Delegates find speakers and subjects motivating at CMJ event.

The Company of Master Jewellers’ (CMJ) 2014 UK Jewellery Conference has drawn positive feedback from attendees at the close of the first day of the event in Birmingham.

The UK Jewellery Conference is designed to bring together key industry retailers, suppliers, designers and business leaders for talks and discussions centred on topics pertinent to the UK industry. 


This year’s event takes the theme of Brilliant Together, chosen by the CMJ to represent the relationships between its suppliers, retailers and the growth of the buying group already reported in 2014.

The first day of the conference, held at the Birmingham Hilton Metropole, opened with a focus on the precious metals and financial markets, with Birmingham Assay Office chief executive and assay master Stella Layton presenting the changing metal price trends and the factors impacting jewellery retail.

Richard Pope of the Work Place Pensions Bureau heeded a warning to company bosses, recommending that businesses begin the process on opting-in employees for the Work Place Pensions Scheme, or face a race to the finish line and potential fines in the coming years.

Andrew McMillan of Engaging Service presented an inspiring talk for retailers about creating and understanding their brand message and the aims of the business, which in turn should influence and uphold leading customer service.

The afternoon session kicked off with a panel discussion as to what makes a good supplier, featuring Edward Ferris of SWAG, Helen Dimmick of Green + Benz, Dave Clark of W.E. Clark & Son, and Michael Aldridge of Neil and Barker. Opinions raised included the need for better communication between suppliers and retailers, being clear with terms and contracts, and having bestsellers in stock and ready to ship as soon as they are needed by retailers.

The panel discussion was followed by the keynote speaker of the day, Gerald Ratner, who discussed his rise and fall in the jewellery business, and his decision to return to the trade through online jewellery retail. He spoke openly about his dealings with the media and the banks following his infamous gaffe presenting to the Institute of Directors at the Albert Hall in the early 1990s, which led to the decline of the Ratners business. He also revealed what made him "get out of bed" after seven years, to return to the trade working with a Mumbai-based businessman to launch online gold jewellery retail site, Gerald Online.

Thereafter was speaker Damian Hughes, who focused on inspiring change within SMEs through recognising negative behaviours and acting on them positively, while also facing change or implementing new ideas head on, rather than fearing ridicule or pessimistic responses from business partners or employees.

The first day closed with the Grill Willie session, where attendees were able to put forward open questions for the CMJ chief executive. Topics covered during the session included the opportunities for retailers to grow through bridal jewellery sales, the potential expansion of the CMJ into Europe, data analysis for retailers and buyers, and succession planning within the organisation.

Overall feedback from the delegates revealed that the day had been inspiring and motivational, in particular with its timing just ahead of Christmas when many businesses are putting final marketing and sales plans into place.

Allison Aldridge of Neil and Barker described the day as enjoyable and interesting, while Matt Ryan of Matthew Stephens in Limerick said the talks had been inspiring from a retail perspective, noting that Damian Hughes’ speech was especially motivational end to the day.

Willie Hamilton told Professional Jeweller that the day had been a success, though there was a need for even more attendees. During the Grill Willie session he stated: "Today has offered incredible value for money for second-to-none speakers, and no one else is doing this [conference] in the UK, but there is a real apathy from members of the industry about attending. This room should be twice the size."

A spot poll taken at the close of the first day revealed that, of the delegates present, 97% said they would return to the UK Jewellery Conference in 2015.