Q&A: Ben Roberts on 9ct collections, standalone stores and the future of Clogau

Q&A: Ben Roberts on 9ct collections, standalone stores and the future of Clogau

This year, International Jewellery London is pleased to welcome Welsh gold jewellery brand Clogau to Olympia Grand.

This fast-growing and award-winning British brand has plans to expand its reach in 2016, including a move into travel retail and a push into the South East.

Here, managing director Ben Roberts explains more about the brand’s recent achievements, including the purchase of a Welsh gold mine, growth in China, and being praised by the London Stock Exchange…

Q: Can you tell us more about your collections for AW16 and the inspirations behind them?

BR: We have several new 9ct gold pieces, something we have been asked for by our retailers. We’ve re-designed a Clogau heritage collection, Buttercup, and there are new pieces in our best selling Welsh Poppy. Following the most recent trend for charm keeper lockets we have two inspired by Clogau Tree of Life.

The Tudor Court collection by Clogau
The Tudor Court collection by Clogau

Q: Have you noticed any shifting trends among consumers in recent months? 

BR: Rose gold, metals and finishes continue to be popular. White gold and rose gold are equal in popularity for Clogau Compose bridal. We’ve introduced unusual stones, Preseli Bluestone and Rutilated Quartz in our Venus collection. We find these work well for customers looking for something meaningful and unusual.

Q: You were named one of the fastest growing SMEs by the London Stock Exchange – can you tell us a little more about this and what it means to the business?

BR: It’s obviously a great honour to be noticed as one of 25 Welsh companies by the LSE, particularly as we don’t specifically put ourselves forward for something like this. The acknowledgement is a reflection of our growth and ability to demonstrate our success through our filed accounts and it’s great to see that sort of thing gets noticed, although as mentioned, we don’t specifically try to get noticed for this.

For us, it’s the customer that that really matters along with their perception of the brand and I feel that this sort of recognition illustrates that this strategy is working from a financial point of view, which I suppose is the acid test.

Clogau AW16 Gold of Royalty

Q: Recent news reports have highlighted that you are opening pop-up mono-brand stores in UK and European airports, can you tell us more about this development and what you hope to achieve?

BR: Own-stores was a development that we almost walked into by accident, but I love it; I always wanted to build Clogau stores around the world and we ended up doing this in a roundabout way. Our first store was an outlet, a way of discounting last seasons stock, but it was a great toe in the water in terms of learning retail.

The store worked straight away and even recently we’re seeing year-on-year growth of circa 90% by being selective over how we choose product for the Outlets stores. This has driven us to go on and build what we call flagship stores; these are showcase environments for the brand. Very expensive fit-outs in locations where we co-exist with world-famous brands.

The awareness we benefit from here is a key driver but ultimately they have to work commercially here too, and they do. We’re currently looking at three additional sites including airports, cruise ships and high street opportunities; it’s a great model and one which almost just bolts-on growth to the business. The Chinese stores are run through a partnership with a Chinese company and whilst we’re only just learning about this market the two new stores in Hainan look awesome and the royal connection over there is powerful.

Q: You’ve also purchased the Gwyfynedd gold mine in Wales – how do you think this will enhance the Clogau brand story?

BR: The Gwynfynedd mine purchase was something we felt we had to do to prevent anyone else from copying our business model. It’s also gives us autonomy in the Welsh gold market. When people think of Welsh gold, they now think ‘Clogau’. As yet we’re unsure whether we’re going to open this mine as an active goldmine but the idea is that if we can, we will, and the benefits to the business are profound. It will add credibility and sustainability to the business but more importantly, it’s another great story to add to the brand profile.

Q: What inspired you to exhibit at International Jewellery London this year and what do you hope to achieve at the show?

BR: We’re looking to grow our brand footprint within the M25; the opening of our store at Westfield London has helped to grow brand awareness in this area. Also, Clogau has a huge international brand appeal. We’re looking forward to welcoming potential brand partners from overseas, to see the new collections and brand campaign.

Q: Can you give us an indication of how many stockists Clogau currently has and how many standalone stores?

BR: We probably have around 300 stockists around the UK and just five of our own. The own-store strategy is set to grow but we can’t do this at the disadvantage of our stockists who have supported us throughout the years.

Q: In terms of standalone stores, are you pleased with how they are performing?

BR: Own-stores are fantastic for awareness and they are also a successful model in terms of margin. This additional margin that we are able to access in these environments is then reinvested into marketing activity to power the brand and ensure that the customer understands the stories behind the brand, which are some of the most powerful in the jewellery industry.

Ben Roberts

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