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28 June 2012 0 Comments
Posted in Opinion

E’s and M’s – The New Business Highs! – By Stephen Welfare

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On 31st May, I attended the AGM of The British Allied Trades Federation, the umbrella organisation for the British trade associations: British Jewellers Association, Giftware Association, Jewellery Distributors Association, British Travel Goods and Accessories Association and Surface Engineering Association.

Royds operate the Intellectual Property Advice & Protection Scheme (“Copywatch“) for the BJA, BTAA and JDA.  We are also pleased to have links with the international section of these trade associations; British Jewellery and Giftware International.

After the formal business of the federation had concluded, an enjoyable and interesting speech was given by Mr Michael Allchin, Assay Master of the Birmingham Assay office.  He joined the Birmingham Assay Office from Signet Group Plc in 1973 and with so many years in the British jewellery trade he had many stories and anecdotes to entertain the gathered federation representatives, members and service providers.

I noted that the value of precious metal jewellery and watches passing through the Assay Office in the past year was £4.2 billion.  This is not an insignificant figure and is proof that fine jewellery still sells, and yet the area that has experienced growth in volume of sales is in fashion and costume jewellery.  This one might expect as a natural consequence of the recession and high value of precious metals.  Michael made particular mention of Royds client, Tresor Paris, who bucked the trend by having its stand packed out every day at the International Spring Fair at Birmingham NEC in February.  Tresor Paris sells non-precious metal jewellery, namely Crystal Bracelets at an estimated average retail price of £149 per unit.

As Michael commented, and as anyone will see for themselves in Shopping Centres and in the High Street, fine jewellers are now stocking Tresor Paris goods.

Tresor Paris has been successful in using the electronic media and social networks, Facebook and Twitter, to publicise its goods and stimulate interest, alongside extensive product placement tactics [see my article on celebrity endorsements “Wanted Dead or Alive” July 2011].

Business is still being done and good profits are being enjoyed, it’s just no longer so visible.  It is hardly breaking news to report that internet sales are the way ahead.  What I found of interest was the growth of the internet over shop retail sales and the change in consumer spending habits.  When a consumer cannot visit the stores, he or she still gets the retail therapy fix by shopping online.  Accordingly to Michael Allchin, UK internet sales on all products over Boxing Day last year were a staggering £92.6 million and total sales over December 2011 a whopping £2.18 billion.

But the age of e-commerce is itself under threat, or at least getting out of date.  The ability to shop 24 hours a day on every day of the year at the convenience of the consumer has expanded.  Young consumers are now more likely to check out goods on smart phones, iPads and the like. This is the age of m-commerce.

Michael reported that m-commerce accounted for £6.8 million of new activity on Christmas Day.  Mobile phone spending has seen a phenomenal growth of over 200% from last year.  Whilst many of us aged over 40 years are still struggling with IT and the electronic cyberworld with its own language, the next generation are fluent and mobile, so the challenge is to connect to these “m” people and broaden your market methods.  Consumer habits are changing.  Our grandparents could not have conceived of 24 hour superstores, “how on earth could people shop for so long and why would anyone ever want to?” they would say.  Well, we don’t just have superstores, but super highways (We are not talking motorways!).  Consumers are changing and if business is to survive and flourish, it must do so too.

The recession notwithstanding, consumers are still spending here in the UK and of course across the globe, and the way to reach them is actually easier and more direct than ever.  The High Street/Shopping Centre retail experience is still here and thus a visible, tangible form of commerce remains and will do for some time, perhaps for ever. But it has declined and is becoming more of a recreation with the serious purchasing taking place increasingly online. E-commerce is established and m-commerce is growing. If business is to meet the demands for instant shopping gratification of techno consumers, it must embrace the digital marketplace or never reach the same or better sales highs!

If you have comments on this blog please contact Stephen Welfare, Partner in Litigation on 020 7583 2222 or sbw@royds.com

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