Hockley Mint chief executive officer, Gary Wroe, reveals why speed, support and flexibility is key to survival…
How has business been at Hockley Mint this year?
The current climate is challenging, and many independent businesses are having to double their efforts for the same return. Our retail partners are experiencing the effects of an embattled high street. As a manufacturer and supplier, it is up to us to ensure we make their lives easier wherever possible, whether that is by streamlining the order process, increasing our bespoke offering or providing new products that entice consumers. Just before Christmas 2018, we started offering fully finished pieces across our entire Wedfit range with the customer’s choice of diamond and gemstones. This means pieces can go straight from our facility in Birmingham’s JQ to a retailer’s shop window. The last 12 months have been good for Hockley Mint and we are on a par with the previous 12 months. We have invested significantly in new equipment and technology, which is now going to take us into the future and allow us to offer the best service possible to our customers.
What changes have you been noticing in the trade?
Unfortunately, there are more retail stores closing and more manufacturers closing. It is hard to underestimate the impact that this will have on our Great British high street, but also on supply chains, general morale and innovation in our sector. It is not necessarily all doom and gloom though; we have seen a pleasing increase in the amount of bespoke work that arrives at Hockley Mint and a rise in the number of niche requests. Personalisation and customisation are not so much trends as the new normal for customers who are accustomed to having what they want, when they want it. Part of the benefit of being a UK manufacturer is that we can quickly respond to these bespoke and unusual requests in a customer-friendly time frame.
As we approach the second half of the year, what’s Hockley Mint focusing on?
Ahead of International Jewellery London we have been focusing on new ranges, specifically our Initials collection of letter pendants, the new 150-piece Embrace engagement and bridal jewellery collection, and the refreshed Pure Wedding Rings package, including a new wedding rings sample box and branded website. We are continually expanding our ranges, especially our Wedfit collection of mounts and fully finished pieces. Importantly, we want our customers to know that there are plenty of customisable and bespoke options available at Hockley Mint — all they need to do is speak to us. In the second half of the year we are also focusing on our internal IT systems — again the goal is to improve efficiency.
Could you talk about the decision to push British made even more?
This is the area that we excel in and has been the core ethos of our business for the last 60 years. To us, British Made means quality, consistency and innovation. When others reached overseas, we doubled down on ensuring Hockley Mint is forward-thinking and focused on quality craftsmanship and finishing. Being British Made has practical benefits too; our reaction times are much faster than our overseas competitors, we can offer a more flexible service, and we have complete control over the manufacturing process.
What’s the benefit for retailers if they choose British made products?
Buying products that are crafted in Britain supports the UK economy and bolsters UK job opportunities in our sector. This is essential for keeping jewellery-making skills alive in our historic manufacturing areas. Retailers can also feel confident in the product they are purchasing and can simply pick up the phone to speak to us — this combination of reliable service and quality product is important for successful, long-term relationships in the supply chain. As we are based in the UK, we know the needs of the market and can react accordingly. There are also no exchange rates or minimum quantities to contend with. When they work with us, retailers know exactly who they are dealing with. This is the true benefit of being British Made.
What are your clients telling you they need from you as a supplier at the moment?
Speed, support and flexibility. Long lead times are not practical in the internet age, which is why we continue to double down on our same-day services and fast delivery times. Our customers rely on us to support them with niche, bespoke requests or work with them to develop unique ranges. Our focus on quality doesn’t just start and end with manufacturing, but also covers customer service and the way in which we support our customers. Finally, flexibility is key. Suppliers must work with their customers on a one-on-one basis, as we all know one size does not fit all in today’s retail landscape.
In terms of products, what’s been selling well?
Platinum seems to be the star of the moment, across all product lines, especially as gold prices continue to soar. Solitaires are a mainstay and are perennially popular. When creating our new Embrace bridal jewellery collection our designers used the classic diamond solitaire as their creative starting point for engagement rings, earrings and pendants.