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Articles from JEWELLERY BOXES / POUCHES (13 Articles), PACKAGING / WRAPPING (9 Articles), SHOWCASES (3 Articles)

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What's in the box

Retailers who choose to stock branded jewellery can expect a dazzling array of value-added products and services as suppliers push to capture a share of this hotly contested emerging sector. NICK LORD takes a look at what the market leaders are offering.

NSW retailer Esterich Jewellers is relatively new to the branded jewellery scene, but general manager Mel Howet is well and truly converted.

"We didn't always carry brands," Howet says of the store that now features Guess Jewellery, Lovelinks by Pastiche, Thomas Sabo, and the omnipotent Pandora range among its vast inventory. "Last year we decided to become more brand-orientated simply because the customers wanted it more."

Esterich Jewellers is certainly not the only store expanding its range to feature brands alongside existing unbranded staples. In just a few short years, the thick wall of indifference that met new brands has given way to a feverish and giddy opportunism that has stores now re-writing their bottom line on the strength of their branded product -where previously they were facing potential closure.

Such an enthusiastic embrace didn't happen overnight, however - Australian jewellery retailers are a conservative lot, not inclined to punt on new trends without firstly witnessing some positive affirmation. In fact, it wasn't until the emergence of Pandora Jewelry's extensive, adaptable and collectible charm bracelet that branded jewellery finally had the catalyst it so desperately needed.

Pandora's rethink of the traditional charm staple became a phenomenon not just in Australia but all over the world, opening the wallets of consumers and, thusly, the hearts of stores everywhere.

Yet Pandora merely cracked the dyke, causing a deluge of brands to burst forth, drenching consumers with each one's own unique message and aspirational hook.

Consumers are not only getting used to brands; they are demanding them - a point Howet exemplifies by stating, "About 30 per cent of our stock is branded, yet it accounts for probably 60 per cent of our total sales."

The explosion in the number of brands has led to a proportionate boom in the breadth and detail of the packages that branded suppliers now offer to retailers. Long gone are the days where stores would receive two posters with every box of watches bought. Display material and packaging is today just the beginning of a package that can extend to include on-site training in both the selling and the display of the product; a total customer service solution with same-day order processing and product servicing; massive marketing promotions across multiple mediums that cost the retailer nothing; and even tower display cabinets in which the supplier will change the light globes!

Paradoxically, the rise in supplier support is not because of retailer expectation - one might even suggest that limited experience with brands has retailers unaware or at least undemanding of the types of value-added services existing in other luxury goods sectors. No, this rise is generated by the suppliers themselves, attempting to differentiate themselves from the wave of competitors.

"Our services definitely helped in the beginning," says Jeff Burnes, marketing manager, Pandora Australia. "In some ways, they are essential because of the differences of the product. Because retailers were unfamiliar with it, they didn't understand how they were going to sell it. What we provide to the retailers plays an important part in helping them to embrace the Pandora brand. It is the differentiator that sets us apart from the rest."

Retailers who apply to stock Pandora, and who are accepted, can measure their commitment by becoming either gold, silver or white stockists - a decision that determines the amount of stock they carry but not the level of training they receive.

"When retailers start stocking Pandora, they receive a whole kit of support information that contains everything they need to sell the ranges. It's not just images and product information. It's a basic building block of information in which we include things we believe should be helpful, such as ways to do the visual merchandising, and how to work within a store's particular surroundings, such as a narrow window space, for example," Burnes says.

