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Diva jewellery stores shutting down, or maybe not!

After a quick and meteoric rise, reaching 500 retail stores in less than 10 years, a question mark seems to hang over the future of Diva, the Australian fashion jewellery chain.

Confusion surrounds the operating status of Diva; the company’s website is non-operational and over recent times there has been a steady closure of Australian Diva stores, some changing to Lovisa outlets.

Diva is a fashion jewellery and accessory retail chain targeting teenage girls, while its “sister” chain, Lovisa, promotes itself as being able to “fill the void for high quality, fashion forward and directional jewellery.”

Both chains are part of BB Retail Capital (BBRC), a private investment company owned by Brett Blundy who is often described as a “retail king” or “retail entrepreneur”. Blundy regularly appears on magazine rich lists, with BRW estimating his wealth at $845 million in its 2013 report.

While a number of Diva stores have closed in recent months, with more shutting-up shop over the weekend - including its prominent location in Sydney’s Westfield Parramatta – the BBRC corporate website still boasts that the chain has, “over 500 stores in more than 20 countries – including China, Russia, Poland, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia & South Africa – our fashion designers scour the globe to create amazing collections for all our international markets”.

Diva page from the BB Retail Capital corporate website
Diva page from the BB Retail Capital corporate website

Although the Diva website has been non-operational for some time, its Facebook page, with more than 142,000 followers, is still live. Telephone calls made by Jeweller to various stores has resulted in confusing explanations about the future of the business.

While many Diva stores have closed and been converted to Lovisa outlets, Diva staff offered a variety of explanations about the group’s future. The most common explanations included: all Diva stores are closing down or, all Diva stores are changing to Lovisa.

Jeweller was also advised, “some stores are remaining open as Diva stores, some will close and others will change to Lovisa”, while a fourth, contradictory explanation was also offered; some Diva stores are changing over to “a completely new brand”.

Telephone calls to a number of Diva stores are now answered as “Lovisa”, while many other store phone lines have been disconnected or ring out.

Even more confusing is the fact that the official Diva Instagram page, with more than 13,000 followers, includes posts from consumers such as, “Diva has shut down” and “Can somebody please explain why Diva is shutting down? So confused!!”

Another customer replied, “I got told they were changing all Divas to either Lovisa or Bras N Things because there [sic] owned by the same company.”

The questions and uncertainty on the company’s social media page seem to have gone unanswered by Diva representatives.

A number of attempts were made by Jeweller to clarify the status and future of Diva with the BBRC head office, which was moved to Singapore in 2012, but the company did not respond.

Meteoric rise

Diva was launched in 2003 by husband and wife team, Colette and Mark Hayman, and two years later it had quickly expanded to 83 stores.

“Diva has shut down!!!” – Comment on Diva’s official Instagram page
“Diva has shut down!!!” – Comment on Diva’s official Instagram page

The business was subsequently sold to Brett Blundy in 2005 and by 2007, a further 72 stores had been opened taking the total to 131. The growth continued and by 2010, Jeweller’s State of the Industry Report recorded a further 35 per cent increase in store count, taking the total to more than 176 outlets across Australia and New Zealand.

BBRC’s retail expansion continued in 2010 when it established a “sister” fashion jewellery chain, Lovisa, and by December it had 35 stores.

The BBRC website states, “Storming into the market since April 2010, Lovisa was born from a desire to fill the void for high quality, fashion forward and directional jewellery and hair accessories that are brilliantly affordable.”

It’s unclear how many Diva stores have been converted to the Lovisa brand, however the new chain too has had a rapid rise in the past three years; increasing to 158 stores in Australia and around 36 overseas.

It’s also unclear how many Diva outlets remain open but its store count reached close to 200 in Australia and New Zealand while various media reports state the total number, including international stores, reached 600.

At the time of publication, only the Russian and Polish Diva websites were operational, with the Chinese and Thai websites, along with the Australian site seemingly been taken down.

All, however, are still listed on the BBRC corporate website.

In the headlines

Comments from Diva
Comments from Diva's Facebook page

Diva hit the media headlines in October 2011 when it launched a range of Playboy-branded accessories ostensibly aimed at young girls that subsequently created a consumer backlash.  

A company press statement at the time described the new range as, "the perfect amount of jewels and just the right amount of sexiness Playboy for Diva will have every girl feeling glamorous and red carpet ready".

Social media went into a meltdown with irate customers, fans and parents inundating Diva’s Facebook page with threats of a boycott, while women’s and children’s advocacy groups mounted vocal campaigns against the company. 

