After 57 years servicing the Australian jewellery industry, local wholesaler Lindsay’s is undergoing a minor evolution with the launch of a new logo and change in business direction.
Traditionally the company has focused solely on selling watch bands and findings, “the bread ‘n’ butter needs of jewellery retailers”, but owner Steve Lindsay believes its future now lies in broadening its product mix to include quality and affordable watch and jewellery brands from Italy’s Morellato.
“No business can afford NOT to change,” says Steve. “We all must adapt to new fashions, new products, new innovations…
“We have decided that Morellato, Italy’s largest watch and jewellery company, gives us the perfect opportunity to meet the changing demands of jewellery buyers.
“The company currently distributes Morellato jewellery (which is sold in over 70 countries and 80 percent of jewellery stores in Italy) and Sector watches.
“We want to replicate some of that success in Australia.”
Nonetheless, while enthusiastic about the company’s new direction with Morellato, Steve remains extremely proud of Lindsay’s heritage and has no plans to abandon its core watchband and findings business.
“We have incorporated ‘1953’, the year that my late father Les first opened the door to Lindsay’s, in our new logo to recognise and celebrate our knowledge and experience in the Australian jewellery industry,” Steve explains.
However, when Les opened the business for trading Lindsay’s was not the wholesale business that most jewellery retailers are familiar with today but a “traditional family jewellery shop” in Yagoona, a suburb in western Sydney.
Steve says Les (a qualified watchmaker/jeweller) and his wife Edna, ran the shop until he passed away in 1986.
It was then time for the second generation of Lindsays to take control of the family business.
Steve, a qualified accountant, and his younger brothers Phillip (a watchmaker/ gemmologist/jeweller) and Mark (a watchmaker/jeweller) decided to take on the challenge although they didn’t see “much of a future” for the retail outlet.
“I planned to run down the retail business and start up an accountancy business in the empty store but a sales rep, Ernie Pink, told us that George Rottenstein wanted to sell his ‘Alro Watchbands’ wholesale business,” says Steve.
“We were sort of thinking about it when the next minute George rings up and says ‘I hear you want to buy the watch band business. So we said ‘look we’ll come over and have a talk’. Now George is a very good salesman so after an hour meeting with him we walked out having bought the wholesale business.”
The three brothers began selling Alro watchbands in October 1987 while continuing to run the Lindsay’s retail store.
Twelve months later they closed the store.
“We couldn’t cope with both businesses,” recalls Steve.
“We (the three brothers) were on the road selling while the shop staff were serving customers in the shop and getting our wholesale orders out to other jewellery retailers.
“We couldn’t keep doing it so we decided that our future lay in the wholesale business.”
He says the fact that the retail store had experienced three hold-ups and “a few snatch n grabs” in its last five years of trading had also provided a “good incentive to move to another part of the industry”.
Once the brothers had established their new Lindsay’s wholesale business they expanded the product mix to include findings from Germany, Italy and France and more upmarket watchbands from Germany.
In 1995 Steve bought out his brothers’ share of the business (they left to start a caravan park business) and officially took on the ownership of Lindsay’s.”
Three years later the German watchband company ceased production and Lindsay’s began importing Morellato watch brands as its new “upmarket” watchband.
Since then Morellato has, in Steve’s words, “morphed from a watchband manufacturer into Italy’s largest watch and jewellery manufacturer” and has, to a large degree, morphed Lindsay’s as well.
“Morellato’s has changed the face of our business,” says Steve.
“In 2002 we began selling Morellato jewellery but we faced some initial difficulties as the jewellery collection is mainly made from stainless steel and was therefore rejected by a lot of jewellers.
“We tried to develop the brand but it was very hard to do because any branded business needs a lot of money thrown at it.”
At the start of last year Steve decided it was time to make a commitment to reinventing Lindsay’s by focusing more strongly on the Morellato brand while still retaining it core watchband and findings business.
Lindsay’s currently sells Morellato jewellery, watches, leather goods and accessories and Sector jewellery and watches to retailers around Australia.
However, Steve and sales and marketing manager Mark McNeil both agree that the company is now realigning its marketing focus for Morellato to selling “the brand” rather than just individual products to retailers and customers.
“Morellato combines stainless steel with pearls, diamonds, gold and other precious materials to produce beautiful and affordable jewellery” says Steve, “but selling a brand is different to selling a product.”
“We now have to create retail partnerships with retailers to maximise sales – and we have to sell the brand to end-consumers with advertising, public relations and POS materials.
“When we sell watchbands the brand doesn’t really matter to the end-customer as most people don’t care what brand their watchband is – but more and more people do care what brand their jewellery is…
“It’s a big commitment on our part but we believe that Morellato can succeed in a big way on the Australian market.”
He says the company is now working with a marketing company to develop cost-effective ways to give maximum exposure to the brand.
Despite Morellato’s current relatively low brand recognition in Australia, Steve and Mark are so convinced of the inevitable success of Morellato in the coming year that they are already planning to launch more Morellato brands in the next couple of years.
Mark says the brand offers retailers a number of key benefits:
- internationally recognised brand
- quality jewellery at an affordable price ($100-400 retail price point in Australia)
- products are designed in Italy
- four releases of new products each year
- high quality POS material and window display advertising to support the brand instore.
“There are over 500 items in the Morellato jewellery range and 30 percent of the product range is renewed each year,” says Mark.
“We want the brand to have great exposure but not to be available everywhere at the same time. This avoids price wars within shopping centres that will downgrade the image of the brand and the profits to the stores.
“In creating retail partnerships we offer sales area exclusivity, meaning that no-one else in that sales area will have access to the brand. The feedback we get from our stockists is that consumers will visit that store specifically to ask what is new in the Morellato range. They have returned to that jewellery store because they are a known Morellato stockist.
“We currently have 18 stores that are platinum partners who fully support the brand around Australia as well as 50 gold and silver members.
“We expect these numbers to increase significantly as the brand’s presence grows in the coming months.”
Steve says he has never regretted the family’s somewhat spontaneous decision to move into the wholesale industry.
“Normally when you buy a business you end up hating the person who sold it to you about six months later because that’s when you tend to learn the truth about it, but 23 years on we’re still good mates with George.”
In fact, Steve’s friendship/business relationship with George has remained so strong since the purchase that 74-year-old George has recently returned to the business as a consultant to help “reinvent it”.
“George is like my mentor,” says Steve.
“Lindsay’s business values are solid and have not changed since Les opened the door in 1953,” concludes Steve.
“We are just adding new brands and products to meet the demands of jewellery retailers and customers in the new decade.”
For more information phone Lindsay’s on (02) 9749 9466 or www.lindsays.com.au