Australian distributor, Iconic Jewellery
Subtle shift to master distributor model
By Coleby Nicholson
There have been an unprecedented number of changes in distributors announced recently.
While it’s not uncommon for watch brands to change distributors from time to time, it seems that there is a subtle shift taking place in the supply side of the jewellery market.
It’s not unusual to see new products being introduced into an increasingly competitive jewellery market by way of local suppliers acquiring distribution or licensing rights to overseas brands. The only alternative for overseas companies if they want to launch a product in Australia and New Zealand is to establish a new company that handles the product as a stand-alone operation – either in the form of a subsidiary of the overseas company or a new business established specifically to handle local distribution.
What is interesting is that there seems to be a shift towards a ‘master distributor’ model in Australia as brand owners want to tap-into an existing sales and marketing network. The model is not new to the watch sector given a number of different watch brands are often distributed by one company but it appears to be gaining much more momentum in the jewellery sector with the advent of branded jewellery.
For instance – at the beginning of the year, Duraflex Group Australia relaunched Spinning Jewelry in Australia after acquiring exclusive distribution rights for the Danish brand. The new distribution agreement began in February and followed Duraflex’s coup in 2006 with highly successful German brand, Thomas Sabo. At the time of takeover, Spinning Jewelry had around 60 stockists but Spinning Jewelry believed Duraflex would help the brand reach its optimal growth potential. For Spinning Jewelry, it was about becoming part of Duraflex’s existing sales, marketing and distribution network and for Duraflex it was about economies of scale – the ability to offer a wider range of product to retailers.
Fast forward to June. Distribution rights for high-profile brand Trollbeads changed hands from Lili-Jane – now known as Webber & Tonkin – to Melbourne-based RJ Scanlan, which already distributes jewellery brands Dora and TeNo.
International brands may seek the expertise of local suppliers for their own ease but the moves of Spinning Jewelry and Trollbeads is mirrored in local brands that are also looking for a well-established, existing sales and distribution network. However, the reasons for doing so are often different and perhaps, a better business decision anyway.
Cotton & Co, an innovative jewellery designer and supplier, recently decided to establish a distribution relationship with Iconic Jewellery rather than continue in the tradition of handling all aspects of distribution itself. Head designer and managing director Michael Cotton said he came to the realisation that in order to be successful he needed to “remain fresh and find time to design new ranges and products.” Cotton’s aim was to remove anything that stood in the way of the creative process and has arranged for Iconic Jewellery to handle his sales and marketing. “They had all the existing relationships for national distribution, so it made sense for us to concentrate on product design and development and get experts in other areas to handle sales and marketing,” Cotton said.
Cotton is not the only jewellery designer who has recently come to the conclusion that his time can be better spent making jewellery. Sarah-Jane Adams of SJ Jewels agrees with the logic of sticking to what one does best and she also recently appointed Iconic to handle her Confidante Dolls range. “I am extremely passionate and focused. I want to concentrate on the creative aspect of jewellery so I decided to surround myself with experts in other important areas of the process. Iconic is an expert in all the areas I don’t have time to handle; marketing, sales, public relations and distribution.”
Iconic Jewellery’s national marketing manager Maria Vella acknowledges that Iconic has moved towards a master distributor role and symbolises a one-stop shop for retailers. “We have found that you can’t sell something unless it’s marketed properly and you can’t market something unless it’s sold properly,” Vella said. Iconic has assumed an almost ‘big brother’ role for smaller jewellery brands who want to maximise sales while concentrating on their core design strengths.
Another local supplier that is moving towards a master distributor role is family-operated Sams Watchmaker Jeweller. From its humble beginnings as a watch assembler, Sams has rebranded to Sams Group Australia and acquired the distribution of fashion jewellery brand Tresor Paris, RM Williams’ watches, the Peace Movement Watch, ring mounts and loose diamonds besides its trusted bread and butter brand Classique.
Astute business people recognise their strengths and weaknesses, so perhaps more smaller jewellery designers and suppliers will seek the services of third-party help in areas that they are not expert, or do not have the time to manage, so that they can concentrate on the creative process.
Posted November 08, 2011