With over 150 retail stores in Australia, Leading Edge Jewellers (LEJ) is a big name in the local jewellery industry – and is continually getting “bigger and better”.
“We do not want to be the biggest jewellery buying group in Australia, just the best,” says LEJ general manager Joshua Zarb,
“We are of course constantly looking to grow with new members but are very selective as we want to ensure that we continue to partner with well run traditional jewellery stores so that we can give them the best possible shot for success and that they can contribute back to the group too.
“We also never look to take on new members who will be competing in the same area as our existing members.”
The “core members” of the Leading Edge Jewellery buying group have been together since 1977 when they joined forces and created the Chronagem buying group to increase their competitiveness.
The group (whose members then traded under the name Hourglass Jewellers) grew to include around 250 members at its peak but eventually wound itself up in 1997.
Emerging from this, 90 of the original Chronogem members formed a new buying group called Information Based Sales and Marketing (IBSM).
Six years later IBSM increased its buying competiveness by merging with the Leading Edge Group (then a buying group for electronics and Hi-Fi retailers).
Today Leading Edge Jewellers is a division of the Leading Edge Group (which has now a buying group for 14 industries) with Joshua Zarb at its helm as general manager.
Joshua, who took on the role in 2007 just after IBSM officially became part of LEG, readily acknowledges that the transition from IBSM to Leading Edge Group, and its then newly-created Leading Edge Jewellery division, was a “most difficult time” as members and suppliers alike were “still getting used to the idea”.
Fortunately members and suppliers are now both well and truly “used to the idea”
Indeed Josh happily reports that Leading Edge Jewellers who have adopted the group’s proven retail model have experienced “remarkable growth in sales and profits”.
In fact, he says members are so committed to the buying group that seven years ago some members decided to “band together even more tightly” and actually brand their stores ‘Leading Edge Jewellers’.
Today the group consists of 42 Leading Edge Jewellers branded stores and another 110 stores that trade as Hourglass Jewellers or their own business name.
Josh says the only difference between the branded and the unbranded stores is that the former have agreed to “take on a more comprehensive marketing, training, replenishment, stock ranging and management program to support the business”.
“All our members enjoy the same support from our office,” he says.
“We are able to supply some of the best prices in the industry of core product, giving our members more profit”
“We have very detailed and comprehensive support packages in all areas of retailing (including areas such as financial planning, stock ranging, staff training, IT, store design and marketing) designed to help retailers make more money.
“Our retail model is not something that we simply made up”.
“It’s not something that we have read in a textbook or something we’ve learned from a consultant – it’s something we are living, breathing and doing.
“We are putting our money where our mouth is.
“We have two company-owned jewellery stores branded as Leading Edge Jewellers in Gordon and Balgowlah (on Sydney’s north shore) so we’re more in touch in running stores just like our members.”
Josh stresses that all of the group’s services are free to members.
“There are no fees to join the group and no fees to exit the group.
“We make our money when members’ purchase stock from any of our 150 suppliers.
“We negotiate a discount with a supplier, then we pass on that discount to our members and take back a small click with each purchase – in every case we negotiate a significant discount that exceeds what they would be able to get as a single store operation.”
Zarb says the group’s proven retail model has resulted in “every member experiencing at least 10-15 percent year-on-year growth over the last six years, on top of the growth that they have seen from the bead phenomenon”.
“LEJ members get all the benefits of belonging to a retail chain (including competitive buying power, marketing assistance, store design and a recognised brand) but remain individually-owned and managed so they can trade with whatever name they want (their own trading name, Leading Edge Jewellers or Hourglass Jewellers) – and stock whatever they want.
Despite such extensive benefits Josh, concludes that ultimately the main advantage of joining the group is “education in a community environment”.
“The discounts are one benefit but that is not the main benefit of being in a group,” he says.
“It’s being in a community – learning from other others retailers just like yourself, sharing ideas and industry knowledge that keeps us at the forefront of modern jewellery retailing.
“Members more than make the most of catching up at our conferences, training courses and other social events, we hold throughout the year.”