After three months of unprecedented hot weather, the heavens decided to open just as Professional Jeweller got in the car to drive to Wales.
Across the duration of two days, our editor experienced both rain and shine, with jewellers joking that this was a more authentic representation of the city.
As the country’s capital, Cardiff is a hub for entertainment, sports, and, of course, shopping.
Arriving in the city for the very first time, it’s hard to fully appreciate the changes Cardiff has experienced over the last ten years, but it’s clear from talking to jewellers on the high street that the shopping landscape has changed since the arrival of Cardiff’s biggest shopping centre — St David’s Dewi Sant.
Today Cardiff has two main shopping areas opposite each other — the main high street, where St David’s is located next to another shopping centre called the Queen’s Arcade, and the Victorian Arcades, which connects the vibrant retail and entertainment scene with the not-so busy St Mary Street.
The majority of jewellers are either on the main high street or in one of the arcades, with multiples and modern independents at large in the shopping centres, and more traditional jewellers trading in the latter.
Making Cardiff standout from other nearby high streets, the renowned arcades have been attracting shoppers for over a century with an eclectic mix of independent businesses.
Made up of three main arcades – the Morgan Arcade, Castle Arcade, and High Street Arcade – these covered shopping areas add a charm to the city’s high street, and it is no small wonder that many independent jewellers have chosen to trade in them.
From the city’s oldest jewellery retail store, to contemporary goldsmiths championing bespoke, jewellery retailers are in great company amongst independent clothes stores, renowned tea rooms, and places perfect for finding unique gifts.
Opposite the arcades independently-run Christopher George Jewellers is located in the Queen’s Arcade shopping centre, alongside national retailer F. Hinds, while the likes of Laings, Crouch (owned by Fraser Hart), Swarovski, Pandora, Thomas Sabo and Clogau all close to each other in the adjoining St David’s shopping centre.
The completed St David’s shopping space opened its doors a little under ten years ago and is the eleventh largest shopping centre in the UK.
While for those trading inside its perimeters are reaping the rewards of a modern, first-class centre, its arrival has changed the flow of the high street and made other businesses in the area have to fight harder for every pound and continue to drum up loyal trade.
“Cardiff is a beautiful city and a real hub for shopping in Wales,” shares Clare Baldwin, a goldsmith at arcade-based independent jewellery store Brooklinde. “Being an independent business we wanted a location that matched our individuality. The historic arcades, near Cardiff Castle, are packed with character and suited us perfectly.”
She adds: “We went through a quieter period in regards to footfall when John Lewis and a large new arcade came to Cardiff, changing the shopping focus to a slightly different area of Cardiff town centre, but our customers have always made a point of finding us because of our reputation and more recently our numerous 5 star Google reviews.”
Baldwin explains there has been a real push lately to regenerate the arcade Brooklinde is located in, which has attracted a variety of new businesses and bolstered football, alongside pulling in new customers
In the Morgan Arcade the unit at the end nearest St Mary Street has been occupied by a jewellers since 1896, and for the last 38 years has been run as Jonathan David Jewellers.
Managing director, Jonathan Hughes-Lewis, tells Professional Jeweller that while his business has not necessarily been impacted by recent developments in the city, the new shopping centre and John Lewis has certainly altered the high street, with work in other areas including pedestrianizing streets and welcoming the BBC, has taken its toll too.
“We have probably had 12 or so years of development going on around us, so the landscape has changed so much,” shares Hughes-Lewis. “But for the long term, it should be good. We’ve got the BBC and new train station being developed and once that is done we will be in the middle of everything.”
The store managing director continues: “We could have moved but we’ve never felt we’ve needed to because we’ve been doing the figures. And there is nowhere else in the city we can go with the same kind of look and feel as this shop. So we’re always going to stay here.”
Outside of the arcade, businesses in the city’s older shopping centre have seen a drop in footfall despite the two being attached.
“We are in the Queens Arcade centre and the opening of the St David’s centre has taken footfall away from our centre for sure,” explains sales development director for F. Hinds, Jeremy Hinds. He continues: “However, although it’s not the high end centre in Cardiff, it does fit our value proposition well.”
Christopher George Jewellers manager, Alun Williams, adds: “We are in a good location but the town has shifted slightly over the years.
“Queen’s Street Arcade was built about 20 years ago, and then St David’s has been added on to it. So it’s a great location, and we have people walking through – because there are still big names here – and it links to the other shopping centre.”
The Cardiff Charm
On the whole business appears positive in Cardiff, with no jeweller mentioning Brexit or low footfall as a real concern.
With all the major events in Wales happening in the city, there’s plenty of reasons for people to keep coming into the centre and spending money.
Christopher George Jewellers is a prime example of a retailer not letting a shift in the way people shop in the city impact business.
Instead, it excels in customer service, and has a product mix which attracts a wide ranges of ages into store.
The manager explains: “We try to get a good mixture of what everyone is after. We do a good bridal range, and try and bring in some of the newer brands the younger generation are looking because it is all very well and good us looking after our old customers that have been coming to us for years and years, but they are getting older, and we need to bring the newer people in as well.
“The likes of Nomination have dropped our demographic, and we’ve got people coming here and getting confident with the service we give to everybody from the affordable products to the high-end diamonds. So they come along at a younger age, then they build a relationship with us, and then when they want to go to a jewellers they trust they know of us and remember the good service they had in the past.”
At multiple jewellery retailer F Hinds, customer service keep shoppers coming back for more.
