Editing its jewellery offer to push unbranded gold through retailers.
Continental UK general manager Peter Mooney tells Kathryn Bishop about developing new business channels, the changing needs of retailers and the introduction of 9ct gold to its collections.
"We have gone a bit brand crazy when it comes to silver and watches but there is definitely a market for unbranded gold jewellery,” states Continental UK general manager Peter Mooney. “It is where retailers make a profit.”
And he should know; since taking over his late father’s role in 2012, Mooney has been tirelessly travelling the globe, from trade show to trade show, continuing – if not building upon – the momentum of the Birmingham arm of parent company, Hong Kong’s Continental Holdings Limited.
Back to his statement about unbranded jewellery (arguably the bread and butter of many traditional independent and high street retailers), Mooney has recognised mounting demand in the UK for classic gold and gemstone designs, somewhat of a return to the days before brands were big news. “Retailers can have their own identity with unbranded jewellery and that’s where we come in,” he affirms.
The company has been making its presence felt in the UK industry of late, recently taking part in Jewellery & Watch Birmingham as Continental UK rather than Kissing Diamonds, a sub-brand within the Continental range that had been its focus in recent years. “I got the impression we were blurring lines,” he says. “Kissing Diamonds is just a part of what we do, so we’ve gone back to our strengths and realised we’re not about marketing a single brand – 95% of our business is non-branded.”
A larger Continental-branded stand at Jewellery & Watch Birmingham in February and a list of specially-invited retailers helped to secure plenty of attention at the show. While Mooney concedes that the inaugural trade show as Continental UK was going to be more of an introduction than a chance to be scribbling out orders, he is confident the business will grow from this foundation. “It’s about the business that comes after,” he says. “A lot of people are looking for new brands and new suppliers to shake up their offer, so it’s not just about being at the shows but the wider marketing we’re doing, being on the road and talking more about what Continental can do for retailers.”
Working closely with his UK sales manager Oliver Crouch, who joined Continental from the now-closed gold and gemstone wholesaler OJS, Mooney has been curating Continental UK’s range to better suit the needs of the market. Describing Continental as formerly a “Christmas jewels” company specialising in large, statement fine jewellery designs, Mooney says he recognised that the company was in need of an entry-level range as well as basic program of jewellery that included single stone diamond rings, stud earrings and classic ruby, sapphire and emerald designs.
This careful editing has bought with it the introduction of a 9ct gold range. Mooney concedes that he had reservations about trading in 9ct but with advice from Crouch and feedback from retailers, the brand got to working with one of its Hong Kong-based in-house designers with experience of the UK market to create new, entry-level collections, including stone-set cabochon rings, drop earrings and diamond designs.
Interestingly, Mooney says this led to a decrease in SKUs for the company rather than an increase. It has steadily reduced the number of one-off pieces showcased by retailers on a sale-or-return basis – on occasions, up to £1 million of Continental high jewellery has been on UK retailers’ shelves – to instead place investment in its unbranded gold and gemstone ranges to ensure they are ready to go when ordered by retailers.
The firm’s ambition is to better serve the trade, and part of this is the introduction of what Mooney dubs an “all singing, all dancing” trade-only website that features its full UK catalogue, an instant quotation system, a tracking service for orders and purchase reports.
Mooney plans to increase in turnover by 20% in 2014. He is seeking to win new customers in the north east of England, where Continental has fewer retail partners, and will use appearances at trade events including IJL and BaselWorld to build further awareness of the company, while growing relations within the Houlden and Company of Master Jewellers buying groups.
In 2012 the company increased turnover by 20%, opened 20 new accounts with independents and grew indie sales by 25%. “We also increased turnover by 30% in the multiples market,” Mooney says. “It will be hard to replicate that, but it is about steady growth and improved customer confidence in the changing metal price. The jewellery trade is a slow-moving one, so it is about getting the right inventory and adapting to the market and changing with the times.”
This interview was taken from the April issue of Professional Jeweller. To read the issue in full online, click here.