LONDON — The momentum at Danish jewelry and homeware brand Georg Jensen is building with an 8 percent bounce in 2011 sales, beefed-up high-end product categories and a renewed focus on hand craftsmanship.
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In the year ended Dec. 31, revenue grew 8 percent to 914 million Danish kroner, or $164.5 million, while profits fell 29 percent to 6 million Danish kroner, or $1.1 million, due to expenses from retail expansion and executive hiring.
Figures are converted at average exchange rates for the 12-month period.
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Last year, the brand opened 25 stores and doubled the size of its shop-in-shop on Harrods’ ground floor to 356 square feet. In November, it opened a new space at Bloomingdale’s luxury jewelry room in New York. Retail accounts for 57 percent of the business while wholesale, e-commerce and travel retail make up the rest.
“This year, we are on track to continue our solid performance. We’ve worked a lot on our product categories, and the story now is all about growth,” said Ulrik Garde Due, the chief executive officer who spearheaded the company’s return to profit in 2010 for the first time in a decade.
Georg Jensen is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Royal Scandinavia Group, whose majority shareholder is the private equity fund Axcel. The fund also owns another Danish homeware brand, Royal Copenhagen.
Garde Due acknowledged that the growth and changes at the company had attracted interest from potential investors, although he declined to be specific. “After four years of repositioning the business, we’ve made a platform for future financial growth. We’re a much more interesting proposal today,” was all he would say.
Scandinavia and Asia-Pacific each generate 42 percent of sales, with Continental Europe kicking in 10 percent and North America 6 percent.
Jewelry is the largest product category, accounting for 50 percent of sales, while homeware generates 26 percent and watches 10 percent. Silverware and seasonal items account for the balance.
Among Jensen’s launches over the past year is the Ambassador Collection: handmade sterling-silver designs drawn from the brand’s archives, with styles ranging from Art Nouveau to midcentury Scandinavian and prices up to $250,000 for a covered fish tray. Members of the Jensen staff — including one of the company’s 46 silversmiths — travel the world with this collection, hosting private sales and writing bespoke orders.
Currently, clients can choose from 75 handmade hammered silver designs ranging from Champagne bowls, goblets and candelabra designed in the Twenties, to Fifties pitchers and trays by the late designer Henning Koppel.
Garde Due said the Jensen archive has about 4,500 sketches, half of which have never been put into production, so the collection can only grow. All the pieces can be monogrammed and customized; one client in Asia asked for her silver goblets to be dotted with her favorite precious stone, rubies. “This collection is a great way to project the brand and to underscore the importance of craftsmanship to our DNA,” he said.
Over the past year, the company has also added pavé diamonds to its Fusion jewelry collection — propelling Georg Jensen into the high-end jewelry category — and has unveiled a series of cuff bracelets in yellow, white and rose gold, with prices up to $135,000.
“We have been pushing up the price pyramid, but we also need to be seen as a democratic brand, and the bottom part of the pyramid brings in a whole new clientele,” said Garde Due.
In April, at Milan’s Salone del Mobile, Georg Jensen unveiled Ilse, a collection of homeware by the London-based brand, interior and product designer Ilse Crawford, during a brunch at 10 Corso Como. In addition to stainless steel, Crawford has used brass, glass and copper — all new materials for Jensen — for the eight designs in the collection.
Ilse will form part of the brand’s Home collection, which it plans to push into more international markets. Currently, the Home collection sells chiefly in Scandinavia, Australia and the U.K.