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Endless Jewelry
Endless Jewelry

Balancing act: Branded jewellery and your store

Consumers love a brand story but how can retailers convey a cohesive message for the store’s overall brand as well as the branded jewellery ranges that they carry? ANGELA TUFVESSON investigates.

Jewellers have already learnt that relying on the reputation of external brands is unlikely to lead to a healthy bottom line. Choosing the right ones is a challenge in itself with so many branded suppliers – local and international – jockeying for space in the cluttered Australian market.

Rather, the key to success lies in successfully integrating brand narratives into a store’s own story. The goal? A cohesive message that brings in customers and helps to create an emotional connection between consumers and products.

Big brands like Apple and Coca-Cola have told stories to attract customers for decades. Now, branded marketing has evolved so far that even independent retailers are aware of the need to educate customers on what their brands and products represent. Whether the focus is eco-friendly clothing with an urban edge or funky dessert options, brands that exude a consistent image and tell a story that makes sense to their target market are likely to be more successful.

Sarah Patrick, a research associate at the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science at the University of South Australia, says maintaining a consistent look and feel in communications is “essential”.

“This [consistency] boosts the chances of consumers developing memory structures around a brand and strengthening mental availability for the brand,” she argues. “Aim to be linked to the category first and foremost – when consumers think of [a product category], you want them to think of your brand.”

Crafting a consistent narrative becomes more difficult for independent retailers who must juggle their store brand alongside not only branded product but generic jewellery lines also.

Alex and Ani
Alex and Ani

“The challenge is multi-branded [independent] retailers have to maintain a range of different brands as well as their individual identity and positioning within the industry,” Luke Butcher from Curtin University Business School states.

Patrick says highlighting the presence of stocked brands without mentioning these brands’ individual slogans or brand messages is the most effective way to preserve the integrity of the store brand while leveraging the stocked branded product.

“Focus less on the messages of brands,” she advises. “Instead, communicate that you house multiple brands and what those brands are.”

Butcher cites supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths as examples of retailers that are successful at managing this juggle, especially when it comes to cultivating house brands alongside a raft of stocked brands.

David Jones is also particularly adept at promoting its branded product under one umbrella – consider all those advertisements promoting 30 per cent off selected female clothing brands.

“David Jones stocks various brands while maintaining its own brand identity – think black and white, the houndstooth pattern and the jingle,” Patrick explains.

Thomas Sabo
Thomas Sabo
Miglio Designer Jewellery
Miglio Designer Jewellery

Stock for success

Choosing which brands to stock is a crucial ingredient in any retailer’s overall brand story. Choose well and customers will be attracted to the synergy of products on offer; choose poorly and customers are likely to feel confused. It’s a constant challenge jewellers have and will continue to face.

When opening a second Nangar Gems store in Dubbo, regional NSW, general manager Renee Towers says the buying strategy revolved around sourcing ‘non-traditional’ brands to support the business’ quest to offer customers something different.

“There are about 10 other jewellers in Dubbo,” Towers states.

“We wanted to be different and not traditional. We looked at three key brands and for those three key brands I looked at the longevity of them.”

Commenting further on the thought process behind product selection, Towers explains, “What we did from there was build a reputation for being well known for silver brands, then we branched out into more boutique smaller brands that complement our existing brands. Some actually contrast our other brands and don’t look anything like them – it’s important not to have all the same thing.”

The result is a combination of local and international jewellery lines including – but not limited to – Najo, Julie Sandlau, Thomas Sabo and Memi Jewellery.

Likewise, Debbie Martin, owner of Aspire Jewellery in Swan Hill, Victoria, says she looks for products with a difference to align with her store’s “boutique” status.

“I buy on passion and what I like so I don’t always buy perhaps the way other people do,” she states. “I like to have different things in my store – we are a boutique store rather than a high street store so there’s a difference there. It [any brand] needs to work with other non-branded products I have in the store.”

Aspire Jewellery carries brands like Uberkate, Tresor Paris and Disney Couture.

Product quality is also a key consideration as high return rates can reflect badly on a retailer’s reputation.

“When we look at brands, we look at the quality of the items, the service, whether there’s any option for product exchange and how they [the supplier] deal with that, and what sort of company they are,” says Elray Brewerton from Elray Jewellers in Queensland, which stocks brands including Coeur de Lion, Argenta and Australian Chocolate Diamonds.

