The jewellery industry can be a highly-charged and rapidly-evolving market where brands come and go. They start strong, only to fall behind the race as new competitors arrive. Innovation and determination are key factors to survival in a trend driven market. THOMAS SABO has remained resilient.
In 2006 – 16 years ago – a little known European jewellery brand was about to launch in Australia.
Establishing any new brand is not easy, let alone a German brand called Thomas Sabo half-way around the world and, which at the time, had little recognition outside of its home base.
And while it’s easy to look back at the success of Thomas Sabo in Australia and New Zealand today, 2006 was a different era in terms of jewellery design and distribution; there was still a distinct division between the fine and fashion jewellery categories and, therefore, the perception of what retailers saw as ‘appropriate’.
That said, Phil Edwards, managing director Duraflex Group Australia believed in the product, and Thomas Sabo the company, and was ready for the challenge. Its first introduction to the local market was at the Sydney Trade Fair in August 2006.
“The first two years’ trading was slow and challenging as the concept of branded sterling silver jewellery at the time of launch was a new frontier to the trade,” Edwards explained in 2015.
To keep things in perspective, Kleins was the second-largest jewellery chain in Australia, with 182 stores. The company collapsed in 2008 and was liquidated.
Edwards said the launch of the Charm Club collection in 2007 became central to the success: “The roll-out of Charm Club was a key point of difference in the market that allowed Thomas Sabo to create some more immediate success and growth.”
The momentum, while slow at the start, gathered pace and by 2015, the brand had close to 300 retail stockists throughout Australasia.
As would be expected, Thomas Sabo and its designs have evolved over the years, following the latest consumer trends while creating its own.
Celebrating the iconic
During the global pandemic, Edwards had time to reflect on the future and concluded it was time to bring back some of the iconic Charm Club designs.
Edwards explained that he took time to review the historical sales data to identify the highest-selling charms and jewellery items with the idea of suggesting that a new collection be created to celebrate iconic designs.
“We worked closely with Mr Sabo and his team during this process, to build the collection specifically for our local market. The hero pieces identified are truly iconic and core to the brand’s DNA whilst being best sellers.”
“Then consumer feedback and demand motivated us to launch the Iconic collection – to celebrate the success of the brand locally and also to provide our valued retail partners with an opportunity to range the best-selling product of all time,” Edwards says.
Over the years, the brand has experienced exponential growth both in our market locally and internationally. Today, Thomas Sabo’s worldwide distribution consists of 2,500 jewellery and department stores along with 150 branded outlets, which includes company owned flagship stores.
“Every brand has a unique life cycle, and new products and collections can spark a trend and boom along the way, such as the original Charm Club launch.”
“Whilst the brand’s Australian sales have declined from its peak of the Charm Club launch, Thomas Sabo holds a very strong global market positioning and our local market positioning is now stabilised and firmly established for the long term,” Edwards explains.
Weathering the storms
The jewellery industry – like most other consumer categories – has a long list of ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ brands, which often enter the Australian market expecting to conduct business just as they do in Europe or the US, only to discover nothing could be further from the truth.
Many fail, closing their Australian operation often leaving retailers and consumers in the lurch. However, the DGASabo partnership has stood the test of time, including throughout the global financial crisis of 2008-2009 and more recently the COVID pandemic.
Indeed, Thomas Sabo the company has also weathered the storm while many of its US and European competitors have fallen by the wayside. While many upstart brands took on venture capital-finding and/or were acquired by larger companies, Mr Sabo remains the founder and owner of the company that he started in 1984.
“DGA continues our exceptional long-term relationship of working closely and personally with Mr Sabo who remains the owner and key decision-maker for the brand. I speak regularly to him on the phone discussing all aspects of life from family to business and which has continued to build upon our strong partnership over the past 16 years.” Edwards says.
Mr Sabo himself echoes the sentiment; he told Jeweller: “For our positioning as a leading international premium brand, we rely on strong partnerships. In Australia, with Duraflex, we have had a powerful partner at our side for many years, enabling us to continue a trusting and successful cooperation with the specialist trade and our online shop presence locally.”
He says that while the success of the Charm Club collection was once the key to Thomas Sabo’s internationalisation, the brand today appeals to a much wider audience.
“We have grown with our customers and are now firmly established internationally in the premium jewellery segment for both men and women. Nevertheless, the Charm Club continues to play a central role in our brand world until today: we appeal to young target groups in particular and can also react to trends and introduce new products at short notice,” Mr Sabo said.
He adds that one of the cornerstones in the company’s success is that it remains a privately-owned company, “which often allows us to act faster than the competition, especially in uncertain times.”
“My vision to enable people throughout the world to purchase high-end items of jewellery in all price segments is what drives us all. The demand for branded and collectable jewellery was truly ignited in 2006 and has continued with a strong trajectory worldwide and in the local Australian market.
“Globally, we were one of the pioneers here and were, therefore, able to further drive the international expansion of the brand”, Mr Sabo says.
Edwards says, “The fundamental strategy with the new Iconic Collection is to re-ignite the core DNA of the brand, which will provide a unique opportunity for some of our original stockists to re-join the world of Thomas Sabo and many loyal and faithful consumers to re-engage with the brand.”
The collection revisits the unique mix of glamour, rock ‘n’ roll and nostalgia. It will include the signature high heel, red lipstick and handbag charms as well as the winged heart, silver feathers and wrapped wing pendants.
While we know Ralf Lauren famously said, “Fashion is transient, trends come and go”, it was Jonathan Swift in the 1700s who said, “Everything old is new again”.
THOMAS SABO CREATIVE DIRECTOR
Thomas Sabo recently announced the worldwide launch of its Ocean Vibes Spring / Summer Collection 2022.
According to Aurore Melot, Thomas Sabo creative director, the “vibrant three-dimensional dynamic designs” will showcase hand-crafted stoneembellished pieces in dark blue, aquamarine, and white colour gems.
At the time of the announcement, Jeweller asked Melot how she envisions the wearer when designing new collections.
“That’s an important question because the answer is quite simple: anyone can, may and should wear Thomas Sabo! That’s always been the case with us. But even beyond that, I’m happy that the fashion world, in general, has opened up and no longer follows strict rules. Who needs rules or pigeonholes?
“I’m also very happy that the prevailing attitude at the moment is to buy less, but better. This increases appreciation for handcrafted pieces and we, therefore, reach a very broad and diverse target group today, Melot says.
She explained that she is inspired subliminally by jewellery from earlier times, finding centuries-old craftsmanship to be incredibly fascinating in addition to loving Rococo just as much as the Renaissance or Art Deco.
“For example, during our creative processes I am inspired by very different things, a historical piece of jewellery from the 18th century, something every day like an antique key or a special encounter, a book or a work of art or motifs and the movements of nature,” she adds.
THOMAS SABO ICONIC CHARM COLLECTION
THOMAS SABO Ocean Vibes SS22 Collection Teaser