Sunday 18 March 2018

Jewellery business shows how to create a brand from scratch

As the economy returns to growth, the jewellery industry in particular is a sector that has emerged changed immensely. Stock photo
As the economy returns to growth, the jewellery industry in particular is a sector that has emerged changed immensely. Stock photo

Alan O'Neill

As the economy returns to growth, the jewellery industry in particular is a sector that has emerged changed immensely. When global markets and currencies fluctuate, investors divert their investment and seek safe havens such as gold and other metals. As a result, spot gold has doubled in price in the last 10 years.

This has serious implications for the fine jewellery industry, where the cost of their raw material plays such a sizable part of the price mix. Therefore the chains, bracelets and ring styles of old are less affordable for most.

As a result, the jewellery industry has reacted by sometimes designing pieces that have less precious metal content.

TJH Ltd is an Irish family-run business based in Dublin for more than 65 years. One of Ireland's longest established manufacturers and wholesalers, its customer base is mainly the independent Irish retailer. For over 30 years, it has also been distributing in the UK and US, servicing the Irish diaspora.

It has had lots of success over the years with gold and silver Celtic design and contemporary collections. In recent times and key to its success, the company has also innovated with more modern designs to appeal to a wider audience.

Recent challenges

Even before the financial crash, the market was changing. In my early days as a retailer of jewellery, watches were the only products where branding was essential. Jewellery has since moved on from being an heirloom purchase to a fashion item in its own right. Now almost 90pc of the fine jewellery market is driven by brands. Customers want affordable luxury.

With changes in fashion trends and increases in precious metal prices, the 'take-away' jewellery market exploded. Fast fashion retailers responded by introducing high-fashion jewellery with little or no precious metal content, facilitating a low price accessory market. This had the added impact of expanding the competition. The challenge for TJH is to find a way to stand out and compete in a morass of international brands.

Millennials too are an important growing customer segment - now and for the future - and their buying motives are strongly influenced by provenance. In this case that means ethical mining and care for the environment.

Change tips

Creating a brand from scratch can be a daunting task. It requires more than just great determination and chutzpah. A structured approach that covers most angles will ensure a greater chance of success.

Having supported Geneva-based de Grisogono, a high-end luxury jeweller, I have seen first hand what it takes to build a global jewellery brand. It always starts with a great product idea, a well-considered plan and a budget. TJH created an amazing USP (unique selling point) by securing an exclusive licence from Galantas Gold Corp, which operates the only commercial gold mine in Ireland. Imagine the potential in that - where the diaspora can literally buy a piece of the 'old sod' to cherish and pass through the family for generations?

TJH followed these steps in building House of Lor.

1 Conduct lots of competitive research to establish a target market, with design ideas and solid routes to market. This doesn't have to cost money. Go and book time with several customers and seek their input.

2 Decide your market positioning (TJH developed an exclusive range of contemporary Irish and fashion-led pieces to fit with that. The team also introduced pieces made from a combination of rare Irish gold and sterling silver to create affordable luxury). Where do you see your pricing compared to the competition? What level of quality and design will make you different enough?

3 Establish a relevant brand name, logo and tag line (possibly seeking external help from a design agency for objective input). This should be consistent across all collateral.

4 Build a content marketing plan and ensure a consistent message across all communications and channels. Social media is an inexpensive way to build brand awareness. (House of Lor is a collectibles range, and therefore cleverly prompts repeat purchases.)

5 Work in partnership with all stakeholders to get your brand out there, both through the trade and on-line if you can.

6 Support your trade partners to sell the product out of their stores. This will involve great marketing collateral and training for the retail salespeople. It's easy to motivate them to sell your product when you engage with them and share your story. When they know the heritage, the features and benefits of your product, they will sell more.

7 Execute your plan and track all progress and feedback carefully. Then take corrective action as you go.


Make no mistake - it takes years to build a brand. The steps here are not intended to be the definitive list but they'll illustrate that there is a science to it. The steps are iterative, as you may find yourself 'imagineering' a brand name and logo for example, before you finalise product designs. Each step is critical though and cannot be overlooked.

TJH is now five years into building House of Lor. Already the company has made changes to product design as the team monitors what pieces sell better than others. The company is now well placed as it heads in to the peak Christmas trading season and prepares to exhibit at Showcase, Ireland's creative expo.

Alan O'Neill is a change consultant and non-executive director. For 25-plus years he has been supporting global and iconic brands through change. Business advice questions for Alan can be sent to

In association with RGON, specialists in Employee Engagement Surveys

Sunday Indo Business

Business Newsletter

Read the leading stories from the world of Business.

Also in Business