice.
You’ve run at least two major trade events every year for the last 10 years; what’s your advice for exhibitors to ensure that they get the best out of trade shows?
Engage with your customers, well in advance of the show. Drip feed your messages through advertising, promotions, emails, invitations, social media. Do everything that you can to give them reasons to come and talk to you. And when they do, make sure that your staff are knowledgeable and responsive.
Do you actually like jewellery? And what are your favourite pieces and why?
I’ve come to love jewellery and absolutely love diamonds. My favourite pieces are my engagement ring, designed by my husband and created by Emdico; my grandmother’s engagement bangle, which is engraved with her address and second World War number; and finally, a bracelet that I had made from a necklace that my mother always wore. It’s one of three, with my daughter and niece each having one too; it’s not the most beautiful piece but it is very precious to me.
Now that you’re leaving the jewellery industry, what do you think you will miss the most about it?
The people. The amazing, eclectic mix of my CMJ family. The retailers, the suppliers, my team and all of the great characters of our industry. And the friendship that they have all extended to me over the years.
What pearls of wisdom do you have for those new, or thinking of entering, the trade?
Learn everything that you can. No connection is a bad connection. Get people who are passionate about their product to sell to you. And get hold of as much jewellery and watches as you can.
Tell us about your new role as CEO of the British Footwear Association — what are you most excited about? And what learnings will you take from your time within the jewellery sector?
The shoe industry is in many respects ahead of the jewellery trade. It has been through its tough times and has come through the other side, with exciting brands emerging like Oliver Sweeny, who tattoo your shoe to match your body art, to Pozo with ‘Barefoot Technology’ who are making orthopaedics and posture sexy. And all of this is happening within an industry that has ‘fine’ traditional footwear at one end and the multi-billion-pound sector that is trainers, at the other. I’ve learnt so much in this trade and I have worked with some amazing people. And I will continue to learn in my new role, supported by globally-respected pioneers and trail-blazers, from Dune, Hotter, Pentland and many others. I am very proud of my jewellery experience and legacy. This is a new, exciting adventure for me and I cannot wait to get started.
Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but Marilyn Monroe also said, ‘Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world’, and this girl has every intention of conquering the shoe world.