Modern Retail spoke to Andrew Hunt and Howard Pessall, the directors of jewellery wholesaler CME Leicester Ltd, to discuss their business and see how they are adapting in light of the Covid-19 crisi.
How does CME stand out from other wholesale jewellery suppliers?
We offer excellent profit potential for our customers because we work on low profit margins which makes our products very affordable.
Customers can also trust us when we say we only work with retailers – our beautiful products are designed specifically for trade – with no route to retail. Our aim is to give customers the choices to build their own collections and mark these as their own, rather than promote our brand.
Why should retailers stock CME’s products?
We offer customers affordable luxury with the look and quality of branded jewellery, without the high prices and low margins of branded products. We offer over 5000 products to suit any style, season or customer with 100s of products added annually, so that there is maximum choice. We cater for every style, from traditional and timeless classics to trend-led, fashionable finds. We have been in the business for over 40 years and love to help experienced and budding entrepreneurs alike. For those customers who are creative we offer the chance to work with our in-house design and sourcing team to create unique products for their brand.
CME promote ethical and environmental practices throughout the business… tell us more.
Trading ethically and in an environmentally responsible way is an increasingly important expectation of ourselves and our customers. We have long been a member of the National Association of Jewellers and we are very proud to have received full certification from the Responsible Jewellery Council earlier this year. This means that all products are sourced with ethical and environmental standards in mind, and comply with all guidelines set by the RJC. We have reviewed our business practices to improve our carbon footprint and have installed solar panels and added an electric car to our fleet. We recycle where we can and are constantly looking for an alternative to plastic bags – this is an area we would like to improve further.
We are in the process of working with a national charity to produce a range from recycled silver which will be made in the UK – this is still in the design stages but watch this space!
How have you had to adapt with the rise of ecommerce?
We were early adopters of catalogue sales and have been familiar with supplying mail order for many years. We have been lucky enough to work with successful online traders as their businesses have developed and the dialogue we have built with them enables us to evaluate the trends and demand so that we can source and design ranges that will appeal to internet sellers. We have updated our website to make the breadth of our collection easier to navigate. A challenge has been to encourage customers who understandably like the physical act of buying in a showroom or trade-show to buying on the web.
Your new website will be launched on June 24th What can visitors expect to see?
A very different look and feel. Our priority with the new website has been to make it as easy to use for those who are new to online buying as well as have sufficient features for those that are very familiar with ecommerce. We’ve tried hard to ensure that help customers will be more easily able to navigate through our extensive range using breadcrumbs, searches and filters. We’ve introduced banners to indicate which products are trending, and those that sell really well over time (Trusted) as customers often ask about sales figures. We have more lifestyle photography to enable customers to appreciate some of the styles that are harder to get the feel of from single shots and added a blog to complement our existing newsletter to give customers ideas for their own collections.
How would you sum up your target customer?
Extremely diverse. We work with all sizes of retailer, both online and offline, from large-scale multi-nationals to budding entrepreneurs, and can offer expert advice and support no matter what level of business a buyer is at.
What are the greatest challenges CME face and how have you overcome them?
Well, the challenges have changed somewhat with Coronavirus and at present we are doing all we can to offer a good service to all customers whilst keeping all our staff safe. We are getting a lot of enquires from start-up companies and established jewellery shops who wish to add e-commerce to their services, and we are trying to advise. One other challenge is encouraging customers who have long been used to brands who offer all of the point of sale support to step out and to see the value of unbranded goods and re-establish their own in-house collections. We hope by offering choice and great quality with the potential for high profit margins that they will be convinced.
What are your main growth objectives over the next 12 months?
We will continue to improve our customer service, introducing a new stock control system so that the stock levels appear on the website and introduce new delivery options which will enable us to deliver faster even at busy times. We want to continue to expand into the gift and heritage market and support the UK jewellery industry by sourcing more products in the UK.
How do you cater for retailers online and offline?
We showcase our products on our website, at trade shows and offer a collection service. (Usually we have a showroom but it is closed temporarily due to Coronavirus). We don’t have representatives in order to keep our margins low. We have a low minimum order and our friendly staff are always there to advise.
What do you love most about your business?
We love seeing businesses prosper, especially those we have worked with from when they started out. We also love getting new samples, especially when these are our original designs.
What advice would you give to a new retail start-up based on your experience?
There are as many answers to that question as there are types of shop and online retailer! Our main advice from experience would be to establish your own style – your own jewellery niche. Do your research by all means, but don’t just copy others – make original choices even if on a similar theme. Many successful online retailers are able to be creative and ‘tweak’ off the shelf pieces, customising them to make them stand out.
Which upcoming trade shows will you be attending?
Usually International Jewellery, London (cancelled this year).
2021 Spring Fair, National Exhibition Centre (fingers crossed)