Reinventing Peter W Beck

After more than 35 years selling wedding rings and precious metal products to Australian jewellers, Peter W Beck  is a well known name within the…

After more than 35 years selling wedding rings and precious metal products to Australian jewellers, Peter W Beck  is a well known name within the industry.

Now however the man behind the name is determined to make Peter W Beck equally well known outside the industry by turning his name into a brand.

“Consumer branding is certainly a major focus for us at the moment,” says Peter Beck.

“We are totally committed into turning Peter W Beck into a brand.”

Indeed, the company launched its first branded Peter W Beck collection – complete with point-of-sale display stands, instore brochures, a new website and a consumer advertising campaign – at Sydney’s JAA International Jewellery Fair in August.

Featuring the company’s most popular men’s and ladies’ wedding rings as well as some new especially-designed pieces, the collection was, according to Beck, enthusiastically welcomed by the industry.

“The reaction from retailers was excellent,” he smiles. “I think a lot of our customers had actually been waiting for us to launch a branded collection for quite a while.”

Nonetheless despite the successful reception, Peter readily admits that the company still has “many, many things to learn about branding” and stresses that the decision to brand its wedding rings was not made lightly.

“The idea to start branding our jewellery has been in the background of my mind for a number of years as I could see that branding was changing the retail environment.

“Over the years we’ve built up our business by developing business-to-business relationships with jewellers. While this has been a very successful strategy for us I could see that our competitors were taking a different approach and using consumer branding to encourage retailers to stock their products and end-consumers to buy them.

“I realised consumer branding would threaten our marketshare unless we did something. We couldn’t just stop and let our competitors chip away at a business formula we’ve used for 35 years.”

“We decided it was time to change out marketing strategy.”

Certainly change is something that Peter W Beck has embraced ever since starting his career in the precious metals industry straight after leaving school in Adelaide in 1962 at just 16 years of age.

Employed as a storeman/clerk for Engelhard Industries (a gold, silver, platinum and palladium supplier), Peter gradually moved into a sales role before being promoted to state manager.

Thirteen years later, he decided it was time for a change and left the company to start up his own eponymously named business.

“I started in business selling jewellers’ handtools and precious metals with $6200 capital, an attitude for customer service and a lot of bloody mindedness,” recalls Peter.

“I bought $6000 worth of precious metals from a man in Melbourne and $200 worth of tools from another in Melbourne and then opened for trading with a very small office in the Edments Building in the Rundle Mall.

“I was worried that I might not be able to pay the rent as I really had nothing apart from my stock so I just started calling on all my business friends I knew in the industry.”

The simple strategy worked.

“I would call everybody in the morning and deliver in the afternoon,” he says.

“Eventually the business grew to a point where I was surviving but I knew that I wasn’t going to go anywhere unless I started making more changes so I made the decision to start manufacturing my own standard gauge wire rather than to continue buying it from Melbourne.

“Although I had never been taught how to make standard gauge wire, I just focused on what I had observed over the years and started making it under my house. After a series of trials and errors I managed to develop the right techniques and produce a quality product.”

Peter’s “homemade” 9 and 18ct standard gauge wires proved popular and sales continued their upward climb – but not without a cost.

“I’d get orders in the daytime, make them up in the night time and then deliver them the next day,” says Peter.

“It wasn’t easy – there were so many times when I didn’t get to bed until about 4 o’clock in the morning – but I had this cycle going.”

After working at this exhausting pace for approximately three years, Peter decided the manufacturing side of his business had outgrown its space under his house and moved it into new premises in Adelaide’s eastern suburbs.

As the business continued to grow Peter gradually increased staff numbers to around 60 to meet the ever increasing work load.

He then decided it was time for another change in direction.

“I had my office in the Edments Building and the factory in the eastern suburbs and everything was going well but I was stressed between the two businesses so decided to remove myself from the jewellers’ tool business as I concluded that I am a ‘precious metals man’ and have been since my first day of work.”

Peter says the decision to focus solely on the precious metals side of the business was the right one as the company has since grown to be “the market leader in all things associated with precious metal products and services” including refining, casting and jewellery manufacturing.

Now headquartered in Adelaide’s Ottoway Park, Peter W Beck has 110 staff and offices in Perth and Brisbane as well as sales representatives in every Australian state and New Zealand.

Despite the growth and many changes that the company has undergone in the last 35 years, Peter is adamant  that the company’s fundamental business principals remain the same as when he opened for trading with just $6200 worth of stock.

“The things that really made the business from day one have always been service, quality products, competitive pricing and an ongoing ability to look for what customers are telling us they want and stretching our abilities as manufacturers to provide it.”

Peter strongly believes that his customers now want/need brands to sell to their customers and has therefore created one.

“Consumer branding is the key for our next stage of development – and for our customers’ development.

“In October 2009 Laura (the company’s marketing manager Laura Sawade) and I decided that we were going to launch the Peter W Beck brand – we were going to do it and succeed.

“We undertook a very structured process and asked ourselves a lot of questions before launching the brand to market. We had to decide exactly what we were going to do; why we were going to do it; how long it would take; how much it was going to cost; and how it would benefit the retailer.

“We were also hopeful that when we launched our brand we would get some benefit from our reputation in the past and that we would be able to be able to springboard from that – and that has certainly proven the case.

“We are however still aware that we face a massive learning curve in branding but look forward to meeting the challenge like we have met other ones before.”

Indeed, Peter W Beck seems set to keep meeting challenges in the Australia and New Zealand jewellery industry for a long time to come – with or without consumer branding.

“We will keep changing our products and services to offer the industry exactly what it wants while always retaining our world-class standards.”