“We have always had great staff in our Welsh stores and especially in Cardiff, they are very loyal and hard working,” shares Jeremy Hinds, adding: “We pride ourselves on offering unrivalled customer service, our manager Kevin (with his amazing collection of waistcoats) has worked for Hinds’ across Wales and for many years.”
In St David’s competition is fierce, especially as the majority of jewellers are located together in the shopping centre’s very own jewellery quarter.
In the centre of the jewellery store crossroad, Clogau has a branded boutique, which attracts customers from all over the world.
Being a Welsh brand, Clogau is known and loved in the city, and shoppers can pop into store to buy a quick silver purchase, or enjoy a glass of champagne and sit-down service.
Clogau store manager, Owen Scull, tells Professional Jeweller: “The store has been here since November 2013, so about five years, and we’ve been quite successful here.
“We were one of the first Clogau boutiques and we’ve gone from strength to strength. We get people coming in from all over the world. It is a well-known worldwide brand and visitors recognise it when they come to Cardiff.”
At the entrance of the centre jewellery crossroads Laings Jewellers is located in a prime position, with two entrances — one which can be assessed from outside, and the other inside. “Where we’re located is seen as a destination hub with other jewellers and luxury retailers nearby, it’s definitely a corner of the centre that sparkles,” reveals the family-owned jeweller’s diamond supervisor, Angela Copp.
She adds on business this year: “Like most places there are certain challenges facing retail at the moment, however due to our re-fit earlier in the year we’ve certainly seen a boost in business. The luxurious and much more open design of the shop has created an indulgent atmosphere that shoppers really enjoy visiting. It’s also been an incredible summer with lots of sunshine and happy shoppers milling about, contributing to the number of visitors we had in store.”
With the union of Laings and Laings of Glasgow, the family-owned Group has been re-branding its stores to make sure they all have the same identity and can move forward as one network.
In Cardiff, the re-merge of the two family businesses meant not only a new look and feel, but also a brand new name as well.
Previously known as Parkhouse in Cardiff, the luxury jewellery boutique now proudly says ‘Laings’ above the door.
While it will take time for customers to understand the name change, a fresh new store look has been pulling in customers new and old, while the experienced team has left people wanting to return again and again.
Coop shares: “Laings Cardiff has been through a big change this year with our amazing refurbishment. The store has been transformed, creating a much more open and light space. We’ve always aimed to treat our customers to a luxurious experience and the indulgent surroundings definitely set the scene.”
Outside of the shopping centre Professional Jeweller spoke with two businesses that really stood out.
In the High Street Arcade Brooklinde Designer Goldsmiths offers contemporary handmade pieces.
Owned by local couple Rob and Irene Linder, Brooklinde has established a booming business, which, due to countless referrals, has an extremely loyal customer following.
“Contemporary handmade jewellery made onsite with great customer care and communication is our main priority,” shares goldsmith Clare Baldwin.
“We are one of the very few jewellers in Cardiff to have four designer goldsmiths on-site. Taking the time with customer to go through mock ups, sketching, CAD – whatever it takes to get the design right – before we make or remodel their unique piece of jewellery is an essential part of what we do and is what brings customers back time and time again.”
Over in the Morgan Arcade, Jonathan David Jewellers thrives on being a traditional business.
While the word ‘traditional’ can quite often be used as a negative in the jewellery industry, Jonathan David Jewellers represents all that a traditional jewellers should be — one that is not afraid to move with the times and develop to meet new consumer demands, but is confident in its offering and stays true to its roots.
When asked what the store’s unique selling point is in the city, Hughes-Lewis responds: “We’ve got an on-site goldsmith and on-site watchmaker and that really sets us apart. If someone needs something sized, if it’s a sale it can be done within the hour. If they need something bespoke they can speak directly with our goldsmith. Also the fact that the store is a Victorian store.”
He continues: “It’s the fixtures, the furnishings, the stock that we choose, and it’s also the staff. All of our staff go above and beyond, it’s the customer service really that we focus on. The amount of people we get coming from the likes of Swansea and Bristol has grown over the last few years, I don’t know if it’s what we are doing that makes us a bit different, or the on-site goldsmith and watchmaker, we just try to create a theatre here really but that starts with the look of the shop and everything else tries to complement it really.”
When visiting, Jonathan David Jewellers had recently relaunched its website and was already seeing great results.
Having looked at the analytics the business realised it needed to be more mobile friendly and target its most frequent visitors — 25-34 year old females.
The managing director shares: “We ended up having to redesign the website, so it is more focused on women and has a more female touch to it, alongside being more mobile friendly. The new website has been up for two weeks, and we have trebled the visitors on a mobile device in a week. So it will be interesting to see how between now and Christmas it will drive footfall to the shop.
“Our whole website now has been designed to be a foot in the door to help get people into the shop, mainly to try and champion the high street. Everyone is moving away from the high street but we want to get them back on the high street.”
Looking ahead, Jonathan David Jewellers has planned campaigns for the lead up to Christmas to try and promote its product and services and encourage new people through its doors.
The jeweller is also focusing on the name above the door as well.
While the store itself has been in the city centre for a long time, many people know it as the ‘jewellery shop on the corner’ but the company now wants to make sure people know the name of the store they are shopping in too.
For other jewellers plans include Christmas parties and VIP customer events as everyone gears up for the festive trading period.
On the whole the jewellery retailers in Cardiff are very diverse, with many going the extra mile to make sure they stand out in a city with lots of competition.
As Cardiff continues to develop the jewellers are confident they will continue to thrive, and Professional Jeweller has no doubt they will.