Diamond rings and luxury watches make lasting love matches for Berr…

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There’s nothing like the real thing and sales trends show for customers of the Berry’s Jewellers chain that’s most likely to be a yellow gold solitaire engagement ring for a beloved or investment in a luxury brand watch.

The company’s opening this month of a showroom featuring official Olympic timekeeper Omega next to its store in Nottingham marks the start of a busy year for the family-owned, three generations retailer as it pursues expansion across the UK.

“Working with brand partners we provide expertise and the highest quality jewellery and watches, bringing footfall to city centres and jobs for local communities. This will be one of our biggest years, opening and refurbishing,” says managing director Simon Walton who, as in previous years, is seeing demand surge in the run up to Valentine’s Day.

With a strong presence particularly across northern England, the company has stores, VIP customer rooms and brand boutiques in Leeds, where it also has a design workshop, York, Newcastle, Hull and Windsor as well as the two in Nottingham.

Associations adding more sparkle and revenues have come with the business’s own jewellery collection Opeia celebrating its 125th anniversary last year and other big name labels such as Cartier, Vacheron Constantin, Breitling, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Bvlgari. 

In York a third store dedicated to iconic Swiss watchmaker Patek Philippe will open shortly, making a site trio for Berry’s together in one street, each one however offering different brands and price levels.

On average the business, which sells UK-wide, invests £2.5 million annually in its growth and is forecasting a £80 million turnover for 2024, while spends range from £1,000 to £100,000 plus.

“Investing in properties in the early days helped massively and has shown to be the best way for us to grow as it meant we weren’t dependent on landlords and renting which can be unreliable,” explains Walton, whose father Jeffrey and son Oliver both work with him in the business, sealing the line of succession.

The business does not offer lab grown diamonds and long-standing established relationships also characterise Berry’s work with gem dealers, “so we can source responsibly at the best prices”, says Walton. 

“Today we have a wide spread of price points with people buying less but spending more. Our competition really is holidays.

“A large proportion of our sales are done by phone, email or us going to them. People like to look online, 10 per cent of our sales are that way with Covid accelerating the change and our website builds international awareness. 

“But customers also want an experience, to come in and see in person. That’s why our VIP rooms offering a private experience and our mono-brand boutiques are so popular.” 

Over the past decades sales have changed radically with 70 per cent now watches and the remainder jewellery. “Timepieces have become hugely popular and luxury Swiss watches are driving the growth,” observes Walton. 

“They hold their value and appreciate as investments. Demand outstrips supply. It was pent-up during Covid and it is how people like to treat themselves.

“Brands are demanding to work with however and require patience – that’s where our experience and service comes in.”

Now contending with overhead challenges such as a 35 per cent rise in energy costs, what could really help Berry’s in future, says Walton is for the Government to reinstate the VAT exemption for overseas tourists who are now subject to a 20 per cent tax on their UK purchases.

Regarded by the struggling retail sector as a major backward step, Walton is among many urging a rethink, explaining: “It’s affecting our whole industry and our sales as we have many international visitors coming to our stores in Windsor and York. It makes a big difference as to whether they buy or not.” 

Meanwhile on the home front Berry’s team of 128 continues to grow. “We truly see them as extensions to our family,” declares Walton.

www.berrysjewellers.co.uk, and its developing vintage watch branch: https://www.berrysjewellers.co.uk/watches-c10/pre-owned-m88

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