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INTERVIEW: Emmet Cummins one year on from joining CMJ mid-pandemic

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One year into his tenure as Company of Master Jewellers managing director, Emmet Cummins has not had the experience he might have hoped for, only meeting the team in person on a handful of occasions and settling for video calls with member companies.

However, with his new five-year plan already well underway, the CMJ and its retailers and suppliers are poised to thrive as lockdowns lift and normal life resumes, Cummins tells Professional Jeweller.

You became MD of the CMJ a year ago, in the midst of the pandemic. What was that like?

It was a challenging time but we knew members were going to require support, perhaps more than they ever had, so we quickly identified what they were going to need and began to deliver it.

We needed to become experts in areas unfamiliar to us such as PPE and Government support schemes but we managed it and were able to support our members through the year.

Brexit brought its own raft of complications, particularly for suppliers and for trade between the UK and Ireland.

It was also important we had an eye on the future and established what the CMJ wanted to deliver over the next few years so the board and management worked together to outline the objectives and strategic goals for the next five years.

Coming back to the year in question, it was fundamental we stayed in contact with our members through the year. As we now start to come out the other side, we have a bit more time to reflect on how the CMJ did.

It is ultimately our members that determine how we do and it is pleasing to have received positive comments and feedback from so many members.

You reduced the CMJ’s supplier base by around 35% earlier this year. Can you talk a bit more about that process, why it happened and how it will facilitate your strategy for growth?

It is never a pleasant situation to ask that a partnership comes to an end. We felt it was necessary for the benefit of our retail and supplier members and it wasn’t a decision we took lightly.

We had reached an unmanageable number of suppliers and couldn’t give any supplier a great service because we were stretched too far.

We also knew that categories were, in many cases, saturated with far too many suppliers and it meant that it was difficult for some suppliers to spread their wings and excel as part of their membership. This would have undoubtedly led suppliers to question the value of their membership.

We have now established a supplier membership that is much more manageable, and one we can proactively engage with to support each of their strategic objectives. We know what categories are at an optimum quantity, and we know the categories that need a little strengthening.

A review of our supplier base will occur annually. I don’t suspect such percentages will be required again but ensuring the base is optimum for both our suppliers’ benefit and that of our retailers will be the ultimate objective.

Did the CMJ achieve what it set out to do last year?

Our members tell us we did a fantastic job supporting them through a difficult year. We managed to support our retail members with investment and not make a loss.

It is imperative we manage the finances astutely – with the guidance of our experienced finance team, we did exactly that.

Brexit brought its own raft of complications, particularly for suppliers and for trade between the UK and Ireland”

Overall, we managed to navigate the many obstacles put in front of us.

We not only established our five-year roadmap but also implemented a lot of its foundations: the supplier review and rebase, the development programme we have commenced on B2C and B2B, the Retail Insight Report we produced, our improved communications and engagement solutions with our members, and our marketing campaigns, designed specifically to market insights, are all examples of the headstart we have built in Q1 ahead of the official Q2 launch of the strategy.

How do you envision your second 12 months in the role, and where do you hope the CMJ is at the end of that period?

The one thing missing from our lives last year was the ability to meet face to face.

Considering I started this role right at the beginning of the pandemic, I have only got to know a lot of our members via Teams and Zoom and have only met the CMJ team on a handful of occasions. So I aim to meet as many of the CMJ community and the wider industry on a face-to-face basis.

Outside of that, 2021 is about maintaining and building momentum. As a group we now live and breathe our strategy, and our goals and milestones are at the forefront of every engagement and action.

We talk all the time about the importance of achieving our goals for the members in this 12-month period because we don’t want to distract from the goals we have for 2022.

I envisage us being able to tick off the milestones we have set ourselves. I envisage us listening to our members, studying the market and tweaking and adapting our plans accordingly. And I envisage us having held a successful tradeshow event in Q1 next year.

PJ hears you are expanding the CMJ team. Can you talk about this?

We have recruited two new members to our management structure. They will be joining us in May.

One of our new team members will focus specifically on the second and third goals of our strategy.

Overall, we managed to navigate the many obstacles put in front of us”

Our other new team member will be pivotal in developing even further the advancements we made last year on networking, engagement and communication.

This will include a return to – as well as a new look at – our regional ‘Growth and Learning Network’ meetings and a trade event, planned for spring 2022.

We are determined to achieve our goals, and strengthening our team with expertise in these key areas is absolutely the right thing to do.

The team at the CMJ is nicely poised and ready to deliver our goals and the milestones for 2021 and 2022, which means there are some really exciting times ahead.

WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN FIVE YEARS?

Not long after joining the Company of Master Jewellers as managing director, Emmet Cummins introduced a new five-year strategy to make the organisation “the best and most relevant buying group in the independent watch and jewellery sector”. So how does the CMJ reach that lofty goal?

Firstly, suppliers “must have the elbow space and support to accelerate their product and brand strategies for the independent sector,” the MD says. “They must feel that their business is better and more successful because they are part of the CMJ.”

He moves on: “For retailers, access to suppliers as well as ensuring all categories of watches and jewellery are fairly represented is fundamental, as is ensuring these suppliers enable them to be competitive and appealing to the consumer. The first goal of our strategy centres around this.”

The next goal pertains to digital development – “B2C for our retailers and B2B for our suppliers and retailers,” Cummins explains. “It is also about other digital interactions such as our invoicing processes. We are determined to make sure this is market-leading and delivers new and unrivalled business gains.”

We want to play as significant a part as we can in driving the revenue and profit growth of both retailers and suppliers”

He goes on: “Our third goal defines a cultural shift, which will mean our decisions, day-to-day as well as longer term, will all be more determined by data and insights. It’s about applying a more commercial element to our approach without drowning out expertise and feedback from across the team and membership.”

Cummins concludes: “We want to play as significant a part as we can in driving the revenue and profit growth of both retailers and suppliers.

“We equally want to grow our retail membership because we believe it will benefit of our existing retail and supplier members.

“If we can illustrate to the wider market tangible gains and performances from our existing members then this will prove appealing to those not yet part of the group.”

Read the original interview with Emmet Cummins after he took over as CMJ MD last year:

THE BIG INTERVIEW: CMJ boss on taking the helm during unprecedented times

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