ondon Jewelers, a family-owned business founded in 1926, has gradually es- tablished its dominance of Long Island’s watch and jewellery scene. Now run by the third and fourth generations of the Udell family, it has long represented the most prestigious brands in its network of multi- and single-brand boutiques.
In December 2020, as the New York area was still in the throes of the pandemic, London Jewelers opened a completely renovated flagship boutique in the Americana Manhasset shopping centre on Long Island. This space dedicated to the high jewellery segment, with decor inspired by an elegant Parisian interior, presents creations by Buccellati, Bulgari, Chanel, Chopard, David Webb, Gucci, Messika, Mikimoto, Piaget, Pomellato, Roberto Coin and Vhernier, among others.
Now run by the third and fourth generations of the Udell family, London Jewelers has long represented the most prestigious brands in its network of multi- and single-brand boutiques.
- Last December, London Jewelers completed the renovation of its flagship boutique dedicated to fine jewellery.
It was also an opportunity for the 95-year-old company to showcase its own jewellery creations, the London Collection, which proved particularly resilient during the pandemic crisis. We spoke with members of the Udell family to better undersstand this development, which is representative of a strong trend among retailers.
Europa Star: How did you cope with the difficult year that was 2020?
Candy Udell: Between March and May our boutiques were closed. But we took advantage of this period to re-evaluate all our processes and set up a distance training programme for our employees. This time was dedicated to learning and other things that we don’t always have the opportunity to do in “normal” times. It was a reflective time for our company, allowing us to review our strategic objectives and what we could improve or save on. We also learned a lot about our own team and shared new customer acquisition techniques.
Mark Udell: We also called our clients to check up on them during this period, not just to offer them watches or jewellery. During the time we were closed, we also supported our community by providing meals to local hospitals, up to several hundred a week. In the end, this was an opportunity to show our appreciation, strengthen our community spirit and our roots in the region in these difficult times.
- A bracelet from London Jewelers’ own line, London Collection
Was it also an opportunity to strengthen your online business?
Mark Udell: Yes, even if not all the brands we represent allow e-commerce. We do sell online whenever possible. This is a good channel for our own London Collection jewellery, as we can act as we see fit.
“It was a statement of confidence in the future to inaugurate our new flagship store during this period, and it was very well received.”
Just how important is your own jewellery production, in the context of all the other brands you represent?
Candy Udell: It has helped us a lot during this challenging time. The Christmas period in particular was successful for our London Collection. The fact that we have been affiliated for so long with prestigious houses, which we consider in a way to have become “part of the family” over time, also gives us legitimacy. I believe that one activity feeds the other. Today, about ten people are involved in curating this collection.
You have just completed the renovation of your flagship boutique dedicated to fine jewellery. It re-opened in the middle of the pandemic, in December.
Candy Udell: The renovation had been planned for a long time and work had begun before the coronavirus. But it was still a statement of confidence in the future to inaugurate it during this period, and it was very well received. I personally worked on it for two years. It was an important step and we worked closely with the local health authorities to put in place safety measures, as we do for our other boutiques: temperature control, sterilisation, registration of all customers for contract tracing purposes...
With the containment measures in place, are you concentrating more and more on local clientele?
Mark Udell: This was already largely the case before the pandemic, but we have also welcomed new local clients from Manhattan [where London Jewelers operates a boutique in the Oculus at the World Trade Center]. Many New Yorkers spent the time of the pandemic in the Hamptons. Moreover, as Manhasset is an outdoor shopping centre, many city dwellers felt safer shopping in this location. Another factor of success for us was that local residents travelled less and therefore had more time to spend with us, with more disposable income. Jewellery or collectors’ watches represent for some a source of escapism.
Have you noticed any significant changes in consumer behaviour?
Candy Udell: Yes, one of the main changes is that our clients come less to the boutique for browsing, but they already know what they want when they come through our door with intention. Shopping has become more targeted.
“What has worked well, especially in our own London Collection, is the mid-range sold online, i.e. jewellery that can be worn on a daily basis.”
Has your brand portfolio changed during this period?
Candy Udell: No, we haven’t had any changes. We have been working with most of our brands for several decades.
Which activity has best withstood the crisis, between jewellery and watches?
Mark Udell: This may surprise you, but the watch range has met with great success, particularly among young collectors, perhaps for the reasons I mentioned before. Many celebrations, such as weddings, have been postponed, which also has an impact on jewellery. What has worked well, especially in our own London Collection, is the mid-range sold online, i.e. jewellery that can be worn on a daily basis. You don’t need a special occasion for this type of jewellery. And it’s a lasting acquisition, unlike some other luxury product categories.