LONDON — Plukka, the fine jewelry retailer based in Hong Kong, is retooling its strategy, partnering with a diamond jewelry manufacturer, and broadening its offer to include a private label collection, more price points — and niche labels that it can nurture.
The changes are part of a strategy of new chief executive officer Natalia Obolensky, who has partnered with Treliss Worldwide Inc., a manufacturer of diamonds and diamond jewelry, in a bid to broaden the business and better control the quality of the pieces it sells.
She’s also looking for niche labels that will appeal to the company’s target audience of style-savvy, self-made women buying fine jewelry for themselves.
“The customer we are speaking to is the 38-year-old who is probably wearing designer shoes, carrying a designer handbag, but who might be wearing a dress by Zara or Maje.
“She has her own career and a strong sense of style, so she’s looking for jewelry that reinforces and highlights that style,” said Obolensky, adding that she’s also hoping to attract the 25-year-old customer “who looks up to that 38-year-old.”
Obolensky, a former management consultant at Bain & Co. and founder of the on-demand beauty services provider City Swish, is also spearheading the launch of a rebranded web site.
She said a big part of her strategy revolves around exclusivity: Items need to be exclusive to Plukka or proprietary “so we can fully invest behind it. And it needs to be experiential with a clear consumer in mind,” she said.
Obolensky has been refining the retailer’s pricing strategy, aiming to fill the gap between the top-end of the market and affordable jewelry labels.
“Most people know where to go if they want to spend $25,000 or $35,000 on a piece of jewelry. They’d name Cartier or Van Cleef & Arpels. They also know where to go if they want to spend $100. But we’ve built the business to cater to that middle range, for the woman who is earning money and wants to treat herself. The vision for Plukka is to put jewelry on the map with that,” added Obolensky.
Hence she’s launched Plukka Essentials. The new line offers entry-level products such as delicate diamond and gold stud earrings priced at $180, as well as more elaborate pieces, like a gold and diamond ring with interlocking circles priced at $4,800. Plukka will continue to carry big-ticket items from jewelers such as Tana Chung and Cedric Garnier.
She said Essentials is “the most successful range we’ve had. We saw some huge growth in our online figures specific to that range. That’s where we really think there’s an exciting opportunity. Having our own brand gives us the creative license to use what we know about the market and the consumers,” said Obolensky.
With regard to outside labels, Obolensky said she is looking for strong brand identities and experimental pieces. “It’s about creating an emotional connection. I would much prefer someone hate our jewelry than be indifferent to it.”
Obolensky is working toward securing exclusivity from the designers stocked on Plukka and also looking to leverage the partnership with Treliss to help the smaller, niche designers that Plukka stocks. Ideally, Plukka could even invest in these businesses.
Young designers, she said, often struggle with financing the production of their collections and when they come to sell, are forced into a traditional consignment model, where they shoulder all the risk.
“We are looking at outright acquisition because we have the advantage of providing the full service. We can now tell the designers to take the risk, creatively. We will produce their collections, put the products online and in our stores in Hong Kong and London,” added Obolensky, who aims to tap younger labels with revenues between $100,000 to $2 million.
As part of the new deal, Treliss has taken a 12 percent stake in the business in exchange of a revolving credit facility. This means that Treliss will produce Plukka’s own jewelry ranges as well as those of its partners; they will then be paid for whatever is sold while unsold items will be returned and melted to be used elsewhere.
“It’s a departure from the traditional industry: We are now able to hold inventory without paying for it, without taking the costs,” said Obolensky, adding, “The cornerstone of the strategy that I laid out when I became the ceo is that the stock needs to have presence online and offline, those channels need to speak to each other.”
According to Obolensky, the partnership will allow for more flexibility when it comes to trialing different designs: A piece that may have traction online but no conversion offline can be remade at a more competitive price point. A piece that is popular in Europe can be re-created with bigger stones to cater to the Asian market.
“We see tremendous strategic value in aligning with a disruptive retail player such as Plukka,” said Treliss executive Nirav Mehta. “We really believe it’s relevant to a modern consumer to bring differentiated design together with high-quality, socially responsible manufactured jewelry available through an omnichannel platform. We see Plukka as that platform that will be able to curate interesting stories and create unique experiences for consumers.”
By taking control of its stock, the company is also becoming more open to working with third-party retailers to expand distribution, with department stores including the likes of Harvey Nichols and Saks Fifth Avenue being at the top of its list.
Southeast Asia is the biggest offline market for the company, which has a retail store in Hong Kong’s Chater House, while its online boutique has the most traction in the U.S. The company also has a store in London’s Burlington Arcade.
While Obolensky believes that an offline presence is essential in driving online sales, she is looking to invest in temporary locations, particularly in the U.S., rather than expand the company’s retail network with permanent stores.
“You can take more risks and be a bit more experimental and cool with a temporary space, it’s parallel to the concept of our jewelry,” said Obolensky.
A temporary space in Miami is set to open later this year.