Brendan McCreesh – Industry Forum 2024

Brendan McCreesh, Director of O’Neils gives his insights into the successes and challenges of 2023 with hopes for the 2024 year.

Written by Jewellery World

Brendan McCreesh
Director, O’Neils Affiliated Pty Ltd

Reflecting on 2023, can you share some successes or achievements for O’Neils in terms of business growth, client satisfaction, or industry recognition?

2023 was an inconsistent trading year and didn’t follow the trends of previous years. We went from a record March followed by lean months as higher interest rates and cost-of-living realities started to bite. We continued to develop our online platform to help us be flexible with customer needs, and the innovations continued. Our complex range can be very difficult to present online, and we are constantly developing and tweaking new ways for customers to both find what they need and browse for design ideas.

In the ever-evolving gemstone market, were there any specific trends or shifts in demand that O’Neils observed in 2023? How did you respond to these trends to meet the evolving needs of the jewellery trade? 

We saw a solid trend for high-end stones in the first quarter of 2023 that suddenly changed to a more modest price point when the post-COVID boom quickly eased. As the demand changed, our broad product range was crucial to an adapting market. Even in the quietest months, we were shipping up to 70 parcels each day, albeit at lower invoice totals, the important thing is that momentum was there. People often turn to remodelling jewellery in tougher times, and we have been the go-to supplier for over 70 years.

Can you highlight any new initiatives, technologies, or processes that O’Neils introduced during 2023 to enhance its services or better serve clients? 

Over the last 12 months, we developed and launched a new, free, interactive feature called GemSpin, designed to help our customers sell to theirs. It’s been a long, laborious process to perfect the high-definition imagery we have achieved, but we now have a library of nearly two hundred and growing. We have more exciting projects in the pipeline that will launch in 2024. Technical innovations are often difficult and complex to implement, but we are determined to remain ahead of the curve as the most innovative gemstone supplier in Australia. 

In 2024, does O’Neils have any initiatives or plans to further enhance its sustainability practices, whether in sourcing gemstones or other aspects of its operations? 

We have been mindful of sustainable practices for decades and continue to look for ways to improve, e.g. we introduced biodegradable packaging over 20 years ago. We consider everything from mining practices and labour conditions to the frequency of air travel and everything in between.

How does O’Neils stay attuned to industry changes, and does the company have plans to introduce or highlight specific gemstones based on market trends in 2024? 

Not only do we subscribe to numerous trade journals from around the world, but we also speak to people on the ground when travelling, particularly in Bangkok, Jaipur and Sri Lanka. This year we spent three weeks in the rich gem regions of Brazil, discussing trade with miners, cutters and dealers in all manner of gem varieties. Gaining first-hand information, in person, at source locations makes a big difference. Additionally, by spending time cutting houses that source globally, we see the quality of the rough arriving on the market and the price changes that will flow through supply chains. This is why we always try to buy as close to the source as possible. 

As a seasoned player in the gemstone industry, what advice or insights can O’Neils share with jewellers and businesses in the jewellery trade as they navigate the evolving landscape of 2024 and beyond?

It’s always good to keep a levelled and pragmatic attitude when there are such wildly varying market predictions floating about. It’s wise to be cautious when the market is slow, but also be mindful that doom-casters are ever-present, in bad times and good. It’s like the oft-quoted adage “Economists have predicted nine of the last three recessions.”

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