Online-first retailers are quickly moving into the offline world, and fine jewelry is no exception.
U.K.-based jewelry company Astley Clarke — originally founded as a multibrand jewelry e-commerce site in 2006 — is turning its focus to the U.S. market with a joint retail and online strategy.
“We have our U.S. Web site that does well, but it can do much better if we’re able to offer customers the chance to shop some whenever or wherever, online or offline, at their favorite retailers,” said Bec Astley Clarke, the company’s founder and executive chairman. “I hope that our customers will become more multichannel, as we are doing as a brand. Having the brand alive [physically] in the U.S. helps.”
The brand is on target to approach $10 million in sales this year. While its core business remains e-commerce, Clarke said the company will be in 40 doors in the U.S. by the end of the year, including Neiman Marcus as of this week. Year-to-date sales are up 30 percent, and the two core collections — Muse, a dainty selection of white, yellow and rose gold with diamonds, and Biography, a more contemporary range comprising mostly beaded bracelets intended for stacking — have seen upward growth of 150 percent and 64 percent, respectively.
The brand recently relaunched its U.S. e-commerce site, which drives 12 percent of all its online sales. Clarke contended that growing the American online business is important, but replicating what the brand did in the U.K. is key: starting online, then bringing the product to the physical world through wholesale. The Muse and Biography collections are now sold at 11 Neiman Marcus doors nationwide (and at neimanmarcus.com next week), as well as in Saks Fifth Avenue and Ylang 23 stores. The brand also has signed on to open holiday pop-up shops in 67 Nordstrom units and on nordstrom.com.
Clarke said that, in order to succeed, a brand needs online and offline equally.
“There was a time when having a Web site was the differentiator, but now we’re beyond that. It’s about great product and brands, and the Web is a great route to market — but so is being in the world’s best department store,” she said. The brand’s online and direct business in the U.S. and the U.K. drives 50 percent of sales, followed by concessions and wholesale.
The company has evolved into a very different business than when Clarke founded it eight years ago. The site was dedicated, initially, almost entirely to selling other designers’ pieces. There was a small in-house label, but it was never intended to be a meaningful portion of the business — until she realized it sold quite well. So, she set up a design studio at the company headquarters five years ago and brought on a creative director and a design team. Within one year, jewelry produced in-house became 30 percent of sales, and, today, the in-house label commands over 90 percent of overall sales (astleyclarke.com still sells a handful of other designers, too).
“Today, we’re a multichannel brand,” Astley Clarke said of the transition. “We very much are a brand in our own right.”
The brand’s first-ever off-line presence was a concession in Harrods in 2012, followed by openings in Selfridges and Liberty. In the past 18 months, these key London locations have tripled in space, Astley Clarke said, adding that there’s also a stand-alone London boutique attached to the company’s offices.
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