From there, retailers gain access to what can only be described as an endless sea of promotional support, way too much to be listed here, but Burnes summarises: "Retailers receive the suite of packaging: wrapping paper, ribbons, gift boxes for earrings, rings, bracelets and beads, as well as little envelopes to carry individual beads; they also receive point-of-sale (POS) and window images that are periodically refreshed to encourage display changes; our reps are available to the retailers anytime - all the time - so if they have a particular issue when things aren't working for them, they might invite the reps in to have a look around; we have visual merchandising people who will also help them with displays; we launch product twice a year and educate retailers with emails that include images and copies of any editorial in fashion magazines; we run buying days, where we invite retailers to our head office and make lots of information available to them; we're constantly upgrading our own literature, and communicating with the retailers, because the range is huge and there are always different areas to focus on; we do a newsletter to keep them abreast with all sorts of things; and finally, we provide a celebration calendar to remind retailers of forthcoming special events, supplementing this with POS images and promotions to display in-store."

As with the initial information kit, Pandora's blanket service coverage means everyone gains access to it, irrespective of the scale of their involvement. This creates a sense of national unity that is, according to Burnes, "essential to keeping brand image as strong and recognisable as possible".

One reason for the blanket coverage is to ensure Pandora's image is maintained at every retailer, not just at those who are participating on a larger scale.

"Consumers should be able to look at any retailer and instantly recognise it as a Pandora outlet," Burnes says, "so training and materials are about keeping our branding strong and recognisable."

Maintaining the consistency of the brand's unique message is so important to Pandora, that the business offers a graphic-design service to assist in the creation of ads for retail stores. "We have a dedicated marketing department that puts together retailer ads," Burns explains. "Ads have the same look and feel as the national Pandora ads, allowing retailers to truly leverage Pandora's strong brand image to promote their own stores. Naturally, it's our most popular service."

There's industry-wide acceptance that Pandora has been a major player in opening the minds of consumers and retailers to branded jewellery but, as Phil Edwards, director of Thomas Sabo distributor Duraflex Group Australia, says, it hasn't taken long for other brands to entice retailers with their own unique spin: "Pandora has educated jewellers on the power of the brand, and there's no denying that Pandora has been that leader of brand education, but it is very interesting to see jewellers now acknowledging the power of the brand. Thomas Sabo is still very new into the market, but already consumers see the Thomas Sabo branding which includes the black and white striping and say, 'Wow, they've got Thomas Sabo!' That's a powerful and exciting development."

Guess is another brand with a reputation for providing profound retailer support that incorporates everything from in-in-depth product training to a profound marketing service.

"We show them how to set up, the new images and marketing available to them, why people want Guess and what it takes to sell the product," says Designa Accessories brand director Justin Veil. "It's a simple process but we hammer it non-stop into the retailers. If they're used to selling basic gold chains and rings, then the technical aspects of selling Guess is the first part we hit them with, followed by the fashionability of the product. The training sessions teach them about the industry, but particularly about fashion because a lot of jewellers are new to introducing fashion brands." Continued

Duraflex Group Australia

"We have our own poster printer and two graphic designers who work full time to pop out material for all of our brands. We can do vinyls, canvases, or whatever that shot needs - and we do it in-house. We're also one of the only brands to provide different product, and supporting images, every single quarter - not just twice a year," Veil continues, adding, "Even our retailers with the smallest Guess commitment have someone going in there every quarter.

Veil labels the vast package that Guess provides as "over-servicing", as if it indicates that the brand is going way beyond what is necessary; however, he insists that everything Guess provides is "integral" to the success of both brand and stockist.

"We like to consider ourselves at the forefront of service, so we've always offered over and above, but our services and support are integral," Veil says. "Guess doesn't just comply with the Chanel model and hope it sells; we have different stylings and our own unique strategy, which can sometimes freak new retailers out a bit. We over-service the accounts so that the 'freak out' doesn't happen. Once they realise that Guess is selling well for them, the over-servicing makes sense."

Surely, as the competition hots up, other branded suppliers are following suit, providing the same offerings and whittling down the advantage of both Guess and Pandora's service, right?

"Everyone supplies the basic poster and light-box image," Veil says, "but we supply it faster and across a wider range of varying sizes than anyone else, and we don't charge for any of it - not for POS material, light towers, mushrooms or cabinets. A full store-in-store will have entire concepts that we pay for."

