Customisable jewellery brand, Engelsrufer, has appointed Guardian Brands as its new distributor for the United Kingdom.
Guardian Brands has been tasked with strengthening relationships with existing partners and opening new doors in the region. This will be done through offering full support, tailoring the brand’s offer to the UK market, and a hands-on customer service.
Owner and founder of Guardian Brands, Stewart Arvan, has over 30 years of experience in the watch and jewellery industry, alongside in-depth knowledge of both the retail and distribution aspects of the trade.
Here, he tells Professional Jeweller about his career to date and plans to bolster business for Engelsrufer in the UK alongside Goodman Bros (Connoisseurs).
Could you tell me a bit about your journey in the jewellery trade so far?
I have been involved in the watch and jewellery industry for over 25 years, both as a retailer and distributor. I commenced my career working with the largest jewellery chain in South Africa, where I developed what is now the largest watch house brand in South Africa. After seven years of retail and chain store experience I moved from buyer to supplier of watches and jewellery to both independent and chain stores. With my vast experience across both buying/supplying, I have a very good understanding of the requirements and challenges that both parties experience.
How did you come to sign an agreement to distribute Engelsrufer in the UK market?
At a chance encounter with my new business partners (Goodman Bros UK) in Basel in 2018, we discussed the possibility of me moving to the UK to start a jewellery distribution company which would complement their stable of brands. They had been pursuing the Engelsrufer brand for several years based on its worldwide success and felt that there was enormous potential for the brand in the UK and that it needed a totally focused approach in order to achieve its full potential. At the same time I was in discussions with an old friend and ex-business colleague, Greg Blanchfield, who was also moving to the UK and wanted to get involved in a business. We had worked together for many years in South Africa and knew that our skills complemented each other. One thing led to another and in the end we decided to go into business together and take on this very exciting opportunity with Goodman Bros.
Could you tell me about your company Guardian Brands and the vision for that business?
We created Guardian Brands with a vision of being the custodians of high quality, high perceived-value premium brands in the jewellery industry. We painstakingly assess the brands we represent and after researching the Engelsrufer brand, decided that it fitted our criteria for a jewellery brand. It has huge potential in the UK that we believe has not yet been achieved. Our underlying philosophy is to ensure that we develop long-lasting relationships with our retailers. Conversation, interaction and connection is what we believe is the key to our success. We believe that without face-to-face meeting time, not only do our brands suffer but so do our customers. The products we offer become intensely personal and that’s why we believe the entire experience should be that way too. Our objective is to increase our presence in the UK market and to establish Engelsrufer as one of the leading fashion brands by emulating the success of ER in Europe, partnering with key select retailers.
What has been the strategy for Engelsrufer since taking over?
Prior to agreeing to take on the brand I did several trips to the UK and visited a number of Engelsrufer stockists to find out what their experience with the brand had been and whether there was potential for it to grow in this country. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and every jeweller felt that the brand has enormous potential but required a more focused approach. Based on the feedback, it seemed imperative that initially our company should be focused on this brand only and that building close relationships with our customers and listening to what they required to be successful was imperative.
What’s the plan for the rest of the year?
Our focused approach on customer relationships and service delivery has already had a positive impact on our current customers and our hope is that this philosophy will be embraced by new customers. Goodman Bros have been supplying the UK jewellery market with Connoisseurs jewellery cleaner for over five years and have an extensive retail distribution network. They have well established and trusted relationships with key independent jewellers and will assist us in our attempt to introduce the brands to their customers. We are confident that the positive sell-through we have achieved with our current customers in little over two months can be replicated by our new retail partners.
Engelsrufer will actually have a new look and be renamed — could you talk us through that?
Our first strategic change was to re-brand Engelsrufer to ‘Angel Whisperer’, which we feel will resonate more with the UK consumer. New backboard visuals have been produced, which have been very well received by all jewellers. Another very important strategic change was to highlight and promote the number of unique collections the brand has to offer. We are encouraging our retail partners to support each collection and promote Angel Whisperer as a brand that offers the end consumer enough choice to become a loyal supporter. Each collection has its own emotional and spiritual meaning which will be clearly highlighted on all display stands with the introduction of informative ‘talker cards’ allowing the consumer to engage with the brand. It’s the number of emotional stories that made the brand so successful in Europe so we want to replicate that in the UK.
What support do you offer your retail partners?
By being a one brand company we are able to listen and react to our customers’ requirements. We have a dedicated sales manager in the office focused 100% on Angel Whisperer and giving our retailers the best possible service at all times. All retail partners will be supplied with new display material and new backboard visuals highlighting the name change. As part of the selling experience and creating a full understanding of the item of jewellery purchased, we also supply informative ‘scrolls’ for each emotional story, which the retailer ‘ties’ to the box of jewellery sold, thus re-enforcing the meaning of the jewellery inside. We have also selected a UK range which encompasses the bestselling models from each collection based on sell-through data received. This carefully selected assortment is always stocked in our warehouse for instant replenishment. We have also developed a SMI program (stock management program) which allows us to manage the stock levels of our customers to ensure high stock-turns, manage cash-flow and give the retailer best ROI.
What kind of stockists do you believe will work well with Engelsrufer in the UK?
Our initial focus has been on working very closely with all existing stockists. The encouraging sign is that the brand has been successful in high fashion jewellers competing with all the well known fashionable sterling silver brands as well as high fashion accessory retailers. We have also seen success with traditional jewellers. We firmly believe that if the brand is displayed and presented as a brand and not a category the results will follow. This has been the pattern with each and every jeweller that has supported our strategy.
How many doors would you like to see open by the end of the first 12 months?
We are not looking at the business as a ‘number of doors’ challenge. We see it more as identifying our end customer, ascertaining where they shop and making ourselves visible and available to them in those places, by partnering with and supporting the best local retailers.