Can you please tell us a little bit about the history of Judith Hart Jewellers?
Judith Hart Jewellers was established in 1980 in the Eagle Centre, Derby. At the time I was in my early 20s and set the business up with a loan guaranteed by my parents. I was fortunate enough to make a profit in my first year, and subsequently paid off that loan over the next three years and did not look back. In 2007 the new Westfield Centre was opened in Derby and it was a natural progression to relocate into this lovely new, light shopping environment.
I am often asked what it was like to set up a new business in what was an economic recession at the time – the simple fact is that I did not know any better, and all business was good business as far as I was concerned! I am now in the very fortunate position of employing over 35 staff members, with a traditional jewellery store, a concept store, and a newly-opened brand boutique.
What would you say is your bestselling line or product?
If you do not count the silver brands which are important to all stores today, then I would say that wedding rings are of particular importance to our business. It is an area that needs time, care and professional expertise, which as an independent business with highly trained staff I believe we are in a position to provide. When I first set up the business it was the area that I felt offered the most scope, as many retailers appeared to provide such a small selection of styles. Today it is very different, with the man’s ring being just as important as the woman’s, and the range of metals and styles means there is much more choice, leading to a longer, and hopefully more productive sale.
What is the biggest change you have seen in the business since you first opened?
The biggest change I have seen over the years has been the incredible rise of branded jewellery. I know many people would say the internet and online shopping, but the jewellery brands have lifted the face of jewellery in the retail and fashion world. For many retailers I believe the brands may have saved their business in the face of economic challenges and provided footfall, cash flow and a new stream of younger and more affluent customers.
On your website it mentions that you have a new shop. What effect has this had on business?
The new brand boutique that was opened last year came as a result of wanting to offer our silver jewellery brands an environment that was dedicated to their style of business. Our more traditional store was being overrun with customers who were buying silver, and this impacted on our larger jewellery and diamond sales in a detrimental way. Higher priced items need a more relaxed, luxurious atmosphere for clients to savour the experience of making a purchase. By opening the brand boutique next door I believe I now offer the best of worlds to my customers, as each category of jewellery has the best setting for its own style and unique customer profile.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in the jewellery industry?
It is always hard to offer advice, but I think you have to be a very determined person to succeed on your own today. You need a strong belief that what you are doing is right, and must always remember that without customers you would not be in business. At the end of the day you can have the best designs and a wonderful store, but if people are not happy to shop with you then you will fail.
What does the future hold for Judith Hart Jewellers?
I always try to be positive about the future as I believe that people like to do business with people who they believe are successful. Perception is a great influence and if the media started to print success stories instead of doom and gloom I am sure that we would all feel a lot better about ourselves and where we are today. As for Judith Hart Jewellers, well, watch this space, as another store could be just about to creep over the horizon.