Brand Q&A: Going for growth, with Buckley London
Buckley London has established itself as a mainstay of fashion and costume jewellery in the UK market since it was founded in the 1980s. As the firm prepares to launch seven new collections for the autumn-winter season, MICHAEL NORTHCOTT decided to find out more
Please give us a bit of background of the history of the company, who founded it, when, what is their career background?
Since the inception of Buckley London in 1989, founder and owner Adrian Buckley has had one aim – to design and manufacture the best quality fashion and costume jewellery at competitive prices.
Adrian left school at 16 to work at a family retail business and by 20, he was working for Cadbury. His neighbour, a partner of Michael Lever at Abbeycrest, advised Adrian that they had a job vacancy in product development. After three tough interviews, Michael told Adrian that he possessed something known as ‘tam’ in Jewish vernacular – meaning ‘incredibly good tast’e, or the ability to identify winning products. This skill, unknown to him before the interview, inspired Adrian and became “the cornerstone of my entire career”.
Between its inception and 2009, Buckley London focused solely on its relationship with major private-label contract buyers in the UK high street. During this time, the Buckley London brand made a promising footprint in the UK-based travel retail market, supporting a number of airport duty free stores and airlines. Realising the massive potential for growth, Adrian decided that the company should develop travel retail as a primary focus and drive own-brand, innovative product. This decision was made at a time when private label represented 80% of the sales and profit of the company. In the following years whilst continuing to manage the demand of private label, Adrian’s instinct proved correct and Buckley London managed to succeed in growing to a global position within the travel retail market.
Today, Buckley London is an entirely own-brand label. Since the shift in focus, brand sales have achieved 50% year-on-year growth. In the last two years alone international sales have increased by 37%. Alongside travel retail, the brand is developing a reputation in the UK high street as a top-performing jewellery brand, generating the highest sales per square foot of any comparable brand in the store groups.
As one of the UK’s largest costume jewellery brands, Buckley London offers beautiful design-led pieces of costume jewellery that are both timeless and wearable. All Buckley London jewellery is designed in the UK and manufactured to the highest quality including real rose gold, gold and rhodium plate, Austrian crystals and the finest grade cubic zirconia. Buckley London supplies products to over 600 retail locations worldwide.
Tell us about the latest jewellery ranges, explaining design inspiration background on each
In July we will be launching seven new collections as part of our AW16 range. Following the success of our SS16 launch, introducing a new look and feel for the brand, the new collections will continue the theme of ‘modern meets classic’ pieces which take inspiration from iconic London architecture and the brand’s British heritage.
Customers can expect to see angular 3D shapes, crystal embellishment and polished asymmetrical profiles along with multi-layer pendants and eye-catching cuff bangles to create a mix of contemporary style essentials suitable for any occasion. From the Art Deco-inspired Adelphi collection to the sharp yet sophisticated Edgware collection, the AW16 range showcases best in class design at affordable prices.
With the continuing trend of stackable wrist wear, we will also expand our bestselling 3-for-2 bracelet offering with innovative magnetic bracelets and classic friendship bracelet designs.
Tell us about production – how many craftspeople do you have, how long from sketches to finished pieces being produced?
Each new Buckley London collection involves a detailed development process spanning many months, ensuring each piece of jewellery meets our high quality and design standards.
From initial concept, our small team of designers will spend a few days working on initial sketches to refine the idea, before rendering the designs in Adobe Illustrator to visualise how the final piece will look. We have recently began using a 3D printer which enables us to print models of the designs before production to check the scale and to make any final tweaks before they are sent for sampling. From finished CAD designs we expect to see initial samples in 3-4 weeks.
All products are produced at quality-tested factories, which we visit regularly to collaborate, exchange ideas and sign off samples at production stage. Thanks to the longstanding relationships we have with our trusted manufacturers, some of whom we have worked with for 25 years, we are able to keep our focus on design without compromising on quality.
