The Norwich jeweller on becoming a destination jewellery store.
Sophie Fulford became managing director of Winsor Bishop and its Pandora store in 2011, and has since excelled in providing an international, luxury shopping experience from the heart of Norwich. She was named a named a Ti Sento Retail Star in this year’s Professional Jeweller Hot 100 2012 in association with The Company of Master Jewellers.
Professional Jeweller: Winsor Bishop has undergone some big changes in the past year – what have been your highlights?
Sophie Fulford: Highlights of this year definitely include our amazing refurbished and expanded store now giving us up to 70% more retail space. We’ve included a Rolex salon, Patek salon, Breitling salon and Panerai salon which is their first in the UK outside of their own boutiques. We’re now rolling out the same for Omega, Bremont and Tag Heuer. We’re also opening our bridal boutique upstairs. I feel very proud that it’s something we started planning a long time ago and now seeing the doors opening and the rise of new customers being registered is great. For me personally, the highlight has been finding our lifetime dream home. My husband and I have been looking for so long and with various hurdles and managing the timing of it all we are in.
PJ: With expansion and keeping so many brands happy, what kind of hurdles have you faced this year?
SF: I think the main challenges have come from managing the change internally. We’ve restructured to allow for the growth, and we have a Pandora business which is the UK’s number one store, to include as well. Planning and budgeting very, very carefully is the key, but rolling it out takes sometimes longer than you’d hope for the changes to be right and to become comfortable.
PJ: Tell us more about the extension to the store and what it has added to your business…
SF: We are a destination store, and to ensure we are providing the experience customers expect, and receive globally, we had to make a decision. This came about just as the economy was diving and so it was a big gamble financially but we have come out the other side glowing. We can match, if not beat, what clients see and experience in Bond Street, London or Fifth Avenue, New York. The trick is ensuring we have the right products to match the ever changing demands.
PJ: Your background has been varied, and has included everything from selling houses internationally to shadowing on the shop floor to get a true feel of selling jewellery. How would you describe your approach to work today?
SF: Immediate is probably the best word to describe me. I’m quite impatient and once a decision has been made to make a change, I like to see it happen as soon as possible. I don’t believe in sitting and waiting, because if you do that in today’s market, you are going to fall behind very quickly. Retail is not the same as it was five years ago, or even three years ago and so the ability to change and adapt is absolutely critical. I work very closely with my senior management team and we discuss things together daily. I will always take into account their opinions on a particular situation, and then I make a decision based on what I feel is the best route for the business.
PJ: With a new house and young children, how do you manage your work-life balance and how do you relax off the job?
SF: It’s hard to switch off, and emails come in 24/7. But I do relax, and I ensure that I have time prioritised for my family because they come before anything else in my world. I recognise that in order for me to operate in the most efficient and effective manner, I need to take time out, and that might be having breakfast with my son and coming into work a bit later than normal, or it might be cooking something at home or literally walking around Norwich Market for 10 minutes for some time out. When it’s your own business, and you do not have older family to support you it can be fairly isolating at times but I consider myself exceptionally fortunate and always at the back of my mind is that I must succeed in order to protect my own family and the 50+ employees we have.
PJ: Dare you reveal any of your plans for Winso Bishop in 2013?
SF: To consolidate. We have had a lot of growth and change for an independent business, and for the next 12 months we’ll be consolidating all of that and really strengthening our offering. But I have plans for 2014 which I’m already excited about