[blockquote style=”2″]The founder and former CEO of Pandora gives Michael Northcott a candid interview on his career there, and why he is confident that his new venture, Endless Jewellery, will be bigger and better.[/blockquote]
Can you give us a potted history of your career?
I started in the jewellery industry in 2003, and I was one of the key figures in the growth of Pandora. I managed the distribution for Germany which was Pandora’s first big market. I created the company from zero, and built it up into five European markets, staying with the company until 2011.
We sold in 2010 on the stock exchange and I was big a part of that chapter and the sale process. I couldn’t get along with the new owners – it’s quite normal: the entrepreneur meets the big capital industry and everyone finds it difficult to agree on the direction of the business. I resigned as CEO in Europe in 2011, and had a competition clause in my contract which meant I could not work for two years. For these two years, I was sitting in Majorca preparing my comeback in the jewellery industry, because my mission with Pandora had not been fulfilled. I was only half way through the journey, and I am still a young man: I couldn’t just sit there for the rest of my life, even though I tried to.
Tell us about how you got started with Endless?
I and my family started planning the new company during the two years off work. Pandora Central and Western Europe, the company I started, was a family company. My mother and sister were a part of it, and so it made sense that they helped with the planning for Endless in Autumn 2012. We launched the first collection in April 2013. My first main market was Germany where we have a lot of close contacts. I was a very visible figure there and in Europe, and I was known by everyone from the Pandora days, luckily only for the good things!
I worked very hard in my time at Pandora, and worked in close partnership with the stockists. The journey was magic: it was a sensation going from no customers to more than 4,000 customers by the end. So many people in the industry knew me, so coming back to the industry was quite normal for us, in fact it was an easy comeback. We opened 800 accounts within the first seven months in Germany, including all the big chains. The biggest jewellery chain in Germany, Christ Jewellers, took on Endless very early on.
The journey took off from there. For the rest of 2013, I’ve been working creating the toolbox, and now it is finished and we are launching in 11 markets at the same time – the UK is one of them. We started in the UK with just a little touching base to get things going, but we have already expanded to 140 accounts here. The DNA of Endless is simple – it is Pandora’s original DNA. I am trying to put the causes of the early success of Pandora back into Endless.
What is precipitating such early success?
I am well known by lots of people throughout the industry in Europe, they know how I do business, and they know what I stand for. They know that I regard them as partners, and that I like to work closely with them so that everyone can enjoy the success. When everything comes to everything, that approach is what made Pandora what it is today.
Do you think Endless will surpass Pandora in size?
Endless is going to be bigger than Pandora, because this time we are going to finish the whole journey. Last time we only finished half the journey: we stopped the development in 2010 due to wrong strategic decisions. There were some tactical mistakes. With Endless, I am making sure no mistakes are made, and we are currently growing at six times the speed that Pandora was growing when it was Endless’ age.
When the suits became involved in Pandora, they wanted a selected distribution, and they basically forgot where we came from. I’m still of the opinion that the way Pandora is working is the wrong way. They are underestimating the power of the jewellery stores. Basically Endless is being pitched at the same price points as Pandora, and truthfully, it is a product that people are not willing to drive 30 miles to get, because it only £30 or so. You’re not going to drive that far just to get that something at that price. They have forgotten that we got big through the partners and a strategy of simply having as many as possible.
When I was asked to perform strategy where I would say to my stockist friends: “You’re my friend but now I’ll f*** you,” I said I’m not going to do that. I’m very happy that I stepped out of it for that reason and now I can come back again. Now I can perform the same magic that I did last time. The leather bracelet will be the next big thing for the next 10 years and I didn’t have a single second of doubt about what to bring to the market next.
Tell us some interesting facts and figures about Endless
We have 250 employees, 1,500 stockists, and we are opening around 100 stores a week. I work with a completely transparent strategy, I put everything on Facebook so everyone can see what is going on. We gained 92 new partners last week. If you do that for three years, you have more stockists than Pandora. We will be bigger than Pandora in three years.
What in particular will appeal to would-be stockists of Endless Jewellery?
I’ve learnt that liquidity is the most important thing these days. We’re not going to go in with large collections at £10,000: instead, you can be a partner of Endless for £3,000. We make it very easy for the customer to get started – they get a display, 30KG of POS material and everything they need for that low bottom price.
Basically this has to be cheap because we have to provide retailers with a strong stock churn. This is incredibly important. They don’t have any minimum orders – if you want to change the stock balance then you just do it. This is how Pandora was in the old days – we used to just say yes to everything for our customers.
Are you excited about the future?
Yes, as we are growing so fast. We do extremely hot marketing. I just launched my TV campaign in Germany last week, starting last Thursday with 1,000 spots on all the big channels. There is nothing on this journey that surprises me now – having done it with Pandora I will do it it better, stronger, and with fewer mistakes.