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THE BIG INTERVIEW: Goldsmiths stores to sparkle after nationwide glow-up

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The effects of Covid-19 have been far-reaching in the world of luxury retail, and one change jewellers have been adapting to is a trend for higher average spend since stores first reopened in June 2020.

There is even concern in some quarters that the mid-range section of the market is seeing a drought of consumer spending.

Seemingly in reaction to this, a number of the nation’s big multi-site retailers have begun experiments to test the waters in the high-end jewellery arena. The latest to give their take on the new post-pandemic retail experience is Goldsmiths. What differs with Goldsmiths’ plans, though, is that they were made pre-pandemic.

The Watches of Switzerland Group retailer announced at a press event recently that it would be undertaking an extensive store redesign project that will eventually encompass all of its dozens of Goldsmiths sites – though will kick off across an initial seven sites in time for Christmas 2021, with Bristol’s Cribb’s Causeway up first, and Sheffield and Canterbury sites soon following.

The redesign will see the company change the layout and aesthetics of its sites, as well as introducing new products and features to stores too.

Explaining more about the thought process behind the project, Craig Bolton, UK executive director for Watches of Switzerland Group, says that the move is intended to allow customers of all budgets and backgrounds to have the Goldsmiths experience.

“Luxury today has become far more relaxed, inclusive and experiential,” he said, “so while we are elevating the Goldsmiths brand position, our goal is to make everyone feel valued and at home when visiting our stores.”

Goldsmiths stores, he revealed, will now be as much “somewhere you would like to hang out” as somewhere you would go to buy jewellery and watches.

This will inevitably mean luxury hospitality. One new addition is what Bolton calls “the runway”, a “flexible” area running from the entrance of every Goldsmiths. “The runway is designed to be a lounge area,” the UK executive director says, “so you’ll find soft furnishings there and you’ll find the multi-brand area there, so any watch brand that doesn’t have a shop-in-shop or a significant branded space would be in our counter locations within the runway space.

“That area is designed to be flexible, so we can lift the furniture out and have pop-up areas in there for a big jewellery launch or a big watch launch, for example. That means we can actually lift that space and put pop-up areas into it.”

There will also be the return of Goldsmiths’ hospitality bars. “These will offer a wide range of refreshments, and even real coffee machines,” Bolton enthuses. “I like the idea and the sound of coffee being made – that smell just has a calming feel about it.”

On top of all that, the largest Goldsmiths stores will even have dedicated VIP rooms and what Bolton describes as “after-sales and service lounges”. In the stores that do not have enough square footage for an entire room dedicated to these functions, the retailer will still set aside a dedicated space for them.

These are arguably the least significant changes to Goldsmiths, however. Next comes a complete overhaul of the branding and look. Bolton gives a breakdown of what aesthetic changes customers can expect: “When you look at it from the outside, typically Goldsmiths would have been brown and gold,” he says, “gold being one of our primary colours as a brand.

“We don’t want to lose that but it is becoming more of an internal colour that we’ll have through our soft furnishings and the various elements of the store. We won’t lose that as a primary colour, but it’s more black and white from the outside.”

This, Bolton says, is intended to give the sites a feeling of modern luxury.

Also gone is the year of Goldsmiths’ founding from its logo. “We’ve taken our 1778 off the logo, yes,” Bolton clarifies, “so it will just be ‘Goldsmiths’ going forward. This is not at all because we’re not proud of our history – of course we are – but it makes the logo look a bit more aesthetically pleasing, a little bit simpler and more modern.”

Meanwhile, inside the stores, perhaps the most significant layout change is in the positioning of the company’s watch and jewellery selections.

Until now, Bolton explains, Goldsmiths has not had a clear delineation between its jewellery and its watches in-store; the two product categories have sat side by side.

“Typically with designer jewellery stores you will find watches down one side and jewellery down another,” Bolton explains. “The same has been true of Goldsmiths until now. The two were connected in one way or another: if you were looking at watches, you could easily see the jewellery on the other side of the store.”

Now, however, that layout is gone. “We’ve changed that layout fairly significantly. Now you will go into our stores and see luxury watches at the front on both sides. Now what we’ve got is jewellery in the back of the store and watches at the front, both having very specific, dedicated areas that I think works very, very well.”

Before jewellery fans get too concerned, though, Bolton adds: “That’s not at all to discount jewellery – quite the opposite actually. It’s to give it a much more specific area that’s designed in a slightly different fixture level, maybe a little bit more feminine than the first part of the store, which would be more masculine from a watch standpoint.”

