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Euro brands still dominate

With the right balance of design, price point and consumer engagement, European jewellery brands continue their invasion Down Under. Emily Mobbs reports.
Ask someone to name characteristics that define Australian culture, and sandy beaches, kangaroos, barbeques, pavlovas, lamingtons, vegemite, thongs, “Stubbies” shorts and cork hats will no doubt all receive a mention.

These features might paint a familiar picture but it portrays a time gone by, and is not reminiscent of the new Australia. The same can be said of those living across the Tasman, albeit with jandals (and not thongs!) in tow.

Today, Australians and their Kiwi counterparts make up a fashion-conscious bunch, and there is no shortage of international brands, most notably those originating from Europe, trying to get in on the action.  Yes, Euro brands such as Zara and Topshop have been migrating south for quite a few years now but what’s interesting is that the influx is growing, rather than slowing.

Swedish fast-fashion giant H&M is the latest retailer to set up shop Down Under, opening its first store last month in Melbourne’s heritage-listed GPO building. The company has announced plans to open at least five more stores in Australia over the next 12 months.

In addition, apparel business COS, which is part of the H&M Group, recently announced it would launch its first store later this year in The Strand Melbourne arcade.

It’s a similar scenario in the jewellery and watch world, with a number of high-profile European brands such as Pandora, Thomas Sabo and Ice-Watch all achieving significant success in the local market. When Jeweller last featured its Euro Brands report two years ago, Europe’s economic turmoil, coupled with Australia’s relatively robust economy, was touted as one reason behind the influx of international players into the local market.

Two years later, Europe’s recovery from the Global Financial Crisis is underway and yet more brands enter the Australian marketplace, suggesting other motives are at play.

Retailer Brigitte Zollo, who runs Casa D’Oro in Adelaide as well as Aurum Fine Jewellery, which is located in Adelaide and Sydney, explains that the local market responds well to the distinctive design of jewellery ranges coming from Europe.

“We do have a strong focus on European brands in our stores for a few reasons, the main one being the design aesthetics. This is particularly so with the Danish brands that we carry, including Julie Sandlau, byBiehl and Ole Lynggaard,” she says. “I think that clients [consumers] these days are looking for beautiful and ‘everyday’ wearable jewellery that is not over the top in design.”

Zollo also says that the ranges she stocks incorporate vivid colour and encourage consumers to build upon their collections – two features that appeal to the Australian market.

“The European brands are very clever in the way they design their ranges, in that you can add to your existing pieces to change the look very easily. Clients [consumers] are looking for something different that they cannot find in every second store, and this is where the European brands fit in.”

Julie Sandlau
Julie Sandlau
Nikki Lissoni
Nikki Lissoni

Danish charm and bead group Pandora is considered one of the instigators of the branded jewellery movement in Australia. Like Zollo, the company’s Australian president David Allen believes Euro brands, particularly Danish Euro brands like Pandora are “very innovative and have a distinct design aesthetic which appeals to a broad international audience”.

Allen also comments that the strong and long-held association between European design and philosophy have assisted brands in their rise to fame.

Julie Sandlau, founder of her namesake business Julie Sandlau, explains that the appeal of Euro brands is based on an appreciation of the skills, quality and refined designs that have become synonymous with European jewellery.

“Europe is renowned for its culture, rich with artisans whose skills have been handed down from generation to generation. Many of the world’s oldest and most famous brands started in workshops throughout Europe with a small following of loyal customers,” she says.

For Chad Childs, owner of Chadwick’s Manufacturing Jewellers in Largs Bay, South Australia, much of the popularity of Euro brands can be credited to a marketing overhaul. He says jewellery and watches once targeted at the “upper class and older consumer” are now accessible for both young and old.

Childs, whose store carries lines such as Danish Design, Vostok-Europe, Guy Laroche and Zinzi, also believes price point is key to success.
“As a manufacturing jeweller looking at these products, the quality has lifted dramatically while still keeping that reasonable price,” he says. “Again, I think the younger generation, and I suppose older too, are starting to really see that in the product.”

Web connections
When comparing the difference in marketing strategies for European brands today with those two years ago, the use of the internet and its social media platforms seem to be a defining factor.

“The internet has been a major contributor to brand prominence as its accessibility allows consumers with greater exposure and awareness of brands,” Sandlau says. 

