Thriving jeweller Alex Monroe continue to storm the jewelry industry with Brightpearl
Global B2B and B2C sensation, Alex Monroe has been delighting the jewelry industry for over 30 years with their unique and nature-inspired pieces, handmade in England.
To learn more about the story behind Alex Monroe’s successful omnichannel retail business, and how their journey with Brightpearl has gone so far, we were joined by Tom Graham, Ecommerce Manager and Tom Cornwell, Wholesale Manager.
Since launching Alex’s first collection in 1987, his love for the natural world has been the inspiration behind every piece that is designed and handmade by Alex and his team in London.
Both the inspiration behind the jewelry and Alex’s unique style complement their jewelry range perfectly within their boutique, in particular from the green foliage used to decorate their store, to the antique wooden cabinets used to display their pieces. Tom Graham, Ecommerce Manager at Alex Monroe explains that “there is something fun and quirky to see at every turn” within their store.
Over the years, the company’s retail success has continued to grow, seeing Alex Monroe working with a diverse selection of partners, including the very prestigious clientele of Buckingham Palace, Kew Gardens, The Victoria and Albert Museum and now even Disney, through their stunning ‘Beauty and the Beast’ collection.
Alex Monroe has also won several awards including: ‘Designer of the Year’ at the UK Jewelry Awards in 2008, ‘UKFT Accessories Award Winner’ at the 2014 UK and Fashion Textiles Awards; and was shortlisted to win the ‘25th Retail Jeweller Awards’ in 2017 within the ‘Bridal Collection of the Year’ category.
In those 30 years of business, the company has grown to now have 35 employees, 2 purpose-built workshops in London, plus a flagship store in London Bridge, and they now sell to over 38 countries, including the US, Japan, Iceland and South Korea.
Their main sales channel is wholesale, which sees them sell their jewelry to stockists across the world. But they also sell internationally via their own Magento website, and of course within their own London-based boutique.
Tom Graham tells us: “what makes Alex Monroe really unique is that everything we do, everything we make, is all designed and hand-made with traditional jewelry-making techniques in London. It’s an age-old craft that is still being championed, and he [Alex] has never compromised on his original product. We’re still using the same techniques that he started off with 30 years ago.”
And if we were to only take away one key element of the Alex Monroe business, it would be that their jewelry is handmade in England and that each piece has a story behind it. From the design sketches, to the making of it and to the selling, Tom tells us that this messaging is integral to their approach to sales, regardless of who they are selling to at the time. “Whether it is a beautiful independent boutique, a large department store or within our own boutique, our core sales message is the story behind each piece and the handmade in England aspect of it.”
Tom Cornwell, Wholesale Manager at Alex Monroe explains that the team’s operations have changed in the past 12 months. “We had disjointed sales channels before Brightpearl - they weren’t integrated and we were using lots of spreadsheets to track what we were doing.”
Within an omnichannel world, customers expect retailers to stay ahead of the curve and cater to their varying wants, needs and expectations. Aside from the difficulties the team were having with tracking everything using spreadsheets, Tom Graham tells us that “as some items are made-to-order, we sometimes don’t have the stock available. On the one hand, we’re able to offer different styles and designs, but this jars against customer expectations of fast shipping.”
One way that Alex Monroe resolve this is by having discussions with their customers and by keeping them informed if their item may take a little longer to deliver than first expected. Alongside this, the team have implemented Brightpearl to help them keep the stock levels on their Magento website updated. This helps with setting those expectations, allowing Alex Monroe to remain on the front foot.
We asked Tom Graham about how he has seen customer expectations change over the years, to which he replied: “In the time I’ve been in the industry, customer expectations have changed dramatically. I think the two things that have done that are technology, that’s been a really big driving force, and then also it’s the big online retailers. People get to a point where they’re expecting a certain level of service, so the fact that you can place an order from your phone on the bus into work, and then it’s delivered to your office lunchtime that day, and you get a message on your watch to let you know that it’s arrived - that’s a really high bar for smaller retailers to live up to."
