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THE BIG INTERVIEW: C W Sellors reveals plans to boost business and raise the profile of British manufacturing

Ashbourne Boutique

C W Sellors is one of the UK’s leading family-run jewellers and this year it is celebrating 40 years in business.

Established in 1979, C W Sellors has long been at the forefront of the UK’s jewellery retail and manufacturing sectors.

Now in its second generation, the business employs over 150 people, including staff across 16 sites, and a team of specialists and in-house jewellery designers who work in the company’s main jewellery workshop in Ashbourne, Derbyshire.

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On the retail side, C W Sellors is known by consumers for selling a mixture of leading fashion and fine jewellery brands, alongside exclusive in-house collections adorned with British gemstones. Many would also argue that the stores offer an unrivalled design, repair, and valuation service due to the company’s expertise in manufacturing as well.

When it comes to creating jewellery, the business showcases a high-set of skills, with designs often featuring intricate details and unusual materials. For the 40th anniversary, C W Sellors even teamed up with prestigious luxury jewellery brand, Fabergé, to introduce an exclusive new collection featuring Derbyshire Blue John.

Here, managing director, Chris Sellors, and jewellery designer, Rebecca Sellors, tell Professional Jeweller about the company’s other plans to commemorate such a significant milestone, and discuss how business has been for C W Sellors over the last 12 months…

C W Sellors continues to be a leading family-run jewellery retailer, how has business been over the last 12 months in what many describe as challenging retail conditions?
As anyone in the retail jewellery sector will testify, we have all faced difficult trading conditions over recent times. Under the influence from many factors, as a business we have tackled the challenges head on and through a combination of general adaptability, investment in the right areas of the business, confidence in offering high quality British manufactured product and the core focus remaining on customer satisfaction, we remain buoyant and optimistic for the road ahead and wherever that will take us.

How have you been evolving the business to meet today’s consumer demands?
With buying habits changing, it wouldn’t be a surprise to hear our investment and development of our online offering has been the main change for the business. Back in 2004, we were one of the first independent jewellers to launch an ecommerce site when W Hamond went online with our Whitby Jet products. We were also one of the first independents to offer a bespoke portal for trade orders and whilst this was more of a slow build, we persisted and it has evolved into its current form.

Managing director, Chris Sellors.

What’s the biggest challenge you face as a British business right now?
The biggest challenge, which we also regard as a big opportunity, is that of maintaining and delivering quality British manufactured jewellery, with two iconic British gemstones in the face of increasing costs across all parts of our UK manufacturing and wider business, yet we are committed to remaining true to what is in our DNA and continue to build on our foundations which were established 40 years ago. Throughout our 150 employees across the workshop and boutiques we are passionate about the authenticity and heritage of our own product and it remains a constant and positive challenge to change and educate consumer perceptions and habits.

What is key to survival in today’s retail landscape?
There probably isn’t a one size fits all survival kit for companies in jewellery retail, for our own survival we will continue to offer something a little different whilst taking the customer on the best experience possible. Whether that be in-store, online, through our exclusive events, the shows we attend or the exciting development of our National Gemstone & Jewellery Design Centre.

How important is online to the C W Sellors business?
As the main growth of the business, the online extension of everything that we can offer is extremely important — as is how we use and combine this resource throughout our high street boutiques. We have invested heavily in personnel, premises and equipment to help this area function at its most optimal performance. In an increasingly crowded marketplace, the importance of being agile, adaptable and first is the key to any online success and we feel we have the right building blocks in place.

What plans do you have for the retail side of C W Sellors over the next 12 months or so?
In a turbulent retail environment, we are delighted to have recently opened the Museum of Whitby Jet — a £500,000 development which not only retails our handcrafted product, but offers an insight into the history and heritage of Whitby Jet, and is also home to Albert’s Eatery where customers can dine next to the world’s largest piece of Whitby Jet. The opening of this unique visitor destination in Whitby Town preceded the opening of a further retail boutique in the upcoming Derbyshire spa town of Buxton. We will continue to develop these two new and exciting parts of the business alongside what we can offer throughout our additional boutiques and online.