All suppliers contacted by Jeweller comment on the important role that social media plays in the interaction between brand and consumer, with many also highlighting the benefits for retailers.

“Social media is critical for any brand,” attests Larry Porter, chief executive of Ice-Watch distributor Bolt International. 

Story by Kranz & Ziegler
Story by Kranz & Ziegler
Julie Sandlau
Julie Sandlau

Originating from Belgium, Ice-Watch has more than five million Facebook fans a figure that Porter says makes it the most followed watch brand on the social network.

“The founder of Ice-Watch understood the importance of social media from day one and invested in building resources necessary to support this framework,” he explains, adding that the medium allows brands to build a direct connection with customers, and receive positive and negative feedback that can be included in future product development and/or awareness campaigns.

“The most critical aspect is to ensure rapid responses are provided when questions or comments are asked to effectively engage with one’s customers,” Porter advises.

Phil Edwards, managing director for Duraflex Group Australia, which supplies Dutch brand Nikki Lissoni, agrees that one of the charms of social media is that it is conducive to two-way communication.

“The official Nikki Lissoni Australia Facebook page and Instagram [account] were launched in 2013. The Facebook page is the primary platform of focus at this stage, used primarily to strengthen the relationship between the brand and fans,” he says, “but it is also a very effective way for us to share news and most importantly hear what our fans have to say.”

Lida FitzGerald, marketing and product development manager for Danish brand Story by Kranz & Ziegler, explains the business relied on social media during its initial launch in Australia early last year because it is “such a great way to disseminate information and show off the product”.

FitzGerald says that the brand has since received a great deal of exposure through its Facebook and Instagram pages. “It’s not only how we share our successes with our retail partners but it affirms our brand as a major player and lets people know where they can buy their Story pieces.”

Like Story, Eastern European watch brand Vostok-Europe is a relatively new entrant to the local market, also launching in 2013. Timesupply distributes the line and the company’s managing director Ken Abbott says social media plays a huge part in promoting the watches.

“Vostok-Europe utilises this medium, releasing information and news about events and keeping followers in the ‘buzz’ with regular updates,” Abbott explains. “There are always new posts – not just about the watches themselves but also about exciting sponsored sporting events and brand ambassadors, a great way to keep retailers and customers in the loop.”

Story by Kranz & Ziegler
Story by Kranz & Ziegler
Vostok- Europe
Vostok- Europe

From a retailer’s perspective, Zollo believes that while jewellers benefit from social media, there is still a need for traditional forms of advertising.

“People will come into the store and say they saw something on YouTube or Facebook and make enquiries about it,” she explains. “Having said that, I do find that the more traditional advertising in fashion and lifestyle magazines seems to better convert into actual sales.”

European lines undoubtedly have some of the most powerful and distinctive brands in the industry, immediately recognisable because of how determinedly they highlight their values and features through not only social media but also their point-of-sale (POS) material.

Suppliers listed targeted marketing and advertising support, innovative visual merchandising material and access to video clips as just a few of the reasons why Euro brands are winning over consumers.

Decisions, decisions
With so many Euro brands now available here, local consumers are presented with a sumptuous array of design choices. The challenge for jewellery retailers is which ones to stock.

Michel Hogan, independent brand analyst and founder of branding consultancy Brandology, says retailers must have a strong understanding of their customers and, consequently, carry products that “make up a story that they [retailers] can tell to capture and keep customers”.

“Even for retailers who are mostly a point of distribution for others, having a purpose at the foundation of what you do is critical,” she explains. “Your story is an important part of that and not having a story or point of view that you are supporting with your stock means you will find it difficult to build a loyal customer base who will come back over and over.”

Childs’ decision to stock certain Euro brands is in line with his philosophies and fits in well with what he describes as “a pretty trendy new-age store for a manufacturing jeweller”.

“We stock different products too and I think we have great success with that. People want new exciting things; they want to see movement, new product, new ideas and a product that would have been dubbed ridiculous 10 years ago but is now cool,” he says.

So really, Childs’ decision to stock Euro brands is to ensure his business remains at the forefront of jewellery trends.

“I think if you stay with the norm, you’ll be left behind,” he says. 

It’s a sentiment that is often heard in the jewellery industry, but one that is particularly relevant when discussing Euro brands whose march Down Under is still very much at full steam ahead.

Australian Euro Brand suppliers

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Saturday, 07 December, 2019 10:02am
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