Q&A: Michael Aldridge on the CMJ’s latest accounts

The Company of Master Jewellers has undergone some key changes in the last couple of years, refocusing the business on its core purpose – a buying group for independent high street jewellers. Michael Northcott caught up with chairman Michael Aldridge in the wake the the CMJ’s new accounts being published on Companies House, to find out more about his thoughts on the organisation’s direction of travel.

– Can you provide a summary of what divestment activity occurred in the period pertaining to these accounts?

During the year to 31 March 2019, the last of the group’s subsidiaries was closed – iSynergy Hosting. Consequently the accounts include a final management charge to the new owner of the company.

– Can you provide a summary of ALL major divestment activity between Willie Hamilton’s and before the period pertaining to the most recent accounts?

In 2017 the CMJ board took the difficult decision to close down the underperforming group subsidiaries and to concentrate on the core business – a buying group for independent retail jewellers. The majority of the costs pertaining to these closures were reflected in the year ended 31 March 2018. This was a major project and involved a great deal of professional time and costs.

– What proportion of departments have been affected by the reduction in headcount?

All departments have been affected by the reduction in headcount.

– What accounts for the 42% drop in sales through the group, in the CMJ’s view?

The core business has reduced by 8%. This reflects what is happening on the high street. The balance is due to the change of strategy of Pandora and their buy back of franchised stores.

– Have you any other comments about the outlook that you would like to put forward for the story?

The future for retail is challenging, regardless of sector. However the CMJ is here to support its members and is best placed to do so, having a strong financial position and the ability to wield influence within the sector. Now more than ever the independent retail jeweller needs the community that is CMJ, where members share experiences, ideas and issues, taking advantage of the network that is available to them.

I would stress again that the CMJ are in a very strong position financially and are now fully focused on supporting our retailers and suppliers as we move forward together through this turbulent retail time on the high street.

Our collaboration with other industry bodies is really working well and our recent trade event saw a record number of suppliers exhibiting in a newly designed show, with good levels of business being written. Our own figures show growth in non branded jewellery and selected watch brands, interestingly the average transaction spend has increased.

Our Growth and Learning networking meetings were fully subscribed with both suppliers and retailers and this will be repeated again in 2020 on a slightly larger scale.

With this level of positivity being generated, despite the negativity on the high street and footfall being down, the CMJ is well placed to move forward again with real purpose and direction.

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