Twenty six years after launching her jewellery selling career at a market stall on Sydney’s upper north shore, Barbara Hastings is now a major wholesaler of sterling silver and stainless steel jewellery in Australia and New Zealand as well as Singapore, the Pacific Islands and the Middle East.
However, interestingly Barbara’s entry into the jewellery industry was not planned.
She initially began selling silver jewellery at the market stall not as a business venture but as a fundraising activity for the local Progress Association. Having enjoyed buying and selling jewellery while fundraising, Barbara decided there was potential to build her own business.
“In the beginning I bought stock from a neighbor” explains Barbara.
“I then began importing shell and sterling silver jewellery from Bali and silver jewellery from Thailand and selling that.”
Despite her success, Barbara’s stint in retail was relatively short-lived as she quickly decided her future lay in wholesaling.
“Shop owners were asking me to wholesale to them and I quickly found that I could do better in a couple of hours wholesaling than I could in a whole day retailing.”
Barbara based her new business venture, named Pastiche, in her family home, and began selling her products in Sydney and then the rest of Australia. A few years later, as the business expanded she moved into premises in Forestville.
Barbara attributes much of this early success to market timing.
“Silver had just started to grow in popularity just before I started,” she explains.
“Prior to that the jewellery market had been dominated by small pieces of gold. The market then exploded into fashion jewellery for around a year until silver started to creep in and fit in somewhere between small gold pieces and large bold fashion pieces.
“Silver then really took off and hasn’t really let go since.”
Pastiche’s sales have enjoyed a similar trajectory.
Today, the company’s sterling silver jewellery collection is made up of around 1600 pieces retailing from around $50 to $1000.
Michael Elliott, general manager, sales and marketing, says the company adds about 500 pieces to its collection each February and August.
“We normally take out 300 or 400 pieces to make room for the new styles to keep the range at a manageable level while reinventing it.
“In that way we keep the consumer interested and, more importantly, keep our retailers inspired that we are coming up with different reasons for the consumer to come into their store and purchase.”
For the same reason, the company branded its silver collection about five years ago and is now concentrating its efforts on growing its brand recognition further.
“We are branding the product from packaging to POS to stamping every single piece so that the consumer has a perception that they have not just bought a piece of jewellery but have bought a piece of Pastiche,” explains Michael.
“Whether we like it or not we have all become fashion victims and would prefer to buy a brand than not.”
Phillip Hastings, Barbara’s husband and the managing director of the company since 2003, agrees.
“Just five years ago most jewellers would not accept branded jewellery in their stores − they really wanted to put their own shop name, their own moniker, on the jewellery they sold − but then the attitudes to branding changed and jewellers started to see value in branding so we had to shift our attitude as well.”
According to Phillip, this change has “almost turned the business on its head”.
“Prior to branding almost our complete focus was on the jewellery item itself but now the focus is almost equally on the jewellery – and supporting the brand.
“The amount of effort required to create the brand and support it is absolutely enormous. It is almost as complex and important as selecting the right kind of jewellery to sell.
The company employs a variety of strategies to build the Pastiche brand including
advertising in consumer magazines, a “very interactive” website, and social networking activities on Facebook and Twitter.
However despite the success of its branded sterling silver collection the company is no longer reliant on sterling silver or its own brand for success.
In 2004 the company added stainless steel jewellery to its range.
Barbara says the rising price of silver drew her attention to stainless steel as a lot of customers cannot afford “the prohibitive price of big bold silver designs”.
“The recent silver price rises have certainly opened the door for the stainless steel market,” adds Michael.
“Stainless steel allows us to do the big beautiful pieces in a more cost effective manner.”
In 2005 Pastiche expanded its product mix even further with the introduction of the Lovelinks brand of personalised jewellery.
Made from sterling silver and Murano glass the range was perfect for capitalising on the bead phenomenon that was sweeping Australia at the time.
Today Michael readily admits that the company would be more than happy to embrace any other similar fashion trends that come along.
In the meantime Barbara and her team will continue to do what they have been successfully doing for the last 26 years – designing and choosing affordable jewellery for their established markets
“Most of our jewellery is designed inhouse in a collaborative effort,” she explains.
“There are about six girls in the office as well as three female sales agents who contribute to our design ideas – and almost everybody contributes with a suggestion or two when the samples come in.”
Barbara attributes much of Pastiche’s success to this team effort although Michael argues that the success is largely due “to the relationships that Barbara has built with the customers and more importantly with her supporters”.
“They understand Barbara’s work ethic in regards to quality and craftsmanship and that has put us in good stead with our customers.
“Our reliability and customer service have helped us become who we are and it’s just a natural progression to maintain that. We have to be right with the product and service with our customers and that hopefully flows through to the end consumer.”
Barbara concludes that the greatest reward she gains from her business is still “the pleasure I get when I know that we have designed and produced something that sells well and looks lovely on”.