I’m greeted at the door by a charming doorman and ushered into a beautiful, light, airy showroom with just a few displays of exquisite jewellery. After spending a few minutes daydreaming about that bracelet on my arm I’m taken upstairs to see Michael Wainwright, joint Director of this truly British, family business.
Boodle and Dunthorne was bought by Michael’s great-great grandfather in 1887 and has been in the family ever since, now involving members of the 5th and 6th generation. Michael’s brother, Nicholas, was the first of the siblings to become involved, taking the business over from their father and is still Creative Director based in the company’s Liverpool HQ. Michael is a chartered accountant by training and didn’t join his brother in the business until he was 27 by which time he had experienced life outside the family business and was at a stage where he could make the right decision for him.
“For me there was no question, I was happy and proud to join the business and work alongside my brother. In many cases it’s about carving a niche for yourself, taking the skills and talents you have and deciding how they can bring value to the company.”
Michael took hold of the brand and together with their branding partner, Walford Wilkie, took it to the luxury status that it’s at now. He remembers how his father told him that at one time there were 30 quality jewellers in Liverpool, the most affluent non-capital city in the world. Now there is just as small handful including Boodles. In London they have a presence in 4 key locations including their prime Bond Street spot where they sit between Cartier and Tiffany. Michael’s nephew James oversees their Irish market with a store in Dublin and his other nephew Jody works alongside Nicholas in their Liverpool HQ.
It comes as quite a surprise to me that the management of Boodles has no female influence. In such a female driven market I had envisaged a board of perfectly manicured women around the table but instead the business calls upon the skills and initiative of these four guys who work hand in hand in driving the brand forward through exquisite design, intensive brand marketing and sheer hard work.
“Yes I work some Saturdays, and yes I sometimes even put in a few hours on a Sunday night but it’s what I love. Boodles has provided for my family for generations and its down to me, my brother and our nephews to work hard at ensuring the brand continues to grow, no matter how much time and effort it takes.” says Michael.
Michael and I go onto discuss the problems that family businesses face in the current market. We both agree that they can often shy away from actively promoting themselves as family-run. Some believe that it will damage their reputation and that they will be seen as old-fashioned and small time.
“A few years ago we wiped away all trace of family business from our marketing material. We were trying to establish ourselves amongst the huge brands you see as you walk down Bond Street. We thought that promoting ourselves as a family business would damage our ability to make a significant mark in the luxury market and didn’t want to be perceived as unprofessional or small scale.
However about three years ago it became apparent that what our customers wanted was to see a face to the brand, the characters behind the company and the values associated with a family-run business; trust, strong work ethic, longevity and honesty. This is why we decided to include some of our family imagery in the annual brochure and on the website again and differentiate ourselves from the large faceless brands around us.”
We then move onto what the future holds for Boodles and Michael is adamant that the business will remain in the family and not be sold off like many businesses these days. “We’ve made it to the 6th generation, a very rare feat these days and something which we are extremely proud of. Each member of the family has found their niche in the business, the area that they excel in and at the moment it works. The business is growing and we have plans to open a couple of stores.”
Boodles will soon be opening the only retail store in The Savoy hotel in London as well as looking at plans for a store in Monaco. Tennis sponsorship is also a major part of the Boodles calendar with their own tennis events, Boodles Challenge both featuring top-end players.
“Being a family business has meant that we’ve ridden the credit crunch wave with very few casualties and have come out the other side with a continued hunger for the growth of Boodles.”
PR contact - Charlotte Holt
(0)20 7647 1332