At the center of a new Pandora is a focus on handcraft and consumer experience.
The Danish jeweler’s president for North America, Luciano Rodembusch, spoke in conversation with WWD’s editorial director James Fallon on “The Charm of Craftsmanship.”
For Rodembusch, who arrived at Pandora earlier this year after a long run at Tiffany & Co., it came as a surprise to see how much of Pandora’s product is handmade. “For me one of the biggest surprises joining Pandora is how much craftsmanship goes behind everything we do. Every charm goes through 25 human hands. I don’t believe other jewelry companies do this on the scale we do. We have more than 12,000 artisans on our team back in Asia,” he said.
The executive acknowledged Pandora saw stellar increases in sales in the second quarter of 2021. He is “bullish” that a renewed focus on storytelling, client experience and fresh product lines will help the company deliver in the fourth quarter. Pandora earlier this week reported strong growth in the third quarter, driven by the U.S.
“We have millions of fans and it’s amazing to see our fan base. The area we need to strengthen globally and especially in North America is the need to communicate more of those human hands behind [our products], we want to put some faces to those designs and show the artisans behind it,” he said.
Educating retail staff will be an important component of relaying this message of artisanal production. “More than ever in the past, our sales associates are there to inform. They are there to delight and surprise our clients and there are so many different options to make clients discover something different. We need storytellers in our store and want people to connect to that story,” said Rodembusch.
“The building blocks are there, we just need to put deeper roots on the communication and do that more frequently. We don’t believe we are giving enough time for clients to pay attention to how our unique pieces and charms are all made by human hands,” he added.
Pandora is devising new product lines to endear itself to younger consumers, including those of Gen Z. More than ever, Pandora is putting its sales associates in a styling position — giving them tools to outfit shoppers in unique looks. The jeweler sees big opportunity in the jewelry layering trend and is introducing lines that welcome repeat purchases and personal styling moments.
“Nowadays it’s about mixing and matching. It’s rare to see a client only follow one brand. We see clients mixing brands and looks. So we are looking beyond the wrist. One avenue that is very strong is our conversation about wearability — where we use charms in earrings, necklaces, backpacks, shoes. We need to give freedom to clients,” said Rodembusch.
Pandora is looking outside of its famous charm bracelet franchise toward “bangles and rings — rings are very strong and the amount of possibilities you have to stack rings is super cool. The same wearability customary of charms, we are now taking to rings and bracelets with very good success,” said the executive.
There is an increased focus on gender-neutral designs in Pandora collections aimed at younger consumers. “Although we still focus on our main community of women, we see more men in our stores and the Gen Z collection, it’s super easy to be used by any age or gender,” Rodembusch said.
An eagerness to appeal to Gen Z consumers is keeping the Pandora design team on its toes. “We need to bring freshness to the brand and a good example of that is when we start to talk to Gen Z, we need that freshness. Especially when you want to talk to a younger generation, you need to be more attuned to what’s happening in the moment. You need to be much faster so you can create very fast. [Our line] Pandora Me is very different in most of the senses, it can attract Gen Z, it’s style-driven,” Rodembusch said.
Part of connecting with younger consumers is meeting them where they spend most of their downtime — online. Pandora is strategically using its partnerships with influencers to reach new clients and learn new ways of styling products.
“We look to company influencer partners for tips on how to promote new ways of wearing product,” said Rodembusch. “In some sense we need to bring more emotion and influencers help us with that, many times we learn with them different uses for brand wearability. One great example is that we started to understand charms being worn on shoes — and we thought, ‘Oh wow, that’s a great idea.’ It helps us communicate but also be in tune with what’s going on with the brand.”
Localized products, with special charms for key cities or regions, are also helping Pandora reach consumers on an emotional level. “Some of the best-performing charms are from New York and Las Vegas and I think those are moments of celebration and shoppers want to encapsulate that memory in something. We can capture that very well with a Statue of Liberty charm or yellow cab, iconic places in San Francisco, Chicago or Florida,” said Rodembusch.
In order to further improve sales and communication with shoppers, Pandora is testing a new store format in select locations. “There is a focus more on the quality of interaction,” Rodembusch said of the format. “We will have it soon in North America [and it’s] being tested in other parts of the world. It incorporates a new tech discovery component to make harmony [with e-commerce].”
Pandora’s e-commerce is getting tweaked to enable better communication with shoppers. “We are working to bring more emotion online. It’s a little easier because it’s more literal. It’s easier for you to find your moment, you find a camera or a little dog charm and you go into it with that mindset,” said Rodembusch.
“What’s missing from the store is [being replicated] with little videos to tell the story online as well as create emotions beyond the material image of the charm. You can say, in fact, ‘this is a Murano glass charm,’ it creates different meaning. That is the missing part that we will be adding more and more,” Rodembusch said.