The obvious question is: does the new emphasis the retailer has put on watches reflect the sales volume of that segment compared to jewellery? Bolton confirms that Goldsmiths does indeed sell more watches than jewellery.

“We love our jewellery and we love our watches,” Bolton begins, “and we love our repairs and product services too. They all have a significant part to play within our business.”

Nevertheless, Bolton is happy to admit that watches make up more than 80% of Watches of Switzerland Group’s revenue.

“Obviously Watches of Switzerland stores spike that number,” he says, but admits: “In the Goldsmiths stores I’d say it’s less than 80% for watches, but still a significant part of our business and one that deserves that kind of front-and-centre attention.”

Another reason to put watches at the front of the shop is the recognisability of the brands. The pulling power of names like Rolex cannot be understated, and Goldsmiths may be wise to utilise that.

Bolton explains: “The brands obviously have significant awareness so there’s no reason for us not to use that and to play with that. Bringing them to the forefront does that job, but actually by mixing jewellery with watches it de-emphasises jewellery and equally dilutes watches.”

For this reason, Bolton believes that in placing jewellery at the back of the store Goldsmiths is not taking anything away from it, but actually shining a greater spotlight on it.

“This dedicated, luxurious jewellery area in the back of our store will be very visible when you walk in,” he says, continuing, “straight ahead of you in every one of our new stores you will see jewellery underneath the Goldsmiths name. That’s our brand and that’s our branded area.

“We’ve done a great job of segregating the areas to play to the strengths of those particular product categories without de-emphasising any of them. I think if anything it’s enhanced all of those more than they would have ever been before.”

With all this change, readers would be forgiven for asking whether Goldsmiths stores will even be immediately identifiable to the consumer after the change. Bolton believes so: “It really is quite a quite a change in terms of layout,” he allows.

“As you walk up to the stores, though, you will still recognise it as being a Goldsmiths – the only difference is you will feel that it is completely elevated from where it was before.”

Elevating Goldsmiths
The executive director has detailed what the new stores will look like but is equally keen to talk about the behind-the-scenes work that went into this redesign.

“We’ve spent a lot of time developing Goldsmiths since 2014 and it has evolved as a brand in many different ways, but it felt like we’ve done a lot of work with Mayors in the US, we’ve done a lot of work with the design of Watches of Switzerland and Mappin & Webb in the UK, but we hadn’t really revolutionised the Goldsmiths brand, so it felt like the right time to do that.”

Rather than being an idea conceived during the dark days of lockdown, the store revamp project pre-dates the pandemic. Covid-19 and the many consequent lockdowns actually delayed Goldsmiths’ plans, but Bolton is not resentful about that.

On the contrary, he believes it simply gave the company more time to refine its plans.

He says: “All it meant was that we’ve had a lot of time to work on the design, a lot of time to tweak it as much as we wanted to, and now we feel really confident with what it looks like and how it’s going to feel for our clients and for our team.

“So if anything, the delay caused by the pandemic probably allowed us to develop the idea more fully before putting it into practice.”

One aspect of the planning that Bolton particularly appreciated having time to deliberate on was the decision of which company to bring in for the design.

Instead of rushing this process, Goldsmiths selected two design businesses – one from the UK and another from the US – and gave them the chance to win the contract with their responses to the jeweller’s brief.

While the retailer went with old favourite Quadrant Design in the end, with whom it has worked for more than 12 years, Bolton is happy that he was able to test the waters and see what else was out there. What is more, he says that the contest was a close-run thing.

“We gave them both the same brief,” the UK executive director reveals, “and they came back with very different articulations of that brief.

“From day one we genuinely loved the design Quadrant came back with, though they insist the power is in the initial brief which we worked very hard to get right.”

Goldsmiths did research on how its product categories were retailed, how its brands wanted to be represented, how shop staff wanted to retail and also what clients were hoping to see.

“We spent a couple of months in total working on a brief that we could then give to the winning design company,” says Bolton.

The brief specified that the concept had to work in both Goldsmiths’ larger stores of around 3,500 square feet and its smaller sites of less than half that.

Another requirement that was important to the retailer was that its stores not be intimidating to potential customers.

Bolton says: “I think we in the industry forget that actually watch and jewellery businesses can be quite intimidating. When you see some of these big brands in the window, perhaps with big price tags, I don’t think everybody feels comfortable coming into that environment.

“I know I didn’t before I joined the industry. So we wanted to create an environment that was clearly unintimidating so that people can just come in and browse without even having any interaction if they don’t want that interaction.”

In praise of the design company once more, Bolton sums up: “Quadrant really nailed the brief in our opinion, and their take on it didn’t really need much tweaking because their response to the brief was so accurate. They did a great job.”

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