Complaints about the Playboy range claimed Diva was purposely promoting a brand that supported explicit, violent and degrading pornography to “tween” and teenage girls. 

The intensity of the anti-Diva campaign was unusual, due primarily to the ease with which disgruntled consumers expressed discontent on the company’s Facebook page which, at the time, had 91,000 followers. 

Consumer comments on the Facebook pages included, “Hi Diva. I will no longer buy from your store until the Playboy range is removed.” Another angry Facebook member said, “Shame on you for promoting an adult porn brand in a store that is primarily for young girls.” 

The business hit the headlines again in July last year when it was reported that employees at Diva and Lovisa claimed they were pressured into spending a significant portion of their salary keeping up to date with the store’s latest jewellery ranges. 

The aim was for staff to promote the store’s offering by actively wearing new product at work, however such practices may be a breach of the Fair Work Act; if an employer requires its staff to wear "special" items it must either provide the items or reimburse the cost of purchasing the pieces to the employee. Compensation cannot be made through staff discounts. 

Lovisa versus Colette

In an interesting twist, Colette Hayman, the former business partner of Blundy, launched a new fashion accessories jewellery chain in 2010 after sitting out of the industry for three years due to a non-compete clause in the sale of Diva to BBRC.

The first Colette Accessories store opened in Sydney’s CBD and at the time Hayman boasted that she would have 120 stores within three years. 

The business was subsequently rebranded as Colette by Colette Hayman, and at the time of publication, Hayman had achieved 118 store openings - 102 in Australia and 16 overseas.  

Mark Hayman recently announced that Colette by Colette Hayman was “looking to expand its affordable fashion message into Asia, Europe and North America, including the United States,” and hoped to open 150 new stores under a franchise business model. 

The fashion jewellery and accessories segment is hotly contested with another major player, Equip Accessories, continuing to expand in recent years. It currently has 111 Australian retail outlets along with 17 overseas stores. In 2007 Equip Accessories stores only numbered 54.

More reading

Playboy jewellery stoush swamps Diva
Playboy jewellery ignites Facebook fury
Jewellery chains under fire



Is Diva Dead?

I was at a shopping center today in Melbourne suburbs, and I noticed Diva was gone and Lovisa had taken over the Diva store, using it as a second shop only for their sale items, a "pop up" type set up until the owner decides to resell the shop to another brand I’m guessing. 

And while in "Lovisa's pop up sale shop" I noticed they were selling kid’s jewellery, with tags on it saying "Lovisa kids" .....when Lovisa had not sold such a jewellery range up until now, which makes me think Diva is dead. 

Lovisa is meant to be for an older market like you said in your article about Diva, so those "best friend necklaces" and other jewellery for primary school kids wouldn’t fit in with Lovisa if that was still the case.

They were the same styles of jewellery Diva used to have in stock, I clearly remembered seeing the "Harmonica necklace" they had in Lovisa in Diva's kids range a few months back when Diva was still open.

Looks to me like they just rebranded the old Diva stock from the kids line and now Lovisa will be selling it since Diva is no longer. 

In recent months I have be seeing less and less people in Diva, you walk past Lovisa, lots of customers inside, walk past Diva which is just a few stores down... no customers, nearly every time I’ve gone in to Diva to have a look, I was the only one in there, and when I’ve walked past, its always empty … my guess is it was cheaper for them to have one jewellery store than two separate stores.

Most people, no matter their age shop in Lovisa or Diva, so why the need to say one is for older women and one for teens, why not just combine them into one shop that sells a bit of everything, less money on stores to rent out if you only have one store per shopping centre, instead of two as well.

A Facebook user recently posted they might be making a Diva kids store which will sell more dress up clothing and things of that nature for boys and girls, which wouldn't be that far of a stretch. Diva started delving into similar stock recently, with a range in Diva with wigs, face gems, bindis, masks that kind of thing popping up over Halloween and continuing up into December.

I also noticed they were having more and more "things" in Diva and less actual jewellery, like more phone covers, phone plugs, headphones, coin purses, hair accessories and that type of thing in the months of last year up until they've closed recently. 

And they were coincidentally having big 50%-off sales and all those type of things WAY more than Lovisa or Colette do. I don’t think they were moving as much stock as you might be thinking and I think also a lot of people like Lovisa more because their jewellery looks more expensive and less tacky then some of the stock Diva has been selling.

Anyway that’s just my opinion/observations!

Please keep us updated on Diva when you know more. It’s sad to see it go but I’m not surprised it’s happened. 

Paige Williams, Melbourne

SAMS Group Australia

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