Do you have any plans to open new stores or revamp any of your existing portfolio?
With a current portfolio of 16 boutiques and manufacturing facilities we are constantly looking to add and develop what we can offer our customers. We have exciting plans already drawn up for our flagship stores and the ongoing development of our National Gemstone and Jewellery Design Centre will definitely keep the team busy.

W. Hamond Museum of Whitby Jet incorporating Albert’s Eatery.

This year marks 40 years in business, congratulations! How will you be celebrating?
Thank you. It was wonderful to celebrate our 40th year in business with an exclusive collaboration with Fabergé and the production of a very special Blue John jewellery collection. What made the collection extra special was the involvement of Chatsworth House – one of the first retailers of C W Sellors Blue John products – who played a part in the official launch of the collection.

What have been some of the most memorable moments over the last 40 years?
As a business, we have been lucky to have shared many memorable moments and achievements having been involved with some wonderful projects over the years. Special collections, collaborations and projects have made 40 years go by so quickly. From the opening of each of our 16 boutiques, to establishing Christmas Wishes – the UK’s largest Watch & Jewellery event at Chatsworth – through to gaining planning permission for our Carsington development, each hold a lasting memory. For Chris, the first sale, shop opening or order placed – and all those thereafter – continue to be special moments.

How do you plan to ensure the company’s legacy lives on for another 40 years?
As an independent and extended family business, throughout the company we have many passionate employees who are all driven to continue to raise the profile of British gemstones and manufacturing throughout the numerous commercial and educational channels we have at our disposal, or become involved with. A large part of our continued and long term legacy will be embedded in the National Gemstone & Jewellery Design Centre.

Jewellery designer and product development, Rebecca Sellors.

What makes C W Sellors special? How do you stand out in the UK jewellery industry?
Take a visit to our workshop and you will quickly see what makes us stand out. Bustling with creative and talented individuals, we remain one of largest UK jewellery manufacturers and who are still growing. Our manufacturing team, with its ability to adapt and willingness to take on any project, is the very heart of the business and, with a programme of training and development for new trainees wanting to come into the industry, it will hopefully  continue to remain what makes us special.

What’s been happening behind the scenes on the manufacturing front?
Alongside the development of our own jewellery designs, we continue to work on bespoke product collections across a range of accounts. Our partnership with Chatsworth House has seen the development of new products to tie in with their 2019 exhibition – The Dog – whilst working with other prestigious accounts. We are always looking for new challenges.

How has this side of the business been growing?
As mentioned, we are committed to the growth of this part of the business. As we build new skills and improve our technology, we will continue to raise the profile of British manufacturing. In addition to our own in-house training programme we have recently been working closely with the NAJ to promote all parts of the jewellery industry including involvement with WorldSkills UK LIVE — the nation’s largest skills and careers event.

C W Sellors is committed to raising the profile of British manufacturing.

How do you continue to push boundaries in design?
In the continuous development of our British gemstone designs we have great fun in creating pieces that realise the true value of our special gemstone resources. Whether it be our own incorporation of diamonds and other precious stones to sit alongside Derbyshire Blue John and Whitby Jet, or the collaborations such as those we have done with Fabergé with the two gemstones, we continue to raise the bar and push boundaries.

Going forward, what can people expect from the C W Sellors jewellery offer?
In addition to continuing to offer the highest standard of handcrafted, British manufactured jewellery pieces across a range of new and exciting gemstone designs, we are busy developing new designs in handmade chain which will be available later this year.

Anything else to add about business or upcoming projects?
Although still in the design and planning stage, we are looking forward to announcing a new collaboration with Fabergé. We are once again joining forces to bring British gemstones to the forefront of a global brand and will be launching a new Whitby Jet collection to celebrate the 160th anniversary of W Hamond in 2020. What this space!

Tags : british manufacturingC W Sellorschris sellorsFabergerebecca sellorswhitby jet
Stacey Hailes

The author Stacey Hailes

Editor, Professional Jeweller

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