Another way for brands to get an edge on the competition is to embrace technology, offering new ways to promote their product.

"As the world is rapidly heading towards digital visualisation to communicate with consumers, we have developed various in-store digital display solutions for our re-sellers," says Allan Cheng, director of sales, Opals Australia. "Our digital product trailer is designed to attract consumers with evocative imagery and music, displaying the natural beauty of opal and the workmanship of our jewellery.

Cheng says this can be viewed on a large-scale plasma or a small LCD display. Opals Australia can also customise digital display solutions for its stockists.

Lovelinks is another brand that utilises digital display frames and USB image devices in its promotional material. In addition, distributor Pastiche also has a dedicated Lovelinks website.

"Eighteen months ago, we launched and as a focused means of supporting our retailers," says Ciara Ryan, head of design and marketing, Pastiche. "Consumers can log-on, select beads, design bracelets and order beads directly from our retailers."

Ryan believes this establishes contact between retailers and consumers directly through the site and has proven successful in generating brand awareness and demand.

Veil admits that it's getting tougher to maintain a competitive advantage as other brands become savvier, but emphasises that Guess' success comes from an uncompromising level of service that smaller brands can't emulate: "It's getting harder to stay ahead of the pack but the economic tsunami has helped us keep our competitive advantage. A lot of our competitors have pulled back on their reps, but we've increased ours to deliberately over-service accounts and take that business."

Burnes agrees that a brand's size allows it to provide certain advantages that the others can't: "I don't think there are many companies that have this kind of proliferation - at least not Pandora's geographical spread. Certainly, there aren't many building their brands the way we are building ours."

Judging that enthusiasm for brands seems to be growing in direct proportion to the growth of their market-share, it's safe to say that branded jewellery is now woven permanently into the tapestry of the Australian jewellery industry.

"Retailers now understand the power of the brand," Edwards says. "The consumer awareness that is built upon a brand's POS packaging, display, advertising and service is converting into sales."

All that remains for retailers is to assess which brand presents the right mix of product and service for them and the only way to do that is to get out there and look at the vast array of what's on offer.


Branding benefits

Many advantages are available to suppliers who choose to stock branded jewellery. Here are a few, though retailers should note that these benefits do not necessarily apply for every brand.

• The retailer benefits from operating under the name and reputation (brand image) of the brand, which is already well-established in the eye and mind of the public.

• The retailer will usually need less capital than if they were stocking a store solely with their own product because suppliers will have diluted unnecessary expenses.

• The brand can help retailers prepare plans for layouts, shopfitting and refurbishment, and provide general assistance in calculating the correct level and mix of stock for the opening launch of the business.

• The brand trains retailers in all areas associated with selling the product, such as its manufacture, history, brand message, marketing, promotion, point of sale and merchandising.

• The retailer receives the benefit on a national scale (if appropriate) of a particular brand's advertising and promotional activities at a lower cost than if they were to attempt such marketing themselves.

• The retailer can call on the specialised knowledge and experience of the brand's head office.

• The retailer has the services of the brand's own sales reps, there to assist with any problems that may arise in the course of stocking the product.

• The retailer may be able to use the brand's patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, and any secret processes or formulae to assist in their own in-store marketing.

• The retailer has the benefit of the brand's continuous research and development programs, designed to improve the business and keep it up-to-date and competitive.

• The brand provides a knowledge base developed from its own experience, as well as that of all the retailers in the system, which would otherwise be impossible for an independent business to access.

• Defined territories of operation within the brand's distribution chain can help protect the retailer from competition with other potential stockists.

• A retailer may be able to speak to their supplier or a fellow brand retailer to discuss their business challenges or problems.

Nick Lord
Contributing Editor • Jeweller Magazine

Nick Lord is Jeweller’s chief writer on matters concerning the precious metal and diamond markets. He is a former assistant editor and contributes articles on retail science and branding, and is a published novelist.
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