How has the market performed for you recently – what sort of volumes were shifted in 2015, and how is the outlook for this year?
Over the past year we have continued to see high levels of growth across all markets. Our expertise in travel retail continued to be a huge part of the business in 2015, making up approximately 70% of revenue.
Within the in-flight market, we expanded our design portfolio with a selection of new innovative in-flight exclusives to meet the growing demand. Due to the injection of fresh and unique concepts, we secured several product listings and began working with a major low-cost airline, which we anticipate will help aid growth in 2016.
We’ve strengthened key relationships with buyers who welcomed the new-look pieces, resulting in 30 new locations being added in 2015. Bespoke Buckley London branded fixtures were introduced to global doors to further increase our presence as a high quality fashion jewellery brand and enhance the customer shopping experience.
Our relatively young online business has also seen a dramatic increase year-on-year, with sales up 31% thanks to a focus on improving design, functionality and usability for our growing customer base.
Which shows do you attend, which have been your most successful of the last 12 months and why?
Each year we plan a full schedule of trade events around the world, allowing us to
showcase new collections, meet with existing customers and introduce the brand to potential new customers. With a large part of our revenue coming from the travel retail market, duty free shows are incredibly important to us with the highlight of our calendar being October’s TFWA World event in Cannes, France.
What new ranges can we expect in the next year?
We are currently finalising our designs for SS17, which will include a host of exciting designs encompassing new profiles such as hexagonal shapes and 3D cones, as well as multi-layer and stacking pieces which we know our customers love.
Can you talk us through your design process, and any unique features about the way you work?
At Buckley London, design is at the forefront of everything we do. Our in house, UK-based design team work tirelessly to create compelling new designs each season, which embrace our signature style of simple classic designs with a contemporary twist, to on-trend fashion lead pieces for every occasion. The design process always begins with a concept. For our design team, inspiration can be found anywhere, from the geometric shapes found in architecture to the vivid colour and beauty of natural elements. Our designers always keep a sketch book to hand so that they can immediately visualise potential creations. Initial sketches are layered onto mood boards with inspirational images and colour palettes, creating depth to the collections. After spending time refining the sketches by hand, the designs are brought to life through the use of Adobe Illustrator.
To gauge target market response, a number of focus groups are held at design stage where feedback can be incorporated into range building. Regular visits to jewellery trade fairs in fashion-centric cities such as Italy, Paris and Hong Kong, plus observing street styles and social media ensure that we uncover key jewellery trends.
What about marketing campaigns – how do you push the brand out there to consumers?
2016 saw a significant shift in brand focus as we incorporated more fashion forward designs to appeal to a younger demographic, alongside our core classics.
We launched the new designs alongside a multi-channel marketing campaign, including creative lifestyle imagery and video designed to be both aspirational to our customer base whilst reflecting the fun, British heritage of our brand. A focus on increasing our presence in key fashion publications, as well as developing innovative in-store displays and point of sale has helped to showcase our products to their full potential.
We have also built a strong social media following, with engaging new content helping to drive awareness which has risen by 34% since November 2015. The bold styling of the new collections has allowed us to build a strong reputation with key fashion bloggers who now see us as a go-to brand for beautiful, design lead jewellery.
How many retail doors do you have in the UK, and if applicable, overseas?
Buckley London has an ever-growing global presence and currently supplies over 600 retail outlets worldwide including 300 high street stores, 140 airlines, 100 airports and over 80 cruise ships.
With over 25 years’ experience in retailing and longstanding relationships with key manufacturers, we are able to continually oﬀer a broad product range at affordable price points to appeal as both a gift and a self-purchase.
Undoubtedly our focus on innovative product is key to our success, and we always strive to create a product offering with wide appeal. We are conscious of the importance of continually developing our range, offering new and exciting launches each season and ultimately ensuring that we always provide our customers with the best quality. With this in mind, we forecast continued sales growth and a strengthening global presence in 2016 and beyond.