After more than 35 years wholesaling and distributing fine jewellery in Australia, Arthur Pike is still constantly changing his company’s jewellery collection to meet the ever changing needs of retailers and their customers.
Arthur, the owner of Cashelle Jewellery in Sydney’s Penrith, believes that jewellery businesses have to be prepared to change if they want to succeed.
“The market changes so the industry has to change too,” he says.
“I’m quite prepared to try different things to see what works and what doesn’t.
“I learned the importance of this attitude from a very good retailer in Melbourne years ago: I used to ask him ‘why are you buying that?’ when he was buying something new and he would say ‘because I think it will sell and if I don’t give it a try I will never know’ whereas other retailers would often just say ‘no’ to buying new jewellery styles just because they didn’t like it. Well they may not like it but the customer who walks in the door in the next five minutes might like it.”
“Business owners have to be prepared to try different things to find out which direction they need to go in.
Arthur concludes that business owners who choose not to change with the changing market are the ones who ultimately fail – and it is a lesson he has learned the hard way.
Father and Son
Arthur followed his father, Reg Pike, into the jewellery business in 1958 when he was just a school boy and took on a part-time job running errands for Reg’s employer, fine jewellery importer and manufacturer Magnus Golding.
Reg was the sales director for the company, which sold “very upmarket jewellery” including men’s cufflinks, tie tacks and signet rings as well as sterling silver cigarette boxes and cases.
“During the school holidays I used to go into Magnus Golding to deliver parcels and generally help out,” recalls Arthur.
“When I left school I had various jobs (including sales roles for Pelaco Shirts and Fiat Car Parts) but I wasn’t really happy with any of them so when dad offered me a job as a salesman for Magnus Golding in 1969 I took it.”
Arthur enjoyed working with his father at the company for eight years but was nonetheless eager to establish a business with his father.
“Dad was happy to be the sales director for Magnus but I was more ambitious.
“It wasn’t that I thought that I could do better than Magnus Golding but I just wanted to run our own race. I wanted to import what we wanted and manufacture what we wanted.
“I worked on dad for three years before I convinced him that we could do it.”
In 1977 when Arthur was just 28, the father and son team opened their fine jewellery importing and distribution business, R & A Pike Pty Ltd, in the centre of Sydney’s CBD.
“As we had both worked in the jewellery trade for so long (dad for 20 years and me for around 10) we already knew a lot of customers and had a good name in the trade (due primarily to dad’s good reputation).
“This opened a lot of doors for us and helped the business get up and running fairly quickly,” he says. “If we had been starting from scratch it would have taken significant time to earn the trust and credibility of potential customers.”
R & A Pike grew at a steady pace relatively uneventfully until the business had the good fortune to pick a winning trend in late 1978.
“The biggest thing that ever happened to R & A Pike happened in 1978 when we launched silver and gold ingots and pendants stamped with the Queen’s head, marking her Silver Jubilee, and other hallmarks,” laughs Arthur.
“It’s difficult to believe now but the ingots were a huge hit: we sold thousands and thousands of them in 1978 and 1979.
According to Arthur, Reg discovered the products during a buying trip to England when he was introduced to Johnson Matthey’s silver manager, Ken Gibson, at Hatton Garden.
“Ken introduced dad to jewellery manufacturer Roy Pike, (no relation) of Saffron Hill who was making the new ingot jewellery.
“Dad thought Roy’s ingots and pendants were great and brought back a small range.
“I was a bit sceptical about them but took them to a big wholesaler, Willis and Sons, where the buyer, Ken Perkins, was so impressed with them that he immediately ordered 150 small ones, 100 medium ones and 150 large ones.
“I couldn’t believe it but immediately telexed the order to London.”
Fortunately Willis and Sons wasn’t the only wholesaler impressed by the ingots and pendants.
“The other wholesalers followed with enthusiasm,” says Arthur.
