INTERVIEW: Craig Bolton talks boutique.Goldsmiths strategy

Craig Bolton Profile Shot

At the end of 2015 Aurum Holdings’ retail concept boutique.Goldsmiths launched seven new stores in the space of two months. Professional Jeweller talks to Goldsmiths executive director Craig Bolton about store expansion, customer experience and bestselling brands… 

It was back in 2011 when Goldsmiths launched its very first fashion-focused sister store boutique. Goldsmiths. Dubbed the ‘cooler younger sibling’, the new concept was born out of a challenge to create one store with the right environment for both luxury jewellery and the fashion-conscious consumer.

Instead of trying to make one jewellers be all things to all people, Goldsmiths decided to build on its renowned heritage and create a new store fully devoted to the world of fashion jewellery.

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Up until last year, boutique.Goldsmiths only had seven stores across the UK but in 2015, as part of an ongoing growth strategy, the retailer doubled its door count up to 14 with the opening of seven new stand alone stores throughout November and December ahead of the busy festive shopping period.

Talking about this decision, Goldsmiths executive director, Craig Bolton, says: “The UK consumer spent some time celebrating the online shopping experience and the High Street therefore saw a decline in physical customers during this recession. But now the High Street is booming again with shopping centres receiving higher footfall than in previous years, so we wanted to monopolise on this growth, and quickly, ensuring boutique.Goldsmiths is set to become the jewellery and watches destination.”

Bolton says the fashion sector is a very interesting area and one that Goldsmiths wants to continue to grow in. “The conventional jewellers constantly have this battle of trying to be ‘all things to all men’, which can cause real conflict in terms of store design and customer experience, and in many of our Goldsmiths stores it was becoming more challenging to create the right environment to sell both luxury watches and jewellery and service the fashion customer so they equally feel comfortable,” Bolton explains.

The boutique.Goldsmiths concept creates a purpose-built environment which not only services the style-conscious consumer but also produces the perfect environment for watch and jewellery brands to express themselves.

Where possible, the company opens boutique.Goldsmiths stores alongside, or very near to, existing Goldsmiths retail spaces, with the seven new openings based in Bradford, Newcastle, Reading, Sheffield, Solihull, Guildford and Southampton. All the new stores have been executed with the company’s new design featuring white interior and digital screens.

Over the next six months, Bolton and the team will be reviewing the results of the new look very closely, gathering customer feedback and taking in any learning’s they can in order to improve elements or make changes for future stores. Looking ahead, the company plans to continue expanding the boutique. Goldsmiths store portfolio.

“Our aim is to ultimately operate an estate of 30-40 boutique.Goldsmiths stores across the UK,” Bolton explains. “Going forward we will continue to open stores in key locations to complement our Goldsmiths stores as well as looking for key opportunities in towns and cities where Goldsmiths doesn’t exist so we can gain share in those locations. The brand also has good international appeal and we will be exploring these opportunities in the next few months.”

Along with the main Goldsmiths business, boutique.Goldsmiths performed exceptionally well in 2015 with very strong like-for-like results. Last year the company’s most pleasing sales growth within boutique.Goldsmiths came from jewellery, as opposed to the previous reliance on watches. “This is giving us a more rounded business model,” adds Bolton. “Whereas watches in this sector can be heavily discounted in the market, especially online, jewellery remains void from this.”

boutique.Goldsmiths is a fast moving, nimble business where brands, po sitions and marketing are all updated on a regular basis in line with a much faster paced business model compared to a more traditional jewellery environment. The store is both fashion forward in its thinking and operation, with trained fashion staff taking on a more relaxed style in terms of dress and customer experience, in line with the demographic it aims to attract.

Discussing the process of hiring staff for boutique.Goldsmiths compared to Goldsmiths Bolton comments: “Albeit we look for people who share the same core values across the whole of the Goldsmiths division, the key difference for boutique.Goldsmiths is we are looking primarily for people who are really akin with the brand in terms of their love for fashion and their desire to work within a faster-paced environment.

“We have a great mix of people working within boutique.Goldsmiths and the key objective for us is to allow them to express their personalities to help enhance the personality of the brand, whilst having lots of fun — dancing in store is allowed!”

While boutique.Goldsmiths certainly attracts a younger, more fashion driven consumer that relates to the store’s music style, branded environment and trend-focused product offering, Bolton says loyal Goldsmiths customers have also been enjoying the new concept store.

“Being part of the ‘Goldsmiths family’ has given real credibility instantly to boutique.Goldsmiths and customers feel very comfortable buying from our new brand.”

Following a soft launch in August 2015, boutique.Goldsmiths will also focus on its e-commerce site this year. The company aims to raise awareness of the site, grow traffic and support the physical shops with an online offering that reflects the in-store experience.

Currently boutique.Goldsmiths is in the process of installing web-enabled facilities into all the stores, which will create an endless aisle of product for customers to choose and purchase branded jewellery from via click & collect, reserve and collect or home delivery.

boutique.Goldsmiths currently stocks a range of established and emerging brands. Bolton highlights Swarovski, Thomas Sabo and Links of London as jewellery brands which are performing particularly well in store, alongside jewellery and watches from designers such as Michael Kors and Emporio Armani, which have always worked well within Goldsmith stores too.

“A great aspect of boutique.Goldsmiths is there are always ‘hot’ brands we can maximise,” explains Bolton. “Our key objective is to stay ahead of these trends and understand what the next ‘big brand’ will be and ensure we are leading the market.

“We will always take the obvious winners and strong brands if we can, but equally we are now looking to grow the portfolio of brands ensuring we are first to market with many, rather than just following the trends already set.”

Bolton continues: “Ultimately though, we will focus on brands that add credibility to our business, those willing to offer us the partnership for the long term and those brands we feel sure will return on space and stock invested.”

With a solid store portfolio under its belt and a strong awareness of the latest and upcoming trends, it is inevitable that the boutique.Goldsmiths name will be cropping up in more locations soon — and along with it plenty of exciting brands.

Bolton concludes: “We are looking at a number of new brands right now and we will be visiting the jewellery shows in early 2016 to cast our net and see what exciting new and emerging brands we can test and bring to market.”

Tags : aurum groupboutique.goldsmithsCraig Boltonfashion jewelleryGoldsmithsLinks of LondonSwarovksiThomas Sabo

The author Stacey Hailes

Editor, Professional Jeweller

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