- Disjointed sales channels
- Manual data entry and multiple spreadsheets
- Visibility over reporting and stock control was difficult to obtain
Since implementing Brightpearl, the team are happy to report that they have improved efficiencies, particularly with inventory control and reporting. “Since we’ve had Brightpearl, we’ve massively changed the way we work, so our processes are much more streamlined. We’re making a lot of efficiency savings on the back of being able to see everything live in terms of stock, and being able to allocate things, and dispatch, even on the same day,” explains Tom Cornwell.
Alongside this, the team have seen a huge improvement in international growth just over the past year. And when asked what their secret to success was? Tom Cornwell tells us it’s “probably down to the fact that we’ve done a lot of travel, but also Brightpearl has helped us to actually analyze that and look at it in more detail.”
To delve into this idea in more detail, Tom Graham advises: “Brightpearl has been great for making the data much more easily accessible for us. We can see what we’re selling, who we’re selling it to, and where. I can see our stock levels, so I use it for a reporting tool quite a lot. For my team, being able to dispatch and run all of our ordering process through there, takes a lot of the manual processes out of the equation. It frees up a lot of time for us to spend on our customer service, and what matters to us on that front.”
“With Brightpearl’s inventory management, at a glance, I can see what’s available for our customers. What would have maybe been a made-to-order piece a year ago, now I can see if it’s in stock in another warehouse. I can see that, and I can fulfill a customer order in a day, rather than three weeks, which is definitely great for the customer. It’s great for us as well, because it means we’re able to keep those orders flowing a lot quicker, and there’s a lot less admin behind the scenes for us,” Tom Graham explains.
Aside from the inventory management and reporting capabilities, Tom also explains that the Brightpearl POS software has been a great addition to their store and the experience they are able to offer there. “With the Brightpearl POS, the most important thing for us is that we can spend less time looking at the screen, and more time looking at our customers. We can have a conversation with them, show them the jewelry and get them involved with what we do here.” Tom also advises that “without a system like Brightpearl POS in place, it would be much more difficult for us to report on the performance of the store, which would make decision-making more difficult.”
And if Tom had to pick just one feature of Brightpearl that is his favorite? He would tell you: “my favorite piece of Brightpearl functionality is the reporting tool. I think being able to delve deeper and deeper into the data you’re collecting is really useful, and all the decisions I make are based on what I feel, but if they’re backed up by facts, that is invaluable really.”
- Easy at-a-glance reporting and accessible data
- Integration with Magento, perfect for real-time stock updates
- Efficient POS to help them spend more time with customers
In the past 6 months alone, the team have opened up a second building, tripling their capacity and giving them more design space. So if this is just what the past 6 months has held in store for them, we’d love to know what’s in store for this exciting company’s future.
Tom Graham tells us that “we are always looking to grow and expand our ecommerce offering. We’re looking into responsive sites as an area, and obviously upgrading our site to Magento 2.0 at some point in the future.”
Regarding the booming wholesale side of the business, Tom Cornwell explains: “the wholesale strategy here is very much focused on the international business, because that’s where we’re seeing a lot of growth, but that’s also because I think we’re massively under-potentialized internationally. We’re really established in the UK, but not actually really established anywhere else, even though Alex has been going for 30 years. So it’s really about getting the message across to international customers.”
And what about advice for other retailers and wholesalers looking to expand their businesses? Tom Graham had some great tips to share, particularly surrounding the customer experience.
Tom explains that the goal should always be to “offer the best experience, regardless of where the customer is buying from. To make the experience enjoyable and engaging, and to build a rapport with them.” Interestingly, he tells us “it’s not all about sales. The customer may come in just to speak to us and browse, or read our journal articles online.” It’s clear that what is especially important to Alex Monroe is “keeping customers engaged with the brand.”
To emphasize how important having a customer-first mentality to the Alex Monroe team is, Tom also discussed data with us. “This shouldn’t just benefit us. With tools like Google Analytics, we can see which countries and regions customers are coming to us from. We can use this data to improve functionality on our website, such as offering a new currency or better shipping options for those regions.”
Finally, to leave us all with one last tip, Tom advises to “think like your customer. Speak to them and find out what they want. You might know your customers well but miss some of the nuances. Make sure what your customers want aligns with your own ideas and work with them.”
For more tips like this, be sure to watch the webinar below that Tom Graham co-hosted with us, teaching us all how we can better connect with today’s customer expectations.