“The ingots and pendants didn’t make us rich but they certainly gave us the funds to grow. In fact if we hadn’t had the ingots and pendants the business would have been struggling for quite a while…”
Yet despite the instant success of the ingots and pendants, R & A Pike’s business faced a number of challenges on the domestic front.
Firstly in 1983/1984, the business’s landlord doubled the rent so the company moved from its premises at the corner of York and King Street to another city office in 280 Pitt Street.
Then in 1987, Reg retired and Arthur took control of the business himself just as the business faced some of its toughest times.
“In the 1990s buying groups started to make a mark on the industry,” says Arthur.
“Australian manufacturers like us used to sell to wholesaler s who would then sell to retailers but the arrival of the buying groups meant that manufacturers began to sell directly to their members.
“This in turn meant that wholesalers, who were our customers, started to close down one by one and we were getting less and less orders until one day I woke up and realised we really only had one major customer left ( The Jewellery Centre in Brisbane)…
“I figured that if we were going survive we would have to change the way we did business – we were going to have to sell directly to retailers.
“We vacated our premises in the city as we could no longer afford to pay rent and moved home to Springwood (at the foot of the Blue Mountains) where we built an office.
“After 20 years in the trade I had to go and knock on doors and introduce myself afresh as the retailers didn’t know who I was. I no longer had a reputation to help me. I had to depend on the products I was selling and the offers I could make.”
Arthur also joined the Chronogem, Nationwide and Showcase buying groups.
“We worked from home for 10 years until we slowly but surely rebuilt the business and eventually outgrew our home office.”
In 1999 Arthur, his wife Lucy and their son Christopher found new premises in Penrith Mall and were once again happily ensconced there adding more staff until 2005 when the option period came up and once again a landlord doubled the business’s rent.
The family business found new premises, 350 square metres including the mezzanine, of office/storage space, in a nearby industrial area.
“Moving to these offices was probably the greatest thing we could have done because it gave us a lot more space and freedom,” he says.
“Lucy and I then had to make a decision in which direction we wanted the business to go as we weren’t getting any younger. We decided we either had to pull back a bit or go for it – we decided to go for it and expand further.”
Today Arthur views the company, which was renamed Cashelle Jewellery in 1988 after Reg’s retirement, as “a one-stop shop” for jewellery retailers stocking everything from baby jewellery basics to upmarket nine-carat jewellery and “everything in-between”.
The company’s current stock range is made up of a generic collection of “bread and butter” sterling silver and nine carat gold jewellery including baby-, freshwater pearl- and natural coloured stone-jewellery (lockets, crosses, earrings and pendants) as well as several branded collections, Little Charmer babies’ jewellery, Minca sterling silver charm jewellery, Concordia cultured pearl jewellery, Global Heritage, rolled gold jewellery, Urban Metro, sterling silver and stainless steel unisex jewellery, and Cashelle Fine Jewellery nine-carat jewellery).
Despite the company’s obvious move to branding in recent years, Arthur stresses that “Cashelle’s version of branding is different to many others’ on the market”.
“Our customers do not have to place minimum orders – that’s not the sort of branding we’re into,” he says.
“We provide the customer with the products, the POS material, a display and a catalogue but it’s up to them to decide how they present it – where or how they put it in their store.
“We are selling a concept, not telling them how to run their business.”
Indeed, Arthur is more excited about the prospect of continuing to run his own business but concludes that without the support of Lucy, who continues to encourage and advise him, and the help of his six dedicated staff “who often go above and beyond the call of duty” the success of the business would have been difficult.
“Our new sales agents, Jeanette Priestley (NSW), Peter Commandeur (Vic, SA & Tas) and David Mattock (Qld) who have joined us this year are making a great contribution to increasing sales,” he says. “The future for Cashelle looks very bright indeed.
“I wish my dad was alive to see what we are doing now,” he says. “It is exciting to see how much the business has changed over the years and how it will no doubt continue to change.”