Julie Sandlau
Julie Sandlau
Najo
Najo

International influence

No one can deny the increasing dominance of international brands. Pandora might not have the same presence within independent jewellery stores that it once did but there are plenty of others entering the local jewellery scene. Danish brand Endless Jewelry made quite a high-profile launch last year, which was followed by US-based Alex and Ani.

Jewellers are spoilt for choice but are they buying too much of the same thing and sacrificing differentiation? Probably, says Martin.

“My gut feeling is if a store is dictated to by too many brands, every store becomes the same,” she states. “There’s too much branding and the buyers are starting to forget how to buy. They’re hoping the next brand is going to be the next big Pandora. People have gotten lazy, and because Pandora was so successful, everyone is waiting for the next one.”

Towers agrees: “There’s a lot more branded product coming out now.

There’s a really big flood in the market and there’s just way too much of the same type of jewellery.”

Small retailers operating in regional areas have to be particularly careful when it comes to curating branded product, according to René Wells from Roma Showcase Jewellers in Queensland.

Coeur de Lion
Coeur de Lion

“We need newness, we need something different and we all look for special ingredients that give us an edge as independents,” she explains, “but we can’t keep taking on new brands hoping for that special something – we simply don’t have the population to cope.”

Roma Showcase Jewellers offers a range of brands such as Miglio Designer Jewellery and Najo.

Scott Godfrey, owner of Sydney’s House of Fraser, says the trick is to stock just the right amount of international brands to keep the target audience interested.

“People are looking for brands; everyone wants a brand,” he states. “The brands bring the people in and hopefully they look at some other things as well. I try to stock more exclusive products that aren’t available in every single shop. There’s no point doing all the hard work to promote a brand if the guy next door has it as well.”

Godfrey says the “right amount” of brands will vary from one business to the next and that the focus should be on ensuring each brand has enough space within the store. As a guide, he believes a smaller-sized store could have two to three brands, while a larger-sized store could stock up to 10.

The retailer, who carries numerous brands including newcomer Alex and Ani, also stresses the importance of choosing well because brands that don’t perform aren’t always easy to drop, especially for jewellers who persist with poor sellers.

“Once you give up, the less popular stock is quite hard to move,” he says. “Sometimes we clear it online and on eBay just to get rid of it.”

He advises jewellers to select carefully. “Start small to see how it goes and back brands that you feel will be successful. Pick a brand and work on it – don’t just put it in the corner. If it’s not going to work, find out early and get out of there.”

In the end, Butcher says it pays to remember that brands aren’t the only drawcard for consumers who choose to shop in-store rather than online.

“If people are going into a store in 2016, a bricks-and-mortar store, it’s because they want service and a personalised experience,” he says. “The best strategy is to maintain a consistent direction of where your retail brand is going and introduce new brands over time as you work out your position in the market.”

Here’s hoping for a never-ending story.

 

REPUTATION VERSES BRAND


Do you believe customers visit your store because of the store’s branding and reputation or because of the jewellery brands you carry?



“Definitely because of our store. About 20 per cent of customers are coming in because they’re looking for a particular brand and the rest are coming into our store because they want something different.”
– Debbie Martin, Aspire Jewellery

“It’s more about the brands. That said, while a lot of people purchase brands, that doesn’t mean they are loyal to you. In the last few years we’ve seen a lot of new brands come through and you’ve got to work out which ones are going to be the best fit.”
– Elray Brewerton, Elray Jewellers
“Customers find who the [brand] stockists are and come to the store. A lot of it comes from social media. You’ve really got to consolidate how many brands you’ve got and make sure you’re able to show the whole brand properly.”
– Scott Godfrey, House of Fraser
“We’re not classic and we stand out. Our store styling and look is very different for our area, it’s very modern and contemporary. The biggest comment I get from customers is that they’ve been recommended to come to us if they want something different that’s outside the box.”
– Renee Towers, Nangar Gems
“Having great brands or product solutions helps to attract many types of consumers who are interested in that specific line, but it’s the people in our store that make the experience a great one. Whether customers are looking at a watch or getting a new watch battery, the experience in our store makes it a place they want to come back to.”
– René Wells, Roma Showcase Jewellers

 


“Definitely because of our store. About 20 per cent of customers are coming in because they’re looking for a particular brand and the rest are coming into our store because they want something different.”










ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Angela Tufvesson

Angela Tufvesson is a journalist with 10 years’ experience writing for many of Australia’s well-known consumer and trade magazines. She is a freelance contributor to Jeweller reporting on various aspects of the jewellery industry.

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