Magical Marylebone’s Christmas cheer
Christopher Hourmouzios explores the Christmas sales prospects for retail jewellers in Marylebone High St, an upmarket shopping hub in central London which runs from Marylebone Road in the north to Oxford Street in the south.
LONDON, December 10, 2011 – Marylebone High Street’s most original shop window is Cox & Power’s with portholes displaying its wares. Inside are show pods instead of showcases.
Creative director Tony Power is positive about Christmas: “We’ll benefit from our loyal client base. There’s a polarisation in the market with a demographic shift. We’re seeing older men and women of 45+ who live or work in Marylebone which is a wealthy area. These are 80 percent of our customers – bankers, medical people, film-makers and they’ve got the money at the moment. Prices go from £250 for silver cuff links up to £20,000 for a diamond ring.”
Cox & Power’s Berry Collection
Marylebone High St is the hot London area, says Power, with good quality, not chichi shopping.
“But you’ve got to look after people here with good service – otherwise they don’t want to know. We cater to older buyers with young minds who want something that stimulates them.”
Power doesn’t sell bling. All his pieces are designed and made as one-offs with individual stones.
His clients buy diamond necklaces, not to show off but as personal self-purchases.
“If we were a restaurant we’d be looking for unusual ingredients to whet the diner’s appetite. It doesn’t have to be hugely valuable but it must be aesthetically pleasing.”
This year his collections are: Berry – luscious, fruit-like colour: reds, blues and greens; Peony – softer, smaller pieces with brown diamonds, pink sapphires and pearls; and Forged – metal surfaces inspired by Henry Moore’s sculpture.
Serving a younger clientele is Nathalie Kabiri in her eponymous store.
She also is optimistic about Christmas: “Our fine jewellery sales are significantly over target in Marylebone compared with last year. People are more choosy when they buy. They’re looking for the unusual created by designers which will keep its value. It’s like buying a work of art.”
Kabiri pitched herself at the luxury end of the market but also sells fashion items to people in secure jobs – media, PR – both trendy young and older Londoners.
They come back regularly – career women purchasing for themselves and male doctors buying for their girlfriends/wives.
“We also have a large international clientele who have seen us through the recession, especially the Saudi and Abu Dhabi royal families.
“They have become more discerning. They used to go to Bond Street but now they want something new.”
Kabiri is selling either minimal, diamond or coloured-stone items, which she calls skin jewellery, or oversized chokers and statement earrings.
“Rose gold is trendy again, as are tiny baguette and solitaire diamonds, chain rings, fetish, lots of black, quite hard-edged stuff.”
Family business New Cavendish Jewellers stocks high-end watch brands including Cartier, Audemars Piguet and Jaeger-LeCoultre.
The split is 60 percent watches, 40 percent jewellery. Clients include local property investors and hedge-fund managers, as well as Nigerians, Indians and increasingly, Chinese.
General manager Jitesh Shah said they’ll definitely have some Christmas turnover: “But it will be a bonus for us. Our sales will be to returning customers or recommended clientele or patrons of nearby restaurants in the Marylebone village, which recent investment has made more exclusive.
“We are a destination store with a modest footfall and some passing trade. Our customers buy our timeless jewellery at 30 and then stick with us.”
Shah has noticed people are spending less this year but what keeps his business going is a regular clientele who value its service and knowledge.
“Our customers see that our traditional wedding rings and engagement bands are different to those of other jewellers, as well as our diamond and coloured-stone jewellery set in platinum and gold.”
Also traditional is Alexandrov. It sells the whole gamut of gold and silver jewellery set with diamonds or coloured stones.
Prices start at £40 for silver items, rising to £6,000 for gold pieces.
It also stocks Ebel and Technomarine watches.
“Nobody is finding it easy at the moment but although times are tough,” says MD David Litwack, “people will always buy for special occasions – birthdays, anniversaries and, of course, Christmas.
“It’ll be OK this time because it normally is. I’ve been in and out of recessions for 40 years.
“It all depends on each person’s budget. If a man spent £500 on a Christmas present for his wife last year, he might only spend £250 this year but he’ll still come back to my shop.”