Tell us about WE Clark & Son’s history
WE Clark & Son has a fantastic history, with its roots now going back four generations within the same family. WE Clark established his jewellery shop in Lewes, East Sussex in 1919 after marrying a beautiful hat model and deciding Lewes was the town he wanted to settle in. The business continued to grow and in 1947 John Clark senior joined the business, whilst serving in the Second World War he met his wife Bruna and they returned to the shop in Lewes. They had a son John Clark junior who then, after a period of training at various jewellers, took over the running of the business in 1972 at the age of 22. John and his wife Madeleine had three children, one of which was myself – the fourth generation which continues to grow and run the business today. There have been many challenges to face the Clarks over the years, but each generation has taken the role of caring for the business with great care and most importantly passion.
You offer services such as repairs and bespoke creations, what does this add to the business?
The business in Lewes and Eastbourne in East Sussex, and now with two websites, has always tried to be forward thinking and to operate outside the norm. By diversifying and thinking how to innovate. We are in an enviable position within the trade today. Around 25 years ago John Clark decided to have his first piece of jewellery created as opposed to purchasing already manufactured, this gave him the opportunity to create unique pieces of jewellery and offer them at great value. This idea was the seed that was to become what is now the Clark Collection of bespoke jewellery, a now spectacular range retailing up to £70,000. John and I, along with Daniel Blackford, now travel the world sourcing precious gemstones and diamonds, to be used to create the next piece for the Clark Collection. In the last three years, a specialist watch repair business has been further evolving. Having always carried out watch repairs, it was clear that there was a further requirement within the business, to be able to offer a repair and restoration service for vintage and specialist timepieces. The website www.weclarkwatchrepairs.co.uk is now responsible for helping to channel customers to our own on site master watchmaker.
Have you benefited from 3D printing?
Whilst embracing traditional techniques we of course use the latest technology to craft commissions. In the last year, 3D printing was responsible for bringing to life one of the company’s largest and most impressive commission to date, a suite of emerald and diamond jewellery retailing at £100,000. The ability to design and present designs to customers in great detail really has revolutionised things and continues to be a very valuable tool for the company.
What sets you apart from your competitors?
I think this is quite simple, our heritage and the ability to exceed our customers’ expectations. As a consumer I understand how often indifferent service presents itself, these days I strive to make sure that we always try to push the boundaries of great customer service. Let’s be honest, it doesn’t go right every time, but you have to try and make sure that you strive to get it right. We have a great and dedicated team working in the business, and this is a big part of our success.
You have recently been accredited as a National Living Wage employer, why is this important?
This idea is something that I came across during my time as president of Lewes Chamber of Commerce. The accreditation actually was not onerous for us, as in fact all of the criteria were being met and exceeded. If you are asking your team to work hard for you and put 100% in, then it is only fair that you pay them a decent wage and one that they can live on.
What’s next for the WE Clark & Son?
This is going to be a year of working with what has been established. It has been a whirlwind of a decade in some ways; purchasing Eastbourne’s oldest jewellers; creating what has to be one of the largest single jewellery showrooms; and launching two amazing websites. I think we now have the foundations in place to build this business up further, into not just a fantastic county jeweller but the best national jeweller. This takes time, and I am not going to rush it – I am going to enjoy the ride.